By M Gallace, M10A, 3331262
When publishing changes, so does society. Investigate and compare the impact of two publication technologies, one pre-1900 and one post-2000, on a specific aspect of society.
Society is made up of both individuals and wider social formations, they are living entities who are, as Steven Shaviro (2009) describes, “mortal – they have dates of coming into existence and passing out of existence.” Through these spurts of civilization different forms of technology and publishing methods have emerged – just as publication technologies change and evolved, so too does society. This becomes evident via the observation and comparison of two publication technologies during diverse eras of civilization. The Japanese printmaking technique and art form of Japanese woodblock printing, emerging during the Seventeenth century, provided both mass production in literature and art, initiating a change in society and providing, history, news, philosophy and other educational material to the Japanese culture at large. Just as Japanese woodblock printing impacted how society distributed educational material, so too does the invention of the three-dimensional (3D) printer, a revolutionary tool of the twenty-first century aiding research and visual learning.
1830, Golden Pheasant with Bracken Ferns, by Hiroshige demonstrates the vivid colours of Japanese woodblock prints
Japanese woodblock printing was used both as an artistic tool to record and publish artworks as well as a means to print books, impacting the distribution and intake of educational material to the Japanese culture. This printing technique became prominent in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1867) for artistic and literary reasons. Although the process derived from China, recognised as the “first form of printing to be invented” (Hopwood 1971, p.142), the Japanese surpassed the Chinese in colour technique, becoming the first region in the world to “produce multicolored woodblock prints and of a high quality,” (History World n.d.).The capacity to produce coloured woodblock prints reached full maturity by 1765 and was not matched by any other printing device until the beginning of the twentieth century (Hopwood 1971, p.142). This was one of the core reasons the Japanese chose this form of publishing. Printed woodblock art and literature, provided historical records of the Japanese culture and via the process of “archivization produce[d] as much as it record[ed] the event,” (Derrida 1994, citied in Stokes 2003). These woodblock printed archives have worked significantly in educating people of that era, as well as informing different civilizations throughout time of the customs, culture and history of Japan and still work till today by providing an “archiveable content of the past,” (Derrida 1994, citied in Stokes 2003).
The Japanese choose woodblock printing above other printing practices as a means to retain their heritage and cultural ethnicity. By the end of the sixteenth century the Japanese had access to a moveable type device similar to Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, but despite the appeal of this machine chose woodblock printing techniques instead because the running script style of Japanese text was better produced via woodblock prints (Hopwood 1971, p.144). Thus, this choice demonstrates the importancy of retaining the traditional Japanese writing style. The method of woodblock printing was lengthy, with the original drawing or text illustrated on rice paper first, duplicated and then glued to the plank of wood. From here, wood would be chipped away according to the original illustration, inked by brushing on pigment mix and then pressed against rice paper to produce the publishment (Schlombs 2007, p.7). In addition, each print required the collaboration of four experts: the designer, the engraver, the printer, and the publisher (Schlombs 2007, p.7). It is evident that an assemblage was created through this printing process in a flat ontology and that each actant, human and non-human (e.g. woodblock, carving knife) was of equal importance to the success of a good print (Actor Network theory 2012).
The impact of woodblock printing on the Japanese society was immense and aided the changes recognized in their culture, particularly education due to the availability of printed books from the early 1600s onwards. Woodblock printed books were being published from as early as the eighth century, but printing was restricted to the Buddhist sphere only (Kainosho 1997, p.22). Japanese military leader Tokugawa Leyasu recognised how important an educated society was, and immediately prompted literacy after becoming head of military in 1603, the year in which the general public is seen as producing woodblock printed books. Prior to this, books were handwritten, making their distribution hardly existent due to the duration taken to produce merely one (Printing Studio 2012). This change in publishing techniques allowed scholars to focus their efforts on the revision of ancient texts as well as gather additional data, rather than spend their energies transcribing original documents for preservation (Printing Studio 2012). Japan had begun distributing mass productions of literature within three years of the introduction of this printing process (Printing Studio 2012). The capacity to print as an ability to preserve knowledge and accumulate information vitally changed the mentality of early modern readers, initiating a change in education that fundamentally transformed Japan and Eastern Asia.
