ARTS2090: Final Essay

When publishing changes, so does society. We take a look into the impacts that the print press and 3D printing have had upon mankind…Publishing has been the revolution of communications ever since the birth of the printing press, whether it be the notion of it transcending language barriers or the dissemination of information, publishing technologies have undoubtedly changed the world. Print was the first reform to the history of printing and had contributed to human civilisation, “as we think of it as characteristic of the modern world economic, social, religious, political is built on the foundation provided by print as a medium of communication” (Finnegan 1978, p.96). As we enter into the modern digitalised world we realise that the very existence of mankind is supported by electronic publishing technologies that include the Internet and database-driven data. The ability to communicate with one and other as we see through history’s timeline of publishing has generated new civilisations of ideas and thoughts; it has blossomed into creative industries where we build upon other’s opinions. From education to politics, creative industries, science, entertainment and social relationship, it seems that almost every aspect of life has been shaped by publishing means.



Gutenberg’s first press industry changed the world forever
Image courtesy: Rosenblumtv

The main explosion of the renaissance movement had depended heavily upon the existence of the printing press. “Printing made it possible for the first time to publish hundreds of copies that were alike and yet might be scattered everywhere” (Sarton 1962). The first printed bible through Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press was in 1455, it was released in his hometown of Mainz, Germany. Gutenberg’s press was the catalyst and the beginning of a new modernised era. “Gutenberg’s invention made the soil from which sprang modern history, science, popular literature, the emergence of the nation-state, so much of everything which we define modernity” (Man 2002). Both society and culture changed when Gutenberg’s first Latin scriptures were released, it also was a fragmentation upon Christianity where many after the release had challenged the word the Roman Churches. Where the scriptures were once the consecrated property of the Church and monks, the first printed Latin Bibles allowed even commoners to have access to it. And for many, this was a first time for them that they had even read the Bible.

Subsequently we see the revolution in the church and the society; throughout history we have seen the impact that Gutenberg’s Bible brings. It had been the pinnacle of missionaries around the globe, accelerating the knowledge of faith for many from different corners of earth. Gutenberg’s experiment, his creation of the printing press in optimism to create a production line to produce fast and efficient text was the driving factor towards new books and new theories in society. During the early years of the Renaissance, the general population of Europe still had a low literacy level, the generation of new books and the lowering of costs of them allowed people to reverse this. Where once there was only spoken words as a means of communications the printing press allowed messages to be physically conveyed. We see the shift upon manuscript and print culture that has advocated for societal and intellectual change. “The printing press became and agent of change in the right place, at the right time” (Brannon 2007).


Mankind’s first published text: The Diamond Sutra

But from history we know that Gutenberg’s press wasn’t the first printing technique to be created. Decades before Gutenberg’s press even came to place, the Chinese were inventing printing methods from wooden blocks and movable porcelain methods, showing the maturity of their printing press. The image that you see above is known to be mankind’s first printed book, The Diamond Sutra created back in the year 868. The very sole invention of the printing and publishing existed in ancient Greek and China where there is evidence of transcription upon cloth and textiles. Whether it has made an impact on both in the West and East, the printing press and it’s publishments have shown evident impact upon the way in which information is shared and created.

Print culture, Eisenstein believes still has been the driving factors towards the changes and transformations we have seen in the Western society. We can see that the creative industries have also changed largely due to publishing. Without publishing technologies and the press there would be no way that the typography and font industry could even exist. “It is frequently stated that the Reformation would have been impossible or would have had little chance of popular acceptance without the rapid spread of typography” (Cole 1984). It is through these forms of publishing that we see the creative spheres boom, in example modern day communicative way of sharing data through ingenious info-graphs.


Mary Shelley’s novels changed the creative sphere of novels

Publishing had changed the world and ceaseless ideas had flooded upon books and novels. Creativity levels skyrocketed and books were soon becoming the driving factor to education. Perhaps one of the most well known of all novelists is Mary Shelley and her published: Modern Prometheus. Also known as Frankenstein, Shelley’s novel challenged the ideas of galvanism and viewpoints from the age of enlightenment and the Romantic Movement. The impact of printing made the rise of modern science possible alongside the impacts it had upon Protestant reformation. Without having prior publications towards galvanism and scientific discovery, Shelley’s imagination of Frankenstein’s monster wouldn’t have even existed.

