When publishing changes, so does society. Investigate and compare the impact of two publication technologies, one pre-1900 and one post-1962, on a specific aspect of society

Publishing refers to putting something ‘out there’, and to make it ‘public’. Generally, people in this time are very unaware of the amount of publishing that they consume every day, and how these publishing are an important factor in shaping the society. Innis (1950) proposes, ‘different cultures and practices are formed depending on the kind of media people use’. As stated in the quote, the society has been shaped and always has been influenced by publishing and media throughout history. People did, and still are relying on improving publishing technologies to gain the information they need. This essay will compare and analyse the influences newspapers and iGoogle had on the society, to verify that when publishing changes, so does society.

The Newspaper

Newspapers were first used in 59 BC by the Roman Empire and in 715 AD by the Chinese Tang Dynasty. These papers had messages of government announcement and were posted in a public area where people could come and read off these copies that were either handwritten or carved into metal or stone. As it was publically posted, only a small number of copies were produced and had information on topics that were very limited. Following on from this time, the more contemporary form of newspapers appeared in 1600. The form and style of newspapers have changed over time, but its core role always was to distribute necessary information. Eisenstein (1983) emphasises the printing press as an important factor in effecting the societal change in the Western population. Eisenstein further explains the evidence of printing press (which newspapers is a part of) in our lives and how it was a large factor in determining social change which made the ‘most radical transformation in the conditions of intellectual life’. The newspaper’s power was immense to society, as newspapers itself became the cultural values, practices and habits. It also allowed mass-reproduction of ideas, provided access to information to wider audiences, standardised language, grammars and spelling, and preserved knowledge (Balnaves, Donald & Shoesmith 2009:24). The existence of newspapers in the modern era shows that it is still an important form of media tool people use to publish, thus showing the impact and influence it has had on society for the past 400 years. However, with other emerging publishing technologies, newspapers have become somewhat ‘old’. The consistent decline of subscribers support this point, as since 1947, daily newspaper consumption for each 100 U.S. households have declined from 140 newspapers compare to less than 50 newspapers in 2010 (Fallows, 2010).

Changing Mediascape

The mediascape in modern society is very complex and hard to navigate. To suit the broad range of needs, both traditional and new forms of publishing exist, but movement from broadcast media towards network media is significant, which fundamentally altered the conventional structure of information flows (Boyd, 2009). The trend at this time is that new publishing forms are online and old ones entering online. The CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer said that ‘there will be no newspapers, no magazines, that are delivered in paper form’ by 2020 (Whoriskey, 2008). The newspapers as a platform must adapt to web economics for better performances and should satisfy the needs of individual audiences (Blossom, 2010). The online publishing is the general trend around the world, but only within already developed countries. In fact, the newspapers are actually growing in developing countries (Blossom, 2010).

The iGoogle

A new way of collecting and distributing information, iGoogle is a customizable homepage or personal web portal. It allows users to create their own personalized homepage with choice of any number of gadgets which include Google search, Gmail, Google News & other top news sources, weather forecasts, stock quotes and many more (Google, 2010a). The product was launched in 2005 and later renamed to the now iGoogle in April 2007. It was the fastest growing product of the Google in 2006 (Millis, 2007). Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience at Google, argued that iGoogle is the one of the biggest advances that Google made (Millis, 2007). The two main goals of iGoogle is emphasised by Mayer, which is to make it easy for people to create customized homepage and access information (Millis, 2007). What makes iGoogle so unique is the absence of advertisements. Considering the fact that most past modes of publishing relied on advertising for its profit, iGoogle’s decision can be seen as a step towards a new generation of publishing to exercise power on society.

Impact on Society


The base for newspapers was text only and later moved onto adding visual aid such as photos as the technology improved over time. When new forms of newspapers were available and published, it would have been a complete new notion of publishing within the society thus making it a powerful tool for conveying information. However, it still would have had limitations to it. Compared to this, iGoogle is web-based. This means there are less limitations than the newspaper as iGoogle provided aspects of publishing such as text, videos, emails, pictures and many more in just one platform of publishing. It provides access to information from all around the web, without ever having to leave your iGoogle page (Google, 2010a). In the transition between newspapers and iGoogle, some middle stages existed – e.g. news websites – that slowly allowed people to understand and adapt to the integration of content and convergence of publishing forms. Therefore from this the society could easily adapt to the iGoogle without much resistance.


