The Gutenberg Galaxy Essay Sample

The Gutenberg Galaxy Pages
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The Gutenberg Galaxy has been instrumental in the organization and advancement of the society through the creation of mass communication.


As the technology progresses and so does the society. In the ancient world communication was between individuals and the medium was oral. This way of communication was not only inaccurate but slow. Sometimes there was deliberate distortion of information as it passes from one person to another (Brent 1991). There were instances when the information was delayed such that inconveniences were incurred (Bolter 1984). With the emergence of the Gutenberg Galaxy these problem issues have been minimized and helped to catapult the society to a higher level.

The Concept of the `Gutenberg Galaxy`

In the 15th century a German by the name Gutenberg invented the printing press, which brought tremendous changes to the society. It was not simply a change in the medium of communication; the consciousness of man underwent change (Mac Luhan 1969). The man re-invented himself through technology. His way of viewing the world and his fellow was not the same way he used to before this information explosion. Books were no longer confined to the small number of citizens’ majority whom were priests. As the numbers of printing presses become numerous, so did the cultivation of the reading culture. Many authors were inspired to write, more so works of literature. The crowning glory of the printing press is the ushering in of Protestantism, as the bible become accessible to all and not just the priestly elite.

This is to say that man was no longer to hold on his tribal background but to explore the world as an individual (Brand 1987). Through the written word man could easily be informed about how people lived in the past; he could understand the lifestyle of other nations and compare it with his own. Most importantly he was able to acquire similar information with other men simultaneously and swiftly. According to McLuhan (Mac Luhan 1969), the printing press brought in the first Gutenberg revolution. It was simply responsible for literacy in the world.

The second revolution is a consequence of a sudden increase of the electronic media. Nonetheless, the first Gutenberg revolution brought enlightenment to the people, but with a consequent a death to the oral tradition (McLuhan 1964). This second revolution similarly has been perceived to be the death of the reading culture. For the emergence of writing meant that story tellers record their stories such that anyone can be able to access it wherever they are stationed. It also meant that many people will be able to get similar information easily and with few inaccuracies. In the same way the reading culture may not survive or at least will not be carried out with the same passion as it used to be in the past. Already the young are showing less and less enthusiasm with the printed word (Brent 1991). There are few newspaper readers among the youth. Many rely on the computers to receive information of whatever kind. So it seem to be true that with the advent of the Gutenberg Galaxy there will be a feeling of utopia whereby the young and old alike will turn to television sets, computers, DVD’s, mobile phones etc.

This is not all. Since the written word ensured that knowledge was transmitted throughout the world, the electronic revolution has brought in the global village (McLuhan, 1964). In this concept all humans from all parts of the globe are able to connect and share knowledge and experiences. Man is no longer confined to his home environment but prone to explore the world and get to understand other peoples’ cultures and practices. This, on the contrary makes introduces tribalism in the civilization of man due to a thirst for diversity.

Technological Advancement and Mass Communication

The printing press is the first medium of mass communication. It was through the written word and more specifically the printing press that power was decentralized from the few to the multitude. Printed ideas and knowledge was only a reserve of a few that were priests or political leaders (Harnad 1991). These ideas were able to be communicated from a group of few individuals to the public through the written medium. In this context, mass communication enabled the written word to reach a wide variety of audience with no distortion to the original message. The emergence of the newspapers ensured that a variety of authors or writers communicated to a number of readers in different parts of the world.

Mass communication is even more pronounced with the electronic media. In the case of television for instance, the information can reach a great number of people at relatively the same time. The audience will choose whether or not to watch a particular program or switch to another. There are advertisements, commercials and news bulletins which can be transmitted worldwide, entertainments such as soccer whereby the whole world watches a particular match at the same time.

The revolution is even more pronounced with the computers. Internet connectivity enables anyone from any part of the globe to connect to the rest of the world. Individuals through the social websites can get to know each other and form friendship (Iser 1978). People can share opinions through blogs and get to pass their ideas across. They can be able to interact with their favorite politicians and let themselves be heard regarding some important matters of the state. This form of mass communication has revolutionized almost everything on the globe. It is in politics, where one who is deficient of this know-how would lessen his chances of success. Reason being that the individual will cut out a significant number of supporters who are glued to the computer.

The society is even far much organized as talent and important ideas can be picked up from the internet (Landow 1992). Sometime back the opinions that ruled the world did not come by but courtesy to prominent individuals; politicians, editors, writers and celebrities. In the present circumstances any ordinary man can have his voice heard, achieve celebrity status only if he or she has access to the internet. There are online encyclopedias which the public can contribute to through editing, submitting entries and commentaries. This is important for professionals all over the world to submit and share knowledge with the rest of the people.

