Shirky on Scribes


Nick made a great point on his blog earlier this week so I pulled an excerpt from his post to begin my own analysis of Shirky’s statement.

“only a small fraction of the populace could actually write” (Shirky 2009, p 66). When there is a very small group of people capable of completing a task (especially transferring ideas), these scribes became integral to the “service of refreshing cultural memory” (Shirky 2009, p 67). Shirky even points out that the function of these scribes was indispensable, and that their skills were irreplaceable.

So the purpose of scribes was too be a cultural voice for the citizens in that century. Scribes were mean to retain the ideals and traditions of the people in that time period because what other choice did they have? They couldn’t read or write. The scribes were the cultural beacon of hope for most people back then. Where we would normally open up Firefox and go to Wikipedia for something on the Dark Ages, people back then wold need to visit the scribes. George Gerbner said that in cultivation theory, the media are storytellers for today’s society. That principle remains true to the 1400’s, too. Why? Because the scribes were the media. The media was not as forceful, but it existed, A group of scribes or a few conglomerates, they are both storytellers. While scribes back then were indispensable, scribes now are indispensable. If journalists and bloggers are scribes, then they are refreshing tradition and keeping the culture alive (when in fact its hardly static.) Journalists are the storytellers these days. If we hear from our friend about Libya or Egypt, then what does that say about our culture,  our friend becomes the scribe and we are listening, just like it was in the 1400’s.

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