Historical ICTs: Yodeling and Fire Signals

 

The development of the ICT industry is centered on constructing ways for individuals and societies to communicate with one another and the different ways in which they experience space and time. Although the implements of modern technology such as cellphones, computers and the internet have increased the speed at which we communicate, rapid communication over large distances and regions is by no means a new concept. This notion was presented to me by Tim Unwin in, “ICT4D: Information and Communication Technologies for Development” and intrigued me. Before reading this I had never given any thought to how individuals and societies communicated over considerable distances and so I am going to briefly explore two traditional ICTs: yodeling in the Swiss Alps and signal fires along the Great Wall of China.

When examining yodeling and fire signals as ICTs it is interesting to look at how both forms of communication worked as ways to relay information of vast distances. During the Ming Dynasty, from 1368-1644, guards on the Great Wall of China employed the use of fire signals, as an efficient was to communicate. Fire signals could send a message swiftly across the entire 6,700-kilometer long wall. These signals included different sets of patterns that signified enemies, allies and the number of people approaching.

The same complex system of communication is also seen in the communicative mode of yodeling. According to an article on wisegeek.com the first official record of yodeling in the Swiss Alps is from 1545 and most experts agree that it was used as a way for herders, their stock and Alpine villages to communicate with one another. This mode of communication has since then become incorporated into the traditional music of the region.

These two forms of ICTs originated long before phones, broadband, or even electricity and I feel that is important to remember that people have always had the need and resources to communicate with one another. Exploring these two forms of historical communication within the confines of ICTs I am interested in learning more about how they adapt the defenition of ICTs and how new technologies have expedited the communication process.

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One response to “Historical ICTs: Yodeling and Fire Signals

  • amellan

    I love this exploration madelinelparrish. I, too, feel that contextualizing information transfer and communication in a larger historanical context is important. We might like to think our age of instant dissemination of knowledge is so vastly superior to more primitive forms of communication, but really we represent one point on the wave of ever-changing human communication. I also like this post because forms of communication both dictate and are dictated by culture. And this is important to keep in mind in the context of development as ICT programs should absolutely be culturally relevant and the potential changes to local culture should be considered.

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