Monday, 19 March 2012

three inflection points in text based media consumption

This is an idea which has been rattling round my head for a while, but I  think that there are three real inflection points for the consumption english language text based media:


Due to the spread of militant protestantism an increasing interest in reading religious arguements by people themselves, increasing access to books in English and printed pamphlets. Personal content creation is handwritten


Widespread literacy due to the 1870 Education acts, improvement of printing process and distribution by rail and steamship have reduced costs substantially and make books increasingly affordable and accessible. Newspapers generally available. Typewriters start being used for personal content creation.


Widespread literacy. Increasing content is distributed and stored digitally, and is consumed in digital form via e readers and tablet computers. Most personal content creation is digital via word processors and social media technologies such as blogging.

The dates are indicative rather than definitive. For example I chose 1650 for no other reason that it's the middle of the seventeenth century, which seems to be the century when literacy took off in England, and sits neatly bracketed by the Putney debates, the execution of Charles I, and the publication of Mr Playford's Dancing Master.

The Putney debates because they represent the 'serious' use of literacy, with manifestos and record taken by stenographers, and the Dancing Master as it shows that literacy is not just dismal and serious.

1885 I chose as it's a candidate date for the beginning of the recognisably modern world, with trains and steamships making long distance travel and communication possible, coupled with a a near universal and cheap postal service. It also marked the arrival of the Rover safety bicycle, allowing individual empowerment - ie you could get on your bike if you so wished. And while the first viable commercial typewriters had appeared 12 years early, it took some time for their adoption to spread.

2011. Well it might be 2012 or 2010. To misquote Trotsky it's too early to tell, but it's clear that the digital revolution that began in the 1980's has had a massive transformative impact on all aspects of society including the way we consume media. I chose 2011 as it's the year tablet computers  and e-readers became common, and that this was reflected with more and more newspapers moving to digital only or combined digital and print subscriptions - such as digital Monday to Friday, and the weekend papers in print to allow you to lounge about with them.

At the same time books are increasingly available in a digital format, and print is rapidly becoming the poor relation ...

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