Digital Gutenberg
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Control is one the curious downsides to all this. Who controls the means of production, especially when it comes to the transfer of ideas, is of course a matter of consequence. Gutenberg learned something about this when he lost his livelihood to a shrewd partner. Others after him learned something about it when powerful persons and institutions became aware of both the dangers and the potentialities inherent in the business of the mass production of ideas.

From about the beginning of the nineteenth century -- as the industrial revolution was gaining ground -- the control of communications technologies, including print publishing, began to be concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. It is the nature of market economies to do that, particularly when large sums of capital are required to purchase and operate them, which was certainly the case with most of publishing by then. The more sophisticated the means, the costlier it is to own and use them. Moreover, the complexities of nearly every phase of publishing and broadcast required people with highly specialized skills, and these people demanded higher and higher salaries for their services. The need for specialists was followed by a need for lawyers, agents, and middlemen.

Hence, as all these things became concentrated in the hands of the few, so did power and privilege. Whether or not there has been an intentional effort to suppress one idea and elevate another is of little consequence. What matters is that this concentration of control over technologies in print and electronic publishing has had the effect of suppressing one thing in favor of another, and the aim, conscious or unconscious, has been to protect the status quo in order to preserve the bottom line.


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