How Google Killed Gutenberg – and Explained the World
you can read the rest by going to the linkLast week, the author of “‘Here Comes I, Jack Straw:’ English Folk Drama and Social Revolt” advanced one of the most compelling theories of international relations I have heard.
Thomas Pettitt, a professor of English at the University of Southern Denmark, argues that the communications revolution that Johannes Gutenberg triggered is an aberration in a much longer communications trajectory. The 500 years between 1500 and 2000, Pettitt claims, are to communications what the CN Tower is to the Toronto skyline: an exception. Pettitt maintains that oral culture is the norm, and that the print culture of the past half millennium represents a divergence from that norm. In other words, iPads and Google have much more in common with the oral storytelling and theatre of the Middle Ages than they do with books and magazines.
This theory has been coined the Gutenberg Parenthesis: the Gutenberg era of books represents an interruption – a parenthesis – in an otherwise smooth arc of human communication.
The similarities between Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter) and the medieval peasant may not be immediately apparent, but dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Pettitt has a point. In the current era, as with the pre-Gutenberg era, truth is malleable. Our sources of knowledge are no longer permanent – like libraries and indexes – but rather constantly evolving – like chat rooms and Google. There is no Encyclopedia Britannica to ground what we know. Instead, we rely on Wikipedia, where something may be true today but false tomorrow. Our digital networks of knowledge have more in common with a medieval town than they do with the national library.
Go into one of the cabins by the lake.
Im not sure why but this article avoids the social truths about why books were important to the spreading of knowledge. Word of mouth only travels so far, and can be completely made up trivia (like most of your posts). Printing material held authors accountable and scattered knowledge over a wide geographical area.
It was and is more or less a tool. The digital revolution has its own unique historical anamolies just like every disruptive development in human evolution.
If books were an anomaly, I would say they were a good one, and one that was better than the thing it replaced. I don't think the concept of 'malleable truth', generated by an 'oral culture', is an improvement over what we have had for hundreds of years. I think society has hugely benefitted from the concept of real truth & knowledge and the search for it.
After the fall of Rome and before Gutenberg, the truth was whatever the pope said. Now, what is the truth, whatever Fox News says? The issue here is obvious.
edit: Look at the rise of Greek civilization, which seems spontaneous and surprising. Philosophies from those like Thales, Anaximander, and Pythagoras were passed on for hundreds of years before being written down. But we obviously have some writings of Plato, Aristotle, Democritus, and Euclid. Also the playwrights. Those were the beginnings of western civilization. Put together their writings clearly show a quest for truth. That quest needs grounding in a written word.
Last edited by Diff-chan; 07 Jun 2012 at 12:39 PM.
I agree with Diff.
Many of the subjects that make our society stand out from those that came before, come from concrete knowledge that is in books.
Shit like calculus does not need to be passed down via an oral history or read through twitter feeds.
I think the author has a slight age bias. Just because something is old, doesn't make it better.