Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Technological Outcomes

Reflecting on some of the major characteristics of the so-called Digital 'Revolution' has proven a useful way to access the emergence of print in the fifteenth century. The photo here is the classroom wall after our graduate seminar yesterday, where discussion of the major elements of text technological change brought about by the Digital in the last decade formed the focus of attention. Among these are the desires for increased speed and immediate access. These, in turn, create a sense of greater democratisation, and, indeed, the globalisation of knowledge exchange; this parallels the exponential growth in the quantity of information available. With such apparent democratisation come questions of authority and control, validity, credibility and authenticity. Similar trends were identified in the century after the invention of moveable type. Just as Caxton wanted to reassure his readers that the works of Chaucer he printed were as 'true' to the author as they could be (and more true than any competitor editions!), so the demand for the authorisation of knowledge continues. Thus, students are urged to check the academic credentials of the online sources they use, for example; and internet hoaxes, such as the Gay Girl in Damascus, cause outrage for their 'fakeness', and, in this particular case, derision about the real author's 'vanity'. Moreover, the mass of information available can easily be confused with 'freedom of information', when these things do not equate. There is nothing on the internet that is not already mediated and where there is mediation there is ideology. The more intrusive the mediation, the greater the obfuscation (or is it the other way around?).

1 comment:

  1. Great analysis of the cycle of technological advances, which arguably goes back in time with the invention, trialling and use of new writing materials. The key is the material itself which brought about the inherent revolution: from papyrus to parchment to paper to plasma. It is the evolution of materials as well as its writing tools which enable the perpetuation of this continuous cycle. In the medieval period, for instance, the same ink could not be used for writing on parchment or paper, and even with the printing press the ink had to be thicker otherwise it would not stick onto the page.