500 years ago the communications system in the west was owned by one organization - the church. If you wanted something in writing a monk transcribed it. Few knew how to read as a result of books being so expensive. Your network news was delivered from the pulpit. The system supported the status quo of the power of God's elect, the King and his henchmen the aristocracy and above supported the most powerful multinational enterprise the world had yet seen the church itself. The church was the largest landowner in the west at a time when land was the basis of all wealth. The barriers to competition were impossibly high.
I am sure that when Gutenberg built his first press that there was a lot of chatter about font types, about gearing and pressure and inks and about the best type of paper - the kind of geek talk that is central to all new things. This is where so much of the discourse is today about blogging - RSS etc. But the true power of the printing press was something else that went way beyond how it worked. It was how it was used that was to be important.
Within a hundred years huge numbers of people could read. It was possible to run off broadsheets - personal publishing very cheaply. So what happened as a result of this use of the new technology?
The reformation in Europe, the dissolution of the monasteries in the England the the redistribution of all that wealth to secular hands, the civil war and the end of the idea of monarchy being God's anointed. The modern world was created where new ideas based on observation - such as a new vision of the universe - could not be held back by the establishment in spite of persecution.
So this is what will happen with blogging. What blogging is, is an end run on the strangle hold of our conversation and on our mindset that the corporate and institutional world has established. Until now the costs of having a human voice were set impossibly high. Only Rupert Murdoch or a government could play. But now communication costs are ridiculously low compared to the mainstream media and communications in corporations and government. Not only are the costs low but the interactive element of blogging is so much more powerful than the broadcast technique owned by the institutions. Any one of us can have a voice and groups can have power.Institutions are frightened of this voice and will fight it because it means that they will die as a result.
As at the time of the reformation - the general adoption of blogging tools will lead to the overthrow of the corporate and the institutional mind. In so doing it will release the vast treasure that it locked up in the costs of corporate and institutional life. It will free men and women from being peons in a feudal state where they had to live as liege men and offer fealty to their overlords.
We are not only oppressed by those in power in institutional life, we, like medieval peasant, are complicit. We know of no other life. Knowing no other life, like those in Plato's cave, we cannot imagine what freedom from institutional life might be like. We fear freedom because we see no alternative to bondage.
Even simple blogging can help here. It offers for the first time to each of us the potential to find our voice. At first maybe to tell the world what we had for breakfast or to recall some work idea. But I have found in myself a huge change in the last year in my inner voice and in the confidence as I discover that I am not alone in how I think.
Until now people who think as I do have struggled alone. We are by nature are not joiners. Fewer of us every day work in institutional life and cannot use that voice. What "organ" do we have to speak with a human voice? Blogging By finding so many of us out there, we grow in confidence and our voice becomes less hesitant. I feel wonder as I read new blogs every week and see how close our thinking is. This is how power is created
Technical talk is helpful. It leads to better tools. But let's talk more about how we will use blogging to change our world. It is not about making the corporation better - this type of discussion would be the same as a group of monks talking about how printing was going to help the church. It is about how to we take the institution out of our lives.
(Thanks to Dave Pollard for getting me going this week)
[Robert Paterson's Radio Weblog]
Quite an interseting piece from Rob!