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Justin Hall
12 may, 1996
Social History of Consumption, Burke

textmedia consumption

materials have been printed for thousands of years
Writing was invented in order to record business activities in the early Near East. With the growth of centralised economies the officials of palaces and temples needed to be able to keep track of the amounts of grain and numbers of sheep and cattle which were entering or leaving their stores and farms.
- Walker, page 7
between that time of invention Walker sez 3300 bce and the european middle ages, text in the west served a largely institutional function

  • scribes, educated in the highly specialized craft or writing and grammer, members of an elite most always employed on bahalf of the state or church

    today, millions can distribute texts without a first, let alone a second thought.
    as media has aged, increasing mechanization of the writing, editing, publishing, and distribution processes have created new media makers, and new media markets

    so at the same time these means have democratized the spread and production of information, the increased flow draws upon the resources of its readers and writers in ways as bizarre and specific as their textual counterparts.

    proliferation of means, "text as commodity" hits on radio broadcast, videotape, computer software, newspaper, magazine, book, cuneiform tablet

    modern problem -
    what is not media?
    what is not being sold information?

    today, the internet represents a convergeance of these forces - soon you will see the internet delivering the content of the VCR, CD player, US Postal Service, phone company, newspaper

    therein merging and extending delivery, some folks think the web invention is parallelly profound to printing

    whether or not it is for all of society has and will be debated for some time. There are those who will be left off, and there may indeed be foreseeable shortages of technology and resources to provide extensive informtion access to most folks

    but there is little doubt that there will soon be ways to exchange cash for information, and in that profitable space will captialists spread technology as far as it can distribute digital billfolds.

    since the advent of the book, when great ideas were portable and plentiful enough to leave their cloisters, readers and renders have been dialoging over access and production.

    the internet then is only the latest incarnation serving the publishing needs of both.
    indeed, it's powerful combination of colour, glass, light might be seen as the pinnacle of s(t)imulation and experience.

    the enormous possibile rate of exchange charts the internet as the potential pinnacle of pecuniary process as well

    as young as this computer technology is, the advent of book technology that provides the greatest historical example of use and adaptation of a mass medium.

    perhaps characteristic of the post-book era, computers are catching on far faster than their print predecessor - already 35% reported american family homes have personal computers not even 20 years after their invention.

    exactly this kind of rapid exchange of ideas is the result of books.

    in the historigraphy of the manuscript (Febvre, page 15), pre-12th century is the (captial M) "Monastic Age"
    reproduction and distribution the type detailed by Umberto Eco in his intrigue-lridden scriptorium in The Name of the Rose.

    Manuscripts, on treated animal skin, were painstakingly copied mostly by monks in the service of churches
    premium information therein was scripture, though not excluding science - even before the greek-fest of the enlightenment, aristotle was a best-seller, as it were.

  • what arose soonthereafter the "secular age"
    The social and intellectual changes which are particularly clearly reflected in the founding of the universities and the development of learning among the laity, and which occured at the same time as the bourgeoisie emerges as a class, had profound repercussions on the ways in which books came to be written copied and distributed.
    - Febvre, page 15
    prior to that time, reading, texts, were reserved for sequestered scholars. Not that scholarship became that much less sequestered, but popular reading grew.

    before printed books were sold, universities or aristocracy would purchase spares or commissions from the monasteries.

    this couldn't last, however, the demand of the profs and students outpaced monkish production, "so the need arose for the establishment of workshops where professional craftsment, employed by the university, could copy essential texts expeditiously and cheaply." - Febvre, page 19

    besides these academic pursuits, even in the thirteenth century there was increasing demand for popular literature. literate bourgeois folks "...all needed books ... works of literature, edifying moral treatises, romances and translations." Febvre, page 22

    new readers demanded new editions - both in writing content-presentation, and in maximizing the resources of publishers to suppy the demand of a new reading public.

    works were to an increasing extent written in the vernacular. the transition was oral - "The literature of the day was meant above all to be recited or read aloud to an audience, since the reading public was not large enough to warrant any other form of publication." (Febvre, page 23)

    similarly, the first presses were designed to approximate the text of manuscripts - the modern clear typefaces of today emerged slowly, over time, in response both to readability, and to uniformity of mechanized printing.

