Copying ñ the ability to duplicate discrete packets of information with varying levels of fidelity ñ is a function of all information communication technologies (ICTs). The importance of ICTs derives from their impact on the production, manipulation, and distribution of information ñ activities central to any economy. Producing an exhaustive narrative history of such technologies is not feasible here (a partial list includes lithography, etching, photography, telegraphy, telephony, the typewriter, motion pictures, magnetic tape recording, radio, photocopiers, digital scanners, and video cassette recorders). Instead, the framework of general purpose technologies (GPTs) ñ a set of technologies defined by their characteristics that tend to have transformative effects on the structure of economies ñ is employed to structure a historical analysis of a select few ICTs. The focus is on text-based copying technologies and not those designed to copy visual and/or aural information. The chapter attempts to place aspects of digitization within the historical context of past copying technologies. It starts by defining GPTs and developing the concept of ëtechnological principlesí, turning next to analyze the channels through which ICTs typically impact the economy. A central argument of the chapter is that, by altering the cost structure of producing, manipulating, and distributing information, ICTs that are themselves GPTs (general purpose ICTs) are often socially and economically ëtransformativeí. The chapter then considers three important copying technologies ñ writing, printing, and digitization.
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