The explosive growth of the World Wide Web is, in some respects, akin to having access cable television or tuning in to satellite TV channels. In the end, it boils down to one essential component: global communication at your fingertips, commercial vested-interests aside. Continued growth of the internet (WWW), as consensus continues to develop, is analogous to the advent of the Guttenberg printing press in the 15th century (1436) by Johann Gutenberg.
The invention of moveable type and the printing press represent major developments in writing, recording and distribution of cultural literature. Its widespread adoption and uses have contributed to the eventual decline, not demise, of the Oral Tradition or method of recording and disseminating information across all succeeding societies or cultures that followed its invention.
Terms and concepts such as Mass Media, Mass Communication, Mass Production or Mass Consumption have become entrenched in the consciousness and lexicons of 21st century citizens. Yet, very few spare much thought to the fact that at a no-so-distant point in human history such ideas and notions would have involved or encompassed, at most, a few hundred or thousand individuals out of millions of citizens.
In addition, existing written records were possible only through the time-consuming and tedious process of handwriting or transcribing everything that was considered culturally important or significant. And, in all instances, those engaged in or dedicated to such tasks – monks, for example – represented an even smaller group of individuals who were capable of performing the enormous tasks of importing and translating oral sources of information, painstakingly transcribing these into written records. Any duplication of completed works for ‘mass distribution’ circulated among a readership that consisted of royalty, religious leaders, nobility, aristocrats and the educated. Not coincidentally but, rather, consequentially, the scope of the readership and print circulation represented some aspect of the governing or ruling political powerbases of the times.
Speculating, it can be suggested that within any social and political structure that’s dependent upon the delivery and validity of information that is first filtered through the lens of one particular group of ‘advisors’ and then disseminated for public consumption among the members of the political leadership will, in time, tip the balance of power in favour of those tasked with gathering and disseminating that information.
It’s not mere coincidence that Communists, Stalinists, Maoists, Theocrats and other tyrants and dictators always seek to control the forms and means of communications in attempts to secure their rule or seat of power. (This is not to infer that this does not apply to democracies – State Secret Acts and legislations are the balms that soothe the masses). Among them all there is a recognition or acceptance of the maxim – The Pen’s Mightier Than The Sword; to have control over the source and the means to collaborative and public opposition is but another means of solidifying political power.
Social revolutions may (at times) begin at the grassroots of the social spectrum but it takes someone with a comprehensive understanding of the existing power structure to galvanise, radicalise the social discontent that culminates in fundamental political upheavals, revolutions and evolution. There’s never been any social model in which the governors or rulers are so perfectly happy, satisfied or secure in their position that any simmering disaffection of the ruled can be dismissed or ignored as being of little or no consequence to the stability or sustainability of society’s existing social or political systems.
It’s often said that men are social and political animals. Assuming that this is correct, then all human social groupings and associations are political activities where the primary objective of the process or method employed aim at obtaining or maintaining support for a public opinion or common action.
While utopia’s an intellectual pipedream, an academic exercise, democracy (a dog’s breakfast of ideas and opinions) appears to be better suited for the free circulation of ideas and opinions in the social and public spheres of civil society. Communism or socialism, as ideologies and in comparison, seem to be half-baked ideas from which tyrannies or dictatorships germinate. Both provide the masses with very limited options; and as such, wide acceptance as social models is often found lacking among those who are oppressed by the ideologues.
Like the Guttenberg press and the introduction of moveable-type, the WWW or the internet is a similarly significant social and technological development.
The WWW/Net, to date, is a ubiquitous and indispensable global communication tool. It’s ubiquity contributes immensely to the broadening definitions of cultural and political boundaries as it provides the means through which millions of global citizens communicate and interact, relatively, free of localised traditions, social or political constraints.
Thus, to appreciate its unbounded potential require that we learn to discern and understand the internet’s ability to empower citizens who feel disenfranchised or without voice in the many social and political choices and decisions that impact their daily lives.
Historically, the invention of the printing press was revolutionary on several levels. Technologically and socially the invention revolutionise the means of social (public) communication and discourse, Guttenberg’s invention became the means by which the aristocracy of the European Reformation period managed to snatch away the political status then enjoyed by both the Church – particularly the Catholic Church – and Nobility.
One result was that the previously assumed notions about the divine rights kings – based on the infallibility of the Church and its Teachings (keys to the social and political power structures that existed in a symbiotic relationship between the Nobles and the Church) was thrown wide open and questioned with each book printed and publicly distributed or discussed.
Consequently, the Church and its servants, having for centuries trained and conditioned citizens and adherents to accept its teachings and authority as being divinely inspired, derived and enshrined in the Church’s Holiest of Holy Books – the Bible, had to confront and address the force of public dissent, objection or rejection of its moral authority. In short, the State – social and political, was thrown into upheaval as a result of the printing press’ invention and its widespread adoption and adaptation.
While the Catholic Church eventually embraced the Reformation as a necessary step in the growth of the Church, it has steadfastly maintained that any new translation of the Scriptures will be done “from the original sources”, i.e, the Ancient Aramaic Scriptures of Eastern Christianity.
Thus, if knowledgeable Christians know that Aramaic was the language of the Jews and such venerable historical figures as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and Jesus, then Luther and Tyndale, apparently, used questionable literary sources to build and develop their soap-boxes. This has been a counter-argument that has served the Church well since it blunts the thrusts of Reformers and Protestants alike.
And so, in this sense, the European Reformation period is representative of the political battles to win the hearts and minds, not just that of the ruling classes but all citizens. As a consequence, we find that many of the eventual outcomes pivot on the introduction of the printing press which served to coalesce the collective social consciousness that had been previously nurtured through religious teachings and authority.
Though long shepherded like lambs or sheep, the populace eventually responded like lions when the opportunities arrived for them to stand up and be counted