Print Politics

In 2010, the Democracy of Print Remains Vital

And the internet can help, too, I guess…

Often, printing and information technology are pitted against each other as enemies. Isn't printing being murdered by the internet? Isn't the internet destroying information quality? But print and the web aren't enemies. In fact, they're natural friends, and a recent talk given by Carl Malamud reminded me of just that.

Malamud is a public domain advocate, known as “the rogue librarian.” In a speech at the Government 2.0 Summit in Washington this past September, he spoke about the history of the U.S. Government Printing Office. The speech focused on how essential printing and public record were to the development of the U.S. democratic system.

Today, Malamud says, we can continue to allow the democratic process to evolve by using the internet to do the same thing that printing has done over the last century or so – increase access to government, to legal process, to regulatory bodies, and hence, to the average citizen's ability to participate in the government and business of the country.

If ideas and technology don't evolve, they become obsolete. Malamud, in his speech, By the People (which can now be read as a pamphlet), challenges the U.S. Government Printing Office to lead the charge in terms of creating a supportive and integrative system between print information and digitized information. That's how it worked when Ben Franklin (a printer) decided to get involved in his community by publishing and distributing his political opinions.

The right to share and access information has always been the driving force behind printing. Now that those same principles have become the impetus growing the internet at such a phenomenal rate, printing can't get mad at that.

The issues addressed above may seem to have little to do with the concerns and work of a small commercial printer, but in truth, these seemingly disparate shades are interconnected. While using your local printer to publish a brochure or poster might not seem like it today, the very act is an engagement with the process of productive democracy. Ben Franklin would approve, and hopefully, the Obama administration will to, and access to information will continue to grow, both in print and online.

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