    John of Berry setting out on a journey. (BNF, Lat 18104) fol. 288v John of Berry's Petites Heures France, Paris 14th Century. (150 x 85) the advent of mechanized printing did not create the reading public, nor did it jumpstart book purchase and comsumption; "...many other books were also being turned out (editions of the Book of Hours, for example, whose use spread everywhere in Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries) which were within reach of clients of modest means, and yet were illuminated and decorated." (Febvre, page 27)

    gutenberg and his press opened the field for popular publishers, for a broader dissemination of ideas. in the early days following the press advent, individuals could operate independent of institutions, procuring the materials and making a go at the profession of printing, but the cost involved in mounting any major work, or sustaining oneself throughout was a factor in maintaining institutional allegiances.
    " was a simple matter to gather together the necessary capital to open a printing workshop. ... The real problem was the work itself, since much more capital was required to bring out an actual book... . Nor should we forget that at a time when booksellers' customers were few, books sold slowly..." (Febvre, pages 114-5)

    State and large institutions being the lifeblood of publishing, soon publishers collected in groups or syndicates, to balance the load and provide protection. The state "systematically encouraged large enterprises" (Febvre, page 127) and in that way welcomed the large publishing houses into the strata of power-weilding institutions.

    many early writers turned to patrons,
    a step toward democratization, perhaps, but the power was still concentrated.

    in spite of this broader demand for ideas, still only the monied interests were spawning books.

    within the chorus of pecuniary production were strains of poulist publishing, popular scholarship, access;
    Aldus Manutius is decried a humanist propigator by Brigham Young University - his harnassing the surplus supplies and cash from commercial work to feed a hungry public small volumes of humanist philosophers, playwrites, poets, classicists.

    still the trickle from on high - there were a large number of printing houses, indeed enormous growth of this industry ("...from 1450 or thereabouts until 1470, fourteen cities could boast printing offices. From 1470 to 1480, the number had grown to more than one hundred." Chappell, page 72), but still not yet the tract promulgation machine print would become, is today.

    "the key that unlocked practical printing was the devising of movable metal type..."

    paper was a logjam, and hence a locus of power - a question of access and affordability.

    those issues more resolve-d,
    printed cheap quick and dirty, the pinnacle of popular print was newspapers

    we start with a meta-societal view,
    as observed, first stulted institutional:
    As the price for their privileges, the booksellers, copyists and 'stationers' (the term dates back to classical antiquity and was first revived in the Italian universities) had to accept strict control by the university. As the servants of a body of scholars which extended its protection over them, they were not free, as ordinary craftsmen were, to work from themsevles. The way their work was organised was a constant reminder that they were carrying out what we should call a 'service'.
    - Febvre, page 20

    so spread of print tech is both empowering to individuals to serve up truths serving society, and themselves;
    page 3, Short History of the Printed Word, "Yet aside from its communications aspect, printing has had an impressive life as an art and trade. On the lowest level there is a childlike pleasure to be derived from stamphing and duplicating which is not greatly removed from making mud pies."

    personal and popular printing is more explicitly about story telling

    though there's still a question of whose story is being told.

    has this technology democratized print? yes.
    is there a wider proliferation of sponsored, perhaps coopted creativity? yes.

    with the invention of newspapers, widescale sponsorship was integral to providing news so cheaply. advertising in this form took on a more explicitly public air - patronage was then a subject for scrutiny, and defense:

    advertising was not only necessary commercial information, [advertising apologists] claimed, it was the basis of free speech, as it provided the economic foundation for mass-circulation newspapers and magazines. And advertising was fun, the ebullient expression of a triumphant, spirited people.
    - Fables of Abundance, page 251

    while the dissemination of print power and voice lended itself to widespread claims of objectivity, page 201 - magazines and newspapers impartial? inexpensive from advertising?

    privacy and payment - fables of abundance, 273

    newsletters as pure subscription
    gutenberg window, from Northwestern U copyright - code, e-mail publishing?

    Uncle Tom's Cabin: probably the greatest short-term sale of any book published in nineteenth-century England. ... Sales, April-Octboer, 1852, 150,000; total for first year ... including colonial sales, 1,500,000.

    - Altick, page 384

    project gutenberg - copyright

    evolution of print, mass media: magazines

    "it was not until the 18th century that the efforts of Fournier and Didot forced thje adoption of a definite standard of measurement, the points system, the 'point' being 144th the size of hte king's foot. This the unit of measurement used in typography to this day." (Febvre, page 60)

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