Traditionally it is the publisher who has the final say as to what information the public has access to. Therefore, it can said, that the publisher acts as an intermediary between the public and information. However, with the advent of the internet, the online world has revolutionised publishing and acts as a non authoritative intermediary. The cause of this revolution can be attributed to the fact that we are now living in the systems age. That is, a world in which artificial intelligence runs the digital sphere (Dodson 2009). This has changed the social lives of those in western society dramatically as it allows for freedom of expression on a global scale that has not always been readily available. This freedom has caused a rise in citizen journalists, that is, people without a professional accreditation in journalism creating media. The implications of this rise and the way that the systems age fits in to it will be further examined though the role of the ‘flow’ of information and the concepts of assemblage, archiving, and infotention. As we continue to investigate these assertions it will be evident that it is through the coming of the systems age and the manner in which it allows us to communicate without a hierarchal intermediary that has changed the role of journalistic publishing in our social lives.
It is known that our lives are changing significantly due to the systems age, and as a result, our connection with media and publishing has changed as well. However, in order to properly assess these changes we must first take note of what publishing and journalism was like before such change. It is only then that we can gain a full understanding of just how different our social lives, and our interactions with journalism, are now without a traditional intermediary.
Publishing has always been subject to change, as Rusbridger notes, “the late 15th and early 16th century was a period when the old spiritual and cultural order dominated by the Roman Catholic Church was breaking down and a new one was struggling to emerge” (2010). This new order came about through the advent of printing. Thousands of books were being produced and educated scholars searched through them in an attempt to find something that could sprout ideas on how best society should be run (Rusbridger 2010). This early example signifies just how important publishing is in regard to the spread of information and the shaping of our societal norms.
In the 1960’s “the rise of talk radio and even the D.I.Y styling’s of cable access TV and ‘zines gave average folks the chance to share their views with a much larger audience” (Glaser 2006). Newspapers introduced opinion pieces and letters to the editor to their format, and desktop publishing in the 1980’s allowed people to create and print their own publications; but even with all these avenues, the chance for mass distribution was still quite slim (Glaser 2006). It wasn’t until the 1990’s, when the internet came into play, that anyone could set up a webpage to share their thoughts and have it viewed by anyone else in the world. This began the early stages of what we can now refer to as the ‘flow’ of information. That is, the idea “that you’re living in the stream; adding to it, consuming it, redirecting it” (Guillaud 2010). Such a concept signifies the beginning of the systems age, in which the centre of information is the artificial. Chen notes that since then, “this drastic change of communication medium has significantly affected humans’ perception of the media, the usage of time and space and the reachability and control of the media” (2012, p.1). With this background information in mind, we can now go on to fully assess how the systems age, and the manner it allows us to communicate without a traditional intermediary, is changing the role of journalistic publishing in social life.
Rusbridger suggests that “virtually every adult over the age of 30 grew up with the idea that the fourth estate consisted of just two parts – the press and broadcasting” (2010). When we consider this view, it is clear that in the past the breadth of information one could receive on a particular issue would be slightly skewed, this point is made even more notable when we think of the way that media dictates societal norms. For example, if one wanted an alternative view of governmental legislation to the one they were presented on the evening news they would be forced to look for an underground newspaper or turn to pirate radio. It is because of this that most people in society of the past believed what the mainstream media projected. Thus when the internet and web. 2.0 entered our lives and we were left with a digital space with no rules, human authority went out the window leaving room only for personal expression and an artificial non authoritative gatekeeper. This resonates with the current ‘flow’ of information we are submerged in, a flow in which our participation is almost mandatory if we want to maintain our social presence in mainstream society. In the digital space there are many different opinions on almost every topic imaginable, therefore, the framework in which we see day to day life is radically different to that of the past. Thus, as Rusbridger states, the systems age, “brings with it an entirely new idea of what journalism is – indeed, for some it calls into question whether there is any such thing as ‘journalism’” (2010). This is a very valid observation. Traditionally, journalists were the main producers of information and would pass it on to their publishers for distribution. The journalists chose what was and what was not newsworthy and the public got only the information they deemed appropriate. Now, in the systems age, we instead are subject to a myriad of assemblages. That is, a multitude of collections of information. Within these assemblages we are also connected to a range of networks, each one connecting to another network and so forth. Due to this, infotention is especially significant in order to deal with this onslaught of information.
Infotention is a word created by Howard Rheingold used to “describe the psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today, a mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills with computer-powered information filters” (2009). Based on this, we can take infotention to refer to the use of our cognitive skills to decide what information is worth taking in and what is not.
