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3. 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 (e.g. education, politics, creative industries, science, entertainment, social relationships)

I would like to further explore this statement into the relationship between modes of publishing and society. I will look at the impact that modes of publishing, in particular print and online modes, has had on the distribution and dissemination of news in society. With shifts in modes of publishing there have been shifts in society in particular on who determines what is ‘news’ and how does the distribution of knowledge as news work. Both these modes of publishing have seen the further merging of public and private spheres.

What does this mean? Newspapers create communities, they formed a base for which all of those people that have access to that piece of publishing could share common knowledge.  Especially when you only have a few sources to choose from. This is what happens when you only have a few sources to choose from, before digital TV you could have entire lunchtime conversations about who won Australian Idol, now people would be mocked because why would you watch that show now that you have 8 new channels to choose from? And just like celebrities whose lives can be documented by news headlines, now you can have strangers feel like they know you because you accidentally left your facebook on public and they’ve stalked your every move that was published. Creepy. Way too transparent.


News is a form of knowledge. As Robert Ezra park dicusses news is hard to define, apart from the fact that it favours big events and important  people 1.  With newspapers news are things that fit into a standard set of news categories ie. Sport, weather, politics.  Because access to news is knowledge and knowledge is power, access to news plays a pivotal point in a democracy. News in simple terms are things that are most important to us. Newspapers provide news that is most important to the general population. Now news is your facebook news feed and whats happening to your best friends. As Zoe discuss in her news project there has been a shifting in the proliferation of soft news versus hard news. View it here:

Clearly these shifts in the spreading of news and knowledge have a significant impact on society.


The Gutenberg printing press was revolutionary in terms of access to information when it was born in 1455 2. It brought about a new form of distribution and with the introduction of newspapers in the 17th century. It was no longer information only for the elite. Important  newsworthy information was being distributed to the people in the form of a newspaper.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that Elizabeth Eisenstein started to research the consequences of the printing press on society 1. The printing press allowed for new  way to disseminate information amongst the masses not just reserved the for elite or the religious. It created new communities bound by the sharing of ideas and information despite their dispersed locations.

But the traditional form of the newspaper is limited. It is designed to be published on a specific schedule, weekly, daily etc.. They are located geographically in the place they are produced  – The New York Times, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald. Then they are separated in World news, National News and so on. There are only a couple of different sources to choose from, those who own the newspapers own the power to determine what is news. This while it increases it accessibility to a general audience of ordinary literacy skill, its accessibility is still limited. Those that control the information, the newspaper owner, the journalist the distributors hold the power over the information.

The internet and the printing press share the same value of being able to spread quickly alternative sources of information and knowledge and ideas. Just on different scales. The printing press shrunk space, the internet eliminated space altogether.


The introduction of the internet and digital technologies associated with publishing online material have again brought about another change in society and the way news is consumer, produced, distributed and disseminated.  No longer just distributed one to many but now many to many.

The time it takes to read a newspaper should take you from the city to the ‘burbs on the train – for some people *cough* (like me) that’s a decent 40 minutes. The time it takes you to flick to and catch the headlines before switching back to the work your meant to be working hard 2 seconds.


You know societies news values are changing when Perez Hilton’s celebrity gossip can be viewed along side headlines from the SMH in equal online presence on twitter.  News online is updated constantly, news is even streamed lived and recorded almost simultaneously while its happening. There is reduction in time it takes to receive the news and distances across which it travels are not visible to the consumer. This break down of time and space allows for the dissemination of news at an exponential rate.

With consumers becoming at once producers and consumers the dissemination of information has definitely shifted. No longer relying on hierarchical methods of publishing.  The changing relationship between producer and consumer equals a change in the transparency in the flows of information.  There is now so much access to the information it becomes a matter of having to filter it out and find exactly what your looking for using various filtering methods ie, searches.

Welcome to the age of crowdsourcing.   Another new more ‘democratic’ way of getting the news is by peer recommendations, sites such as reddit use peer evaluation to give news a ranking of its importance. Usually the most ‘newsworthy ‘ or the most important news is ranked in accordance with how many people have viewed it.  So whats newsworthy is whats popular. Such as with ninemsn’s flocket gidget which is a visual representation on how popular a news article is on their site.

flock example

Facebook develops its own algorithms to bring to your own personalised ‘news feed’ separated into most recent and ‘top news’.  Bringing us closer to the idea of a invidualised ‘news’.  Click here to view a Read Write Web discussion on facebook’s patenting of the ‘news feed’ and why it shouldn’t to allow for open source development.


The wikipedia article on Open Publishing says, “principles (of open publishing) include non-hierarchy, public participation, minimal editorial control, and transparency,”

There is a move towards a more transparent society with the blurring of public and private and what is news with online social networking sites such as facebook and twitter.

Open platform application built with theguardian ) britain’s top selling newspaper.

Sadly online publishing, still has inherited most of the same barriers to access that permeate the media: lack of literacy, lack of money and lack of infrastructure. Until everyone in the world has equal access it really can’t be considered a democracy. prevent a significant proportion of the population from having any voice at all online.

1. Balnaves et al. (2009) Media Theories & Approaches: A Global Perspective, Palgrave Macmillan: London

2. Wikipedia History of Print

Other References:


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