Thursday, February 05, 2009

Harvey J. Graff

Early Modern Illiteracies

Printing made propaganda, in a modern sense, possible; the Reformation was an early example, although perhaps not the first”.

The article, “Technology and a "New" Reformation: Communicating the Gospel in the Information Age” by Richard Rouse looks at the World Wide Web and interactive videos as the as the new printing press propaganda tool that will usher in a new age of reformation.

are Upgrades always better?

In "the Rise of the Reading public" Elizabeth Eisentein Expreese's how the world is becoming lazy. How valuable lessons on life are trying to be learned from a simple reading. I believe printers and work shops help, because if you ever want to kno something you could always go look it up, But most lesson are best learn from expierences or someone with expierence. A print out cant express the seriousness of something like slavery. it can only give an idea of what the world was like. A relative or somebody who actually has old stories or knows much on that subject, will teach you more than an article ever could. Also this causes the absence of an important person in the childrens life. Grandparents have wisdom about your ancestors that a book or print out couldn't. That elderly person would be there for advise if neccesary.

" Public Sphere"

According to chapter 1 Early Modern Origins Starr speaks on the development of accessible public distribution of news and communication, and how its an important device needed for the growth of social society. Before the 1600s news and information was passed on by "word of mouth" people traveling would stop and share stories and information. Today word of mouth is still one of the biggest ways people find out things; but the creation of mass media is the number one way people are informed about everything going on in the world. The advancement of technology such as newspapers, radio, news broadcasting, magazines etc. keep the wave of information fresh and new and on a continuous basis. Which according to Starr " regular means of exchange and publication provide not only a stream of fresh information but also the opportunity to respond to events as they unfold, to engage in the back-and-forth of debate, and to sustain relationships and affiliations"(24). This is what our culture thrives on; the ability to get information NOW, and to always be in the know. The convenience of being able to keep up with whats going on in the world around us and the opportunity to make a change and expand our economic growth.

Starr, Paul. "Early Modern Origins." The Creation of the Media Political Origins of Modern Communications. New York, 2005. 23-24.

Public vs Priviate

" What is this new public sphere? Part of the difficulty in defining it lies in ambiguity of the word "public." In one sense, public is to private is open is to closed, as when we speak of making something public. In another sense , public is to private as whole is to part, as when we speak of the public health or public interest, meaning the health or interest of the whole." When referring to the media as public, it means it is out there for the people to see. Before the invention of the printing press information given to the people could only get so far. Letters, and hand written books were basically the only means for people to transfer the information that people wanted to share. By inventing the printing press it allowed the information to be put out to more people. More people were able to read what was going on and the ability of the information would get spread out more. This was a development in the way communication was being transformed from one person to another. I feel as if Starr, felt by this transformation readers would be able to be more up to date on certain things, because they all could be reading it at the same time. In the earlier days before the printing press one person could know a whole year before another person found out. To me this was a great accomplishment in the beginning of time, which lead to greater developments in communication.

Looking Back

As we go forward with our investigation into how the modern media came into existence and where it will be going in the future, I think it is important to keep in mind the prisms through which we view past events. Whether it is a euro or capitalist- centric shade that is cast upon or investigation, we must try to keep in mind that no everyone throughout the world views things exactly the same way as us. That will help to give us a better grasp on the factors that have truly influenced the media in our country by allowing us to stepping back and understanding that our perspective might not be the only one, or even necessarily the correct one.

A Man Who Had A Difficult Time With New Technology

In “The Rise of the Reading Public” it mentions a man named Abbot Johannes Trithemius. He had a difficult time adapting himself to the printed word rather than the hand written word. This abbot talked about a competing technology (printed word) and mentioned, “The printed book is made of paper and, like paper, will quickly disappear. But the scribe working with parchment ensures lasting remembrance for himself and for his text”. Similar types of criticisms occur today between today’s technology, digital e-readers and yesterday’s technology, books. Trith said scribes are more careful than individuals who work with print, therefore the spelling and other important aspects of books are more cautiously looked after. He had a hard time understanding how to incorporate print into his idea of monastic life.

Trith seriously felt that the detailed copying (writing) of various texts was so important for monastic life and education. “The abbot not only exhorted his monks to copy books, but also explained why ‘monks should not stop copying because of the invention of printing.’” Trith said when a monk transcribes the written text he understands and feels it deeply in his heart and soul. It was almost a form of meditation for the monks. Monastic writing still took place even after the first printing press was used. The monks were quite devoted to hand writing texts.

Elizabeth Eisenstein, “The Rise of the Reading Public”, pg. 101

Print Changed the Way We Get Our News

In John B. Thompson's piece "The Print Revolution" he explains how the development of print greatly changed and improved how people got their news and how quickly they got it. Prior to the development of printing, news of events both local and distant was only spread orally. It was spread very slowly and ineffectively. Printing not only improved general communications, but greatly affected the way the public got their news in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe. Most publications of the news started as periodicals in the late sixteenth century. By the early 1600's there were publications being printed that eventually lead to what is considered the modern day newspaper. Many cities in Germany by this time had various weekly journals published, "and there is some evidence to suggest that a weekly paper may have appeared somewhat earlier in Amsterdam." These publications of the news in Europe would eventually influence publications in other countries and languages. The start of early news publications due to the development of print is the reason we are able to receive most of our information and news nowadays in the form of newspapers and journals.