For newspapers, the small number of so called media elites control what information is provided to the people and what stays out of the paper. The editors can be said to have more power over the society as they could manipulate what the people see, thus determining what is right and wrong in the society at a specific time. iGoogle turned this around completely, shifting power over to the people by allowing them to publish. Power is no longer in the hands of those who control the channels of distribution, but in the hands of those who control the limited resources of attention (Boyd, 2009). Users are inside the information flow and actively adding, consuming and redirecting it (Boyd, 2009).

Freedom and Control

As the materials on newspapers are selected by editors, unwanted information is always present. iGoogle in contrast allows users to control what they see and what they publish, by only displaying entertainment news for example. Derrida (1996) argues archives of information like this decide what is inside or outside of culture. Users have choice what to display on the screen from over 160,000 gadgets (Google, 2010b). However, Boyd (2009) warns people of ‘psychological equivalent of obesity’ and outlines people to consume a broad range of information, not just selective ones provided by iGoogle but a balanced one like the newspaper.


The traditional sender-receiver hierarchical communication model is used by newspapers, where people are treated as passive consumers. Being interactive is strongly encouraged by iGoogle where people can ‘navigate their way across uncharted seas of potential knowledge, making their own sense of a body of material’ (Lister et al, 2003:40). It is more open and has multi-directional model of communication (Flew, 2008:31). Users can further interact with it by creating their own gadgets and enjoy capability to expand more (Millis, 2007).

Content & Distribution

When newspapers were the top form of publishing, distribution was for the editor to do, and only content was valued by the society. However content is overflowing in today’s society and the value of average information is near zero (Salvo, 2009). Barnett (2010) also suggests aggregation is a form of expression which is an important part of people’s publishing experience. Therefore the focus moved on to filtering and aggregation, and our society is being shaped by the publishing technologies which can find and organise relevant information (Salvo, 2009). Also, the ownership of content becomes less valued as people always have access to it thus they no longer have to own it (Salvo, 2009)


Different layout changes how people experience things, as stated by Derrida (1996) different publishing platforms structure data and the modes of access to that data differently, which make people to experience differently. In the case of newspapers, the portion an article took on a page pretty much determined the importance of it. Whether it was placed in the corner, in the middle, has a picture to it and many more things determined how the reader should react to the article. In contrast, iGoogle allows users to freely arrange layout, creating a new relationship between content. There are no regulations on what content goes where, so users can express what they want to in a straight forward manner.


The mass production and distribution of newspapers made it impossible for it to satisfy the needs of every individual who access it. Because of this, individuals had to select what they wish to read by self-filtering. Newspaper’s role was to generally satisfy the needs of the society, not the individual which resulted in the above outcome. iGoogle focuses on users choosing what information they intake, thus reducing the filtering required. Also iGoogle does not treat individuals as groups or masses, but focuses on individual experiences (Millis, 2007). This focus on individualism led to iGoogle providing users with the function to personalise to suit specific needs. Newspapers only distributed one style to every consumer, but iGoogle’s strategy to broaden the range of choices the user gets increased the experience gained, reflecting the various lifestyles and identities of the society.


Flow of information was very slow in the time of newspapers. Information was only provided once a day, and that was all people got. In today’s society though, information flows rapidly and the speed of aggregating and distributing information has increased significantly (Salvo, 2009). A sense of immediacy was created as the Internet generated 24 hour news cycles where new information is constantly updated (Flew, 2008:34). Compared to newspapers, through iGoogle information can be accessed at any time. From this the society’s view of time in daily units is gone, but a view on the ‘present’ is established.

Daily Life

Publishing is highly integrated with our daily lives. Habits and individual practices are formed through what archives of information allow users to do. It constitutes people’s modes of living, sense of identity as an individual and as a society (Derrida, 1996). Newspapers connected the society together through its distribution of information. Everyone read the same news, thus common knowledge was established for people to gossip about. iGoogle though impacted society to lessen these connectivity, as people intake what they wish and may not have the same knowledge as others would have.


