Unfortunately I must harken back to Cathie Black’s uninspiring speech last week, if only for the briefest of moments. Stick with me.
Her flat-line attempt at inspiration (?) was christened “From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg.” Catchy, eh?
Please forget that neither of her two title characters were mentioned after the first 10 seconds (the title). Do ignore that the speech had as much to do with either ‘berg as carrots have to do with tile flooring. Black’s misnomer serves as a springboard, and we now leave her behind.
We’ve talked in G.K.’s class about how Gutenberg was a pioneering figure and pondered what it would be like to live in the print revolution. It matters because we find ourselves now in the midst of the digital revolution. Nieman’s J-Lab tackled the subject in an interview with Thomas Pettitt, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark.
Pettitt argues for a theory called the Gutenberg Parenthesis. Essentially, the world we are experiencing now, the decline of print, is not a new trend. Our current communication era is simply a reversal to pre-print times, when knowledge was transmitted orally. Have we hit 88 mph? It’s back to the future.
Print has dominated the last 500 years – it was an anomaly.
One of my favorite communication theorists (who wasn’t really a comm scholar), Marshall McLuhan, was one of several people who adhered to and propagated similar theories.
Pettitt thinks that digital – texting, blogging, instant messaging, email – has thrown the idea of truth in writing right out the window, too. “Print is no longer a guarantee of truth,” he said.
Where, oh where, can journalism find a place in this digital world, the second iteration of oral communication?
“The formal press will need somehow to find a new place in this chaos of communication where you can’t decide the level, the status, the value of the message by the form of the message.”
Looks as though the journalism industry has yet another challenge, on top of the battle for paid-or-free content, shrinking newsrooms and public distrust.
I’ll grab my hard hat. There’s work to do.