Elizabeth Eisenstein Idea

Elizabeth Eisenstein has many different opinions about media both good and bad. She wrote "the rise of the reading public" in this article she discuss how she believe that media gave everything a different procession, and a lot of things wasn't that important until media came into play in the late fifteenth century. "The exact nature of the impact which the invention and spread of printing had on western civilization remains subject to interpretation even today." I agree, it's all up to you how you want to interpreted it and everyone is entitle to their own opinion.

The Mass Media and the Consequences

In Elizabeth Eisenstein's
"The Rise of the Reading Public" stated that the mass media basically has had some positive and negative affects on the growing people. She has talked about how the media is the cause of separation between people and religion, tradition and basic educational skills.

I do agree that the mass media has broken up religion and people. A lot of sunday rituals that take place in a church revolves around the world around it. If you were to go to a christian baptist church and walk into a sermon given by the pastor, you will hear about the local travesties and dilemmas happening within the community. Later followed by some kind of good act, "divinely" sent, to fix the problem and to make peace within the community. There is no sermon that starts of with solely the bible and ends with it. If one wants to go to a Catholic Mass or a Jewish Temple to find otherwise, you will find no different. The sermon is first started of with God (Allah, Jesus, ect.) and ends with current reality. 
Eisenstein also suggest that the mass media has cut off the simple tradition of the story teller and replaced it with the literate person who reads the story and makes the story teller look misleading or uneducated. I strongly disagree with this. Traditional vales can only be past down from word of mouth. A culture cannot be defined through the scrolls and text an archeologist/historian might find buried deep beneath the ruins in the Sahara. It is the people that has great grandparents that taught them what scrolls could not and their grandparents before them. Story telling is a social way of media and therefore cannot be tainted nor diminished. Therefore, making the eldest in any family, culture or religion the most wise and educated.
Either way in my opinion, Elizabeth Eisenstein walks a thin line between the optimistic values and pessimistic blemishes of the mass media. And no matter how thin that line is, no one can deny that the media has made its progress through out the years and that transition between storyteller and Pop Magazine is becoming a little bit smoother.

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" Things that work satisfactorily come to be thought of as right"

"Things that work satisfactorily come to be thought of as right", this quote stated by Paul Starr in his introduction so appropriately addresses the thought process of our current society. As it is widely known our country is in a state of economic downfall, along with other problems within our government. While many people simply complain about such things as ever fluctuating gas prices, the results of global warming and the corruption and financial struggles, it seems as if a small amount of people are actually working to make change to these issues. As Starr states " Laws, methods, and systems that appear to be successful become the basis of standards, often gradually appearing to be natural and inevitable, as if there could be no other way" ( Starr, p, 5). These methods and systems often serve as a comfort zone for American citizens.
A great example to prove this quote true is in the issue of global warming. Since the early 1900's, with the first invention of the automobile, we have been using gasoline powered engines to run our vehicles. This system of having a car and using gasoline powered engines seems as second nature to us as Americans. In the past decade, with the issue of global warming on the rise, and the main link being the CO2 emissions and the burning of fossil fuels, automakers have turned to trying to produce more " fuel efficient" and " clean pass" or hybrid cars. These cars, which are technologically altered to either use up less fuel , or in some cases run on both hybrid electric power or gasoline, are being offered by more and more automobile industries. Some of the biggest auto manufacturers such as Honda, Toyota and Chevy have produced models such as these, and even though they have attracted many consumers, especially over the past few years with gas prices soaring to record highs, still not enough people are comfortable with the idea of switching over to an alternative system.
The only problem goes back to the statement made by Starr about change becoming almost inevitable. We as Americans have become so used to filling up our cars with gasoline, that we don't see a hybrid or even the electric or fuel cell vehicles as an option ( this is of course, forgetting about the high price tags automakers put on these vehicles). We have become so accustomed to the idea of pulling up to a gas station to the point where change is almost impossible, unless we were all literally given no other choice.
Unfortunately for our society this "fear" or "rejection" of change does not limit itself to only alternate gasoline options, but to other issues as well. Hopefully before it is too late, we will come to realize our own ignorance to change.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Rise of the Reading Public

Elizabeth Einstein was explaining how the printing press was formed, she explains how the fifteenth century equipment evolved into better technology. She claims that historians are indebted to Gutenberg because of his invention of the printing press. She explains the earlier times when people started to write poetry and other short stories. She mentions names of the scholars who wrote their works on papyrus and other forms of sheet paper before regular paper come out. She claim that the writing of the Bible was a key in creating a paper to write on for scholars and Christians. Royalty also used cucumbersome manuscripts to pass around rules to the subjects in the kingdom

"Is it possible to have media without bias?"

Last week I was asked in another class, "Is it possible to have media without bias?" My answer: No. Every story told has at least two sides to it. When you tell your friends about a conflict, you're side is explained, but what about the others story? In history, often the victor's story is told, but what about the loser? In today's news, you can hear what's going on around the world from our perspective, but what about the perspective of the other part of the world?

