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Quentin Hardy

It seems to me that the intellectual revolution post-Gutenberg was driven as much by the transformation of learning into a more portable form, not just geographically but linguistically.
The great innovation in the geographic transformation may not have been Gutenberg, but the Venetian printers of the 1490s, who figured out paper folding, and got up to 8x as much copy onto a single page of a much smaller volume. This created a book that could be transported in saddlebags, quickening the rise of the traveling scholar, the tutor for hire. Learning was thus far more portable than when it centered in early universities and monasteries.
Portability of language was perhaps even more important. Mass production quickly filled the market for books in classical languages, and (with a much lower cost of books) grew the market in translation. The fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the consequent movement of hitherto unknown classical texts into Europe, also played a role here. In any case, the explosion of vernacular writing -- a delineated market for ordinary languages -- had much to do with both the advent of The Reformation (Martin Luther was the first best-selling author) and Nationalism.
Benedict Anderson's indispensable "Imagined Communities" is the best source on this aspect of nationalism.
It's worth noting that print was not initially viewed as a source of long-form immersion. Socrates suspected the Stoics, in part, because they did not rely on speech and memory. On the eve of Gutenberg, the ability to memorize things was considered a form of honoring God's creation, and "The Art of Memory" was deeply studied. Books wiped that out, fast as you could say "there goes the neighborhood."

Quentin Hardy

Portability made possible thinking that was long form, but also better capable of being disturbed by novel sources.

CT Moore

I think why people feel that the web is a betrayal of the Gutenberg galaxy is because of "usability". Many of the rules of usability dictate that content should be bite-sized and scanable.

And I think the problem with that is that really great (i.e. earth shattering) ideas often don't lend themselves to bite sized snippets. Rather, the require background and context to help the audience understand WHY they are earth shattering.

So while the web may be ideal for the "converted/choir" to further explore and discuss such ideas, it may be limited in terms of communicating and spreading them.

Cary G. Osborne

Notations by readers in books, such as those described by Steven Johnson in this blog, are not as new as he seems to think. For centuries, marginalia, as it is called, has been practiced by readers and writers. In the old days, people wrote their thoughts on what the author said in the margins of the books, then those books were often passed around for others to read, with more thoughts being added in some cases. The process then wasn't as fast as it is now on the Kindle, but they were not "popular highlights," the thought of which is somewhat revolting.

Elin Whitney-Smith

“…was the intellectual revolution post-Gutenberg driven by the mental experience of long-form reading? Or was it driven by the ability to share information asynchronously, and transmit that information easily around the globe?"

And, I would add, for ordinary, craftspeople, to gain access to books, reading and importantly book-keeping. These people, in the Protestant countries, were able to use these new skills to change the way they produced goods. To invent the putting out system that is the forerunner of capitalist production.

If slow reading was all that was necessary capitalism would have been invented by the upper class Spanish who had capital, access to science, and a diverse cultural tradition.

But the inquisition restricted what books could be printed. Printers moved to the Protestant countries; the Spanish Netherlands, and England. This made these countries print intensive and comparatively, to use Kevin Kelly’s phrase, made information, ‘fast, cheap and out of control’.

Printers in Holland produced, pornography, ballads, broadsides, playing cards, children’s books, business books and “how to” books. Holland became print intensive in the same way as the United States is TV intensive.

Literacy which had been limited to the upper classes became the definition of adulthood. Where more common people read there was more innovation and therefore more growth of all kinds.

But it wasn’t all beer and skittles. Print disadvantaged women. Girls were not taught to read because they married out of the family. Boys were taught to read because they were to take over the family business. So, men who previously only produced product while their wives ran the business end of a shop (buying selling and supervising apprentices), could now read, write, and do sums, and so could hire others.

Business moved out of the common room and then out of the house entirely. Women who had produced everything from beer, to barrels, to shoes, and cloth now only produced children.

These social, educational, and economic changes are what shaped people’s perception of their world and even of their definition of who they were as men and women more than slow reading.

This is from my upcoming book, “Information Revolutions: Hunter/Gatherers to Internet 2.0” being previewed at http://whitney-smith.net

Elin Whitney-Smith

Alex Wright, in his book "Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages" notes that during the Dark Ages the book was invented and that it allowed random access to information whereas scrolls made people read linearly.

I can hear people complaining that because of random access people will not be able to think coherently.

