links for 2008-01-30

links for 2008-01-29

Berners-Lee Is The New Gutenberg: Impact Big, Unforseeable.

The First Law of Technology says we invariably overestimate the short-term impact of new technologies while underestimating their longer-term effects. The invention of printing in the 15th century had an extraordinary short-term impact: though scholars argue about the precise number, within 40 years of the first Gutenberg bible between eight and 24 million books, representing 30,000 titles, had been printed and published. To those around at the time, it seemed like a pretty big deal…

They didn’t know, for example, that Gutenberg’s technology, which enabled lay people to read and interpret the bible for themselves, would undermine the authority of the Catholic church and fuel the Reformation. Or that it would enable the rise of modern science by facilitating the rapid and accurate dissemination of ideas. Or create new social classes of clerks, teachers and intellectuals. Or alter our conception of ‘childhood’ as a protected early stage in the lives of young people. In an oral culture, childhood effectively ended at the age when an individual could be regarded as a competent communicator, ie, about seven…

In a print-based culture, communicative competence took longer to achieve and required schooling, so ‘childhood’ was extended to 12 or 14. All these long-term impacts were not – indeed, could not have been – foreseen. Yet they represent the profound ways in which Gutenberg’s technology transformed society.

John Naughton: Thanks, Gutenberg – but we’re too pressed for time to read | Media | The Observer

This is a brief but excellent piece that highlights the great changes wrought by the World Wide Web.  It discusses new research from the British Library and University College London that looks like at the evolution of how we seek and use information.  Something to read about.

Blogged with Flock

links for 2008-01-25