Friday, April 18, 2008

Here be seamonsters: Tonight I'm going to party like its 1303

I don't watch much television. But last night something did catch my eye. BBC4 broadcast a programme titled Inside The Medieval Mind.
It had real resonance for me. The good professor Robert Bartlett, of St Andrew's University, described how medieval man understood the world - as a place of mystery and enchantment.

"The world was a book written by God. But as the Middle Ages drew to a close, it became a place to be mastered, even exploited."

That sounds familiar. The beginning of the Renaissance (let's call it 1304) began the period of disenchantment with the world - as we learned more about it we found there weren't sea monsters, or people with faces in their chests, or with a dog's head. We demystified the world and we did it through travel, exploration and the exchange of information.

We did this in the physical world. So it took 15 centuries for Greek philosophy to reach and impact on the West.

With the emergence of the network in the digital world it feels to me like the end of another era of mystification. I suspect its impact will take rather less than 15 centuries.

I wonder if it is ourselves who will be 'disenchanted' (ie we will demystify our 'selves') this time around?

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?