ARTS2090 Final Assessment

When publishing changes, so does society. Investigate and compare the impact of two publication technologies, one pre-1900 and one post-2000, on a specific aspect of society.

Advancements in publication technologies have had profound impacts on education in society because they have offered the general public greater access to knowledge and introduced new ways of standardised learning. Thus it is evident that when publishing changes, so too does society. This essay will explore how the advent of the printing press impacted education in the 20th Century by introducing literacy to the general public and the first standardised form of spelling and grammar as well as creating the possibility for private, independent learning. In addition it will consider the impact of this private learning on the traditional oral-culture of learning. It will also explore and compare how the remediation of the printing press, the Internet, has impacted and continues to impact education in our current society, both the positive impacts, such as the introduction of active, collective learning and common archives as well as the challenges it presents for students in relation to copyright and intellectual property.

The Printing Press

The most notable impact of the printing press in the area of education was its facilitation of the dissemination of knowledge to the general public. The printing press is a publication technology that was designed and created by Joannes Gutenberg in 1440. It combined the technologies of paper, ink and the wine press to create a “hybridized technology” (Jones, 2000). Prior to the printing press, knowledge was reserved for scholars and clergymen, who hand scribed manuscripts (Jones, 2000). This meant that books were extremely expensive due to the heavy workmanship required to make them. And as a result, the publics’ access to these books was very limited. With the introduction of the printing press however, over time this workmanship was no longer required and the mass production of small books was made possible (Jones, 2000). The public now had access to printed information as books were more affordable and thus, the beginning of literacy amongst the general public began. An example of a change in society due to this new access to knowledge and the ability to interpret it was the general public’s undermining of the heavy religious influence on society and ultimately the beginning of the move away from the Church to a secular society (Rubin).

Another notable impact of the printing press on education was its transformation of learning. According to McLuhan (1962), the printed book was a new visual aid for all students, which changed the relationship between the student and the teacher and the way students learnt. The possibility of learning as a private, independent activity was made possible, as was the access to a much larger realm of material and knowledge for the serious student (Eisenstein 1979). The printing press also encouraged a standardization of spelling, punctuation and grammar (McLuhan, 1962). These newly implied language rules impacted on the student and their interpretation of information, which ultimately furthered their literacy levels. In addition, the printing press impacted the way students researched and encouraged the view of scholarly writing as a source of originally owned material (Eisenstein 1979) and scholarly reading as the gathering and interpreting of this original material (Eisenstein 1979). This laid the foundations for modern student research.

The printing press was a catalyst for the introduction of the Education Act (1870) (, which made education compulsory for all British children. However McLuhan (1962) and Postman (1986) have argued that the wide spreading of literacy among the general public does not reflect a more knowledgeable society than that of the oral-culture, pre-printing press. This is not to say that pre-introduction of the printing press societies were entirely oral-learning cultures and post-introduction they became solely literate and did not orally communicate with each other (Rosenberg, 1987). Literacy within the general public did not occur immediately and thus, literate individuals withheld the act of reading to the illiterate. In addition, once literacy among the general public increased, societies were generally a continuity of both oral and literate cultures (Rosenberg, 1987). However, they suggest the advent of the printing press encouraged an increase in silent reading, which correlated with the increase of literacy among individuals, thus removing the necessity of an oral culture of learning, which was evident prior to the printing press. They argue the increase of private reading amongst the general public ultimately made it a lot easier for individuals to ignore the spread of knowledge, as they could choose not to read any books. Where as in a non-literate society, where information was primarily spread orally, it was more difficult for an individual to ignore this information.

The Internet

The Internet is a remediation of the printing press, which has had profound impacts on education in society. Bolter (2011) defines remediation as a newer medium, which borrows and reorganises the characteristics of an older medium, taking its place and reforming its cultural space (p.23). The Internet, or ‘World Wide Web’ was introduced to the public domain in 1991 ( Similarly to the printing press, the Internet has widened the access to and spread of information within the general public, which has empowered them. Prior to the Internet, audiences were viewed as homogenous masses that were unable to negotiate or reject the information or media messages they were injected with (Errington & Miragliotta 2011). However the advent of the Internet has shifted this view of audiences.

