kNOw Future Inc.

law, technology and cinema, washed down with wine

Futurologists: Get Some History Books

“Obsession with present-mindedness precludes speculation in terms of duration and time…. That process is due to causes which affect the mental temper as a whole, and pour round us an atmosphere that enervates our judgment from end to end, not more in politics than in morality, and not more in morality than in philosophy, in art, and in religion.”

Harold Innis, The Bias of Communication, 1954

Elisabeth Eisenstein, in her extraordinary work on the social impact of the printing press (1), emphasizes how the full ramifications of its invention did not reveal themselves immediately, but instead set in chain a series of changes that were apparent only over the longue durée. She remarks that for the hundred years after Gutenberg’s Psalter came off the press, a contemporary would not have noticed any great change. Print and scribal culture co-existed initially, and the former had to await refinement of printing techniques, changes in paper manufacture and other developments before ousting the hand-copied word. And triumphing in the battle for supremacy over the form of the word was just the beginning: the changes ushered in by print required the slow development of social practices emanating from divergent sources: theological dissent, the networking of dispersed enthusiasts of the arts and scientists, the self-interested drive of map-makers and commercial printers. Eisenstein argues that these forces combined to create the material conditions which were a precondition for the reformation and the emergence of modern science. If such dramatic consequences were not anticipated by Gutenberg and Fust’s contemporaries in the fifteenth century, it is understandable; after all this was the first communications revolution. Those witnessing the events of the (public) internet’s first twenty five years don’t have that excuse.

(1) Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 1979, Cambridge University Press


July 31, 2007 - Posted by | /, books, communication

1 Comment »

  1. […] sondern auch viel gewagte Pornographie, dazwischen atheistische Flugblätter – und Paris. Zwischen den 1740ern und 1790ern hat sich die Anzahl staatlicher Zensoren in Frankreich vervierfacht. Die Razzien gegen illegale […]

    Pingback by PIRATENPARTEI bei der EUROPAWAHL! « Andies Blog | June 2, 2009 | Reply

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