Digital Transformations: Some Historical Perspectives
• Initiatives for Access: pioneering British Library programme from 1993-1997 • Variety of experimental projects • High level of risk, but many of the experimental projects have turned into Electronic Beowulf Patent Office Express key services such as the online catalogue, newspaper digitisation and online patent access • PLURAL, TRANSVERSAL AND GENERATIVE • This translates to: no one single Dunhuang Project Network catalogues approach, piece of kit or infrastructure which will enable us to deliver, master or manage the digital. • The digital is shape shifting, so it adapts to our interests and preoccupations • It is (and should be) like riding a tiger.Digitisation of microfilm Turning the Pages(Burney Newspapers)
Model of Newcomen Steam Engineat the University of Glasgowrepaired by James Watt in 1765.A plaything to start with, but‘everything became science in hishands’Not immediately disruptive.Partnership with Boulton and moveto Birmingham was key.
Development of Sheffield as a steel city• 1740: Huntsman’s first experiments with crucible steel• 1770: Huntsman’s process begins to be used by other Sheffield cutlers• 1786: steam power first used to power hammers in the city• 1851: less than a quarter of city’s workers in heavy industries• 1859: Bessemer opens his new steelworks in Sheffield because he wanted to shock the conservative steelmakers there• 1891: two thirds of city’s workers in heavy industries• The creation of a ‘steel city’ took over 150 years – perhaps even longer
Sidney Pollard on the Industrial Revolution in Sheffield and Birmingham“a visitor to the metalworking areas ofBirmingham or Sheffield in the mid nineteenth-century would have found little to distinguishthem superficially from the same industries ahundred years earlier. The men worked asindependent sub-contractors in their own orrented workshops using their own or hiredequipment … These industries .. were stillwaiting for their Industrial Revolution”
Changes to Environment• Wheels powered by steam• New gadgets available to speed up tasks such as stamping and cutting• Workshop lit by gas and has water supply• Railways improve distribution• Cheap advertising increases demand• Is much of what we are seeing similar to the experience of the ‘small mester’ in the industrial revolution?
The Industrial Revolution was by no means as‘transformative’ as the Olympic openingceremony might suggest:• Impact often very localised and patchy• Micro invention just as important as large- scale innovation• Social as important as technical: Lunar Society• Economic growth hard to show: Crafts suggests annual economic growth of just 2%• Changes in communication, advertising, access to markets as important as chane in manufacturing
What of Other Transformations?“the Gutenberg Bible led to religious reformationwhile the Web appears to be leading towards socialand economic reformation. But the Digital Industrialrevolution, because of the issues and phenomenasurrounding the Web and its interactions withsociety, is occurring at lightning speed withprofound impacts on society, the economy, politics,and more”. Michael Brodie, Verizon
Anne Alexander and Miriyam Aouragh:“the Egyptian activists we interviewed rightly reject simplistic claims that technologysomehow caused the 2011 uprisings, and they say it undermines the agency of themillions of people who participated in the movement that brought down HosniMubarak”“platitudes do not help us understand the dual character of the Internet: Itempowers and disempowers”“we propose a shift away from perspectives that isolate “the Internet” from othermedia by examining the shift in media architecture exposed by the powerful synergybetween social media and satellite broadcasters during the January 25 uprising”“we call for an understanding of the dialectical relationship between online andoffline political action. We argue that without one, the other cannot have meaning.To a large extent, Internet spaces and tools were the choice of young revolutionariesin Egypt because they were already the spaces and tools that people of theirgeneration had chosen for communication in daily life”.‘The Egyptian Experience: Sense and Nonsense of the InternetRevolution’, International Journal of Communication 5 (2011)