The Internet has provided a platform for social media, which has greatly changed society by empowering individuals to actively distribute, negotiate and debate information as a networked public in a virtual public sphere. For example, news journalists have traditionally educated the public on current affairs and events. However the introduction of the Internet and social networking sites has shifted this channel of distribution (Bainbridge et al 2011). The general public can now actively distribute information and educate each other as ‘j-bloggers’ (Bainbridge et al 2011), publishing and circulating news on their social media sites, such as commentaries of current affairs and events through tweets on Twitter or status updates on Facebook or even uploading images or video footage captured on their mobile phones in-the-moment. This was not possible for journalists, who could only present images and footage after the event had occurred (Bainbridge et al 2011). Jenkins et al (2005) suggest this activity reflects a participatory culture where users are also active producers, thus they are ultimately ‘produsers’.  This participatory culture reflects a change in society, as individuals are no longer being educated about current affairs and events solely from a broadcasting distribution channel. They are now have the ability to educate themselves and each other. In addition, due to the Internet, they now have access to and the ability to educate themselves on global news and events, whereas pre-introduction of the Internet, news was primarily local and national.

Similarly to the printing press, the Internet has retransformed the way students learn as it encourages the active participation of produsers (Jenkins et al 2005). The Internet provides a platform for the creation of archives, a term referring to the storing of data for a later date ( Archival sites used by schools and universities, such as ‘blackboard’ and ‘moodle’ allow interactive, collective learning. Thus, they can be regarded as commons (Lessig, 1999). Teachers and students act as produsers (Jenkins et al 2005) on these sites, collectively archiving information and learning tools relevant to subjects and courses as an assemblage (DeLanda 2006), which gives students greater access to information that will ultimately assist their learning. They also provide discussion forums, where students can pose questions and these can be answered either by a teacher or a student, further encouraging collective learning. In addition, the private learning that printed books encouraged has been reformed. Private learning can now be experienced in a virtual public space on sites such as blackboard and moodle. So too can this be experienced on social media sites, which also encourage collective learning and interactive student-to-teacher and student-to-student communication outside of the classroom. For example, ‘Facebook groups’ can be assembled by students participating in group assignments, creating another form of a common archive, which will assist in their learning experience.

The Internet also provides a platform for commons sites that assemble data, which encourage a standardised level of knowledge and education, much like the printing press did. Such sites include school ranking webpages or academic resource sites. For example, websites such as ‘NSW HSC Online’ ( give students access to a standardised level of education as these sites offer all students access to the same information and academic resource tools, which will assist in their learning during the HSC. School ranking websites offer parents in the general public the opportunity to access a commons site, reflecting particular schools performances against each other in the HSC, which ultimately empowers their ability to actively choose a higher standard of education for their children by sending them to higher performing schools. This has changed society as it creates a sense of competition between schools, which encourages an effort to constantly improve educational resources and standards.

However an issue in relation to the advent of the Internet and its impact on education is its lack of regulation or control. The introduction of the Internet has brought challenges to the law and its application of copyright and intellectual property laws. In Australia, the principal legislation addressing the Internet and its content is the Broadcasting Services Act (1992) (Fitzgerald et al 2008). However it has been suggested that a ‘Creative Commons License’ (Fitzgerald et al 2008) would better address the copyright and intellectual property challenges the Internet presents (Fitzgerald et al 2008). The free access to the enormous realm of knowledge and information on the Internet makes it very easy for students to plagiarise and steal the intellectual property of other individuals. Large efforts are made in schools and universities to teach appropriate means of referencing, often using the Internet as a tool to reach students, such as UNSW’s Learning Centre academic skills resource webpages ( which outline the correct way for students to reference various sources. Mechanisms have also been created using the Internet and implemented as part of assessment submission procedures to highlight and combat plagiarism, such as ‘Turnitin’ ( In addition, strict consequences, according to the severity of the plagiarism, such as academic mark deductions or even expulsion from courses are enacted if guidelines are not adhered to. However this issue will remain a difficulty for students and their research methods and ultimately, their educational experience until more suitable laws are enacted to address ownership of content on the Internet.

As publishing changes, so too does society. It is evident from this essay that advancements in publication technologies greatly impact on society, especially in regards to the area of education, as was focused on in this essay. Although it can be argued that the printing press made it easier for knowledge to be ignored as its creation can be attributed to the culture of private learning, it nonetheless changed society by empowering the general public by offering them access to knowledge and the possibility of becoming literate. It also encouraged a standardised set of language rules and changed the way students learn and research. The remediation of the printing press, the Internet, has created issues for students in regards to plagiarism and the stealing of intellectual property. However, similarly to the printing press, its introduction has again, changed society by empowering the general public through giving them access to an enormous realm of knowledge. It has also changed the way students learn by providing a platform for the creation of common archives as well as sites that assemble data, which encourage a standardised level of knowledge and education.



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