This week I will be continuing with the ‘history of printing and publishing’ topic. Last week I spoke of the general history and social impact of changing publishing techniques, while this week I will attempt to focus in on the specific techniques and machines used to implement these changes and why this transformation has occurred. Eisenstein writes that the printing press is an agent of change, and we can see this in the wide variety of publishing tools that are being created and changed within everyday life. The art of publishing, as well as the shift to digital publishing, has changed the social context in which people are able to engage with publications, and these new forms of ‘printing’ have changed the public sphere forever.
McLuhan wrote that printing created the ‘public’, and while the public ‘sphere’ used to be able to be brought together through publications, new media technologies and techniques mean that we have seen a divergence in the variety of publishing devices, which in turn has changed audiences and publishers from past to present. The increased mobility of media devices has shifted the power of publication from the printers to the public, which has changed the very nature of audiences and how they are able to react to the media. With contemporary publishing always changing and transforming, publishers have historically had to react and change their methods in order to appeal to an ever changing audience.
A scientific revolution, based on the sharing and creation of published data, has made technology pivotal in challenging the existing text based literacy that many traditional publishers have used throughout time. New media evolutions and directions have made publishing easier than ever before, and because of this, we now see publishing as a constantly changing, dynamic phenomenon that has changed audiences and the mass media forever.
Now this is where this weeks word comes in! An assemblage is a text that is adapted from older versions in order to suit a new context. This is able to blur the line between invented and borrowed work. An obvious example of this is music that has been ‘remixed’ to suit modern audiences. Due to the fast moving nature of publishing and how quickly publishers are made to adapt, assemblages may be able to allow publishers to gain some sort of control over the content audiences are able to see. Again, one prime example springs to mind when I think of this, and that is the concept of a paywall. A paywall is a system which prevents users from accessing site content without a paid subscription. By doing this, publishers can not only boost revenue, but also increase the number of their print subscribers, again changing the nature of new publishing platforms and giving publishers a degree of control over their audience.
Overall, it is clear to see that with the advent of technology and a diverse range of publishing platforms, the history of publishing tools and techniques has changed forever. Even in the present, publishing is a dynamic force that is constantly changing to order to adapt to the new types of audiences being formed by new publishing devices. This change is key to understanding the social impact publishing has had on the general public.
McLuhan, M. (1962) The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of the Typographic Man, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London