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Capturing Culture: The Power of Print

In a culture that’s dominated by digital media, it can feel as if print is becoming obsolete.  There is an ever increasing accessibility to information with 76% of adults in the UK owning a smartphone at the end of 2016 (Ofcom). Such a statistic may be expected from those of you reading.

Everyone seems to own the latest gadget, so what’s so significant about such an obvious figure? Nearly 50 million people were walking around with what are essentially mini computers in their pockets at the end of last year, and this number can only have increased. With such instant access to information across the globe, one begins to question the significance of print.

When mentioning ‘print’, I don’t just mean printed newspapers, but also literature, original art and much more. Constant advancements in technology and an increasing availability to these online can make having physical editions seem pointless.

But there is something to be said of the ability to flick through the pages of your favourite book. Or feel the grainy texture of each page as you read the paper in the morning. These experiences are authentic and something that one cannot imagine being completely removed from day to day life.  In no way do I mean to undermine the resourcefulness of the internet, obtaining new information has never been easier.  It sits right under our fingertips and has made staying informed and connected to the rest of the world a thing of ease. This is a privilege that should never be taken for granted.

However, I will say that whilst technology can be temperamental, print is constant and reliable. While you struggle to start up your Kindle and get to the right page of Wuthering Heights in our lecture, I effortlessly glide through the pages of my Penguin edition. The library becomes a second home when internet access is made unavailable and the free newspaper a saviour when you need some reading material for your daily commute.

Print is the unsung hero of our time when so much energy is aimed towards needing immediate access to everything online. It is unchanging and resilient, it will not shut down at the last second and for reasons such as this a little more appreciation is needed.

Art was mentioned previously, and this may appear a little out of place. It is not explicitly a printed media (it’s created by an artist) but, like the newspaper or book, vast amounts have become available online which similarly affects our experience with it.

Looking at a piece of art via the internet completely contrasts viewing it in person. We have to consider factors such as potential distortion, discolouration, and that what we’re seeing may have been copied several times prior. This drastically affects its authenticity, making it important to remember that not everything online is a true representation of the original.

A credibility comes with print and originals that cannot be said for all online resources. Aspects such as this make them even more of a necessity when carrying out tasks like research.  Security comes with owning a book or painting as opposed to feeling like you have unlimited access online. In actuality they can be easily removed, edited or modified without your knowledge or control.

Lastly, I would like to talk about the power of print in terms of its tangibility. As a writer, having your work made available on a large scale (whether online or in print) is an amazing experience. It makes your ideas and opinions available to many and the ability to spark conversation or thought with them is reason to write.

But, there is something extra special about seeing your work in print where it can be interacted with. There may be a tear on the page where you turned it too harshly, or little drawings in its corner from that time you were feeling creative. It has the opportunity to age and weather. Not only does the writing tell a story, the printed copy of it does too.  It tells your story through the way it has interacted with the world when you picked it up and made it your own.

Want to know more about the power of print? Check out our latest podcast!




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