and utilities networks
This page looks at electrification and power networks
as a model for considering the impact of the web.
It covers -
for mergers and acquisitions are here.
In terms of well-being the invention of the electric kettle
and toaster have probably had a greater economic and social
impact than the internet. Power networks and applications
(from toasters to web servers) -
founded on state or private capital, with consequent
disagreement about pricing and access (eg is affordable
electricity, like information, a human
cross municipal, provincial and even national borders
involve disputes about access (including eminent domain)
competing technical standards (eg the early conflict
between alternating and direct current and contemporary
national/regional variations on such matters as voltages,
plugs and threaded versus bayonet light bulbs), often
standards that are developed and maintained by nongovernment
embedded in a body of law regarding network operator,
manufacturer and user rights and liabilities
ways that offer insights of value for considering the
Thomas Hughes' Networks of Power: Electrification
in Western Society 1880-1930 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
Uni Press 1983) is a superb study of perhaps the great
revolution last century. There is a shorter account
in Amy Friedlander's Power & Light; Electricity
in the U.S. Energy Infrastructure, 1870-1940 (Reston:
Corporation for National Research Initiatives 1996). Empires
of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to
Electrify the World (New York: Random 2003) by Jill
Jonnes is less analytical.
For those trying to understand the digital rhetoric we
recommend David Nye's Electrifying America: Social
Meanings of a New Technology (Cambridge: MIT Press
1992), Consuming Power: A Social History of American
Energies (Cambridge: MIT Press 1997) and American
Technological Sublime (Cambridge: MIT Press 1996). It
is complemented by Dark Light: Electricity & Anxiety
From the Telegraph To The X-Ray (Orlando: Harcourt
2004) by Linda Simon, Andreas Killen's Berlin Electropolis:
Shock, Nerves, and German Modernity (Berkeley: Uni
of California Press 2006) and Charles Bazerman's The
Languages of Edison's Light (Cambridge: MIT Press
For lighting see in particular Robert Friedel & Paul
Israel's Edison's Electric Light: Biography of an Invention
(New Brunswick: Rutgers Uni Press 1986), Wolfgang Schivelbusch'
Disenchanted Night (Berkeley: Uni of California
Press 1986), Brian Bowers' Lengthening the Day: A
History of Lighting Technology (Oxford: Oxford Uni
Press 1998) and Roger Ekirch's At Day's Close: Night
in Times Past (New York: Norton 2005).
Jonathan Coopersmith's lucid The Electrication of Russia,
1880-1926 (Ithaca: Cornell Uni Press 1992), Timo Myllyntaus'
Electrifying Finland: The Transfer of a New Technology
into a Late Industrialising Economy (London: Macmillan
1991) and Ronald Tobey's Technology As Freedom: The
New Deal & the Electrical Modernization of the American
Home (Berkeley: Uni of California Press 1996) are
points of reference.
Tobey offers a perspective on digital divides
by noting that in 1932 only 10% of US farms had electricity
(compared to 70% of urban households). There is a broader
account in A History of Industrial Power in the United
States, 1780-1930: The Transmission of Power (Cambridge:
MIT Press 1991) by Louis Hunter & Lynwood Bryant.
For antecedents of the Toffler and Gilder digital delirium
we recommend Leo Marx's neglected classic The Machine
in the Garden: Technology & the Pastoral Ideal in
America (New York: Oxford Uni Press 1967), Thomas
Hughes' American Genesis: A Century of Invention &
Technological Enthusiasm (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
Uni Press 1989), William Akin's Technocracy & the
American Dream (Berkeley: Uni of California Press
1977) and Howard Segal's Technological Utopianism in
American Culture (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1985).
Ian Byatt's The British Electrical Industry: The Economic
Returns to a New Technology (Oxford: Clarendon Press
1970) is suggestive, as is Bernard Beaudreau's Mass
Production, the Stock Market Crash & the Great Depression:
The Macroeconomics of Electrification (Westport:
Richard Hirsh's intelligent Power Loss: The Origins
of Deregulation & Restructuring in the American Electric
Utility Industry (Cambridge: MIT Press 1999) and Technology
& Transformation in the American Electric Utility
Industry (New York: Cambridge Uni Press 1989) complement
US telecommunication sector studies such as Peter Temin's
The Fall of the Bell System (Cambridge: Cambridge
Uni Press 1988) highlighted earlier in this profile.