In regard to journalism, Twitter has an incredibly significant role in a world of infotention. Each hash tag creates an assemblage of information for the user and connects them to a network of similar content that they can interact with on a social level. Further, Twitter is specifically a publishing tool that accommodates our lack of attention span by dictating that all published work be fewer than 140 characters (Twitter 2012). Thus, on Twitter, we are able to sift through mass amounts of information very quickly, unlike when we read printed journalism. It is for this reason that many newspapers and magazines have switched to a multiplatform form of publishing. That is, both in print and online, to maintain their appeal and keep the attention of their audience. As Galarneau explains, “until recently, magazines on the whole failed to cross a very fundamental point that lies at the heart of making the transition to multiplatform… what they produce everyday is not a physical product, it’s our journalism, how you present that is entirely driven by the needs of your audience” (2009, p.90). In today’s world of publishing assemblages and infotention concise and interactive journalism seems to be the audience’s order of the day. Thus, Twitter appeals to the needs of its users through a trending topics tab that creates a ‘top stories’ type feel to the site whilst still maintaining a brief yet informative manner. Twitter’s further undermining of the printed press is seen in its use by celebrities who often use the platform to make public announcements. In more recent times politicians have used Twitter for the same reason. Again the role of the journalist is put into question as the announcements these high profile personalities publish on Twitter would ordinarily be sent out in a media release then published by a traditional publication.
Chen suggests that the “mutual enhancement of new media and globalisation has led to the transformation of almost all the aspects of human society” (2012, p.2). This is clearly the case for Twitter and its role in the diminution of traditional journalism. Such a statement can be connected to the role of other online social media platforms as well, especially Facebook and its role in the archiving of information.
Facebook is an inherent feature of the lives of many people in today’s society. Without it, many individuals would find themselves cut off from the social activities of their friends. However, what Facebook is really doing is creating an archive of the user’s life. Facebook is constantly changing whether or not the user is actively online. Content is shared and recorded between users and will remain there for years to come. This concept takes us back to the notion of the ‘flow’ of information as Facebook is always ‘running’. On Facebook, the content uploaded to the site can be viewed by anyone at anytime. As Chen suggests, “new media functionally allows people to interact with multiple persons simultaneously with the ability to individualise messages in the process of interaction” (2012, p.2). This creates a new form of social life for the average person.
This feature of everyday modern life reinforces the notion of an artificial non authoritative authority acting as the intermediary to our social lives. This is in stark difference to traditional journalism. Newspapers can only go into print every so often, the same can be said for the broadcasting of televised news. On Facebook, all information is recorded in real time and breaking news is presented instantly on the user’s social news feed. In turn, the moment said news is recorded it enters an online archive that will be forever accessible. Therefore, it can be suggested that the days in which the social norm of getting news from the paper are long gone. There are many videos and articles documenting just how significant Facebook is to our social lives such as this one by Obizmedia. One of the key things within the rapid changing of our social lives through social media is the fact that, like the rest of the online world, there is no hierarchal intermediary. Instead, the only person who dictates how much information you upload to Facebook is the user.
Alongside social media are blogs. As Anderson explains, “the notion of blogging ‘as journalism’ has gained a cultural acceptance that has so far eluded previous digital media forms” (2006). As he suggests, many blogs have grown to become their own authoritative news providers, and almost all do this for free. One of the most important aspects of blogs is that they well and truly lead the way for citizen journalists. Like on Twitter, a blog owner can write about anything they choose but there are no limitations of characters. Blogs are one of the clearest examples of how the systems age has allowed us to communicate free of traditional intermediaries, especially in a social manner. Topics that would seem ‘taboo’ in a traditional magazine or newspaper are freely spoken about in a blog. Whilst blogging is a clear example of ‘contributing to the flow’ and archiving, it must be noted that although there is no traditional intermediary each person is an archive of information about themselves and thus subconsciously determines what they can and cannot say online. That is, each person has their own experiences and it is this personal experience that shapes their persona both online and off. Despite this, as this intermediary is a personal one it can still be suggested that there is still a huge degree of freedom due to the systems age.
Because of the mass amounts of interactivity on a blog, such as sharing etc, they give rise to ad hoc citizen journalism as well. “A blogger or observer might see something happening that’s newsworthy and bring it to the attention of the blogosphere or the online public (Glaser 2006).” This can also be said for Twitter and all other online mediums. Even before a professional journalist may hear about a story chances are, it’s already online. This is such a regular feature in today’s world that many news websites have links to the blogs of notable others if they have broken a story before them.
