MIT 1700 Lecture 3: Information Revolutions from Print to Web
Media, Information and Technoculture
Media, Information and Technoculture 2200F/G
MIT 1700 Lecture 3 January 18, 2011
Information Revolutions: From Print to Web
- Printing Press (1450)
- Scientific (1500)
- Religious (1500)
- Industrial (1750)
- Darwin (1860’s)
- Freud (1920’s)
- Information (First Wave: 1940’s)
Foundation of all Knowledge
- In 1405, all knowledge came from the Bible and Aristotle (died 1700 years before)
- Knowledge economy was controlled and operated by 10% of European pop. that was literate.
- Info. was hoarded and safe guarded by the Church.
- People still thought world was flat.
- Only the wealthy/church could afford to purchase books. Before 1450 a book was an
investment that would cost a lot (more than a BMW today).
- An avg. book would take 8 cows to make (cow skin used as paper…)
- Someone had to be paid to write/copy the book (monks). Bad working conditions.
- No such thing as book publishing.
- Monks would write notes in the margins sometimes; this is the closest they got to writing their
- Marginalia: Something that is of lesser importance; a side topic (notes in margins)
- The Catholic Church used evocative imagery to carry out information in a medium that could
be understood by the illiterate.
- Information and knowledge was privileged. The Church has a monopoly on information: they
had literacy and cash.
- Therefore, the Church was able to control the message.
- The transmission of information was slow on account of having to rely on hand copied books.
- Probability for error was much higher.
- The Bible was the most published book in the Middle Ages.
- Many peasants didn’t understand Latin. Later, the Bible was translated into language that
people could understand.
- Printers became publishers (deciding what information they should print that day)
Gutenberg (Movable Type and Printing Press)
- Developed alloy for making revolutionary movable type which facilitated the invention of the
- Produced the first book not copied by hand in 1450, thus beginning the Printing Press
- Implications of the Printing Press:
- Information can be transmitted faster
- Ideas can be reproduced easily
- More people could gain access to info
- More discussion of ideas, and increased literacy
- More potential criticism of the ruling elite due to discussion of ideas
- Authors became important (before authorship was unimportant)
- Authors can express their own ideas; not just copy old info, and become popular
- Spelling/alphabet could be standardized and not just guess-work MIT 1700 Lecture 3 January 18, 2011
- Costs came down because of higher production made easier; more people can afford
books; compelled more of them to become literate.
* The Church no longer had as much control over what could be published.
The Scientific Revolution
- If you were a Medieval Thinker, all your ideas would’ve come from Aristotle/Bible. Considered
- 1543 Copernicus says Sun is the center of our Universe, not Earth (like Aristotle said).
- Observation/experimentation is the only way to gain factual knowledge. Back then, disputing
Aristotle was considered heresy.
Galileo Galilei (invented telescope)
- Paid for ideas with life.
- Philotheoparoptessism: people got burned to death if they didn’t agree with Church.
- Math became the common alphabet of Science.
- How do we obtain knowledge of world? Faith or Reason?
- Based on observation/experiment
- From specific to general
- Can be repeated through testing
- Revises old assumptions
- Privileges the senses
- Anything Aristotle said was taken as truth.
- Can be disputed in Inductive Method.
- Making an absolute claim about the universe is to say that we know everything about the
Universe and have been everywhere. If there is no surprise there is no information.
- This method allows us to interpret environmental information differently.
- Microscope and telescopes gave us a way to see into the unseen world.
- Martin Luther
- The WikiLeaks of his time. 1517 he published series of complaints/criticisms “95
Theses” that he nailed to the door of Catholic Church.
- Before Luther, no one had criticized Church and hoped to live.
- His publication of 95 Theses circulated fast because of printing press. Many people
were in support of him.
- Led to vicious wars.
- He wanted to democratize the Bible (by translating it into different languages: German)
- Now people can make decisions for themselves and maybe interpret the Bible
differently than it already has been.
- Humanism maintained that Reason needs to work unfettered by matters of faith. Should be
able to carve it’s own path. Freedom of thought.
- Rejection of Aristotle and Clericalism
- We are endowed with a mind that