Elizabeth Carolyn Miller- Slow Print

In my research into the nineteenth-century short story, victorian periodicals, of course, interest me.  At present my work focuses on the popular: first Dickens and his All the Year Round Christmas numbers and, later, the appearances of Conan Doyle’s Holmes in the Strand Magazine.  It made a helpful contrast, therefore to consider Slow Print: Literary Radicalism and Late Victorian Print  (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013). Elizabeth Carolyn Miller explores the fin de siècle radical press from William Morris, through the socialist theatrical turn, to theosophical socialism and sex radicalism.  An illuminating read featuring fascinating writers.  Want to know more?  Take a look at my review for Media History here.


Over at Scrambled Messages’s Facebook group Cassie started us chatting about working in telecoms.  A whole range of work emerged and it seems, following on from my last post, that so many people facilitate the in-between of messages.  We just rarely hear their stories.

Although I don’t think my family have worked in telecoms themselves, in May I had the privilege of recording the wonderful story of someone who had been a telegram boy in the 1950s.  Bernard O’Connor arrived in Covent Garden in 1953 and began working as a telegram boy in Leicester Square, cycling round on his push bike, delivering telegrams.  His vivid description of the smog brought that time to life for me: You couldn’t see your hand in front of you and it was so dangerous that the bus conductor would walk along with a flare in his hand to light up the kerbs so that the driver could see where he was going.  In the early 1950s there wasn’t a lot of traffic on the roads, so there weren’t many accidents.  Yet, if you had chest problems, the smog could kill you.

Bernard’s story isn’t just about being a telegram boy however, it describes community.  You can read it here, and I very much hope you do.  Writing someone else’s voice felt odd as I tried to keep my own from intruding.  I also interviewed Tom Cook, equally a privilege.  These and the other stories from the project sound the voice of a community worth listening to.

Even though it’s not yet December, we can’t avoid Christmas.  Eager shoppers swarmed my own town this weekend, Santa was about, and I expect in the next few weeks many of you will join the throngs looking at Covent Garden’s shops or celebrate in its bars. And then you will go home again.  The festive noise (and, indeed, the year round commercial noise) drowns out the sound of the people for whom Covent Garden is home; when talking to people about the project, many said that they hadn’t realised people still live there.  But they do, and their stories might make Covent Garden more than shops, food and drink for you.  They did for me.  The Covent Garden Memories project made me realise the value of oral history and the interest of listening to usually unheard voices.

We might be studying the victorian telegraph in Scrambled Messages, but I’m certain listening to more recent stories of telecoms workers will change the way we think about our project in valuable ways.  So if you have a working in telecoms family story there’s still time to share it with Scrambled Messages.  We’d love to hear it.

Scrambled Messages Space workshop: in-between

I suspect we concern ourselves so greatly with the content of the messages we send out into the world that we rarely think about the materiality/immateriality of the spaces through which they travel.  Last Friday Scrambled Messages held its first workshop, Space, at the Courtauld Institute of Art.  Along with the full team we were fortunate to be joined by Richard Taws from UCL and Seb Franklin from KCL who presented their selected readings.


One of the ideas which grabbed me arose out of the reading Richard set, Kittler’s ‘The City Is a Medium’.  At one point Kittler describes reconstructing the way out of a labyrinth writing, “one doesn’t need to sketch the still visible connecting walls, rather their inverse: the invisible passages between path and door” (718).  I find spaces in between (but perhaps not, at this point, liminal spaces) particularly interesting and Kittler made me wonder about how we conceive of the spaces through which our messages (tweets, texts, emails today, and telegraph-optical as Richard described or electrical as interests our project-in the past) travel.  Does the way we think about our moving messages affect the way we interact?


Richard’s paper turned my thoughts to Donovan Wylie’s series of photographs British Watchtowers (2005 and 2006).  The spaces between the towers are full of many different people and activities detached from and yet always watched over by the towers- spaces between, both connected and separate.  It’s certainly something I’d like to think through further.

Scrambled Messages Space Workshop
A workshop for the members of the AHRC funded project Scrambled Messages (from KCL, Courtauld Institute of Art, UCL Institute of Making) and invited guests aiming to enhance the way we consider space within the project
Starts: 11/15/2013
Courtauld Institue of Art

Starting out

945468_10151976712180979_2068226198_n Hello!

I am just starting out (five weeks in!) on my Ph.D researching the nineteenth century short story and the influence of the telegraph.  I’m AHRC funded as part of ‘Scrambled Messages: The Telegraphic Imaginary 1857-1900′, a joint project from King’s College, London, the Courtauld Institute of Art History, and UCL’s Institute of Making.  You can read more about the project here or join our facebook group and follow what we’re up to.  We tweet @ScrambledMsgs

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the Language of Access training which is actively encouraging participants to blog – so here I am, wondering what I’ll think when I look back on this towards the end of my project.

(Oh, and the header I’m using is ‘End of an Era’ by DaveBleasdale CC BY 2.0)