Thursday, January 31, 2008

Print Media's Affect on Western Civilization

The Rise of The Reading Public by Elizabeth Eisenstein, was a great in depth look into the origins and influence of print media. Eisenstein is trying to demonstrate that the history of print media is generally the "history of civilization". Eisenstein goes in further by trying to draw from the spread of print and its influence on institutions of the world, (be it political, social, philosophical etc) Past and contemporary. She makes a case that:

"If the printing press exerted some influence upon them, why is this influence so often unnoted".

Eisenstein also argues how do we (in a historical sense) assess the effects that print has had on western civilization (or civilization in general). Eisenstein states that " we still know very little about how access to printed materials affected human behavior". I agree with this statement. How can we prove the significance print media has had on civilization? It would be impossible seein how everyday print media evolves on some level. The affect it once had on society was much more significant in terms of the explosion of other media's such as T.V, Radio, and the internet, but still to this day print is used as the primary learning tool in everyday society whether rich or poor, Catholic or Islamic. This is a tradition that takes us all the way back to the advent of the printing press via Guttenberg.
Another argument that Eisenstein makes in this reading is how many forms of print such as the Bible, "were subject to contradiction.....all the text were liable to get corrupted after being copied over the course of time." That is one of the main reasons why I have strayed away from religion over the years. We as a people have become reliant on text that may or may not be original publications. For example, when reading the bible, one may hold certain truths to be law from the word because as a Catholic you are taught that the Bible is from the word of God and you must live your life according to these teachings. but with that said, if a text is suject to change and be rewritten over time, how can one, as a devoted catholic know that these are the words of God and his true teachings. In all fairness it would be impossible for written works from the beginning of civilization to be fairly recorded over time because it has to be interpreted by every language, generation, culture etc, but to say that would make relgion somewhat of a "Nostalgic" entity which people believe and follow.

In the end, I agree with alot of Eisensteins arguments but with my own personal prospective. Eisenstien views print media's rise as a complex but siginificant part of western civilization. She could not be any more correct in that conclusion. The rise of print is still devoloping everyday and we probably never know its effect on our world.

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At 10:04 PM, Blogger A. Mattson said...

A very good post.

You are correct the print medium is still the dominent form of education and business.

The importance of standardization of information is crucial. It is the standardization is the foundationn of mass production, in this case the mass production of information and the democratization of knowledge.

Scribal culture would never be able to produce enough manuscripts to reach very far beyond an elite population.


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