Historically, technologies allow for the human adaptation to their environment. Accordingly, with each new technology, new conflicts and issues arise within societies due to the progress. An important theme across the readings is how new technology builds upon older technologies, creating new conflicts and societal issues. These advancements, further cause a shift in needs or wants for improved technology for both entertainment and domestic use.
Admittedly, electricity is an influential aspect for the telephone and telegraph, and as a result is a catalyst for creating new worldviews. Importantly, because of electricity, one is able to obtain communications faster than ever before. It follows that, access to rapid information creates a need for new types of technology (Crowley Heyer 134). Cultural historian and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rosalynd Williams explains in her book Dream Worlds of Consumption the connection between the rapidly changing industrial product and the rise in consumer culture.
Accordingly, in 1851, the first universal exposition opens at the Crystal Palace in London, England. The purpose of the universal exposition is to teach a “lesson of things.” According to Williams, the “lesson” is the social benefit from the innovative technology and the “things” are the scientific knowledge and the technology itself (137). In all, the reason for the exposition is to highlight innovative scientific ideas and technology that can be of use in everyday life.
Although the first exposition is a showcase of innovative ideas and technology, subsequent expositions decidedly became a commercial atmosphere. Further, Williams describes the onset of commercialization at the Paris exposition as “…in 1855 began the tradition of placing price tags on all objects, as well as of charging prices” (137). Consequently, the act of commercializing the exposition slowly transitions the emphasis of the progress of knowledge to a moneymaking endeavor.
Finally, in 1900 the exposition at the Palace of Electricity in Paris, France, shows elaborate architecture, showmanship, as well as a diversity of food vendors. As one entered this particular exposition, one enters a capitalistic environment not previously seen at an exposition. The exposition of 1900 is what Williams describes as “...a scale model of the consumer revolution” (139). In other words, the emphasis was no longer science and technology but rather capitalism, food sales, as well as marking a new trend of consumerism.
Accordingly, the exposition of 1900 shows a cultural change by the vendors marketing a fantasy world aimed at the consumer. This fantasy world is the beginning of what Williams describes as the “wishful thinking” of the consumer. As a result, the consumer no longer is shopping for their “needs,” but they are now shopping for their “wants.” Historically, humans sought to fulfill their needs, as consumerism becomes common, humans now feel the need to...