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from Gutenberg to Google

Germany is known in the world as the maker of precise mechanical devices, being Europe’s industrial center and harboring a centuries-old tradition of trades. This contrasts the product pipeline of Anglo-Saxon countries, who have made considerable progress in the areas of media and information- and communication technologies.

Considering this background, we needed a unifying metaphor of communication and engineering for our conference to show that Germany’s still got it. We found it in the person of Johannes Gutenberg: an inventor of a communication machine [Movable Type]. Gutenberg was the man of his century, igniting an information revolution leading to the Renaissance.

The printing press business is precisely where Germany’s industrial economy launched. Printing presses required precision machinery, creating Germany’s engineering industry. Research in printing inks conceived the German chemical industry. You could make the case, therefore, that Germany derived its industrial power from an information need. The Internet is the new kind of movable type, facilitating a similar information revolution: falling communication costs are changing the game: from industrial to information age.

The Media in Transition Conference was derived from the idea that media is experiencing structural changes within the next years. We want to address media pros from all industries concerned with the consequences of the clash between new and old.

Change is based on the simple access to broadband networks, like the Internet, and input and output devices, which we use to create, modify and share media. Therefore, information and communication technology itself is becoming part of the media space. Media is also being affected by the social component, which communities like Flickr, Facebook and are promoting. Web 2.0 is not only the better user interface interactivity of modern websites, but also the contribution culture of people sharing video, music, photos, blogs, comments, geographic data, recommendations.

Finally, the structure of information is becoming a critical variable: search engine indexing strategies, database storage of unstructured data, syndication formats between applications. Next to new database technologies and programming languages (frameworks), such as Ruby and Ruby on Rails/ Django, ideas like Microformats and the Semantic Web are gaining a following. Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s (creator of the World Wide Web) vision of the Web 3.0 or Semantic Web is to use the web as a distributed type of database. Information therefore needs to be machine-readable and self-describing, so applications can access each other without prior knowledge. Especially, European companies, with intensive government funding, have been making progress over the last ten years with semantic web technologies.

Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible” seems future-proof. We welcome the coming digital media revolution.