Infectious Media and Technologies, 1870-1914
Science Gallery Bengaluru
10 December 2021
On December 10, 2021 Dr. Amelia Bonea, research fellow at the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, University of Heidelberg, gave a lecture and tutorial on “Communicating Contagion: Infectious Media and Technologies, 1870–1914” at Science Gallery Bengaluru. The event was part of this institution’s ongoing exhibition Contagion, organized in collaboration with a number of academic partners as well as the DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance, Indian National Science Academy, Chennai Photo Biennale, Robert Koch Institute and John Innes Centre. The recording of the event is available to watch here.
Abstract of the talk
What does the history of medicine, media and technology teach us about the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic? For one, that many of the anxieties we find ourselves experiencing first-hand also beset our nineteenth and twentieth-century predecessors. Bombarded with conflicting information from scientists, politicians and the media—an epidemic of (mis)information, not only of disease—we reach for the disinfectant to clean our mobile phones and electronic gadgets even if the latest research suggests that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by such “fomites” is low. This talk introduces a historical perspective into the discussion of anxieties about physical and mental well-being associated with communication technologies. It focuses in particular on debates and experiments conducted in Britain and the US during the period 1870-1914 to establish whether using telephone instruments, especially in public places, increased the possibility of contracting infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, influenza and diphtheria.