The Politics of Printing

David Crow writes of the social hierarchies that existed before the Mac computer came on the scene. There was the writer, the designer, and all the different people who put together the form of the production, and they all depended on the printer to produce what they asked for. They were unable to manufacture their goods themselves, but they had to become consumers in order to recruit readers.

The printers hold all the cards while the editors get all the credit. This, however, changed when Macintosh computers enabled these editors to design. The dependence on the printer, then, became only to print; they were no longer needed to focus on the details.

The addition of the Internet and wide availability of content has also upset the social order.  Now, users can access information immediately for little to no cost and share it with hundreds of people in a matter of seconds. These same editors who once decided who saw what, when and how are now competing just to stay relevant.

It has become exceedingly difficult, if not nearly impossible, for government officials to keep matters hidden from the citizens. Instead of playing coy, officials are trying harder and harder to spin matters to their advantage. This isn’t a new addition by any means, but it has become essential in modern day politics.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, however. Remember the Protestant Reformation? The biggest reason Martin Luther’s ideas were spread weren’t [necessarily] because they were original, but because the printing press produced mass copies of his theses and works for the people who used them as weapons in the fight for religious freedom. The social, political and religious hierarchies were each upended because of this spread of ideas.

Once the printing press’ power was acknowledged, it was used more than ever as a pawn of politics, and arguably still is today. Crow writes this in reference to the pictorial signs denoting men’s and women’s individual restrooms. “It is a good example of the hidden politics of visual language, that international signs for man and woman refer explicitly to a Western dress code that is simply inappropriate in many parts of the world” (149).

It’s not just in bathroom or street signs, though it is the example Crow chose to use. It’s in advertisement, television, radio and other media regulations implemented that vary from country to country. One example I think of is the way advertisements are censored across international lines. Here is one:

This is an advertisement for Lux products featuring actress Sarah Jessica Parker. This particular shot was featured in Europe and the United States. This next photo, however, is the shot featured in the Israeli campaign.

Clearly, Parker was showing a little too much skin for the Israeli government.

This is just one of the more obvious examples of government censorship, but they can be much more discreet. The addition of some sleeves onto Parker’s sparkly blouse hardly made waves in Israel, but it was most certainly reported on in the United States on entertainment, evening and local news broadcasts.*

As Crow mentioned the explosion of new technology eased reliance on outside parties when it came to publishing and “seemed to promise an end to established hierarchies and restrictions” (159). But these social gains have definitely experienced attempted limitations. The problem is, restricted materials are easily found via the Internet, which is traditionally used on a computer.

Some social limitations still apply. For example, people who own personal computers are ranked higher than those who have to use public ones. Within this section are people with the newest most well-equipped computers, laptops and tablets who are ranked higher than those who just have one computer for the entire family. Even further is the monumental gap between people with access to this technology (which all of the aforementioned have) and those who have never seen or even heard of such advanced technology.

It’s a sad truth that, unfortunately, goes unnoticed in most circles. Some well-intentioned people use this technology to the advantage of the unfortunate and share their knowledge with others who support their movement in a variety of ways. It’s nice to know in this crazy, unbalanced world, the exciting technology of this generation can be used – like the printing press – for the good of the masses.

* On this subject Crow says, “It stretches social and political activities across world regions, intensifies our interdependence, speeds up transport and communication and ultimately means that distan events are able to have a much greater impact on our everyday experience. Local issues can take on a global proportion” (173).

Works Cited

Crow, David. Left to Right. 1st. AVA Publishing SA, 2006.


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