Publishing is a must in order for society to gain necessary information, thus encouraging the rise of new and upgraded modes of publishing to be continuously developed causing new experiences and cultural change within the population in the society. Different forms of publishing have different structure, aggregation and distribution of information, which lead to different consequences (Derrida, 1996). An argument can be made that due to publishing, society is changing. However, upon deeper thought, publishing can be said to be changing due to the improved needs of society. There is no answer to the technological determinism verses social determinism argument, but it is important to take both ideas into account.


Balnaves, M Donald, S.H Shoesmith, B 2009, Media theories and approaches: a global perspective, Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Barnett, B 2010, Belinda Barnett: musing on media and technology, weblog, accessed 5 June 2011, <>

Blossom, J 2010, ‘The Rebirth of print: time for the new aggregation plays to take off’, Content Blogger, weblog post, 8 February, accessed 5 June 2011, <>

Boyd, D 2009, ‘Streams of content, limited attention: the flow of information through social media’, Web 2.0 Expo, New York, November 17. <>

Derrida, J 1996, Archive fever: a Freudian impression, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Eisenstein, E 1983, The printing revolution in early modern Europe, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Fallows, J 2010, ‘How to save the news’, Atlantic Magazine, Accessed 6 June 2011, <>

Flew, T 2008, New media: an introduction, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press, Melbourne

Google, 2010a, ‘What is iGoogle? : features – web search help’, accessed 5 June 2011, <>

Google, 2010b, ‘Google Gadget for web pages’, accessed 5 June 2011, <>

Innis, H 1950, Empire and communications, University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

Lister, M Dovey, J Giddings, S Grant, I and Kelly, K 2003, ‘Change and continuity’ in New Media: A Critical Introduction, Routledge, London

Mills, E 2007, ‘Welcome to iGoogle’, ZDnet, 1 May, accessed 5 June 2011, <>

Salvo, J 2009, ‘The information age is over’, Collective Imagination, weblog, 23 December, accessed 6 June 2011, <>

Whoriskey, P 2007, ‘Microsoft’s Ballmer on Yahoo and the future’, The Washington Post, weblog and online video, 5 June, accessed 6 June 2011, <>


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Week 12

This weeks readings seemed rather complicated at first, and somewhat out of place. Only when I went through the course outline, I realized the relevance of Edwards’ theories. One of the key concepts that he outlined was that of ‘data friction.’ According to Edwards, ‘data friction’ involves the process of finding data with relation to a particular subject and studying the effort behind it. He provides the reader with an example of studying weather patterns over the years. The effort that goes in to tracing the history of the ways in which these weather patterns were studied is what he calls ‘data friction’ (Edwards, 2010). With reference to the the publishing industry, I want to explain this theory with relation to a certain type of publishing: photography. This type of publishing records data in the form of visual imagery. “Photography creates pictures by recording radiation using a radiation sensitive material such as photographic film or electronic image sensors” (Spencer, 1973). Now, the ‘data frictions’ that would be involved with the study of photography would be the efforts in the ways people have studied the development of photography to the point where it has become such a vital tool for publishing in the modern era. For example, the first colour photograph was taken in 1861 by a physicist James Clerk Maxwell (Gernsheim, 1955). The ‘data frictions’ here would involve the way people have helped photography develop, and the effort of all those individuals who made the effort to study the past and help develop the art of photography. The crux of the reading however, focused on the idea of ‘infrastructural globalism’. At first glance, I had absolutely no idea what this word could mean, but after doing some research and further reading I understood the concept. In his book, Edwards explains the term to refers to “how the building of technical systems for gathering global data helped to create global institutions and ways of thinking globally” (Edwards, 2010). Thus, taking my photography example further, ‘infrastructural globalism’ would refer to a global organisation that would study the phenomenon of photography. For example, ‘The Worldwide Photograph Gala Awards’ would be one such institution that studies photographs worldwide and then rewards individuals for what they feel are the ‘best’ photographs. Thus, in conclusion I can say that Edwards’ theories seemed to confuse me at first because I felt that this had no relevance to the publishing industry. However, as you can see from my example of photography, his theories actually map out some fundamental techniques that could be used to study the publishing world and the way it has changed over time.

