Feeling Mediated

Malin cover design“As modern ideas of communication as transmission emerged, so too did the belief in emotions as forces within the body. Brenton Malin’s Feeling Mediated chronicles these intertwined histories. Malin’s book juxtaposes the idea of media physicalism—that media have direct effects on audiences’ emotions—alongside the history of ‘American cool’ as a desired emotional state, constantly under threat from too-hot media. Feeling Mediated not only contributes to the growing cross-fertilization of media studies and affect theory, it also provides a new account of why, for the last two centuries, each generation has made the same claims for the emotional power of emerging media.”
—Jonathan Sterne, author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format and The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction

“An engaging work on emotion-inducing and sensing technologies, the concerns surrounding them, and their uptake within the early- to mid-20th century scientific community. Replete with fascinating gems that reveal our preoccupation with emotionality and its relationship to communication technologies, Feeling Mediated is a compelling foray not only into the history of media but also that of media studies.”
—Ted Striphas, Indiana University

“Malin has written an illuminating study, bringing to our attention areas of research and thinking, some now quite neglected, that are concerned with the complex relationship between media technologies and our emotional lives.”
European Journal of Communication

“This is an important book for thinking about the relationship between science and public culture. Instead of simply looking at media representations of science, it demonstrates so well how the public sphere itself is a sociotechnical assemblage of networked devices, concepts, bodies, measurements, and various audiences. Malin steers a clear course between technological determinism and social constructivism. We think, feel, and act in relationship with our tools, but it is precisely this relationship that matters. In the end, he leaves the reader with a rich picture of mass media as an assemblage whose infrastructure includes the often neglected social technologies of the human sciences.”
—Michael Pettit, American Historical Review

“In reconstructing the debates surrounding media physicalism, Malin draws on substantial archival and primary-source research, and brings in as well intelligent discussions of the history of psychology and the philosophy of mind. Ultimately, his critique of media physicalism underscores the necessity of apprehending the historical situatedness of media technologies, showing how race, class, and gender norms were built into various media and the systems set up to measure their impact.”
—David Suisman, Journal of American History

“Malin beautifully describes this complex push and pull between culture, embodied and preformed affect, policy, infrastructures, and markets. He resists the impulse to diagnose simple causation in favor of complex contextualization. His work is sophisticated, nuanced, and deeply historical.”
—Stephanie Ricker Schulte, Journal of Communication

“Can machines feel? This is one of the several intriguing questions that Malin explores in this thoughtful and informative cultural history of the social-scientific investigation of human emotion in the twentieth-century United States.”
—Richard R. John, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“Malin’s insightful analysis is essential reading for anyone interested in the impact of emerging technologies on society, culture, and commerce in years to come.”
—Laura Savu Walker, Studies in American Culture

“[This book] provides well-researched and carefully documented examples of how media physicalism shaped scholarly and popular understandings of emerging technologies in the early part of the twentieth century. Recent scholarship in media studies has included a growing interest in historical perspectives on the cultural impact of new media technologies, as well as the role of affect in mediated communication. Feeling Mediated brings these threads together in ways that make important contributions to the field.”
—Thomas Oates, Iowa Journal of Communication

New technologies, whether text message or telegraph, inevitably raise questions about emotion. These new forms of communication bring with them both fear and hope, on one hand allowing us deeper emotional connections and the ability to forge global communities, while on the other prompting anxieties about isolation and over-stimulation. Feeling Mediated: A History of Media Technology and Emotion in America investigates the larger context of such concerns, considering both how media technologies intersect with our emotional lives and how our ideas about these intersections influence how we think about and experience emotion and technology themselves.

Drawing on extensive archival research, Brenton J. Malin explores the historical roots of much of our recent understanding of mediated feelings, showing how earlier ideas about the telegraph, phonograph, radio, motion pictures, and other once-new technologies continue to inform our contemporary thinking. With insightful analysis, Feeling Mediated explores a series of fascinating arguments about technology and emotion that became especially heated during the early 20th century. These debates, which carried forward and transformed earlier discussions of technology and emotion, culminated in a set of ideas that became institutionalized in the structures of American media production, advertising, social research, and policy, leaving a lasting impact on our everyday lives.