Essay title: Review Essay on Paolo Sarpi and the Uses of Information
Paolo Sarpi was a scholarly friar who was a driving force in trying to change government policy concerning the distribution of information and played a significant role in the politics of seventeenth-century Venice. Through his political ties and extensive information networks, he managed to make known his thoughts on just how powerful information could be in the proper as well as improper hands. Looking at Sarpiâ€™s scholarly and political contributions during this time period serve to show that he was a profound and progressive thinker whose ideas on the happenings within Venice and beyond revolved around three major themes of communication studies: that media allows us to â€œexperienceâ€ distant events as they occur via information networks, that media, such as the avvisi, influences thought, psychological organization, and social and institutional organization, and that the media are never neutral as shown by propaganda charged political writings (Black, Chunn, Edwards and Heyer 2).
The reference article, Filippo De Vivoâ€™s paper Paolo Sarpi and the Uses of Information in the Seventeenth-Century Venice, is structured very much like a standard essay in that it has an introduction, thesis, supporting paragraphs for the points brought up by the thesis, and a conclusion. The title of De Vivoâ€™s paper is an accurate depiction of what the subject matter pertains to which is about Paolo Sarpi and the uses of information in Venice during the seventeenth-century. Background information regarding Venice and its information network start the paper off. It is then established that information that was once only available to the elite classes such as merchants and politicians was then made available to the masses as a saleable commodity in the form of newsletters called avvisi (De Vivo 37). His network expanded beyond that which was available to the common people and he had access to information only available to one with political ties such as his and predictably he made great use of those sources. Besides having written correspondences with ranking officials of other nations, which had severe consequences if caught doing so, Sarpi would regularly meet with both domestic and foreign merchants and other travelers to discuss the happenings abroad, which also frowned upon by the government. The thesis of the article is introduced as an explanation of Sarpiâ€™s use of the newly developing means of information (38). To do this, De Vivo details how Sarpi kept updated on both domestic and foreign affairs through his long-reaching information network, analyzes Saripâ€™s uses of the information, both as a means of political action to influence government decisions, and as a tool of propaganda destined for wider spheres of the public (38).
To add a deeper understanding of Sarpiâ€™s methods of using information as a political tool, De Vivo also explains in what context propaganda is used in that time and place and how it differed between Sarpi and other writers of reason of state (38). It should be noted that Sarpiâ€™s views and suggested policies on how information should be handled was radical at the time and not very popular with the government, however his reasoning was well thought out and rational which history later confirms. Sarpiâ€™s information network was vast and it was a tool that drew upon many different sources. One of his most obvious and common source was the avvisi, the newsletter that was available twice weekly to anyone who could afford it.
Venice was a crucial harbor between long-distance maritime routes and many foreign visitors would constantly be coming and going bringing with them news from where they last came (37). This relates directly to Chapter 16, The Trade in News, of the course textbook which details the various information networks that arose in early modern Europe. The particular information network that was established and applies to this case would be the networks that were linked to the expansion of commercial activity (Thompson 115).
Professional news-writers of the time who compiled the avvisi would glean the information where they could, usually through word of mouth via traveling merchants, and what was written in one newsletter would be taken and used to bolster the content of another and so forth. Because of this, Sarpi would gather all the available newsletters and pore over them absorbing all the knowledge of affairs both within the empire and without and compose his own analysis on what he had learned which he would then share with others, in particular with his correspondences. Sarpiâ€™s political station allowed him access to information regarding events occurring outside of Venice whether it came in the form of reports or accounts from foreign diplomats and so forth. Sarpi kept.