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Week 11

When i saw the name David Gauntlett on the list of readings, I knew that there would only be one reading that I will be reflecting on this week. His theories and understanding of the development of media forms, especially in the form of web 2.0 are extremely interesting and always seem to catch my attention. His idea of ‘Making is Connecting’ seems to focus on the ways people used to ‘make’ or create things that didn’t have an audience. 20th century audiences had to make do with traditional media outlets and ingest what was given to them by media professionals (Gauntlett, 2011). The world we live in right now doesn’t have this problem. Information is so widely published that no one needs to be a professional in order to gain an audience. In the reading, Gauntlett mentions blogs and Wikipedia as two examples that revolve around this idea of ‘making’ information and thus ‘connecting’ with a large audience. His theories also state that creativity and large communication didn’t suddenly spring up because of the World Wide Web, but rather, this invention made the entire creative process of publishing somewhat easier (Gauntlett, 2011). When I thought about this statement, the idea almost seemed alien to me. Being brought up in a world where I would go to the internet for any sort of question, it almost seems silly to think about an era where someone couldn’t put up a blog detailing the best dive sites in Sydney. The idea of getting an idea, and then physically making and sharing it with your audience is what has become increasingly easy for us.

Gauntlett also provides a wonderful explanation of what Web 2.0 actually is. Quite honestly, I didn’t have an exact definition in my mind when I read the term, even though it set off bells of familiarity throughout my brain. The idea that Web 2.0 is a platform where an abundance of people can connect and work on an idea together, collaboratively, has revolutionized society as we know it (Gauntlett, 2011). Wikipedia is an ideal example, where any single individual in the world can connect to this massive database of information and work together with numerous others to provide an idea. Now this platform gives way to a number of new and radical ways of thinking. Individuals have access to millions of points of view, that may adhere to their own theory or go against it; either way, Web 2.0 seems to be changing the way people learn, as there is no longer just one right or wrong answer to any question. As a media student, reading through excerpts of Gauntlett’s book, makes it seems like there is an abundance of opportunities out there in the world of media, yet on the other hand, the entire theory of new media not necessarily needing professionals seems to be a scary idea! We know that media industry seems to be taking on the online world as their main form of publication. Discussions, blogs, videos and social networking sites are some of the ways communication is occurring, and according to Gauntlett, has given rise to a new way of looking at life: ‘To make and do’ (Gauntlett, 2011).

Thus in conclusion, I can say that this reading did certainly stir up a number of thoughts towards what kind of career I am looking towards or even something as basic as ‘what is web 2.0?’ The media is an ever changing organism that is never still, but always evolving to keep up with the technology and social views of the world, and it seems like we have to do the same if we want to fully understand this industry.

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Week 10


This week didn’t have any required readings, but I followed up on the links provided as part of the extra resources and felt that I could adequately reflect on a particular issue. One of the readings that really stood out was the one written by Kevin Purdy regarding social networking sites and the ways to manage them. He provides two ways in which he believes will reduce an individuals time on social networking sites, and make the information provided by these sites easily accessible. NutShellmail provides a platform where you can connect all of your social network accounts and receive the information on one single platform in whatever way the user pleases (Purdy, 2005). As I thought about, this seemed like an interesting idea that would definitely be popular with individuals who hold accounts on multiple social networking sites. Digital media has evolved to such an extent that we can access any of our social networking sites wherever we go. This high level of user interface says a lot about the society we live in. The amount of virtual interaction that seems to be taking place is incredible, when compared to a decade ago when it was virtually nothing. This idea of NutShellmail provides a service to a niche market that actually has multiple social networking accounts, only that this market isn’t a nice one anymore. We are moving in to an age where people meet other people online first before actually meeting face to face. We need programs to manage our social networking usage because of the sheer amount of interaction that happens through various sites.

