Culture and Media Forms The First New Media: The “Printing Revolution” and its Impacts
This course introduces students to the “Printing Revolution,” and its impacts on the politics, societies and cultures of Europe and the world. Topics include:
- How new technologies (print, books) upended established orders of information and knowledge (such as manuscript and oral systems of recording and transmission)
- The politics and economics of the press: censorship and intellectual property.
- Evolving reading habits and the stakes of expanded literacy.
An 1894 Scribner’s article predicting that “phonography” would spell the “end of books” seems ridiculous today. The sentiment that print books are becoming obsolete has, however, only intensified. Yet before being threatened with extinction by “new media,” print was new media. Its appearance transformed early modern life much as digital media are changing our world today.
Concepts forged in the age of print continue to inform us as they adapt to new technologies – terms like “book” and “pages” now help us process digital data. Using a mix of primary and secondary readings from the middle ages to the present, and with a visit to Special Collections in Suzzallo, we’ll contemplate how notions like authorship, originality, copyright, freedom of the press, and public opinion took form in the information era opened up by print in the 15th century and how they still orient us in a rapidly changing media environment.