From Mercury to Mars: War of the Worlds and the Invasion of Media Studies from Antenna

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Our #WOTW75 hijinx are behind us, dear listeners, but our series on the radio work of Orson Welles, From Mercury to Mars, continues with several posts stretching into the new year. This week, our partner blog Antenna published a fascinating look at how social research into the WOTW audience both synthesized and catalyzed a whole set of approaches of social research about media effects. Drawing on some original research into the personal letters of Princeton researcher Hadley Cantril, Catholic University Professor Josh Shepperd tells the story …

“The day after the ‘War of the Worlds’ broadcast, a request came from Frank Stanton’s
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employer – the Columbia Broadcast System (CBS) – for an opportunity to test their new ‘technique.’ Cantril wrote in one personal letter: ‘when the broadcast of October 30 occurred, with its responses in mass hysteria over a wide area, the Princeton researchers recognized that here was a perfect opportunity for their inquiry.’ On the Wednesday following the broadcast two field workers began the first Mass Communications research canvass—in Orange, New Jersey. They visited the homes of 30 persons who were known to have listened to the broadcast, while other researchers began to tabulate statistics from other sites …”

[Reblogged from Antenna]

The M2M series is becoming quite an archive. To catch up, here are some links.

  • Here is “Hello Americans,” Tom McEnaney‘s post on Welles and Latin America
  • Here is Eleanor Patterson‘s post on editions of WOTW as “Residual Radio”
  • Here is “Sound Bites,” Debra Rae Cohen‘s post on Welles’s “Dracula”
  • Here is Cynthia B. Meyers on the pleasures and challenges of teaching WOTW in the classroom
  • Here is Kathleen Battles on parodies of Welles by Fred Allen.
  • Here is Shawn VanCour on the second act of War of the Worlds
  • Here is the navigator page for our #WOTW75 collective listening project
  • … And here is our podcast of Monteith McCollum‘s amazing WOTW remix.

In two weeks, check this space for a new essay by Northwestern University Professor Jacob Smith on the radio play that connoisseurs have long felt to be hands down Welles’s best radio work, “Hell on Ice.”

– nv

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