Publishing forms have changed pretty extensively over the last 1000 or so years. The development of publishing from simple hand written reproductions to stamps, to moveable type systems saw huge increases in the amount and the range of information that could be distributed. With the development of our modern computer publishing systems saw that range of information broaden exponentially, largely thanks to the fact that anyone can now publish anything in the digital space, as long as they have access to some sort of computer. And the internet.
The biggest changes however aren’t just in the physical means of production. The way we process information itself has been changed forever. For instance the idea that information has become easier to consume is really interesting. If things are more easily read in the slick digital pace of things like ereaders, computer screens and tablets are we losing some of our ability to properly think and process what we’re reading? Probably – I mean I know for sure that yesterday I read a whole bunch of things online but if you asked me right now I couldn’t tell you what they were at all. Whereas if I read them in the paper I’d be more inclined to remember what at least some of them were. I unfortunately still remember what I read about Kim Kardashian in MX (a free trashy train newspaper) the other day. There’s definitely something about the tactile nature of the physical pages that makes it easier to retain.
Beyond the data we just lose in our minds, is the data that we literally lose as publishing ideals change. The ability to restore and duplicate brought excitement about all the information that could be convereted and distributed in books all across the world. As Elizabeth Eisenstein points out however so much couldn’t be converted and there were few who gave that a second thought. It’s the same with the move to digital, we’re gaining so much with the dispersal of information but there’s a lot that won’t make the jump – or that will be “lost in translation” so to speak.
The ability for anyone to be able to publish that I mentioned earlier is the most impressive and terrifying thing about the digital age. Barbara Brannon mentions how ‘anonymity is empowering’, and it’s absolutely true. Anyone can write anything anywhere, which is a blessing and a curse in that it allows more extensive sources and information than ever. For all you know though, your dog could be the one who wrote that Wikipedia article you’re reading. Or even this blog.