Going digital

Learning from Gutenberg

The rise of the Internet’s World Wide Web in the mid-1990s launched an unlikely hero into the media spotlight: Johann Gutenberg, the 15th-century inventor of movable printing type and technological forefather of the vernacular Bible. Reporters, Internet columnists and even some scholars began parading Gutenberg before the public as a kind of poster child for the digital revolution. The Net, we were told, would do for modern society what Gutenberg’s invention had done for the Renaissance: spread the fruits of mass education by democratizing communication. Everyone would become a publisher. By late 1997, public discourse about the Net was so deeply anchored in Gutenbergian mythology that skeptics of the digital revolution were sometimes dismissed without a reasonable hearing.


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