Noise Wars- A Comparative History of Gathering Information under Cold War Constraints
The dissertation discusses the interrelationships between technology and politics during the Cold War. Inspired by the monumental archival collection of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute, the work examines technical documentation associated with radio jamming and archival traces of gathering information about technology. Cold War broadcasting practitioners faced challenges that emerged unexpectedly at a time when radio was a well-established means of communication across borders. The RFE/RL team paid special attention to gathering technical information about radio signal and practices of radio listening amid jamming noise. Introduced in the Soviet sphere of influence after 1948, the aim of jamming was to overwhelm “enemy” frequencies with meaningless mechanical sounds or repetitive music making unwanted content incomprehensible to listeners. Ubiquitous noise in the ether signaled the limits of technology and, at the same time, evolved into an integral part of communication creating new media practices. Available technologies were redefined in the course of the conflict. The dissertation argues that the natural environment was imagined as an active component of the ideological war and examines instances when noise became an object of research. Exploring the intersection between technology, environment, politics, and military thought, the story about destructive technologies and politics of information gathering invites parallels with contemporary concerns related to information warfare, surveillance, and software tools designed to filter online content.
Gábor Tóka - chair (Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives, CEU)
István Rév, Constantin Iordachi – co-supervisors (Department of History, CEU)
Marsha Siefert - internal member (Department of History, CEU)
Nelson Ribeiro - external member (School of Human Sciences, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisbon, Portugal)
Friederike Kind-Kovács - external reader (Hannah-Arendt-Institut für Totalitarismusforschung e. V. an der TU Dresden (HAIT), Germany)
Photo courtesy of Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives