Soon we’ll look back on the web 2.0 and see it as old fashioned as the information superhighway, ‘@’s in company names or b/w displays on mobile phones. But even more, the whole internet will be the ancestor to something more convenient, sexy and usefull. And today everything indicates that we‘re about to experience this next media shift in a measurable period of time.
Our habitual approach to development is constructing cause and effect chains. Looking back it is common to simplify, to abstract our perspective into some cone, leading back to one event, a datum point from where it all started.
Rarely we reach beyond this point and question ,why‘, what was the environment producing a significant change. I assume revolutionary inventions never happen out of time but are logical reactions to specific challenges. We should keep this in mind, when we talk about (legal) frameworks for media or media control.
Let me explain what I mean…
The mechanical printing machine invented by Gutenberg around 1440 was nothing but a logic step in the context of the renaissance, an era of bourgeoisie powers uprising against old ruling classes. New forces needed and therefore demanded one thing above all, knowledge. Knowledge formerly guarded by the church to reproduce it‘s hegemonic power.
But don’t get this wrong, the renaissance did not happen because some Medici or Fugger desired to democratize the world. They simply needed to back up their own claim to power against the clergy: Hegemony is the power to define any term with which one can articulate criticism against the defining power.
Transferring this power from one class to others was the bottom line of european politics back then, an educated labour force it‘s basic instrument – wether it was monks or bankers. Mechanical printing does make sense in this context.
The first book ever printed by Gutenberg was a bible, whereas all considerable Universities – Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, Palencia, Arezzo, Vicenza, Salamanca – all this nutrient medium for intellectuals later overthrowing clerical sovereignty were founded at least 200 years before Gutenbergs invention and were supported by the church… So don’t fall for any arguments, that providing/using/restricting a certain media will do the trick.
Respect to Gutenberg – don‘t get me wrong, great invention, good guy, but what made his machine the(!) premise for the modern age is not it‘s sheer existence but the purposes people used it for. What they did share with it.
Previously on ‘media’:
Writing, the first stocktaking scribbled in clay appeared in ancient persia. Now guess why this guys made it nr. 1 in the world economy.
Transcription / Transport of information beyond cultural or language barriers – the quasi industrial transcriptions under Alfonso X. who enforced scholars to copy and translate ancient greek texts from arabian scrolls via jewish to the language spoken by his people. guess why his kingdom kind of ruled iberia and got a decent share of income by trading with the arabs. He didn’t block them off but integrated them as many others into his economic and cultural system.
Don’t forgett the invention of the book itself – a simple way to bundle text, physical and content-wise, securing text from getting wet or molding. But even more the book is an invention to share data. Books could transport data, they fit into a categorization system, where a specific piece of information can be found and retrieved from a certain position, again and again and again by anyone searching – in the book itself and in the place the book is stored, which is the next revolution:
The modern library.
The interesting question to ask is why did this happen? Most likely we will find surprisingly simple premisses.
Every media shift mentioned above happened when people suffered a limited access to information. Due to language barriers, due to hegemony, due to the simple fact that there was no such thing as writing, later books or much later shared information between individual computers.
People were forced to gain access to information or bypass information prohibition to maintain their daily routines, even more, to fulfill the requirements of their environment.
In reverse this means that any attempt to block people from free information leads to redemption of the system – in favor of a new system, a new media, technology or format that works better for everyone.
So, please RIAA go ahead…