The First Renaissance — 3: Changes in Communications

The previous post dealt with changes in society and arts. Hence, the impact of these artistic — and the consequential scientific — achievements would not have had such a rapid influence across different domains of human endeavor without the development of new representation technologies — the media of today. And the capabilities of the artists would not have spread that far geographically that quickly. The increased demand in arts, engineering and building projects required non-verbal and traceable communication record of a greater durability than wooden tablets with clay or wax. Parchment was available, but was far too expensive. During the Renaissance paper manufacturing, which was probably invented in China around 100 AD, was mastered and paper mills set up across Europe. Advances in pencil making — first with “leads” and then with graphite [Lindgren 1997] — complemented the paper development and enabled affordable written communication. In German the word for pencil still is “Bleistift”, with “Blei” being the word for lead (plumbum.) Even before literacy become more widespread sketches and drawings were used to communicate.

The communications techniques were soon complemented by the printing press with movable fonts. This was the true beginning the development of broadcasting. Non-verbal communication up to then had been in the hand of a very few, who could afford the appropriate number of scribes. The first Renaissance started the democratization of communication and broadcasting, which is now once more being revolutionized by the internet.

Not only the material world, but in particular the spiritual dimension was given new visual expression. One example is Michelangelo’s freso in the Sistine Chapel. Paintings began to take on a size that allowed messages and even whole stories to be conveyed. In public spaces this became paramount to broadcasting. Not all the messages were meant to be decipherable easily, though. And the fascination with these messages continues.

Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam"

Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” part of the Fresco in the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Rom, Vatican
[Wikipedia]

The Creation of Adam is a section of Michelangelo’s famous fresco of the Sistine Chapel [Michelangelo 1511]. It illustrates the biblical story of God creating man in his image. The symmetry of the arms indicates the divinity of man. Michelangelo’s perfect sense of body proportion show the level of his anatomical knowledge. Athough Michelangelo began anatomical studies at a church hospital at the age of 17, he carefully obliterated all evidence of anatomical drawings to prevent accusations of illegal practice. He appears, however, to have centerpieces of his studies right there in the Sistine Chapel, pope’s private chapel. In 2010 the image of a human spinal chord was “decoded.” [Talan 2010]. The figure of God in the above scene seems to be embedded in an anatomically accurate image of the human brain [Meshberger 1990]. If Michelangelo draw these on purpose, then he must have relied on the general lack of anatomical knowledge. Modern neuroscience shows that brain and hand are neurologically intertwined to a level that makes us humans unique. There are interpretations the image is about  “breathing in life” via finger and eye-contact, reminiscent of hyper-communication or neurons transmitting biochemical information across the fingers like synaptic clefts.

Man and the Machine

Space Robot Photo Recreates Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Scene
[NASA]

Whatever the truth, this fresco has visualised and thus influenced Western thinking about spirituality – so deeply that many (mystical) communication or creation episodes refer back to this. The “Man and Machine” photo by NASA shows a robot’s hand on the left and the astronaut’s hand on the right playing God.  “It was staged with Michelangelo’s Machine-to-Machine (m2m) Communication painting in mind. We felt it was symbolic of closing the technology gap between robotic technology and human capability.” said Casey Joyce, Robonaut operations lead at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston [Moskowitz 2012].

Machine-to-Machine (m2m) Communication

Machine-to-Machine (m2m) Communication
[Vodafone 2011]

The symbolism is also used in an illustration of Machine-to-Machine (m2m) Communication by telecommunication company Vodafone [Vodafone 2011.]

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One Response to The First Renaissance — 3: Changes in Communications

  1. Pingback: 10 Most Famous Paintings In The World

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