It is common these days to bemoan the amount of personal information companies like Amazon, Facebook, and other modern telecommunications goliaths collect about us. For many, this invasion of privacy exists as a necessary consequence of our growing dependence on the internet. With every click of the mouse—making it possible to have products manufactured half-way around the world delivered to our doorstep—there is a reluctant awareness of the risk that our private lives might be made public.
Such concerns are not new, but, indeed, were central to the expansion of the telegraph and telephone during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this episode, Katie Hindmarch-Watson takes listeners on a riveting journey through Victorian-era London’s telecommunications industry, including the misadventures of telegraph boys and tales of “wicked” telephone girls. In doing so, she offers an innovative and provocative analysis of service work rooted in the gendered and bodily labor of telecommunications workers.
Check out the episode here!
Katie Hindmarch-Watson is an Assistant Professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of Serving a Wired World: London’s Telecommunications Workers and the Making of an Information Capital.