ARTS2090 FINAL: Question 4

8 Jun

Publishing is becoming increasingly harder to define due to the increasing platforms made available and at the speed in which these platforms are being created. Broadly, publishing can be described as producing content such as images, articles, information, music or film, and distributing it through a specific medium. This post will be describing two types of platforms and publication technologies and will highlight the changes between publishing in the pre-1900 and post-2000. Specifically, the publication technologies chosen are the pre-1900 printing press and the post-2000 social media. The impacts of these two very different ways of publishing are discussed in relation to the social relationships of their time and compared to each other; highlighting huge changes in the publishing industry over time. Focusing and expanding on examples such as the newspaper, SmartBrief and Twitter will clearly show the impacts of these varying publication technologies.  The biggest difference when comparing the social relationships of these two eras and their publication platforms are to examine the transition from the traditional platform of publication, to the digital platforms of publication we see today in contemporary society.

Johannes Gutenberg produced the printing press in the mid 15th century. This platform for publishing created a revolution and led to the mass production of books and newspapers creating distribution and a relationship to society at the time. It was seen as an agent to change as the printing press allowed types of information to be distributed (Kreis, S. 2004). It fostered rapid development within society through the transmission of texts.  More specifically it improved human communication, allowing a rapid development and platform of distribution for the arts, sciences, religion and politics. The impact that the printing press had on society can be explained through discussing the new form of communication at the time, such as newspapers and how they changed the lifestyles of individuals and their culture.

Newspapers were one of the communication forms produced from the printing press and changed the way society was influenced as well as their mode of expression. They provided a forefront to the development of journalism and provided access for society to consume various forms of public opinion. The problem with the newspapers was that they were often funded and controlled by the political systems of that particular culture (Croteau, D. 2003). During this historical time, having political organisations handle the major contributions and opinions to the newspapers would not have presented an issue, as the societal culture was different and strictly controlled. Newspaper articles in the 19th century were largely political publishing platforms used as a tool for assisting the political process as well as witnessing and informing society about particular events (Sloan, W. 1991). The governments during the 19th century feared losing power to rebellion and conspiracy and therefore made attempts to keep social contribution silenced by imposing punishment and imprisonment for any false and malicious comments (Sloan, W. 1991). The newspaper, therefore, provided an impact on the social relationships between the every day citizens and those with political power. By censoring the voices of the masses of people, they were effectively under political control and were forced to consume media that could have produced biased opinions. The every day citizens had no authority to voice their own opinions or have them published because of the influential power of the newspaper media. Therefore, the social relationship that society had with the papers would have gone no further than reading the articles as they had no way of distributing their own opinions.

The reason behind censoring and imposing penalties on the general public was to stay in control and reduce the risk of social resistance. American Federalist Judge, Alexander Addison, stated, “Give to any set of men the command of the press, and you give them the command of public opinion, which commands everything”, (Copeland, D. 2010). The newspapers were important in the dissemination of information and therefore the political parties were aiming to direct the “moral compass” of people and set the agenda and the opinions for their nation (Copeland, D. 2010). This context exemplifies how different the social relationships were conducted pre-1900s as their opinions weren’t distributed and they received publications on a less regular basis. This approach has been challenged overtime and can be exemplified when contrasting to the 21st century.

Digital publishing has evolved the publishing industry due to the creation of the Internet. It allows information to be posted and accessed efficiently with no barriers at all. The Internet itself has evolved since its introduction in the late 20th century and Web 2.0 has created the formation of social media for the 21st century. Social media has created its own digital community and is changing everyday as a communication tool. Within this digital society are characteristics that control social relationships. It is the social relationship with these publication platforms that lead to their success or failure. Society has contributed the success of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogging websites such as WordPress as it has become a social part of everyday communication. This social media movement has had a huge impact on the way society interacts with, and publishes content online.

The newspapers provided by the printing press were previously the best way to distribute information quickly to society. The distribution of articles within newspapers is still regulated within the publishing industry with editors who are selective when choosing appropriate material for their newspaper. This provides a barrier for society to communicate and voice their opinions. The relationship between society and newspapers is to do with the content published and whether or not it favoured by the consumers. Newspapers are still a profitable business and are largely managed by media conglomerates that have invested into their publications. The problem with this is that the masses of society don’t have the money to print and distribute their opinions and newsworthy information, as they don’t have the funds or the physical network. Social media has solved this problem for contemporary society and allows its publishers to post as frequently as they want, without editors telling them how and what to write.

As social media has evolved, society has adapted and changed their lifestyle due to the impact of this publishing system. There has been a major shift in the way we consume media post-2000. Society is now controlling the publishing industry and demanding what they want to read in contrast to newspapers that tell them what to read. There is so much information available to the everyday consumer that society now demands information that is relevant to them specifically. Therefore, there is a need for content aggregation to control the amount of data and direct it to the right consumer. SmartBrief are an online media publication platform that focuses on the demand for content aggregation and mobility. SmartBrief have adapted their business model to create the best social relationship with their consumers. They publish industry related information that is relevant by reading tops stories in the media and rewriting them so that the consumer gets the point of the article in less words. This is targeted towards industry professionals who need to be kept informed, however, lack the time to read excess words. SmartBrief therefore create a social relationship with their consumer in the way that it sends them publications that they have already subscribed to.

