Technological Disruption Is Not New

Protestant reform (Martin Luther) and the printing press (technology) is an example

Most people concentrate on the recent explosion of technology and its impact on societies, economies, industries, organisations, people, etc.

However, around 500 years ago, an obscure monk, professor of theology and parish priest living in a backwater of Germany started a revolution that remade Western Christianity by his use of new technology, eg the printing press.
"...the printing press let Luther bypass Rome's monopoly knowledge and build popular support before the clerics could lock him up or silence him..."
Richard Higgins, 2017

Movable type was invented in the mid-15th century by Johannes Gutenberg, ie
"...a press in which cast metal type pieces could be easily inserted and removed..."
Richard Higgins, 2017

Initially the printing press had many teething problems.
"...Luther changed all that, his short, inexpensive, provocative books and pamphlets, written in fiery, witty and earthy German that people could easily understand, was wildly successful. His writings electrified Germany and created the first true mass market for books......Luther in three years churned out some 30 cheap pamphlets, 300,000 copies of which were printed, turning Guttenberg's invention into the disruptive social media of its day. In 1520 alone, there were 35 editions of two of his works..."
Richard Higgins, 2017

In addition to the power of his ideas, the keys to Luther's success were

- his skill as a writer, ie brevity of short stories. Traditional texts at the time were in an obtuse style of 'long winded' Latin.

- his ability about to communicate to a lay audience, ie he wrote in a language that the masses understood

- the printing press allowed for mass production of his works. In fact, he regularly took an active role in the printing of his works. As many of his original works could fit into 8 pages, it could be printed on a single sheet, ie
"...Cheap, easily portable and highly readable, these works gave ordinary people access to theological ideas that had been the purview of a small elite..."
Richard Higgins, 2017

- importance of quality and the appearance of his books (he employed artisans to improve the appearance of his works)

In summary

"...what made Luther special was his genius for recognising the potential of a new form of media to speak directly to people and to create a movement that reshaped both the book and German public life......also transformed Western society..."
Richard Higgins, 2017


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