One-to-One and One-to-Many Dichotomy: Grand Theories, Periodization, and Historical Narratives in Communication Studies

Gabriele Balbi, Juraj Kittler


 Besides other popular dichotomies in communication history, the one-to-one and one-to-many matrix has been very powerful in the 20th century political, economic, and social imaginary, yet it is overlooked. This article originally aimed to reconstruct a long history and periodization of eras in which one-to-one forms of communication prevailed over one-to-many and vice versa, from Ancient Greece to the digital era. Nevertheless, the evidence has shown that this grand narrative/theory was impractical and, in general, that dichotomies and periodization are often more nuanced ontological concepts than generally expected. Thus, this article turned out to be a “failed” project on the history of grand theories, but still useful for the historiography of communication, proposing a more complex framework to look at technologies as they develop over time.  


communication history, grand social theory, periodization, conceptual dichotomies, one-to-one, one-to-many

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