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Hello Central?: Gender, Technology, and Culture in the Formation of Telephone Systems
by by Michele Martin
Binding: Hardcover, 232 pages
Publisher: Carleton University Press
Dimension: H: 0.9 x L: 9.1 x W: 6 inches
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Drawing on the archives of Bell Canada in Montreal, this study analyzes the development of the telephone system in Canada, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, from 1878 to 1920. Bell Telephone originally envisaged the telephone as a business tool for a relatively small group of male professionals. The women who worked as operators an occupation which rapidly became a female ghetto played a key role in mediating the demands of telephone users and the limitations of the new technology. The many women who began to use the telephone for domestic, two way communication eventually forced Bell Telephone to change its approach and ultimately transformed the telephone's social impact. Through a critical examination of the political and economic aspects of the development of telephone systems, the author outlines changes in the nature of women's economic experience and in their participation in the community. She analyzes the transformation of the telephone into a 'public utility', stressing the ever present economic incentives at the base of Bell Canada's decision making. She also examines the impact of this new technology on women and the labour process and on women's social and cultural practices. Her study not only provides an understanding of a particular period, but also insight into the effect of new communication technology on social structure.
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