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13 Things 2009

13 Things 2008

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

Search Brown



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

In his article Visualization and Cognition: Drawing Things Together French sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour points out that the development of the printing press allowed for the possibility of "translation without corruption" (Latour, 7). This meant that maps, books, and newspapers, among other printed materials, could be produced on a mass scale without the possibility of alteration along the way. Many copies of a single newspaper could be printed from a press, and mobilized in their immutable state throughout any given distribution radius. What is more, images could now accompany text on a single page. Words were no longer the only means by which to convey ideas or summarize events.

Latour also argued that it was the invention of the printing press that prompted the formation of competing newsprint publications. If a group takes issue with the claims and bias of a dominant publication, it has the option of using the same print medium, the same weapon, to develop a counter publication. The dissenters can either "quit and accept what {the medium presents} as a hard fact," (Latour, 12) or produce counter-proofs and compete for a community's readership.

Ty Davis, who founded the Phoenix's predecessor the NewPaper in 1978, took advantage of the dominant medium of immutable mobiles to dissent against the then-dominant Providence Journal. (See The NewPaper)

The editors' attempts to corner their audiences can be compared to the scientist's attempts to win the approval of his or her superiors: "It is precisely because the dissenter can always escape and try out another interpretation, that so much energy and time is devoted by scientists to corner him and surround him with ever more dramatic visual effects" (Latour, 17). The Phoenix's flashiness and tendancy towards colorful images and bold headlines is a reflection of its need to compete with other publications within the same medium.

Back to History: from Penny Press to Providence Phoenix