How Social Media Is Changing Publishing: A Merritt Colaizzi Interview – SmartBrief  (Stelzner, M. 2010).

Social media has become an everyday ritual for the common member in society and effectively established a strong relationship with them. It has provided everyone with the opportunity to be his or her own independent publisher. Twitter is a publishing platform defined by posting information in 140 characters or less. Society can post their opinions on a number of trending issues, or they can publish with a less serious approach by talking about what they ate for breakfast. Either way, Twitter has provided a platform for society to publish information that is not typically seen in mainstream media. Twitter provides you with an instant audience who can follow you and receive updates from you in the future. The social relationship between social media publishing platforms such as Twitter, have a strong following. There have been cases where breaking news has been published on social media before the traditional forms of media print it or broadcast it. This presents another impact of social media and how it has changed the patience of society. With the newspapers, consumers would have to wait until the next day for the printing press to publish news. There has been a shift in the social relationship of media, due to the mobility and access consumers now have to it. With Twitter, consumers of publishing are kept to date within minutes of an event, and this is what society expects.

Social media challenges the element of control in contrast to the pre-1900 publishing technology of the printing press and its newspapers. The societal culture has changed from when the government pushed censorship and controlled the information in the publications. Twitter provides the platform for any type social resistance, whether it is discussions on conspiracy or political parties.

Marshall McLuhan came up with the term, “the medium is the message”. It is used to describe how the platform of a publication influences how a message is received. The type of medium that is being used to publish a message affects society by the content delivered through the medium and the characteristics of the medium itself (McLuhan, M. 1964). This can relate to the medium of social media and how its characteristics have stimulated a relationship with society. A characteristic on Twitter involves having a 140 character limit in a “tweet”, providing the publisher with a challenge to present information in a brief, straight to the point manner. Another characteristic on Twitter would be the ability to follow other publishers and receive updates about their “tweets”. Most social media publishing platforms share the same ability to publish information, comment on other posts, and ‘tag’ other people in ones posts. McLuhan argues that all of these characteristics within the medium are what create social change and relationships.  McLuhan relates this to an example of a light bulb. A light bulb does not have any content and it “creates an environment by its mere presence” (McLuhan, M. 1964). It has a function of creating spaces during nighttime and therefore has a social impact and relationship. This can related to a newspaper or Twitter that have content being produced for the platforms but also have characteristics that share a relationship and functionality with society. For example, a newspaper is an object that society knows will educate them with the newsworthy happenings of their environment.

By creating a more interactive publishing experience with certain characteristics, and a worldwide audience, social media has been seen as a form of addiction and heavy routine. Societies relationship with social media has changed due to the introduction of technologies such as eReaders, iPads and Smartphones. All of these technologies share the common element of mobility. With the increase of mobile technology, consumers have become more dependent on using them. These mobile technologies can be used to access the social media publishing platform and create a cure for boredom or and addiction. Recent figures have been published in regards to social media access. Twitter has 465 million accounts, publishes 175 million tweets a day, and accepts 1 million new accounts a day (Bullas, J. 2012). 175 million tweets a day shows how heavily reliant society is on publishing on Twitter. The publishers who own an account on Twitter form a social relationship by interacting with their followers and contributing ever day. These followers could be strangers, celebrities or their friends outside the digital community. The mobility of technologies providing access to Twitter only improves the relationship between society and social media.


Overtime, publishing has been made possible through the invention of various technologies. Social media has developed its own digital society that society has programmed itself to follow. Social relationships have been discussed by contrasting the pre-1900 printing press, and the post-2000 social media. There are changes to society and the way we relate to publishing with the introduction and continued usage of each new publishing platform. As long as there are new publication technologies being created, they will always have an impact on society and change the way social relationships act. The relationship between society and media as grown stronger but presented more demands in regards to publishing. The current post-2000 society wants to be kept up to date constantly and has the mobile technology to access these updates. The pre-1900 printing press provided distribution of newspapers however; information was censored for political benefit and delayed.



In terms of referencing, our social relationship with traditional academic articles from books and publications are changing. Students and professionals alike are moving towards searching and publishing through social media. Therefore, academic articles are being replaced with more interactive platforms such as video and blogging from experts in the field.

Bullas, J, (2012) Social Networking Watch: Significant Social Media Facts <> Date accessed: 6 June 2012

Croteau, D. (2003) Media Society: Industries, Images and Audiences (3rd Ed) Pine Forge Press

McLuhan, M (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man

Copeland, D. (2010) The Media’s Role In Defining The Nation: The Active Voice Lang, Peter Publishing, Incorporated

Kreis, S. (2004) The History Guide: The Printing Press <> Date accessed: 6 Jun 2012

Sloan, W. (1991) Perspectives on Mass Communication History, Routledge

Stelzner, M. (2010) Social Media Examiner. How Social Media Is Changing Publishing: A Merritt Colaizzi Interview <> Date accessed: 5 June 2012


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