The Digital Renaissance

25 April 2010

I was watching the BBC Virtual Revolution program and Aleks Krotoski drew a parallel between the invention of the printing press as the stimulus that powered the Renaissance, and surmised that the development of the internet was fostering a similar digital renaissance now.

The linkage between the invention of the printing press in around 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg and the cultural movement that began in Italy at around this time is some is somewhat tenuous. To then say that there was a cause and effect is an even greater leap of faith.

But it is quite clear that the two came out of the same developments of culture and the sciences. The arrival of books is an art form that that was quite clearly part of the renaissance.

And there was significant resistance to the changes that were happening. The Spanish Inquisition formed in 1487, used censorship (chopping heads of as well as burning books) to maintain the catholic orthodoxy.

So are we now in a new “Digital Renaissance” of the internet, where the old institutions are being overthrown and replaced with more open and diverse forms of art and culture?

I am sure that it is very hard to see these changes in society at the time they are happening. Far easier to look back with a couple of centuries hindsight to see these big cultural changes.

But the shear scale and diversity of the changes to the communications landscape that the whole world is undergoing has got to have a significant effect on society.

Let us just hope that eventually the cultural innovators win out over the digital orthodoxy.