Thursday, January 5, 2012


To get started, I should explain that I am initiating this blog as part of a class at Brigham Young University called Digital Civilization. Each student is required to maintain a blog related to the course content. As a result, some of my posts for the next few months may seem odd (should anyone actually stumble upon this blog beyond classmates), like I'm responding to a prompt or something (because I probably am). However, this conveniently happens to be a field in which I have been tempted to blog for some time, and there is a good chance that I will continue after the end of the class.

For this initial post, I am required to respond to the prompt "What do I know about the historical period and the digital concept assigned to me?" As you may have deduced, I have been assigned a historical period: the 18th century; and a digital concept: information.

Well, where do I begin? The 18th century: a lot happened in those days. That period saw the extensive colonization of the Americas and the birth of what became the most powerful nation in the world, not to mention the single society most responsible for the development of the modern digital age. But there is much more to be said: The 18th century was the time of enlightenment. Scientific advances from such great thinkers as Sir Isaac Newton, coupled with the facilitation of the distribution of information through the printing press, set the stage for a rapid change in intellectual thought throughout the century. The scientific method was more rigorously developed and people sought to understand rather than just cope. The first extensive experiments into electricity were performed, beginning the process that would eventually allow for electronics and most of the technology around us today. But the enlightenment was not simply relevant to the production of technology; rather, one might argue that the shift in modes of thought precipitated the very society that allowed for our digital age to develop.

As for information: the term is a little abstract. I imagine that information in the context of my discussion must be taken partially axiomatically, for establishing a precise and non-circular definition is beyond me at the moment. For my purposes now, I will consider information to be any idea stored in some medium. Though "idea" is a vague term, I don't feel like going into a Platonic dialog to nail down its meaning. The definition I have given will suffice. Now, information is central to the digital civilization in which we live. The average American does not seem to be able (or, perhaps, willing) to function without a constant influx of information, and that information is generally provided digitally. Billions of dollars are lost or won with information, and to some, certain information is worth that much. Censorship, content control, piracy, and most other digital issues are centered on the availability of information. In short, even if I can't properly define information, I can certainly establish its importance. In the end, we would not have a digital civilization at all were it not for information, for digital technology was originally developed and is still used entirely for information acquisition, storage, and transfer.

I suppose that will do for now. I hope I wasn't too dry.

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