Change – or a return to the past?

A group of Danish academics say we are passing through the other side of what they wonderfully call the Gutenberg Parenthesis, leaving the structured, serial, permanent, authored, controlled era of text and returning, perhaps, to what came before the press: a time when communication and content cross, when process dominates product, when knowledge is distributed by people passing it around, when we remix it along the way, when we are more oral and aural.

This comment struck a chord with me since I heard a similar sentiment expressed at a recent conference (Social Justice: Educating for ACTion). One of the keynotes was Wade Davis, an anthropologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence. His talk was mesmorizing, he held the rapt attention of about 700 delegates with his stories of travels and insights. Several things he said stood out, but he did talk about new technolgies (multimedia) as a kind of return to the ancient traditions of storytelling with visual and oral elements, rather than text. As an aside, another statement that struck me was when he was talking about the destruction of indegeneuos cultures, languages and nautural habitat – essentially he stated that the problem is not change, and is not technology, but is often the greed and self-serving interests of globalization and multinationals, many times by people in far off places. So, do the modern communication methods of multimedia, hypertext and open publishing hark back to what came before Gutenburg?

A video of a talk by Wade Davis, similar to the one described briefly above, follows. It well worth a listen:

 

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