How Not to Build a World Wireless Network: German-British Rivalry and Visions of Global Communications in the Early Twentieth Century

TitleHow Not to Build a World Wireless Network: German-British Rivalry and Visions of Global Communications in the Early Twentieth Century
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsTworek, HJS
JournalHistory and Technology
Volume32
Issue2
Start Page178
KeywordsBritain, Colonialism, Germany, imperialism, radio, wireless, World War I
Abstract

Edward Snowden’s revelations laid bare an unprecedented scale of state influence on communications technology. But government elites have frequently shaped technological development through their beliefs about potentially nefarious uses of communications. This article argues that beliefs about how other states or groups might use a technology can shape innovation. In particular, German visions about the British use of cables spurred German investment in developing wireless telegraphy. Germans imagined that the British were using cable technology to damage Germany’s reputation, spy on Germany and ‘poison’ neutral countries against the Central Powers. The German government and military at first created a colonial wireless network to bypass British cables. In World War I, however, they sought to establish a world wireless network. In the end, innovation was significantly shaped by how Germans imagined their enemies’ uses of communications technology. 

DOI10.1080/07341512.2016.1217599
Refereed DesignationRefereed