I won’t even bother to pretend to rehearse the endless determinism vs. agency debate problem, but here is Nicholas Gane on Kittler on technology:
Gane, Nicholas. Radical Post-humanism:
Friedrich Kittler and the Primacy of Technology, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol. 22, No. 3, 25-41 (2005)
(citations removed for the sake of nice clean copy)
Kittler observes that around 1800 a general shift took place from the closed world
of the ‘Republic of Scholars’, ‘a system in which knowledge was defined in terms of authority and erudition’ and ‘in which patterns of communication followed the lines of social stratification’, to a more open system of reading and writing based on the practice of alphabetization, which involves the translation of visible into audible language, or the oralization of culture. In the midst of this shift, the book emerged as a universal medium, one that, for a short time, remained closed to competition from rival media. Kittler explains: ‘Aside from mechanical automatons and toys, there was nothing. The discourse network of 1800 functioned without phonographs, gramophones, or cinematographs. Only books could provide serial storage of data’. This situation soon changed, however, and by 1900 the book’s position as the chief storage medium was placed under threat by ‘new’ technologies such as the gramophone, phonograph and film.