How Literacy Influenced the Media and its Audience

Whilst sitting in my second BCM110 lecture I learnt how the invention of devices such as the printing press and camera have changed the course of media history. However, from mere storytelling in the form of pictures in the time of cave-men to interactive multifaceted-media where almost anyone, anywhere can produce media, one should appreciate the role of literacy in the acceleration of media output, use and significance.

Before Modern Technology

The first invention of movable type was by Bi Sheng (1041-1048ce.) however due to the complexities of the Chinese language in written form it unfortunately did not take off. However, the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg (1450ce.) was a changing point in how people could receive news. Before this time people generally received news by written word, however as the majority of people were not literate before the 19th to 20th centuries verbal communication was the main form of the spread of news. This meant that world views were very limited and people would most often only be aware of news from their local area, whether it be idle gossip or fact. Thus the media audience of this time was oblivious to events in the world around them relying mainly on the word of others predominantly in their local area.

The Revolutionary Value of the Printing Press

From the mid-fifteenth century onward the prospect of receiving news from afar and improving literacy was on the horizon. The invention of a working printing press was revolutionary in the way that it gave more people the chance to learn to read, meaning the spread of news via paper became more probable. By the late 19th to early 20th century many people became literate making the spread of news easier and more accessible. This allowed the newspaper to become the main form of news, broadening the audience, allowing more people to connect and communicate about different issues around the world. With the rise in literacy, newspapers increased in popularity, which revolutionised the way people viewed and understood the world thus enforcing the impact of the printing press on history.

Literacy Allowed the Media to Succeed

This history should provide an insight into how literacy allowed the world to move forward into the buzzing social media frenzy it is in today. From those who still read the newspaper at their local cafe to the moody teenager constantly on their phone one can see how the ability to read was an essential step towards the influence of media on everyday life, now facilitating everyone with access to the latest news.


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