How communication technologies impact the size and composition of human collective memory
Author(s)Jara-Figueroa, Cristian I
Program in Media Arts and Sciences (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
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The ability of humans to accumulate knowledge and information across generations is a defining feature of our species. This ability depends on factors that range from the psychological biases that predispose us to learn from skillful and prestigious people, to the development of technologies for recording and communicating information: from clay tablets to the Internet. How do these communication technologies affect the size and composition of our human collective memory? Here we use two datasets on historical characters to present empirical evidence documenting how communication technologies have shaped human collective memory. We show that changes in communication technologies, including the introduction of movable type printing and shorter forms of printed media-such as newspapers, journals, and pamphlets-were accompanied by sharp changes (or breaks) in the per-capita number of memorable biographies from a given time period found in 'current online and offline sources. Moreover, changes in technology, such as the introduction of.printing, film and radio, and television, coincide with sharp changes in the occupations of the individuals present in these biographical records. These two empirical facts provide evidence in support of theories arguing that communication technologies are more consequential to society than the messages transmitted through them. Finally, this thesis contributes an update to the Pantheon dataset that includes historical geocoded data. We hope this updated version of the Pantheon dataset will enable future work documenting the effect of new communication technologies in ancient and modern civilizations.
Thesis: S.M., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture and Planning, Program in Media Arts and Sciences, 2016.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 77-80).
DepartmentProgram in Media Arts and Sciences (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program in Media Arts and Sciences ()