The history of paradigm shifts


While reading a book for one of my classes (Hist 698), a reference to a paradigm shift was mentioned in regards to using the web in classroom teaching. The example given was of the motion picture industry.

In the beginning, motion pictures were basically filmed versions of plays which were enacted on stages, with a set and props. After a while the movie people realized, hey, I’m not bound to the stage! I can take my camera anywhere! So instead of making fake trees I can film real trees. Instead of creating a set that looks like the beach, I can just go to the beach!

They had a paradigm shift. They started out using new technology to do the same thing they had always been doing. But once they realized a far better potential for the technology, and broke out of the old mold, they were able to do great and wonderful things (and also terribly awful things – think of the immorality pervasive in movies nowadays).

How many other paradigm shifts are there in history? Countless, I’m sure. A very cursory search (“history paradigm shift” as a google search) turns up very few references to a historical look at paradigm shifts. A book by Thomas Kuhn seems to be it, and it’s limited to scientific revolutions.

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