Made in Sheffield: industrial perspectives on the digital humanities

Prescott, A. (2014) Made in Sheffield: industrial perspectives on the digital humanities. In: Pidd, M., Ward, E. and Mills, C. (eds.) Proceedings of the Digital Humanities Congress 2012. Series: Studies in the digital humanities (1). The University of Sheffield.

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A comparison between the advent of digital technology and the arrival of print has become one of the clichés of modern life. Yet it took a long time for the technology of moveable print to influence society on a large scale. As Raymond Williams long ago pointed out, it was only the arrival of the steam press at the beginning of the nineteenth century that turned print into a mass medium. Comparisons with, and elegies on, Gutenberg are not the most helpful starting point for thinking about digital culture and society. It will be suggested that a more useful historical comparison is the industrial and economic changes that occurred in Britain at the end of the eighteenth century. The computer, controlled by systems devised to power industrial looms, is simply the most sophisticated product of the industrial revolution. In considering the relationship between the digital and industrial revolutions, there can be no better starting point than Sheffield, one of the world’s great crucibles of industrialization and modernity. By examining the conditions which made Sheffield an important centre of industrial and manufacturing innovation in the late eighteenth century, we gain insights into many issues of current concerns in the digital humanities. There are questions of scale: how huge new complexes were created from small craft traditions. Sheffield provides us with insights into the role of experimentation in developing new technologies. The growth of Sheffield also helps us understand the role of networks in innovation. The great manufacturing traditions of Sheffield have a lot to teach us in a new digital world. Indeed, if 3D printing and other new manufacturing technologies indeed create, as has been suggested, a new Industrial Revolution, it may be that the traditions of Sheffield prove newly and unexpectedly relevant to us in negotiating the next stages of digital change.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Prescott, Professor Andrew
Authors: Prescott, A.
Subjects:Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z665 Library Science. Information Science
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Journal Name:Studies in the Digital Humanities
Publisher:The University of Sheffield
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Authors
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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