Searching for blog posts tagged with 'musings'

communication, technology, and DIY

Oct

12

One of the things I love most about studying early modern literature is how relevant it seems to modern life. My readings lately have been about the print revolution and how it completely changed the face of human existence. That's not an exaggeration, either. Can you imagine a world without printed media? I certainly can't. It's one of the things that Elizabeth Eisenstein says makes it difficult for us to really understand just how much the advent of the printing press changed the world.

I think there are quite a lot of parallels between Gutenberg's invention and the rise of the internet. It's not a perfect comparison by any means, but the similarities are there. Opening up communication to a whole new group of people, the loosening of one particular authority's grip on information, and the addition, for good or ill, of a whole new range of human experience. People slag off the internet-- hell, I slag off the internet-- but I really feel that it has a lot in common with the printing press in that it's a new form of communication that has quickly become ubiquitous. How many young people now can remember life before the internet? I was around then, and I can barely remember it. I definitely recall doing research the hard way, with actual books and paper library catalogues, instead of with the internet. A world of information is at my fingertips. I wonder if this is how some early modern scholar felt, walking around the churchyard of St. Paul's.

The problem we encounter in a culture where everyone gets to speak up is determining which voices are worth listening to. If Authority no longer dictates who gets a say, it falls to us to be our own Authority. And sometimes we're pretty crap at that. Critical thinking skills don't really come naturally to human beings, much as we like to preen about being The Rational Mammal or some such nonsense. When it comes to it, we're pretty much just jumped-up monkeys with bigger, sharper sticks.

I'm going to have to look into this idea and investigate whether anyone else has drawn these parallels between the growth of printing and the growth of the internet. I think there might be a dissertation there. Or at least a term paper.