The "digital revolution" is often described as if it were an unprecedented shift in the structure of information and communication in western society. Yet an extensive scholarship has documented the profound social, political and cultural transformations introduced by the printing press. What can we learn about the present by considering that earlier period of media in transition? In what ways can looking at earlier periods be misleading?
Is it possible to model the process a society undergoes as it incorporates a new communications medium?
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the so-called digital revolution has been the impulse to theorize a medium that has not assumed a definitive shape. Our culture seems highly self-conscious about its changing communications and information infrastructure. Is there evidence of a similar awareness in European societies during the rise of print, or is this impulse to theorize a uniquely 20th century response?