Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Print. What is it good for?

It's like an earthquake.

You feel the tremors, ignore them and go on with your business. The scientists say that an earthquake is inevitable. They talk about tectonic shifts. Then the earthquake happens. Some things disappear. Some things make it through. Some things thrive.

These last weeks we've been watching an earthquake. The reorganization of global finance is happening before our eyes. Over the coming weeks, the collateral damage for printers, designers and advertising agencies who work for the financial industry will be assessed. Hopefully most will make it through.

In the printing industry, we've been feeling tremors for years; at least since the advent of the personal computer, the internet and digital printing.

The world of Print has been through a couple of earthquakes in the last 500 years in the West. Once the dust settles, Print has always found a new growing niche that plays to its core value and has resumed its growth. To guess how this might play out, history and sociology are useful points of view.

I've been reading The Rise of the Network Society, by Manuel Castells. It was written in 1996. Below are some things he says about communication.
Around 700BC a major invention took place in Greece: the alphabet. This conceptual technology . . .was the foundation for the development of Western philosophy, and science as we know it today. It made it possible to bridge the gap from spoken tongue to language, thus separating the spoken from the speaker, and making possible conceptual discourse. The historical turning point was prepared for by about 3,000 years of evolution. . . Widespread literacy did not occur until many centuries later, after the invention and diffusion of the printing press and the manufacturing of paper. p.327
A technological transformation of similar historic dimensions is taking place 2,700 years later, namely the integration of various modes of communiction into an interactive network. p328
What TV represented, first of all, was the end of the Gutenberg Galaxy, that is of a system of communication essentially dominated by the typographic mind and the phonetic alphabet order. p 331
And then the crux of the matter:
Typography has the strongest possible bias towards exposition: a sophisticated ability to think conceptually, deductively and sequentially; a high valuation of reason and order; an abhorrence of contradiction; a large capacity for detachment and objectivity; and a tolerance for delayed response. p332 quoted from Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985
The way I read this, what Print does better, faster cheaper than anything else is to enable logical, systematic thinking. In a world where education is becoming the key for individual success, Print will have something to bring to the table.

But what about e-this and e-that? I'll leave that for another e-post.