It is perhaps what makes her one of the world’s most powerful female philosophers in English literature; Shelley’s works were made possible through printing press. She was allowed to transform her thoughts from pen to paper to one of the most read horror novels in history. Centuries later the different versions and creative adaptations of Frankenstein are seen through various games, novels and films. The creation of books had vast implications upon post and modern Europe, and with the generation of publicised novels, communications were shifting.  “The fact that identical images, maps and diagrams could be viewed simultaneously by scattered readers constituted a kind of communications revolution itself” (Eisenstein, 1982)


Publishing has generated a world where society is based around the nature of creation and sharing. We are able to create these creative spheres where we learn from each other’s contribution, whether that is in the form of music, art or even social relationships online.

When creative commons are created we generate the “possibilities for large numbers of people of diverse ideological stripes coming together to chart a new, more cooperative direction for modern society” (Walljasper, 2011). Taking into example, post and modern China would be a classic example of how publishing has changed society; new publishing changes build commons and have allowed new ideas to flourish into Chinese society since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976. The communist ideas that were once engraved into everyone through Mao’s vast published red book, was now changing through the Internet and self-publishing.

“You’re living the stream, adding to it, consuming it, redirecting it” (Guillaud, 2010)

In Modern China the focus of younger generation no longer lie in the classical books of the Cultural Revolution, they were now immersing themselves in the changes they saw around society. And thus we see the comparisons between their parents generation, where many had matured though the words of Mao. The Internet and even their modern day publishing industry showed a new cultural revolution. As we see it, this is the future of China. The idea of these common spheres is driving them to make a change. E-commerce, gaming industries, social media sites and even online banking were being embraced and integrated into every citizen’s life. The Chinese were finding freedom online and as Brannon describes “The power to publish resided right there on each desktop” (2007). Though the government’s Internet censorship laws still remained a strong force, citizens were still able to harvest their own means of social media such as Weibo, China’s very own version of Twitter. The creation of Weibo has not only be a creative sphere in itself, but the platform allows for sharing of music, images and topical news issues that spread a speed never seen before.

“Internet writing has been nothing short of a revolution for Chinese literature. It has allowed myriad voices to be heard. The digital landscape and technology have changed since the first wave of authors began to write; readers in China now access novels through smartphones and tablets rather than desktops” (Economist, 2013)

Now everyone was a publisher and the power didn’t just lie in the hands of the powerful. “That’s the greatest strength of the commons. It’s an inheritance shared by all humans, which increases in value as people draw upon its riches” (Walljasper, 2010). As the printing press industry in China continues to expand and enrich citizen’s minds, it is noted by Delmontage in his recent publication that:

“In contrast to most of the Western World, the printing industry in China is primed to be the world’s largest print market in the next several years. While   magazines, books and newspapers are in a state of decline in the West, the exact opposite is true in the world’s largest populated country” (Delmontage, 2013)

We see the long journey of publishing in China and it’s irrevocable impact towards citizen’s thoughts and ideas. From ancient wooden block methods to now even 3D printing, it has cultivated a fast moving society where ideas and creations never stop moving like their press. As we hear more news and updates surrounding the future of 3D publishing, how has it already changed our society and what will be the future for publishing technologies?


Just as printing pressed has shaped society, there is no doubt that the future of publishing is changing through 3D printing. 3D printing also known as additive manufacturing, allows using plastic or metal products to produce a printed out computer-designed model. The technological change will allow creative economies to boom.  Imagine a future where buildings could be printed, where designing of clothes and even food could be reshaped beyond our imagination.

“The new technology will be the first real challenge to the traditional top-    down economics of mass production for manufactured goods. 
This has already happened in the services sector and the digital world, with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and the ability for self-publishing authors and music artists to sell directly to the public; now this decentralisation of power will also happen in manufacturing (Heath, 2013)


How will 3D printing change society?

With the rise of China’s consumer driven economy, 3D printing has drawn attention to the potential catastrophes it will have upon China’s manufacturing tycoons. Will 3D printing cause the downfall of their industrialised industries? Following this many issues still remain around 3D printing worldwide, in specifics in the US where the issue of illegal 3D printed items such as guns and weapons will be controversial. As 3D printing brings the next level of publishing, there are still fears that will be equipped for dangerous misuse in society.

3D printing has already started to change society and the way we think, it’s a matter of ‘watch this space’ to how governments and regulators will control the depth of it’s creative field. It is no doubt that throughout history, publishing technologies have shaped the stability our text and thoughts. It has generated unimagined products from the creative common, defining what Eisenstein saw as an Agent of Change.   Modern day publishing has made you the publisher. So are you ready for that publishing power that can change your society? Because it is already lying in your very own hands.


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