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Closed Captioning

, 400 pages

22 line drawings

January 2008


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Closed Captioning

Subtitling, Stenography, and the Digital Convergence of Text with Television

This engaging study traces the development of closed captioning—a field that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s from decades-long developments in cinematic subtitling, courtroom stenography, and education for the deaf. Gregory J. Downey discusses how digital computers, coupled with human mental and physical skills, made live television captioning possible. Downey's survey includess the hidden information workers who mediate between live audiovisual action and the production of visual track and written records. His work examines communication technology, human geography, and the place of labor in a technologically complex and spatially fragmented world.

Illustrating the ways in which technological development grows out of government regulation, education innovation, professional profit-seeking, and social activism, this interdisciplinary study combines insights from several fields, among them the history of technology, human geography, mass communication, and information studies.

Gregory J. Downey is an associate professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication and the School of Library & Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of Telegraph Messenger Boys: Labor, Technology, and Geography, 1850–1950.

"An impressive and ambitious account of the history of the technology, geography, labor, and politics of three speech-to-text systems—subtitling, closed captioning for television, and court reporting. It is original, well written and researched, and an important book."

"Downey’s book provides a through explanation of how the technology developed, and after reading Closed Captioning, you will never again take the technology for granted and you will clearly understand its role as a communication medium."

"Downey's historical approach sheds light on the origins of innovations born of practical necessity that are driving current media trends."

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