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History of New Media in Turkey: Radio, Television, and Mobile Devices

This talk presents the initial findings of an ongoing research project about the history of new media technologies in Turkey. The project examines the changing relationship of technology to global, class, and gender inequalities since the country’s foundation as a nation-state in the 1920s to the current era. By specifically analyzing the country’s course from a nationalist and developmentalist economy to neoliberalization, the project addresses two particular questions:


- As new political economic conditions transform gender, class based, and global inequalities, how do these newly reframed hierarchies make visible a medium’s novelty?

- How does this perceived novelty inform the ways that lower and middle classes, different gender groups, and state officials use new technologies to challenge or reproduce inequalities?

The study combines participant observation with archival research and comparatively examines the citizens’ and the state officials’ reactions to new media forms in three periods: radio in the 1920s, television in the 1950s, and mobile devices in the 2000s. In so doing, the project explores the ways that “newness” of media is politically and economically constructed through the struggles of people contending with the postcolonial hegemony of the West, a crumbling welfare state, and an ever-widening income gap between the rich and the poor.

Paper presented at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Meeting, March 2022

This paper compares the early days of radio technology in the 1930s Turkey with the era of digital technology in the 2000s in order to examine how the construction “new media” as a category becomes a way to justify inequalities. With the expansion of digital platforms, new terms such as “prosumer” has celebrated technology users’ newly attained capacity to create media content. Critical media scholarship, however, has been complicating this picture by highlighting how people have always been creative with media—rather than being passive receivers, as assumed by the notion of digital “prosumer” (van Dijck, 2009). My paper expands such critical discussions by historically and ethnographically focusing on radio amateurs in Turkey in the 1930s. Archival and oral history research into the early days of the radio reveals that radio listeners in this era were not addressed as passive receivers. Major radio magazines at the time included detailed instructions about how to build a radio at home so they addressed their listeners as “radio amateurs” who could build or produce the very technology of radio. Hence, radio listeners in the 1930s were also approached as prosumers, not maybe as content producers—as is the case in digital media—but as builders who can put together the radio machine itself.

Comparing people’s such engagement with new technology in different time periods (Gitelman, 2014) permits us to dismantle ideologies surrounding digital media and endows us with the capacity to ask more compelling research questions, such as: How do we see the capacity to produce that is attributed to the users of technology has changed from the early 1900s to the early 2000s? If it was possible to approach media users as the producers of the very technology
itself in the beginning of the 20th century, what are the larger ideological frameworks that make many people today to think that it is the digital platforms that turned people into active media producers in a way that overrides this history? Oral history interviews with radio amateurs reveal that since the 1930s, the shift in the creative capacity of technology users from machine building to content creation depicts technology-building as something inaccessible to users of today’s digital media—a media ideology that justify inequalities fostered by neoliberal market economy (Hardt and Negri, 2004).

History of New Media in Turkey: Prosumers, Radio Amateurs, and Ideologies of Digital Media

Roundtable discussion at the European Association for Social Anthropologists Biannual Meeting, July 2022


Co-organized with Leyla Neyzi, Glasgow University


Ali Sipahi, Özyeğin University 

Deniz Yonucu, Newcastle University

Sidar Bayram, Koç University 

Hedva Eyal, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


Ethnography of and Ethnography in the Archive: A Creative Rethinking in the Context of Hope and Uncertainty

This roundtable addresses the following, critical question: How can we explore the ethnographic processes through which archives of analysis are formed by anthropologists themselves by both attending to the remnants of political violence and transformative hope in such archival construal?
This roundtable creatively rethinks the notion of archive from an ethnographic perspective by discussing how archival ethnography reveals transformative potentialities of hope under uncertainty and anxiety. Conducting ethnography of and ethnography in colonial/state archives has meant approaching the archive as an unfinished project filled with inconsistencies, gaps, hasty categorizations that revealed the power holders’ anxieties. Yet, archives are not only things that are pre-formed, waiting out there to be analyzed. In our quest to speak the unspeakable, we as anthropologists ethnographically construct archives for analysis with materials collected from libraries; state, personal or media archives; family albums; online websites; individual and collective memory. If what makes archival research an anthropological fieldwork is exploring the historical conditions through which archives are produced, in this roundtable, we suggest more explicitly exploring the ethnographic processes through which archives of analysis are formed by anthropologists themselves.

How can we consider multiple subjectivities “speaking in their own voice” (Hartman 2008) through multiple modalities that carry both the “remnants” of political violence (Navaro et. al. 2021) and transformative hope? How do we ethnographically rethink these voices in relation to digitized archives, accessible “from everywhere?” The discussants explore these questions through their diverse scholarly experiences about the issues of state violence and violations, Cold War politics, materiality and depopulation, oral history, mass mediation, resistance and oppression. 

Paper presented to the Media History Research Group, March 2022

This presentation focuses on the Telsiz (Wireless) magazine published in 1927 in order to highlight the ambiguous position of radio in relation to the nationalist and modernist discourses of the era. As one of the first periodicals about radio, published in 18 issues between June and November 1927,


Telsiz is an important witness to Turkey’s early encounter with the wireless technology. Close discursive analysis of the periodical highlights that citizens initially experienced the wireless as an object that requires certain technical skills and knowledge. Telsiz     devoted     an     important

portion of its pages to sharing technical knowledge about the wireless by detailing how to put together simple receivers or how to fix frequently encountered problems. More importantly, the editors of the magazine did not necessarily cast this knowledge sharing process in nationalist or modernist terms, unlike other magazines published after the nationalization movement in 1929. Radio magazines after the nationalization process defined their effort to teach people how to assemble receivers as a nationalist act of preventing people from buying foreign-made radio devices. By focusing on Telsiz’s distinctive discursive portrayal of a new technology, the presentation explores how the radio’s initial public perception was also a result of its ambiguous position in relation to the modernist and nationalist discourses of the pre-1929 era. 

History of New Media in Turkey: Radio, Television, and Mobile Devices

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