Seeing by Electricity

My book, Seeing by Electricity: The Emergence of Television, 1878-1939, is available from Duke University press, as part of the Sign, Storage, Transmission book series.

The book traces the early history of television, from fantastical image transmission devices initially imagined in the 1870s such as the Telectroscope, the Phantoscope, and the Distant Seer to the emergence of broadcast television in the 1930s. It highlights points of overlap and divergence in the histories of television and cinema, and demonstrates that the intermedial relationship between the two media did not start with their economic and institutional rivalry of the late 1940s, but rather goes back to their very origins.  

You can read the table of contents and the introduction here

Read my interview about the book in Henry Jenkins’s blog: part one, two, and three.

“Digging into television’s origins and discovering secret lineages and unexpected ancestors, Doron Galili unearths the true reasons that fiercely opposed—and indissolubly linked—television and cinema. A masterful contribution to media archeology.” — Francesco Casetti, author of The Lumière Galaxy: Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come

“Assembling wonderful material and offering nuanced readings of both filmic and theoretical texts, Doron Galili makes important interventions in the ongoing debates over media specificity and television’s historiography. He is part of a new generation of scholars who are helping to put television’s complicated and often occluded genealogy into conversation with the latest media studies debates. A page-turner, Seeing by Electricity will resonate with a broad spectrum of readers.” — William Uricchio, Professor of Comparative Media Studies, MIT.

More information on Duke University Press’s website, here.

For the book page on Amazon, see here.


“… Galili’s publication represents a culmination point of three decades of academic research into the medium’s long history.” – Anne-Katrin Weber, Cultural Critique  

“… a scholarly work of the highest order, combining rigorous historical research and expansive theoretical engagement with key debates across television studies, film studies, and digital media studies to rethink fundamental assumptions about media history and notions of mediality and media change.” – Ariel Rogers, Technology & Culture

Seeing By Electricity … historicizes a prolonged moment, or a mediascape, when boundaries between media were porous, whereas the otherwise antagonistic relationships between media can be seen as symbiotic. From this perspective, the book challenges a commonly accepted historical narrative, and suggests instead a more flexible and broader contextualization of radio, television, and film as mutually contributing networks.”  — Rea Amit, Critical Inquiry

“Galili’s writing is flowing and engaging which makes the book an interesting read not only for scholars of television and media but for anyone who is interested in the field and the development of the technology. In the world where questions about media and media specificity arise again with the introduction of streaming services, looking at the way film, radio and early television interact gives an insight into intermediality. A valuable perspective for our post-cinema and post-television era.” — Julia Stolyar, Early Popular Visual Culture

Seeing by Electricity is a major contribution to the rapidly developing field of media archaeology. Galili pays appropriate obeisance to theorists including Siegfried Zielinski and Mary Ann Doane, but he grounds his arguments firmly in deeply researched historical accounts of optical devices and electrical instruments, conceptions of vision, imperial fantasies and utopian imaginaries…. Galili succeeds with aplomb.” — John Wyver, Critical Studies in Television

Seeing by Electricity offers its reader a nuanced and digestible consideration of the forces, entities, and contexts that shaped the conception, development, and perception of television in the United States and Europe from the late 1870s until the late 1930s.” — Laura C. Brown, Media Industries

“… Galili’s careful attention to the nineteenth and early twentieth century makes Seeing By Electricity a kind of escape to the past. As such it is an especially good pandemic read, allowing us to travel backwards whiles nevertheless speaking to our present landscape of video calls, online cocktail parties, remote learning, telecommuting, and binge-watching.” – Alison Reiko Loader, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film

“… an essential point of reference for anybody with an interest in media archaeology and early moving image history.” – Jamie Medhurst, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

a genuinely unique effort that is easy to read yet thought-provoking…. Seeing by Electricity is of tremendous value to those interested in television history, film and art theory, media and communications or cultural history, or the history of technology.” — Bryant Macfarlane, JHistory, H-Net Reviews

Seeing by Electricity is a good and straightforward read. Galili is clear about his main themes and allows the reader to see them at play. This text could act as an introduction to television, media history, or historiography for undergraduate and graduate students while also presenting claims that are important to the seasoned scholar.” — Michael J. Meindl, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

“Galili’s excavation of the history of the medium that became known as television offers a model for how to think through both the recent past and the mercurial present of moving image transmission…. Deeply researched and thoroughly informed by theory, Seeing by Electricity’s discussion of media fantasy and reality … offers exciting new pathways for thinking about the emergence of a new medium.” — Christina G. Petersen, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies

Listen to my New Books Network interview about Seeing by Electricity here.