This shift to woodblock printing reversed the whole orientation of attitudes towards learning. Two pioneers that help this development were artists, Hon’ami Koetsu and Suminokure Soan who transcribed both the images and literature of Japanese classics from handscrolls onto woodblocks (Hopwood 1971, p.144). Their books were distributed to literary experts, but within years other publishing houses bloomed, producing cheaper copies for general consumption (Hopwood 1971, p.144). This printing process ended the domination of those literately elite, such as the Buddhist sphere and wealthy, allowing a new class of educated people to emerge. Thus, shifting the hub of knowledge and intellectual life from the Buddhist sphere and elite, conveying that changes in publishing, aided educational changes in society.
The general public’s accessibility to Japanese woodblock printing changed society, and impacted upon their education for the better. Not only did the mass production of books, allow diverse classes of society a chance to buy literature but it also initiated self-learning options. Furthermore, the ability to create woodblock prints was an educational process and instigated skills in carving, printing, and design all over Japan (Printing Studio 2012). While these skills were flourishing, so too was the art form of Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints. The stories told within ukiyo-e prints focused on theatre, landscape sceneries, historical tales and the Japanese people – ukiyo-e prints, like books, worked as educational platforms to inform and notify society of the events and stories to be told about the nation (Kainosho 1997, p.11). The mass production of these artworks meant the general public could afford an ukiyo-e print, and thus relish in the visual language and stories these artworks had to tell. They gave the illiterate the chance to inform themselves through visual stories as well as add these artworks to their archives. As described by Derrida (Enszer 2008), when viewing such archives the individual (whether then or today) is set “in what is already a psychic spacing,” and is not reduced to memory only, but a spiritual setting too. It was such changes and movements in publishing pre-1900, as Japanese woodblock printing, that resulted in the educational landscape present today.
Just as Japanese woodblock printing was viewed as revolutionary for its time, providing new educative resources to society, so too was the invention of 3D printers. The 3D printer, which has become predominantly available in the past decade and increasingly affordable within the past several years, has brought a radical educational resource to Western civilization. Similar to how Japanese woodblock printing provided a quicker means to publish or reproduce artworks and literature, the 3D printer offers a faster means to produce prototypes and models for research, educational and design purposes.
The rapidness and growth of emerging technologies and publishing techniques have flourished throughout the past century, and with these changes has come the distribution of post-2000 3D printers, a device that has impacted the academic, design and business world. The invention of the 3D printer folds back to 1984, where we start to see the initial developments of the technology by Charles Hulls (3Der 2012). However, the device wasn’t commercialized until the early 1990s and “had a relatively low profile….in part this was due to the five or six-figure prices that early 3D printers commanded, and in part reflected the relatively low quality of the objects printers produced,” (Daw 2010). Therefore, the creation of post-2000 3D printers, such as the Objet Connex500 have had the geatest impact upon society due to heighten printing finishes, affordability and additional printing options. The normal cost for one of these machines in the past several years has “dropped to a more reasonable level: $1000 to $ 3000,” (Daw 2010), thus becoming affordable to the general consumer. The use of this 3D equipment for educational purposes, in particular, has increased at a fast rate with educators recognizing how the technology “assists students in learning in visual and tangible ways,” (Inkpal 2011).
