In Plato's Phaedrus Theuth shows his invention of writing to King Thamus, claiming that it will improve both the wisdom and memory of the Egyptians. But the King replies,

Your pupils will have the reputation for wisdom without the reality; they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgable when they are for the most part quite ignorant. And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society. (Postman p. 4)

Whether all the information on the World Wide Web will become a burden to society remains to be seen. There is the problem that we do not really know who the source of a document is, whether they are qualified to say the things that they say. Literature will surely change as it is opened to the masses to express their narratives. As the quality of the literature is in the mind of the witness of the text there should always be an audience of appreciative readers for whatever text is considered as literature and placed upon the World Wide Web.

The history of printing is an integral part of the general history of civilisation. Printing changed the way narration was recorded and perceived and it broke down the barriers of order and control in society which were in place during the Middle Ages. What was lost with printed literature was the illusion that spoken narrative provided with its direct speech.

The invention of movable type was the greatest single event in the history of narration before the computer then the internet and now the World Wide Web enhanced the spreading of text. The printing press provided the first information revolution and the Internet is providing the second information revolution. And just as the printing press brought about a world change so too does the World Wide Web.

It took a whole century for the printed book to develop a form of its own that was no longer dominated by the aesthetic traditions of the medieval manuscript. It was in the 16th century Italy that the format of the printed book emerged from the experimental and transitional phase and found a basic stability of form that lasted for the next three centuries. By the end of the 19th century the old manual processes had been replaced by mechanical production with power-driven machinery. (Chaytor, Clancy, Spender, Eisenstein, Butler) It has taken just three years, since the release of Netscape , for tens of millions of people to become involved with the World Wide Web. The World Wide web may never develop a distinct form, but will continually reinvent itself. This means that literature as we know it will continually be reinvented too.

Narrations and information were placed into books as an insurance against the loss of oral traditions which grew beyond the possibilities of memorising . As more information from more people became known there had to be a means in order to save this material. Early books were made up of collections of magic formulas, dynastic records, laws, observations , medical experiences and experiments along with prayers and rituals (the first manuscript printed by Gutenberg was a copy of the Christian Bible in 1450). These first attempts at recorded history were not intended as entertainment or causal readings but were a means to reinforce the social status quo in which they were read. NEW SITE = JULY 2014 - - Today most of these early works would be found in the reference section of a library, or they would be stored on the Internet.

Humanism may have owed the ultimate survival of its ideas to Gutenberg's invention (Bolgar p. 280) To repeat what others have said, The Renaissance did less to spread printing than printing did to spread the Renaissance (Hirsch pp. 24-37, Eisentein p.180, Bolgar p.157) We have this same phenomena with the Internet in this new narrative Renaissance. It is the World Wide Web and its huge exposure to and from all cultures which is spreading the oneness of multi-cultural narrative. Humanism survives and takes on a wider and more holistic scope with many cultures being nodes of one another which can be easily linked to.

The first recorded bodies of texts were done over long periods of time, usually by scribes. The beginning of non-linear reading began in late Roman times when books began to appear in codex form. This was a gradual transition which extended over several hundred years, by the 4th century AD the process was complete. (The Encyclopedia Americana Vol. 4, p.220) Previously to pages that could be turned text was placed upon papyrus which had to be unrolled to be read. With pages the reader could go back and forth within the text they were reading. Also with pages there was the possibilities of having page numbers, tables of contents and references.

The art of printing originated in Germany in 1440 and spread quickly through the world. Commenting on this invention Harmann Schedel published in 1493 (though written in 1464) the following notation regarding Gutenberg's invention: means of this invention the precious treasures of knowledge and wisdom, which have long lain hidden in the old manuscripts, as it were, in the grave of ignorance, unknown to the world, have now come forth to the light. (Butler p.102)

The printed form was the only way to permanently record and share ideas for hundreds of years after the invention of the printing press. Language, whether it be oral or written, was limited to a two-dimensional representation. With the World Wide Web a writer no longer is limited to converting their thoughts in such two-dimensional forms of communication such as writing. The printed page limited the writer s expression. Major and minor divisions of the writer s ideas all looked the same on the printed page. The printed page becomes an endless uniform series of printed symbols. (Showstack p.369-376) The World Wide Web with its multimedia enhancements takes narration into a new unpredictable multi-dimensional series of linkable nodes imagined by only a few people before the 1990s.

Marshall McLuhan points to the stripping of the senses and the interruption of their interplay in tactile synaesthesia as one of the side effects of the Gutenberg technology. (McLuhan 1962, p.17) The World Wide Web further enhances this stripping of the senses as multi-directional links and multimedia create the medium within the interplays and interpretation of the message .

The founder of the Internet browser, Netscape, James Barksdale points out that

"The Internet is the printing press of the technology era. How often have you seen technology adopt a rate similar to the Internet's Forty million Netscape users in its first two years..."




"(c)" Terrell Adsit-Neuage. Hackham South Australia October 1997

View My Stats