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Books, Gramophone, Movies and the Internet

Donald G. Perrin

Stone tablets, hieroglyphics, papyrus and writing are p[art of ancient history. The term "Dark Ages" reminds us of the cultural and economic deterioration in Western Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire. Toward the end of the Middle Ages there was a Renaissance of art and culture. Gutenberg’s printing press(1439) led to an unprecedented flow of news and information across Europe and surrounding countries. The Renaissance was a cultural and intellectual revolution that encouraged intellectual pursuits, social and political upheaval, and development of art and culture.

Affordable printing was a major catalyst for social change. It has stimulated social, education and industrial development through the centuries. Martin Luther made the bible accessible by translating it from Latin. The result was a dialog in many countries that led to reformation of the church. The discoveries of Christopher Columbus were motivated by a book on geography. The industrial revolution spurred invention and economic growth. The printing press facilitated widespread circulation of new ideas and the later scientific revolution.

The nineteenth century gave rise to telegraph and telephone, gramophone, electrical power, radio. photography and the motion picture. In the twentieth century, these launch a new kind of visual culture and significant social changes. According to Bela Belazs (1923) “The discovery of printing gradually rendered illegible the faces of men” and turned “a legible spirit and visual culture into a culture of concepts.” Belazs postulated that the cinematographic camera, “Like the printing press, is a technical device for the multiplication and distribution of products of the human spirit; its effect on human culture will not be less than that of the printing press.”

In the 20th century, television and electronic media emerged to complement, and in some instances replace traditional media such as film, gramophone and telephone. The interactive power of electronic networks to connect personal computers and cell phones to the Internet made it possible to communicate, search databases and access content in any media format anytime and anywhere.

The Internet serves billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that links millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global Information resources and electronic mail through the World Wide Web. The internet is a virtual “Tower of Babel that enables business and social interaction and formation of virtual communities. The technology is ubiquitous. Any person can initiate a search or message from any point in the global network; everyone has the potential to access, interact, create, publish, distribute and consume media content. Newspaper publishing is being reshaped into Web sites, blogging, and web feeds. Open access to the internet is changing cultures, economies, and political systems.

The Internet enables creation of new forms of human interactions through instant messaging, Wikis, Internet forums, and social networking. These are facilitated through sites such as Linked-In and Facebook. The Wikipedia combines text, images, sounds and video with web-links, interactive activities, creative participation, and dynamic formation of communities. Web portals link to sites with related content or purpose. Although most websites are open and free, potential threats are posed by some governments and for-profit organizations. These will be discussed in the next editorial.


Bela Belazs. (1952) Theory of the Film (Character and Growth of the new Art)
London: Dobson Ltd (Translated from Hungarian)

Kuhn, Thomas Samuel. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (3rd Edition) University of Chicago Press, 1962

Wikipedia Articles: Dark Ages, Renaissance, Gutenberg, Martin Luther, Thomas Kuhn, Thomas Edison, New Media, Internet. 

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