With the theme of this weeks lecture being ‘Living with/as data’, I found this particular article to mirror the theme perfectly. Managing your online social life, strangely enough, is actually quite an important aspect of an individuals private life. We tend to reveal more than we intend to on these sites, and thus provide personal data to a community which seems like can never be permanently erased. Privacy among these social networking sites seems to be one of the biggest concerns in the online community. Doing some background research I found some articles that provided a little more of an in depth analysis of this notion. According to Acquisiti and Gross (2006), a large percentage of the population that use sites such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace are not fully aware of the amount of information they put up on these sites and also who can see this information. What I am trying to get at from this, is that Purdy raised a question of whether people need to manage their online social life more succinctly, for their own benefit. Quite clearly the answer is yes. The online community is such a large entity that people never full understand, that we ‘Live with the data’ or even ‘as the data’ as we provide information that we did not intend to.

– Purdy, Kevin (n.d.) ‘How to Filter and Manage Your Online Social Life’, Lifehacker
– Alessandro Acquisti and Ralph Gross, Imagined Communities: Awareness, Information Sharing, and Privacy on the Facebook, 2006.

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Week 9

This weeks readings focus on the concept of visualizations and the way this type of publishing helps establish a more interactive way of portraying data. For my reflection I want to focus on the way some of the readings have successfully summarized vast amounts of data in to images, a form of publishing that is clearly easier to engage with. I found the reading titled “The Global Warming Skeptics versus the Scientific Consensus” extremely compelling because of the way it summarized a very controversial topic in to a series of headings that the reader could view easily (Anon., 2009). The fact that the visualization includes both sides of the debate adds to the engagement of the information as I found a lot of information I hadn’t come across before. Many people have very one sided, black or white opinions when it comes to the global warming debate. Personally, I have always believed that global warming is occurring due to man made reasons, high population density etc. However, when I came across this particular reading, I felt that the use of graphs and other images and the succinct way that the information was summarized made my opinions waver a bit. One might ask why would these images change an individual’s opinion on global warming. One clear cut example, comes from the graph under the debate of whether it was hotter during medieval times or during our current time period. The graph clearly shows higher temperatures during the medieval times, and the reader is naturally drawn towards this image (Anon., 2009). Visualizations help the reader condense information that is sometimes hard to grasp and retain, in to an image based form which is easier to understand. Increases in technology have led to an evolution in the way that information is now portrayed. Text based information seems to have taken the back seat when it comes to providing information to a mass audience. Visual publishing seems to be the driving force in the world of media today, just because of the fact that it can condense vast amounts of information in to a small and easily accessible package.

As i read through this reading I came across a term I wasn’t quite sure of. The ‘Hockey Stick’ was something that intrigued me in to doing a little more research and I came across a basic explanation. According to Al Gore in his journal, it shows the relationship between the temperature and the time period. He says that during the industrial revolution it hit a spike which seems to have started an upwards trend (Gore, 2008). However I came across another visualization that seems to have completely discredited Al Gore’s theory as it shows that we are actually in a period of global cooling (Anon., 2009). Tis visualization occurs on the following website:

From this weeks readings I can confidently state that visualizations are a form of publishing that seem to affect the reader more than any other form of publishing. The eye catching quality of image based publishing helps the reader grasp information in a shorter span of time. The visualization that I focused on was a clear cut example of this, as my opinions of global warming now sit on the fence, which is exactly what visualizations set out to do: to help shape people’s opinions on certain types of information.

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Week 5

The archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens out of the future (From Archive Fever by Jacques Derrida). So, an archive is considered to be storing information somehow so it can be accessed later on. When I first heard the term ‘Archive’ before reading the readings, I had a brief idea that it was a book or something similar that is very old and was stored with dust all over it in the first floor of the main library. However I realised now that everything I publish becomes an archive. Facebook statuses of mine have become archives. Tweets have become archives. This blog post when published will become an archive. After reading ‘Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real-time web’ by Matthew Ogle, it has come to me that the modern day people have become enslaved to archiving through facebook and twitter. We post our thoughts everywhere without even thinking, thus filling the internet with low quality archives.

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Week 4

The topic of assemblies and networks this week was a really difficult one to understand to the full extent. Focusing on the actor-network theory, the notion of intermediaries and mediators came to me as great interest, how it is one of the most important aspects in determining a network. Wikipedia used an example of silk and nylon as intermediaries to show the full extent of this by saying ‘the former “means”, “reflects”, or “symbolises” the upper classes and the latter the lower classes’. How good the fabric is does not matter, but how the mass have become actants to build up this sense of silk as high class material and nylon as low class.

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