Journal article

The Telephone and Its Uses in 1980s U.S. Activism

B Keys

The Journal of Interdisciplinary History | Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press (MIT Press) | Published : 2018


Claims that today’s digital technologies are unprecedented in their effect on society are founded on a weak understanding of the roles played by pre-digital technologies. Although the landline phone was the most ubiquitous American technology of the twentieth century, and an important influence on social and political life, it has received little attention in most fields of scholarship. But widespread use of the landline telephone is key to explaining how activists in the U.S. Central America movement of the 1980s sustained their commitment and sense of community. Telephony’s emotional and sensory qualities, underpinned by the powers of the human voice, were significant factors in the Centra..

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Funding Acknowledgements

The research for this article was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant. The author thanks Frank Costigliola, Jack Davies, Petra Goedde, Van Gosse, Patrick Kelly, Brad Simpson, and Keir Wotherspoon for useful suggestions.