In a vast territory such as this of Queensland, inhabited as it is by a mere handful of people, the electric telegraph system is a most potent agent of civilisation … As the nerve to the brain, and the brain to the nerve, so by this minute reticulation of a sensitive organism, a uniformity of thought almost, and of expression, is imparted to the whole community. (“Scientific and Useful”)
This passage, published in the Queenslander newspaper in 1875, represents the body as an extension of a technological system. Such imagery is familiar to readers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, emerging with William Gibson’s representations of ‘jacking in’ to cyberspace in his 1984 novel Neuromancer, but as Laura Otis has written, the tendency ‘to see a communications device as a continuation of one’s own nervous system developed in the nineteenth century, not in the twentieth’ (10). New technologies of the nineteenth century such as the typewriter and telegraph prompted new ideas about intimacy and affect, which in turn created innovative opportunities for authorship. The literary collaboration of nineteenth century Australian novelist Rosa Praed and her companion Nancy Harward, for example, was not only activated by these new technologies, but it was also a means by which, as with many other female mediums of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Harward could furnish herself with literary authority. The persistence of alternative worlds, present now in the realm of cyberspace, indicates how even though telepathy may have been no more than intuition, it still offered women an opportunity to create and enact alternative selves and desires.