Superman and Gutenburg

Original caption: "singapore biennale 2008. bachelor - the dual body. ki bong rhee, korea. a book floating in water, illuminated by blue light. the book will neither rise to the surface nor sink due to the currents of the water."

Image cc license from Flickr user Andreas Schlegel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sojamo/2875016106/

While going for a walk the other day, my husband said he’d been pondering something recently. Wouldn’t it be nice, he asked, to have the ability to imprint your thoughts onto an object that will persist throughout space and time, rendering yourself and your words immortal, after a fashion? He had a particular object in mind and wanted me to guess what it might be.  My first guess wasn’t correct: as it turns out, despite being a Superman fan, he wasn’t thinking of the crystals that Jor-El used to convey history of Krypton and countless other universes as well as loads of other useful information for his son Kal-El. As that had seemed the most logical answer, I didn’t actually have a second guess.

My husband explained that it was really quite simple. It was a variation of a device that had been developed in Holy Roman Empire, in Europe, and China, in Asia. He was specifically thinking of printing and the printing press. While one might argue about which culture was the first to keep written records or the timing of the transition from oral to written records having greatest authority, it’s difficult to argue with printing as an effective means of compiling, storing, and preserving words and images in a way that will last a substantial period of time.

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