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MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences - Great Ideas Change the World



Tom Pettitt on the Gutenberg Parenthesis


Presented by the MIT Communications Forum

Hosted by James Paradis with respondent Peter Donaldson

Should we view the last 500 years or so of Western culture as a strange interlude, defined by printed page and other artifacts that once dominated the landscape but are now fading in relevance?

In this forum, Thomas Pettitt makes the deliberately provocative case for a Gutenberg “Parenthesis” — a period marked by the reign of the printing press and isolated from the largely oral culture that came before, and the digitally shaped culture emerging today. Pettitt, who finds an upside in society’s return to “something that resembles the past,” encounters some resistance among his listeners.


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