Posts Tagged ‘public/private


Eisenstein’s Printing Press as an Agent of Change

Elizabeth Eisenstein

The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe

Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

From Eric Leed’s Review

·               It is impossible to develop a model which explains how this change takes place, a model which does for the history of communication what Thomas Kuhn did for the history of science with The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

·               I do not think Bagdikian is writing science fiction when he proposes that thiscould “be to politics what nuclear fission was to physical weapons, an increase in power so great that it constitutes a new condition for mankind. The new communications will permit the accumulation of a critical mass of humanattention and impulse that up to now has been inconceivable” (Bagdikian 1971, p.45).

·               How do the new means of communication affect an audience’s sense of “truth,” of”authority,” of the very intelligibility of preexisting resources of meaning? Media are treated as instruments of liberation or enslavement which create either an audience that is rational or a mass incapable of independent critical judgment.    

·               This concern with the effects of a medium on an audience neglects the middle term, culture-the symbolic realities which impose meaning on life-which is what an audience receives through the communications medium.

·               a classically “thick” description of how the introduction of a new medium reorients European culture, it also redirects our attention to the issue of how cultural transformations can be produced by changes in the means of communication. From her description of the relationship between print and the intellectual revolution of the Renaissance and Reformation, we can abstract some of the elements of a communications revolution and apply them to a contemporary context, identifying the differences and similarities in the patterns of transformation.

·               The main focus of her book is not on the ways in which print creates a new audience for books but on the ways in which it alters the shape of the “commonwealth of learning” and establishes a new division of labor among its citizens. Her general thesis is that the most significant effects of print lie not in the ways in which it transmits information but in the way in which it “fixes” and secures tradition.

·               Manuscripts have a precarious existence, vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters, dependent on shifting intellectual fashions and the availability of a corps of scribes. Moreover, print physically secures the corpus of the writ- ten tradition by a means the very opposite of that formerly in use. It is not by secrecy but by publicity, not by its limitation to a small band of adepts but by its broadest diffusion, that the security and potency of knowledge are assured.

·               Print did not itself create that classical revival which is identical with the Italian  Renaissance; nor did it produce Italian humanism. All of the elements of humanism-the emphasis on classical Latin style, the elevation of rhetoric above scholastic logic, the desire to emulate the ancients, the interest in language and non-Christian cultures-were present before print.

·               The most important effect of print, however, was that it changed the very conditions of intellection.

·               One can see how scholars, artists, and scientists increasingly take their dignity not from their ability to reproduce the old but from the ways in which they introduce new articulations of meaning within the established forms. The shift of effort from the replication to the codification of cultural patterns is reflected in the reversal of meaning undergone by the term “original.”

·               Eisenstein’s work gives us new insight into the traditional problem of how a shift of cultural function translates into a change in cultural structure.

·               Knowledge was packaged as “mystery,” with access to it controlled by and restricted to those who had been initiated into its secrets. “Many forms of knowledge had to be esoteric during the age of scribes if they were to survive at all.

·               Europeans became collectors of information par excellence, and the “information explosion” which they initiated burst old corporate structures designed more for the preservation than for the augmentation of knowledge. This meant, too, the rapid expansion of what we would now call an intelligentsia to include not just    professional and certified adepts but also learned and leisured gentlemen of scientific, antiquarian, or literary bent.

·               They, too, could acquire some small permanence, a whiff of immortality, if they added something-however small-to the storehouse of knowledge, or corrected a long-held error.

·               The effect of print on the ethos of those charged with the preservation and verification of the symbolic reality was to raise “objectivity” to the status of a new perceptual ideal.

·               It would now be logical to assert that the perceptions of an individual, freed from all his memberships, have a “universality,” an objective truth, not accessible to those enmeshed in the toils of inherited identities. These perceptions could now be integrated back into the corpus of human knowledge as science, philosophy,             “truth”-forms of knowing innately superior to “faith, illusion and childish prepossession.”

·               Print, in the 16th century, constituted a means by which Europeans could reproduce their symbolic reality in “exactly repeatable” pictorial and textual form.

·               The consumer of meaning is subjected to a barrage of advertisements, information, entertainment, sound, and image which makes it difficult to maintain essential cultural distinctions-such as those between violence and justice, love and sex, the “good” and the “best.” To survive this profusion of symbolic resources initiated by new media it is essential to develop new reading, viewing, and listening habits that involve suspending belief, engaging in automatic low- grade skepticism, or developing new techniques of falsifying information and evaluating            fictions.



