Tue, 13 May 2008
I love Stephen Fry, everything he does is great, but also seems to come with a touch of quality as well. His documentaries are probably a lesser known part of his work, but they are equally fantastic; the two-part documentary on manic depression was particularly notable.
Last night a watched a new documentary presented by him, and while it was neither as moving or as personal as the others I have seen it was still interesting and enlightening. This particular documentary was about Johannes Gutenberg, the printing press that he invented, and the impact which this had upon the world.
He explained that the printing press, and the increased access to knowledge that it allowed, was a major factor in the Renaissance, which radically changed the world, and can be seen in the world in which we live today.
In Gutenberg's time the Church was the most powerful organisation. He worked with the church, and tried to show them the benefits of his idea to them. It was suggested that he would never have succeeded if he had not courted the Church. If the printing press was indeed the catalyst for the Renaissance, and the Renaissance was the start of the decline in the power of the Church that we see today, then the Church's embrace of the printing press could be said to have precipitated their loss of power and influence.
Are there any ideas at the current time that are as powerful as the idea of the printed word? During the programme their were a couple of references to the growth of the printing press being similar to that of the growth of the Internet in recent years.
The Internet, like the printing press before it, allows a new group of people to have direct access to information. Will that access cause a fundamental shift in our world and our lives?
Is there a dominant force in the world which will be diminished by the Internet? Are they currently embracing it as a tool which they can use to entrench their position? Are we thinking too small; is there something we haven't thought of yet that is going to have an even more radical impact?