Through mass communication there has been efficiency and transparency in transmitting information to the public (McLuhan 1964). Everybody seemed to rely on news reporters to get to access information from a particular scene say a road accident, or any other incident that may pass for “breaking news”. At present majority of the global media houses have come to realize the importance of the eye witnesses in giving the first hand account of the story. It is from the eye witnesses that shocking revelations about an incidence are revealed to the public. This advancement of reporting namely “the eye witness report” has raised the standards of journalism. Most of the major world media houses such as the CNN are known to have made this possible. Moreover, due to the mobile phone connectivity individuals are able to take pictures of what fascinates them as newsworthy and share it with the rest of the world. The plight of diamond miners in Africa, abuse of human rights and corruption in some governments has been brought to the limelight with the aid of the mass media.

Death of the Past

The oral tradition where pupils learn through songs, imitation of voices and listening to the spoken word is fast dying out (Brent 1991). These ways of transmission of knowledge has been reserved to nursery and elementary schools. As the child grows up his relationship with the teacher becomes less and less due to mass communication. In the higher education the lectures are transmitted to a class of more than hundred students at ago (Iser 1978). Some students who are not likely to access the lecture hall get the lessons from there rooms. Likewise on submitting assignments, the internet is of vital importance. Most students and lecturers find it convenient to have the entire exercise carried out online.

Therefore the dream of a paperless society is not only true but possible in the near future. Writing on paper as an art is no longer admired by the majority people. In job applications, for instance submission of the documents online is favored by most employers as opposed to submitting hard copies (Landow 1992). This saves so much on time; going through thousands of applications can be tiring to any person. On the contrary the computer makes the work easier as there is software to detect the less impressive or more desirable qualities on the text.

Since the mass media has been revolutionary to ensure that information is shared equally by both the lowest and the mighty. There have been attempts especially by totalitarian governments to try and control the media. To be able to control what is transmitted in the media is to be to control the people. The media has become the voice of the people and without this public watchdog then the people have no way of defending themselves. A reason as to why media freedom must be upheld such that the citizens are able to make informed decisions based on facts (Clarke 1994). In times of political campaigns, the mass media plays an important role in rendering the candidates to the public. No candidate is able to hide from the media scrutiny and so the public eye. For this reason the people vote for the candidate who is better qualified and deserving leadership. Nevertheless there are times when the media has been accused of biasness especially in the portrayal of some candidates. There is always the hope that this is done in the best interest of the public.

Mass communication ensures that the public and the entire world to be informed without distortion of the information. The mass media therefore shapes the society since all the people are fed with the same information. If the government desires to control the mindset of the people it can achieve its goals through the media (Clarke 1994). This machinery otherwise known as propaganda has been responsible for most of the deadliest crimes against humanity. It is for this reason that the mass media ought to be careful on what is being transmitted. For it is responsible for the upbringing of the children in the society (Giroux 1988).The mass media not only acts as a parent to these children but also as an advisor to the real parents of the children.


In conclusion therefore, it is important to realize the present state mass communication leaves little room for privacy. There is the development of the universal mind whereby autonomy will be a luxury of a few but the craving of the majority.


Bolter, J. (1984). Turing’s Man: Western Culture in the Computer Age. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina.

Brand, S. (1987). The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT. New York: Viking.

Brent, Doug. (1991). Oral Knowledge, Typographic Knowledge, Electronic Knowledge: Speculations on the History of Ownership. Journal Vol. 1(3). Retrieved on 16th March 2009 from [email protected]

Clarke, R. (1994). Information Technology: Weapon of Authoritarianism or Tool of Democracy? Computer Underground Digest Vol. 6 (66)

Giroux, H. (1988). Teachers as Intellectuals. Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Learning. Massachusetts: Bergin and Garvey Publishers Inc.

Harnad, S. (1991) Post-Gutenberg Galaxy: The Fourth Revolution in the Means of Production of Knowledge. The Public-Access Computer Systems Review Vol. 2 (1). Retrieved on 16th March 2009 from [email protected]; get harnad prv2n1.

Iser, W. (1978). Readers and the Concept of the Implied Reader. The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response. Baltimore and London: The John’s Hopkins UP.

Landow, G. (1992). Hypertext. The Convergency of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore and London: The John’s Hopkins U P.

Mac Luhan, M. (1969). The Gutenberg Galaxy. The making of Typographic Man. Toronto: University Press.

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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