Charles David Jacobson's Ties That Bind: Economic &
Political Dilemmas of Urban Utility Networks, 1800-1990
(Pittsburgh: Uni of Pittsburgh Press 2000) and Harold
Platt's The Electric City: Energy & the Growth
of the Chicago Area, 1880-1930 (Chicago: Uni of Chicago
Press 1991) offer insightful comments about market dominance,
infrastructure and regulatory mechanisms in considering
cable television, gas, electricity
and water systems in the US.
We have pointed to other studies of regulation and deregulation
as part of the discussion of utilicoms
elsewhere on this site.
that "communism is soviet power plus electrification".
There has been surprisingly little exploration of the
politics of electrification or energy supply.
For a broader perspective see Richard Samuels's The
Business of the Japanese State: Energy Markets in Comparative
and Historical Respective (Ithaca: Cornell Uni Press
1987), Aynsley Kellow's Transforming Power: The Politics
of Electricity Planning (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni
Press 1996), The Politics of Power: Inside Australia's
Electric Utilities (Carlton: Melbourne Uni Press
1988) by Stephen Rosenthal & Peter Russ, Electricity
Economics: Regulation and Deregulation (New York:
Wiley-IEEE 2002) edited by Geoffrey Rothwell & Tomás
Gómez, Making Competition Work in Electricity
(New York: Wiley 2002) by Sally Hunt, Sharon Beder's spirited
Power Play: The Fight to Control the World's Electricity
(New York: Norton 2003) and Lights Out (New York:
Wiley 2007) by Jason Makansi.
people and places
Matthew Josephson's Edison: A Biography (New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1959) retains its bite but should be
supplemented by Paul Israel's Edison: A Life of Invention
(New York: Wiley 1998).
For Canada see in particular Keith Fleming's Power
at Cost: Ontario Hydro and Rural Electrification, 1911-1958
(Montreal: McGill-Queen's Uni Press 1992) and Neil Freeman's
The Politics of Power: Ontario Hydro and Its Government,
1906-1995 (Toronto: Uni of Toronto Press 1996). For
the UK see Leslie Hannah's Electricity Before Nationalisation:
A Study of the Development of the Electricity Supply Industry
in Britain to 1948 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni
Australia's Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme - an
abiding national myth - is profiled in Snowy: The
Making of Modern Australia (Sydney: Hodder &
Stoughton 1990) by Brad Collis.
For entrepreneur Samuel Insull see Forrest McDonald's
Insull (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1962),
John Wasik's The Merchant of Power: Sam Insull, Thomas
Edison, and the Creation of the Modern Metropolis
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2006) and Platt's The
Electric City. They are complemented by The Force
of Energy: A Business History of the Detroit Edison Company
(East Lansing: Michigan State Uni Press 1971) by Raymond
Miller and Electrifying the Piedmont Carolinas: The
Duke Power Company, 1904-1997 (Durham: Carolina Academic
Press 2001) by Robert Durden.
For the World's Fair see David Burg's Chicago's White
City of 1893 (Lexington: Uni Press of Kentucky 1976)
The International Energy Agency's 2006 Light's Labour's
drawing on 'Seven Centuries of Energy Services Light:
the. Price and Use of Light in the United Kingdom (1300-2000)'
by Roger Fouquet & Peter Pearson, claimed that
William Shakespeare wrote Love's Labour's Lost,
he would have used light from tallow candles at a cost
(today) of £12,000 for a measure of light (per
million-lumen hours). The same amount of light from
electric lamps now costs £2
For Old Sparky see in particular Craig Brandon's The
Electric Chair: An Unnatural American History (Jefferson:
McFarland 1999) and Richard Moran's Executioner's
Current: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and the Invention
of the Electric Chair (New York: Knopf 2002).