The Message of the Medium: Distributing academic knowledge in the Digital Age


  • Alex Gillespie


Technology supporting the production of academic knowledge has come a long way and Europe’s Journal of Psychology is at the forefront of a new phase in the dissemination and discussion of knowledge. Before the advent of writing, knowledge was spread by word of mouth often through poems to aid memory. Writing was obviously a breakthrough, but it has taken millennia to refine. Unwieldy scrolls became books with pages allowing easy access to each part of the text. The printing press, which made the reproduction of information easy and cheap, was obviously a major breakthrough. But many micro-inventions were required for this medium to mature. Introducing spaces between words greatly increased readability, as did paragraph breaks. Page numbers, chapters, chapter titles, and indexes improved accessibility (Chartier, 1995). Journal articles developed their own conventions of titles, abstracts, keywords, and predictable organisation. The technologies of The Age of Print are not only found within printed books and journal articles. Institutions grew up around printed material supporting the creation, distribution, archiving, and searching of the material. In libraries across the world, books were catalogued and shelved, journal articles were abstracted, keywords parsed, and massive index systems compiled.