As publishing techniques change, so does society because they too advance their educational and practical skills. Post-2000 3D printers, such as Projets or Objets are being introduced to schools around the world because apart from assisting the growth in visual learning, 3D printers enable students to gain a deeper understanding in physical and spatial concepts through the 3D models they print (Inkpal 2011). The production of 3D visual media “captures [the students] attention by allowing a pictorial interpretation,” (Gates 2008) through the physicality and interactive qualities that 3D models offer. Similar to how Japanese woodblock printing prompted skills in the creative arts and literately world, 3D printing demands computer skills in three-dimensional modelling software such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) or CATIA. This conveys how a change in publishing, also prompts a change in society as the public needs to evolve and advance their skills in order to keep up with the technology. Knowledge and practical computer skills are also heightened by the 3D Printer because software programs such as, CAD or CATIA are used to build three-dimensional models. The 3D printer reads the digital input from the three-dimensional data provided in the software program (CAD, CATIA etc) and slowly prints layer on top of layer of additive (e.g. photopolymer, resin etc) to create a solid, three-dimensional model (3D Systems 2012).
CATIA 3D Model of half scale soccer ball ready for print
The phenomena of 3D printers have particularly impacted the educational resources available to the academic, business and design world. Post-2000 printers such as the Objet 3D Rapid Prototype Printer, which specialises in the creation of prototypes aids academics, researchers and university students with testing and experimentation. Prior to Rapid Prototypes or 3D printers, a three-dimensional prototype had to physically be made by hand, a time consuming process that has been diminished by 3D printing machines (Heidel 2012). The Objet 3D Rapid Prototype can be found in academic environments around the world, including the University of New South Wale’s Mechanical Engineering building. Here, you will find engineering students and professors publishing prototypes as a means to test concepts and designs in order to enhance accuracy and detect errors through analyses. The CATIA 3D model (image) above, and below (image) prototype, created by post-graduate UNSW aerospace engineering student Joseph Gallace aided his thesis studies, with the prototype allowing him to test the spin rates and pressure dynamics towards the Adidas Jabulani soccer ball. The 3D printer is not subject to engineers, but of great use to designers, architects and hobbyists
Prototype of the above CATIA 3D Model of the Adidas Jabulani (half scale) soccer ball
3D printing has revolutionised the process of creating prototypes, strongly impacting up research methods and product trials. International company Adidas has highly praised the benefits of 3D printers, stating that “before Adidas used Objet’s unique, multi-material 3D printing technology, all Adidas prototypes were hand-made by 12 technicians using special tools to model every single joint and crease according to 3D specifications,” (Heidel 2012). Adidas recently welcomed the latest 3D printer, the Objet Connex500 3D Printing System, to their research labs, which according to Adidas, not only helps the process of immediately detecting and eliminating errors in athletic footwear and equipment, but creates 3D models with unrivalled accuracy and surface quality that convey a precise idea of the final product (Heidel 2012). This publishing technique has highly impacted and sped up Adidas’s trial and research process as “models can now be evaluated and accepted within just one or two days… saving Adidas four to six weeks of work as compared to there previous mould-making process,” (Heidel 2012).
Changes in technology and publishing brings with it alterations to the law and knowledge in these regulations. With the introduction of woodblock printing to Japan came mass production of books and art and thus publishing houses emerged. This eventuated to the closest concept equivalent to copyright where Japanese publishing house, Tsuta-ya, implemented that a publisher has ownership or copyright of the physical woodblocks used to print images or text (Hopwood 1971, p.142). Today, an increased knowledge in copyright laws has increased among society due to the changes in publishing technologies – initiating such legislations as SOPA, ACTA, PIPA and so on to prevent copyright theft. Piracy of 3D CAD documents or “physibles, data objects that are able (and feasible) to become physical,” (Walter 2012) through a 3D printer is one of the problems these machines pose. There has been criticism that SOPAs focus on preventing music, film, game and book theft will need to expand to prevent the illegal download of physibles (Basulto 2012).
As publishing changes, so too does society, because civilization need to evolve their skills in order to understand and keep up with the movement of publishing techniques. This is visible in both the emergence of Japanese woodblock printing and 3D printers, which mutually, in their own way impacted the educational realm of their era. Japanese woodblock printing fundamentally presented all classes of the Japanese society with literature and art via mass production. Through this a break with the past and educative opportunties to only the Buddhist spheres and wealthy was broken. Post-2000 3D printing has not only aided research and testing methods for many classes of society but has pushed the growth in computer skills (CAD) too.
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