Internet vs Printing Press: Impact on Society by Alido Rodriguez

In my opinion, communication and networking is the key to all success.  Without communication, the knowledge that an individual obtains cannot be spread to others, which limits the growth of a society.  Without communication, there is no society.  With that said, there have been two inventions that have sparked the spread of knowledge and information throughout a society and throughout the world.  The two inventions are the Internet and the printing press.  The printing press was created first in the 1450s, during a time when printing was very tedious and time consuming.  The Internet was created over 500 years later in the 1980s, during a time where communication was growing nationally through the television and radio but was not efficient worldwide. The question at hand is “which occurrence generated the bigger impact on society?”  To answer this as straight forward as possible, it is the advent of the Internet.  Let me explain in further detail. 

            In order to answer this question, we need to first analyze and define the main words.  The dominant word in the question is impact.  In this case, the word impact means to have an effect or influence.  Although this word usually applies to positive impacts, we have to also account for the negative impacts as well.  The second important word in the question is society.  A society is “the totality of social relationships among organized groups of human beings or animals” (World English Dictionary, 2009).   To rephrase this question, which occurrence generated the bigger positive and negative influence on groups of people?  Before I leave my opinion, I will provide you with the basic, simplified history of both the printing press and the Internet.  I am choosing not to go in depth with the history because I feel like it will take away from the question at hand.  

            Before the printing press, prints were block-printed.  A character was engraved in a wooden block, filled with ink, and then transferred onto the paper.  As stated in the introduction, this just took too much time.  A man named Johann Gutenberg came to light with an all new way of printing, using what would be called movable type.  “Movable type allowed individual letters and punctuation symbols to be used and re-used to print the words and sentences on individual pages” (Hanson Ransom Center, 2007).  With innovation through time, people no longer had to hand write books and can now lay out and arrange letters on a flat panel, ink the panel, and simply press it on a page.  This made the production rate of books and other scholarly prints much faster. 

            The Internet had somewhat of a different feel.  Before the internet, printing was widespread and information had the ability to spread quickly.  As technology advances, the people’s expectations grow as well.  The radio and television had been around but there was no way to transmit information from a single person to another without announcing it to the public.  People like scientists, researchers, and governments needed a way to communicate with each other quickly without having to decode a telegraph message.  In the late 1960s, researchers started to develop the internet and by the late 90s, the Worldwide Web was created.  The Internet has now turned into what we have presently. 

            With both inventions being so innovative, there are many positive effects.  Starting with the printing press, the concept of moveable type set a path to eventually use machinery as a way to produce prints.  Printing became faster, easier, and cheaper.  Information was able to spread much faster throughout a community.  Religions and scholars were able to spread their beliefs and knowledge through books while the receiver of this information is following along with their copy of the same book.  Libraries grew and filled with information and jobs opened with opportunities to work in printing shops.   People also needed to become literate so in effect, they worked harder to learn more.  Finally, printed texts were more reliable than hand written because it took more time and had to be reviewed before being published. The Internet had somewhat the same effects. Information can now be sent in a blink of an eye.  This information can be spread worldwide, reaching larger audiences.  There is essentially no limit to the amount of copies of a document so in effect (provided the servers) everyone in the world can read the same document at the same time.  Information became easier to find.  Communicating and networking with people worldwide enhanced businesses.  The Internet was not limited to words but also included music, images, and video.  The list can really go on for a while. 

            Here is where the two begin to separate.  As stated before, impact is not only positive but negative as well.  The printing press was very local.  If your area did not have a printing press, the information took longer to spread to your area.  Since it took longer to spread information, not everyone was educated to the same degree.  In other words, people in one area can know everything about math and nothing about science, while people in another area can know everything about science but nothing about math.  The printing press created specialists and not everyone had access to the same information.  With the internet, the negative impact list can go on for just as long as the positive.  Everyone is an expert in their fields.  With information becoming so easy to access, everyone believes they can do everything.  To tie into that, jobs are becoming tougher to find because essentially everyone has experience in everything. The Internet also produces lazy people.  People no longer want to make an effort to find information.  The Internet also took a step back from the printing press and made it easy to lie again and report false information to the public due to everyone having access and no review system.  There is really no such thing as privacy on the internet.   Information can be easily lost on the Internet.  It is hard to profit off of something when it can be illegally downloaded or pirated on the Internet (in terms of music, movies, or programs).  There are just so many bad things about the Internet. 

            Between the two inventions, it is tough to prove that the printing press had a bigger impact than the Internet.  You might have an argument if it was solely positive impact but we are including negative as well.  The printing press definitely took a larger step at bringing communities closer together but the Internet took a larger step at bringing the world closer together (and you can argue farther apart).  In a short amount of time the printing press evolved from Guttenberg’s creation to mass production of text books, but in an even shorter time span, the Internet has evolved into something that at one point will be uncontrollable.   To prove that the Internet has a bigger impact, with one click of a button, you can upload a single video that can spark a riot in a different country that can lead to many deaths. 



Works Cited

Dugdale, Addy. “YouTube Video Sparks Riots In Benghazi, Libya, Leads To U.S. Embassy Workers’ Deaths.” Fast Company. Mansueto Ventures, 12 Sept. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <;.

“The Gutenberg Bible.” Harry Ransom Center. The University of Texas at Austin, 2007. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <;.

“Impact.”, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <;.

Kreis, Steven. “The Printing Press.” Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History. The History Guide, 13 May 2004. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <;.

Slater, William, III. “Internet History and Growth Ppt.” History of the Internet – Internet History Articles | Internet Society. Chicago Chapter of the Internet Society, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <;.

“Society.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers, n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. <;.


One comment

  1. Alido,

    Great writing and very well thought out. Very impressive overall. Good stuff. I would have preferred a different sentence at the end. No need to just finish with “can lead to many deaths. ” Books have led to them as well. The global impact in an instant is the key. Also as I have said we do not know where the Internet will lead in the future.
    This kind of intelligence on your part needs to spill over into your design, it will make it very strong.

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