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Sunday, June 20, 2010

John Naughton on the Internet's effect on us

The ever-thoughtful and engaging John Naughton has an excellent article in The Guardian about 9 lenses through which to view the Internet's effect. Alongside John Seely-Brown, I think he's an essential read on where we might (and might not) be going - sagacious.
Here's a small sample:
"The first printed bibles emerged in 1455 from the press created by Johannes Gutenberg in the German city of Mainz. Now, imagine that the year is 1472 — ie 17 years after 1455. Imagine, further, that you're the medieval equivalent of a Mori pollster, standing on the bridge in Mainz with a clipboard in your hand and asking pedestrians a few questions. Here's question four: On a scale of one to five, where one indicates "Not at all likely" and five indicates "Very likely", how likely do you think it is that Herr Gutenberg's invention will: (a) Undermine the authority of the Catholic church? (b) Power the Reformation? (c) Enable the rise of modern science? (d) Create entirely new social classes and professions? (e) Change our conceptions of "childhood" as a protected early period in a person's life? On a scale of one to five! You have only to ask the questions to realise the fatuity of the idea. Printing did indeed have all of these effects, but there was no way that anyone in 1472, in Mainz (or anywhere else for that matter) could have known how profound its impact would be."
ERRATUM: John writes for The Observer but as I consume almost all my news (Private Eye the exception) online, and The Guardian website consumes its uneasy 'partner', I "read it on" TheGuardian.

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