Each technological development introduces new professions tantamount to a priesthood and sisterhood, each with their own ritualistic practices.
The professions have their own secret languages: printers, from Gutenberg to recent times, could read type backwards to set the type and proof-read before printing; telegraph operators employed their arcane Morse code and became valued members of small communities and acted as "oracles" offering contact with other worlds; and recently computer programmers use many foreign tongues with names like FORTRAN, COBOL, and even PASCAL to charm great machines that seemed destined to control the public rather than do the people's bidding. At each stage there is a critical transition from privileged communication and control to "open systems" using a vernacular language: the printing press was joined by the typewriter which ordinary people could use, the telegraph gave way to the telephone, the hand-camera of the 1890s gave people control over their own images, broadcast television is now challenged by camcorders, and the mainframe computer is threatened by the personal computer. Demystification, or even de-frocking of the technological elite is an important part of empowering people, but technological 'trickle-down' is a slow process.
Marshall McLuhan's notion of a "global village" arising from the impact of communications was predicted, at least on a national scale, by Samuel Morse.
Today, similar pronouncements are made by corporate titans as they look to new partnerships among cable television, telephone and computer companies. While they enthuse poetically about an egalitarian spirit, one doubts if their attitude differs much from that of Morse himself. His "one neighborhood" was only for those who could afford the price of admission. Similarly, the companies paving the "information superhighway" will bring the on-ramps to the best neighborhoods first. The highway will lead to gated communities in cyberspace that conform to those in the real space of real-estate developments.
"It would not be long ere the whole surface of this country would be channelled for those nerves which are to diffuse, with the speed of thought, a knowledge of all that is occurring throughout the land, making, in fact, one neighborhood of the whole country." 9
Reality? Introduction Revolution
Satellites Spirit of Invention Nation Building
Priesthood and Sisterhood TV Community Old Art, New Look
New Art, New Ontology 10_holtzer_shaw.html Interactive Installations
Interactive Publishing Art and the Net Truth?
CMP Home Page
9 Samuel F.B. Morse; his letters and journals, ed. and supplemented by his son Edward Lind Morse; Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914. II p 84-85 quoted in Paul J. Staiti, Samuel F. B. Morse, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 223.