chapter  19
14 Pages

Television as a means of transport: digital teletechnologies and transmodal systems


In 1933 the art historian Rudolf Arnheim proposed that the new invention of television was best understood metaphorically, in relation to questions of physical transport – as a ‘means of distribution’ – but of images and sounds, rather than of objects or persons. To this extent, he argued, television is fundamentally related to modes of transport such as the motor car and the aeroplane – but in this case as a ‘means of transport for the mind’ (Arnheim 1933, quoted in Rath 1985: 199). In making this argument, Arnheim, if inadvertently, comes close to

Marx’s understanding of ‘communications’ as properly being understood to comprise the movement of objects, persons and messages. Marx’s analysis sought to combine the virtual with the actual: the analysis of the media industries with those of physical transport (De la Haye 1980). This multimodal approach represents a link which has been sundered in the contemporary development of media studies, as a discipline which nowadays attends only to the symbolic dimensions of communication.1