Thursday, February 10, 2005

What about the print divide?

Warschauer, talking about social embeddedness of technology, refers briefly to the Gutemberg revolution. He talks of the changes that such technical innovation brought to society. His point is to stress how much society and its technology are intertwined. This reference makes me wonder about similarities (if there are, and I think so) between the digital divide we are discussing about now and a "print divide" during the 16th Century. I'm not a mass media historician, but I think that there is more than one point in common between the two divides created by the Internet and the Gutemberg revolution.
I'll be very interested to discuss this point in class, because I think that the Internet, as a mass medium, is too young and still in its first stages of evolution. It is too difficult to pretend to understand the digital divide from an inside point of view. As for that, I feel that some kind of historical point of view on the past "divides" could help understand better what is going on. Norris did it with some media and their expansion patterns. Anyway, I think that the print revolution is a more suitable comparison with the changes that the Internet is bringing. Furthermore, most of you are in library studies and you surely know a lot about this medium that changed society (maybe more than the Internet could do).
If I think of past divides, for example, digital divide tracked by income isn't so much surprising to me, especially if I think that only wealthy people could afford books in the 16th Century.
Looking back, with Warschauer theories about interdependence of society and its technology in mind, the digital divide seems kind of less unknown... kind of...

1 comment:

  1. The print divide shared this important feature with the digital divide -- the problem was not necessarily one of access so much as skill. There were lending libraries from fairly early on, and although these often required a subscription fee they weren't very expensive. But if a person was illiterate, it didn't matter whether they could get books from a library or not.

    The literacy gap seems to have been pretty similar to the digital skills gap in terms of demographics. The adults with weaker skills tended to be uneducated, poor, female, or elderly.