Information, infrastructure in the Baltic Area. Nodes, News and News Agents, c.1650 – 1700. Historia 2012.
Projektledare: Heiko Droste

Early modern societies experienced a dynamic development, which in many respects can be explained with the formation of an infrastructure for information, equalling the importance of the internet for today’s globalized world. Seventeenth century’s media revolution (mainly founded on postal services, printed and manuscript news forms) multiplied the flow of information accessible for the contemporaries. This caused a modernization on different levels of society. Information itself turned into a commodity, traded on a vastly growing news market in certain cities, where information experts met specific needs for information. The project analyses this change and its impact on the integration of the Baltic Sea Area.

Focus lies on central nodes of this information infrastructure in the Baltic Area, the cities of Stockholm, Riga, Hamburg and Gdansk. They created a cross border infrastructure for information, on behalf and with the protection of the state. Its organisation, however, lay in the hands of a group of information experts, system builders, who answered for the organizational and economic implementation of the infrastructure. They handled different news forms and thus created a news culture, which served the needs of the state and the interests of private persons. Political and economic aspects influenced this development..

Printed as well as manuscript newspapers, public as well as exclusive news forms were part of a media system, which entailed a substantial reduction of the costs of information. Still, by way of the vastly growing output of information the gains were substantial. New professions as well as new demands arose, enhancing a news flow, which for a long time was shaped – although not ultimately hindered – by the state’s resp. town council’s censorship.

The project thus combines different perspectives from economic history and media sociology. The contemporary information infrastructure implemented a new environment with the help of organizational reforms and new modes of communication. It created a constructed environment, which was necessary to uphold the flow of information in a reliable and economically sound way.

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