Arendt’s The Human Condition

Hannah Arendt
The Human Condition
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
•    What is the human condition?
o    Thinking about what we’re doing
•    Driven by the urge to escape limitation
•    Mixed up to where we put out attention
•    Three activities: labor, work, action
•    Products of work→consumables of labor
•    Public realm demolished→social
•    Separate us, but join us
o    Subjectivity: my own perception—wants, desires, needs
o    Objectivity: our experiences available for someone else; perception of someone else; how things appear in the world
•    Reified when you’re the object for someone’s perception
•    Language doing similar things
•    Life isn’t the thing—constant deferral
o    Ethical: how do we act through deferral?
•    Words: speech → action
•    All things have potential
•    Can’t anticipate progress
•    Transcendence
o    Transcends instrumentality
o    Transcends its use
•    Things you do take into account things of the future
•    Appearing beyond my own perception
•    Immortality different from eternity
•    Singular achievement v. plurality
•    Conformity—behavior
o    Not action, not deciding for oneself
•    I am aware of other people being aware of me
•    Network of activity
o    Freedom of participation; not role in state
•    What does it mean to be a citizen of the body politic?
o    Negative liberties
•    Citizenry—the ability to not be involved where as before the involvement…
•    Being alone together
•    Real increase in the appearance of work
•    Progress as process
o    Virtue and excellence
•    Human activity—to make
o    Actions, words, deeds
•    Is there a rhetorical character to the things we make?
o    Transcendent?—reconditioned by the objects
•    Objects: join and separate
o    What is this influence? Private?
o    Does the private ever enter the private?
o    Inherently rhetorical?
•    Cognition, thought, logic
•    Are there reifications?
•    Decisions aren’t in the realm of the social
•    Rhetoric is the trope of remembrance
•    Speech becomes reified
•    Labor: returning the cycle
o    Labor will never disappear
•    Things about work that are more rhetorical
•    Reshapes being human
o    Influences each other
•    People want to escape limitations → technological
o    Power → I’ll do what I want
•    Staying in the world and making decisions
o    Not being created by circumstances
•    Not the rhetoric of being with social objects, but the political realm
•    Extended our human capabilities
•    Imperatives of behavior and choice
•    The human made environment
o    Rhetorical value
o    Different value that artifacts might have
•    Neither use nor expressive, but something else
•    Cultural integration
o    Social engineering v. public space
o    ≠ be together as individuals: take risks
•    Purpose of public space is to allow people to make its purpose
o    Almost purposeless
Pgs. 22-50
•    Public v. private: these terms have changed especially in the light of means to have freedom
•    Arendt begins by saying that action along is the prerogative of man and the desire for companionship is an animalistic behavior
•    We can be equals amongst our peers because freedom (the ability to be free from slavishness) is located exclusively in the political realm
•    In this chapter, freedom means not to be subject to the necessities of life or another and not to be in command oneself
•    Excellence distinguishes the individual and makes the public realm the proper place for excellence
Pgs. 50-73
•    How are the public and private realms similar? How are they different? They rely on each other because they are defined through each other.
•    Once one loses one’s privacy (freedom is no longer present; living for necessity) one stops being human
•    Public/private relates and separates everyone at the same time
•    We have to constantly be thinking as though we’re immortal: permanence and planning for the future
•    This permanence is a process rather than a place—family (private) isn’t considered permanent enough, must be in a public realm.
•    But…one needs private possessions more than common wealth
Pgs. 73-101
•    In this section, Arendt discusses the differences between work and labor and their connection to the vita activa.
•    In order to make the connection to work/labor, Arendt proposes that “good” stops existing once it is recognized within the self or in the public realm.
o    It is no longer “good” but simply an action.
•    In terms of productivity, Arendt uses Marx to illuminate the notion of excess, completion, enslavement, and constant reification
•    Laboring, unlike work, is never finished—it is a cyclical, sustaining process
•    Work is finished when a product is complete
•    Endurance depends upon repetition
Critical moments in the text
52-3: “The world, like every in-between, relates and separates men at the same time.  The public realm, as the common world, gathers us together and yet prevents our falling over each other, so to speak.  What make mass society so difficult to bear is not the number of people involved, or at least not primarily, but eh fact that the world between them has lost its power to gather them together to relate and separate them.  The weirdness of this situation resembles a spiritualistic séance where a number of people gathered around a table might suddenly, through some magic trick, see the table vanish from their midst, so that two persons sitting opposites each other were no longer separated but also would entirely unrelated to each other by anything tangible.”
104: “Only when labor is abolished can the “realm of freedom” supplant the “realm of necessity.”
110: “What the modern age so heatedly defended what never property as such but the unhampered pursuit of more property or of appropriation.”
130: “The danger of the modern age’s emancipation of labor will not only fail to usher in an age of freedom for all but will result, on the contrary, in forcing all mankind for the first time under the yoke of necessity, was already clearly perceived by Marx when he insisted that the aim of a revolution could not possibly be the already-accomplished emancipation of the laboring classes, but must consist in the emancipation of man from labor.”
146-7: “What dominates the labor process and all work processes which are performed in the mode of laboring is neither man’s purposeful effort nor the product he may desire, but the motion of the process itself and the rhythm it imposes upon the laborers. […]  It is no longer the body’s movement that determines the implement’s movement but the machine’s movement which enforces the movements of the body.  […]  The decisive difference between tools and machines is perhaps best illustrated by the apparently endless discussion of whether man should be “adjusted” to the machine or the machine e adjusted to the “nature” of man.”
244: “Man’s inability to rely upon himself or to have complete faith in himself (which is the same thing) is the price human beings pay for freedom; and the impossibility of remaining unique master of what they do, of knowing its consequences and relying upon the future, is the price they pay for plurality and reality.”

July 2017
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