Monday, April 19, 2010

The Most Influential Person of the Past 1,000 Years

While we're on the topics of text messages as writing, post cards as literature, and the credibility of blogs....check out who A & E claimed to be The Most Influential Person of the Past 1,000 Years (or should I say...The Guy Who Made This All Possible).

Being that we are in an American literature course, a reoccurring theme we've discussed in class includes what it means to be free and have the right to freedom. Everyone knows the US prides itself on Freedom; "it's a free country," "Roosevelt's 5 Freedoms," "free speech," etc.

After watching this short segment from A & E's 25 part series, Biography of the Millennium, which aired in late 1999, it seemed to be a no brainer that Johan Gutenberg was to be chosen to be The Most Influential Person of the Past 1,000 Years. Mind you, this segment was aired nearly 12 years ago, but a few thoughts on this tv clip:

-Kofi Annan, the then Secretary General of the UN, was astounded to know that government news tips were being leaked through the fax machine. I wonder how he feels now...

-David Remnick, the Editor-in-Chief of The New Yorker, said:

"The effect of the press on our lives is essential. We can't, as a democracy, live without it. It infuriates us, there's lots of bad press. But I've seen the opposite. I've lived in the Soviet Union in the bad old days. I've seen the effect of the 'non-press' on a people. And if that's the option, then I think that every American would say 'Count me out.'"

This got me to thinking about Americans' ability to express ourselves and how lucky one is to have that freedom. (side note: Facebook is known to be blocked by the government in nearly 27 countries around the world. I don't even want to know what would happen if the US government blocked facebook...) Nonetheless, it is interesting to think of how this idea applies to writing "in a time of terror" when writers grapple with the idea of what exactly it means to be free (is it the ability... as one theorist argues, to be able to be welcome and a home for whoever walks through our doors? to disseminate information and perspectives? to express oneself through writing? or is it something else?)


  1. To add to these already wonderful questions, we should think about the relationship between textuality and freedom--namely free speech, right?

  2. I read this last night, and told my friends about it, how Johan Gutenberg was chosen as the most influential person of the past 1000 years and they were not surprised at all. Then I thought of literacy and how it is so important, that it even helped ease tensions during the Cold War ( The whole idea of communication wouldn't exist without literacy, essentially.