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Notations by readers in books, such as those described by Steven Johnson in this blog, are not as new as he seems to think. For centuries, marginalia, as it is called, has been practiced by readers and writers. In the old days, people wrote their thoughts on what the author said in the margins of the books, then those books were often passed around for others to read, with more thoughts being added in some cases. The process then wasn't as fast as it is now on the Kindle, but they were not "popular highlights," the thought of which is somewhat revolting.

glory

here's clay shirky -- http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/jul/05/clay-shirky-internet-television-newspapers -- on how technology unblocks motivation: "Techies were making the syllogism, if you put new technology into an existing situation, and new behaviour happens, then that technology caused the behaviour. But I'm saying if the new technology creates a new behaviour, it's because it was allowing motivations that were previously locked out. These tools we now have allow for new behaviours - but they don't cause them." via http://mike.teczno.com/snippets.html

dan bloom

The pros and cons of reading on screens - Taipei Times - archives
The pros and cons of reading on screens. By Dan Bloom 丹布隆. Friday,
Jul 16, 2010, Page 8. As digital advances continue to transform the global
media world ...


John Miedema » Dan Bloom: Snailpapers and Screening
Dan Bloom, a reporter in Taiwan, read The Art of Slow Reading article in
The ... and makes his case for reading on paper rather than reading on
screens. ...


MY 2-MINUTE READING vs. SCREENING VIDEO:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xpN78-cJP0

Jordan 11

I struggle to reconcile this thesis (and, like Michael Treacy's before it) with the reality of companies like Toyota that have proven their ability to transcend all three domains effectively
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ffxiv gil

The specific response to Nick's book is not entirely in my mind crystal, until I wrote the article and well, I most want to read the book. Most of us will recognize the phenomenon: a real sit down and write a response something you often see a new way is more complicated. This is of course a critical threshold of higher long-term form of reading in the digital age decline: an increase in the short form of writing. If we can focus on slightly less, because of electric version of the distractions, I doubt this is enough to make up for the fact that we are more likely to write out the responses we are looking for more practice. This is open a connection to Clay Shirky's argument that cognitive surplus, which is the subject of another article, because I only half through it ...

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We do indeed have a no shoes policy.Guests are advised in advance to bring their slippers if they choose.I grew up in Canada where lines of shoes and slippers by the door was the norm.

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Portability made possible thinking that was long form, but also better capable of being disturbed by novel sources.

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I'm a father of three boys, husband of one wife, and author of nine books, host of one television series, and co-founder of three web sites. We split our time between Brooklyn, NY and Marin County, CA. Personal correspondence should go to sbeej68 at gmail dot com. If you're interested in having me speak at an event, drop a line to Wesley Neff at the Leigh Bureau (WesN at Leighbureau dot com.)

My Books

  • Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

    Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
    A history of innovation accompanied by a 6-part TV series on PBS and the BBC, this was the first of my books to crack the top 5 on the NY Times bestseller list. Appropriately for a book that celebrates diverse networks, this was the most collaborative of any of my books. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

    Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age
    My first book-length attempt to organize my writings about emergence and networks into something resembling a political philosophy, which I called Peer Progressivism. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

    Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
    An exploration of environments that lead to breakthrough innovation, in science, technology, business, and the arts. I conceived it as the closing book in a trilogy on innovative thinking, after Ghost Map and Invention. But in a way, it completes an investigation that runs through all the books, and laid the groundwork for How We Got To Now. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Invention of Air

    The Invention of Air
    The story of the British radical chemist Joseph Priestley, who ended up having a Zelig-like role in the American Revolution. My version of a founding fathers book, and a reminder that most of the Enlightenment was driven by open source ideals. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Ghost Map

    The Ghost Map
    The story of a terrifying outbreak of cholera in 1854 London 1854 that ended up changing the world. An idea book wrapped around a page-turner. I like to think of it as a sequel to Emergence if Emergence had been a disease thriller. You can see a trailer for the book here. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

    Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
    The title says it all. This one sparked a slightly insane international conversation about the state of pop culture -- and particularly games. There were more than a few dissenters, but the response was more positive than I had expected. And it got me on The Daily Show, which made it all worthwhile. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

    Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
    My first best-seller, and the only book I've written in which I appear as a recurring character, subjecting myself to a battery of humiliating brain scans. The last chapter on Freud and the neuroscientific model of the mind is one of my personal favorites. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

    Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
    The story of bottom-up intelligence, from slime mold to Slashdot. Most of my books sold more copies than this one, but Emergence has influenced the most eclectic mix of fields: political campaigns, web business models, urban planning, the war on terror. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

    Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate
    My first. The book I wrote instead of finishing my dissertation, predicting the growing cultural significance of interface and information design. Still relevant, I think. But I haven't read it in a while, so who knows what's in there! (Available from IndieBound here.)

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