Given the change the lack of a hierarchal intermediary has implemented on our social lives due to the systems age, we must note that along with the disintegration of journalism as a professional occupation, there is also the issue of social responsibility in the media. This is an issue that due to such freedom is now being forgotten. Middleton explains that in the past “within journalism one could define accountability narrowly as being able to produce… evidence to support what has been reported on” (2009, p.3). This is not happening as much as it should today. Instead, due to citizen journalism people are writing and uploading whatever they wish, many do so without fact checking or thinking about copyright. This is especially problematic when we consider the fact that “communication inherently involves those who are listening to its author” (Middleton 2009, p.5). Thus, when one is researching online they are subject to a multitude of both correct and incorrect information. It is in situations like this that infotention is incredibly significant.
Rusbridger makes the comment that “what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative” (2010). This resonates with the notion that it is through the coming of the systems age and the manner in which it allows us to communicate without a hierarchal intermediary that has changed the role journalistic publishing has in our social lives. In turn, this fact is exemplified when we consider the role of the ‘flow’ of information and the concepts of assemblage, infotention and archiving. Our lives as a whole have been substantially changed by the systems age, not only through the way we communicate with others but how we gain information and note what societal norms and expectations are. Given the freedom of information we have gained through the internet, it is interesting to note the way that journalism and publishing have also changed and become not only more broadly defined but almost entirely new things.
Andersen, C 2006, “Actually Existing” Citizen Journalism Projects and Typologies: Part I, accessed 24th May 2012.
Chen, G 2012, ‘The Impact of New Media on Intercultural Communication in Global Context’, China Media Research, University of Rhode Island, pp. 1-10.
Dodson, W 2009, Dawn of the Systems Age, accessed 30th May 2012.
Galarneau, J 2009, ‘Digital continues upward ascent in the American consumer magazine industry’, Springer Science+Business Media, Thomas Publishing Company, New York, New York.
Glaser, M 2006, Your Guide to Citizen Journalism, accessed 24th May 2012.
Guillaud, H 2010, What is Implied by Living in a World of Flow, accessed 30th May 2012.
Middleton, M 2009, ‘Social responsibility in the media’, Global Media Journal: Indian Edition, March 2009, pp.1-14.
Obizmedia 2011, The world without Facebook, accessed 15th May 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ocXX619kaPM#!>
Rheingold, H 2009, Mindful Infotention: Dashboards, Radars, Filters, accessed 30th May 2012. < http://blog.sfgate.com/rheingold/2009/09/01/mindful-infotention-dashboards-radars-filters/>
Rusbridger, A 2010, The Splintering of the Fourth Estate, accessed 24th May 2012.
Twitter, 2012, Welcome! How can we Help you?, accessed 24th May 2012.
Wesley Dodson suggests that we are now living in the ‘systems age’. That is, we are now living in a world in which artificial intelligence have become keepers of the digital spheres. This change can be attributed to the massive use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and the manner in which we operate our lives around them.
Dodson argues that the systems age revolves around the notion that digital platforms are:
“sensing, collecting, and manipulating data in near real-time with little to no human supervision”.
This assertion can be seen within the ever changing nature of Facebook. Whether the user is online or not their data is evident for all their friends, and their friends of friends to see. Comments, videos, and likes are recorded even before the user is aware they have taken place. Everything on Facebook is shared and recorded automatically creating an archive that will be present for years to come.
This concept resonates with Hubert Guillard’s article about the implications of living in a world of flow. The flow in question being a constant stream of information available to anyone at anytime. Guillard discusses socialist Danah Boyd’s view of information streams. Boyd believes that:
“those who are most enamored with services like Twitter talk passionately about feeling as though they are living and breathing with the world around them”.
This is suggesting that those who share their information through a tweet or status update are creating a connection with the world around them, leaving their mark on the digital archive.
However, we must also address a more negative implication of this information flow. Guillard states that:
“In a networked world, people connect with people like themselves: consequently, it is easy not to get access to views of people who don’t think as you do”.
When we look to platforms like pininterest and Facebook there are applications inherent in those sites devoted entirely to connecting you with likeminded people. Facebook gives users the option to see mutual friends, likes, groups and events of friends and of people you don’t even know. So it can be said that whilst platforms allow for connections with the world, just how much of the world is quite debatable. However, we would not be wrong to agree with David Gauntlett’s video, in that making and creating data is connecting as it allows for a social experience that may otherwise not be available, that is, a connection with likeminded people you may otherwise have never met.