So I guess my point is can we trust the information we receive today to be completely accurate. I feel this trend influenced by political power. When church was law in some parts of the world, Officials often interpreted the words of the Bible to their own meaning. And this was possible because people on the lower end of the totem pole couldn't read so they couldn't access the information. The political power, or church, regulated what information to offer the public. Today it is done almost the same way. Today's media regulates and slants what information is viewed on the 10 o'clock news.

Starr explains a bit in the introduction that it's hard to turn to other ways of thinking as we travel down a certain path of constitutive choices. "... at times constitutive choices come in bursts set off by social and political crises, technological innovation, or other triggering events, and at these pivotal moments the choices may be encoded in law, etched into technologies, or otherwise embedded in the structure of institutions." (Starr, pg. 4) With all these technological advances, the way our media is broadcast may have changed, but has it changed the amount of bias in today's media?

The best technology may not always prevail

Today's gas prices are way out of control and the need for the use of other resources is absolutely necessary. In order for our great country to rid our self from the dependence of the Middle East, we as Americans need to start thinking outside the box and create new outlets of producing energy. Think about it, wouldn't it be nice to fill the tank of your car with corn oils or charge the battery before you leave the house. The amount of money saved would be enormous but also it would keep our great country a little more save from terrorism. According to Star on page one he states, "By constitutive choices I mean those that create the material and institutional framework of fields of human activity. My premise here is that the constraints in the architecture of technical systems and social institutions are rarely so clear and over powering as to compel a single design." This meaning the best technology and or political powers may not be put to use even if they are best suited for the society. But the best and most efficient alternative for energy may not win out in America because of the fear of change. People are too afraid of stepping outside their comfort zone and trying something new even if it will improve the conditions in the United States, economically, socially, politically. According to the great philosopher John Stuart Mills, individuals should do" the greatest good for the greatest amount of people." If Utilitarianism still holds true today, our government has to be put to blame for not looking out for the peoples best interest.


There are many inventions that have changed the course of history, inventions such as: electricity, the automobile, the internet, and of course the printing press. All of these inventions have had and in some cases still have a lasting impact on the course of history. Looking back on the greatest inventions of al time you have to consider the printing press, this invention made information readily available for all who could read. Much like the internet does today helping millions of people access endless amounts of information the printing press did just that, perhaps you could say it was the internet of its time, just because it informed a large number of people.
As well as inform the educated the invention of the printing press of the use of moveable type printing made the history of the world documented so that generations later we have the knowledge of the world, that in my mind is one of the most significant inventions of all time.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Have you ever really thought about how the Post Office started?

Today people might complain about waiting on line at a post office, or the price of a stamp. But I bet you never stop and wonder how post offices came about! As the book points out Thurn und Taxis was one of the first private postal networks. Starting in 1290 ancestors of the family organized and ran a courier services in the Italian city-states. The family was known as the Tassio's during this time. Francisco Tasso and brothers Ruggiero, Leonardo and Janetto later operated a post service. Francisco began to call himself Franz and moved from Italy to Bruxelles (Belgium). This is where he began a postal service between Bruxelles and Vienna. According to Wikipedia the family’s name began to change from Tassio to Taxis in the family coat of arms. In 1624 the family became counts (Grafen). And finally on December 24th 1650 they changed their name to Thurn (Tower) und Taxis. Franz Thurn und Taxis founded the first public-access mail service by carrying both private and government mail throughout the Holy Roman Empire as well as Spain. To carry the mail they had used “horse based message transport system.” This method turned out to be extremely useful, then in 1490 Frederick the 3rd began a communications monopoly. According to Thurn und Taxis homepage, “In 1615, Emperor Mathias rewarded the services of the family by granting the position of imperial postmaster general as an hereditary right in the male line of succession.” As the years went on the Thurn und Taxis employed 20,000 messengers to carry mail and newspapers to Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg. In I852 the family issued postage stamps. As some people say “All good things must come to an end.” Napoleon Bonaparte was the first to attack the Thurn and Taxis monopoly, but it was not till the Prussian from the Northern Germany government bought and nationalized the postal system in 1867. Now next time your standing on line at the post office you can think about how it all started!

The Trade in News by John B. Thompson

I found this article in the packet, extermly interesting. It talks of the earliest forms of communication before the printing press. To think that people at one point in europe got their news via word of mouth from pedlers or clergy is astonishing to look back on. Today we can simply click a mouse to get up to the minute information from the smallest town in the entire world and it is more than likely accurate. You can keep in touch with a relative in a different country by picking up the phone or sending them an email, and get feedback instantly. To imajine a world where you would not get any news of importance for maybe a week after it happened is completly unrealistic in today's terms. Also, as word of mouth was a main source of communication, we can only imagine how story's could have changed from person to person, before the news became completly wrong from the original story. The printing press and a daily newspaper clearly changed the world for the better. It is kind of sad,however, to see that technology was so needed and helped back then, but the advances in technology now take a simple daily publication and basically make that too outdated.