On the other hand in regard to Twitter; we can consider the point made by Guillard, that is, that through trending topics users are able to see content outside their usual sphere of information. It is this distribution of what would be otherwise unknown information through platforms that makes social media such a significant element in today’s world. Although some implications of the flow may leave us in somewhat of an ‘info bubble’, the benefit of the systems age means that if we ever desire to leave it, there will be plenty of information out there for us to find.
The question as to whether or not visual media works differently to other media forms is one which initially drives one to the simple answer of ‘yes, they do work differently’. This is because most other media forms are through text and thus by default visual media works differently. However, when one thinks about this further we are forced to acknowledge that a significant factor in the difference of these mediums is the concept of interpretation. Without any context or information attached to the image, visual media can mean anything to anyone. After all, the only way to gain information from visual media is through interpretation.
The context of where visual media is placed can significantly alter its impact; in turn any text or data connected to the image can change the manner in which the visual work is framed. For example, on Information is Beautiful there is a visualisation of the differing perspectives on climate change. If one were to just look at the images in the centre without reading the text on the sides, depending on one’s current view of climate change, the visualisations can mean drastically different things. This relates to the notion of fragmented views as discussed in the blog on information graphics.
The climate change examples on Information Is Beautiful highlight the fact that showing the view of only one side can allow for the creators of visual media to sway their audience in a particular way. This image of a polar bear clinging onto a block of ice has been used by those who believe in climate change to further their cause.
The use of the image of the struggling polar bear creates feelings of sympathy and concern to the viewer however beyond that, there isn’t actually much information given. Instead, the image is subject to interpretation. Without the accompanying article one may not necessarily assume the image was related to the climate change debate. Instead one might think the image would be great use for a new meme. Much like the eel featured here.
Although it can be said that one of the major differences between visual media and text based media is that the messages and information conveyed in visual media depend largely on interpretation, it must be noted that information in text based media can also depend on context. If someone were to publish a sentence someone had said which sounded awful out of context then said publisher could be sued. However, generally speaking, for images as information can only be gained through their interpretation the concept of context is much more pressing.
Ann Friedberg makes the point within her new book that:
“How the world is framed may be as important as what is contained within that frame”.
That is, the manner in which particular elements of life are presented in a visual form will determine how we see the world. The reason for this can be attributed to the fact that human beings present information through images or rather, information graphics, and these images will have different meanings depending on the way they are presented. This is especially so when it comes to describing particularly complex issues. For example, this image is a visualisation of where an individual tweet goes after they have posted it. To explain this would be quite difficult to articulate for most people but the image allows us to input our imaginations and to interpret the information in a way that suits us best. In turn, this graphic very simply projects the message that you can eat much more but consume fewer calories depending on what food one eats.
Further use of information graphics and the way that they present life can be seen within Timo’s analysis of ‘the dashed line’. Timo explains that:
“Even though the dashed line has emerged from a designer’s shorthand and from the limitations of monotone printing techniques, it has a clear and simple visual magic, the ability to express something three- or four-dimensional in two dimensions.”
Like the calorie graphic the information expressed through the use of a dashed line takes a simple approach. One which explains a great deal and allows us to interpret and understand the information presented at our own pace.
However, it must be noted that whilst many visualisations are images some can take place through people. People of prominence can eventually come to symbolise and represent certain things within our society. As Debrod explains in his work celebrities are:
“Spectacular representations of living human beings… The function of these celebrities is to act out various lifestyles or sociopolitical viewpoints in a full, totally free manner. They embody the inaccessible results of social labor by dramatizing the by-products of that labor which are magically projected above it as its ultimate goals: power and vacations”.
Thus, it can be suggested that celebrities embody the visualisation of the ‘ideal lifestyle’. Further, Friedberg’s assertion that the way graphics are framed is also very important is evident in because the lifestyle of these stars that we see in the media is framed in a very fragmented view, and thus the frame is actually quite ‘cloudy’. A good, albeit dramatised, example of how we can perceive celebrity lifestyles to be better than they actually are due to the way they have been presented can be seen in the music video for Britney Spears’ song Lucky.
The notion of fragmented views is also addressed when we read Plato’s work Sophist and one character explains that:
“A resemblance… is not really real”.
That is, in most cases despite how much information graphics tells us, we are still missing some parts of the ‘picture’ as our frame is not all encompassing of every element in life.
Regardless, there is a lot to be gained from information graphics. Due to their simplistic nature an otherwise complex topic can be interpreted in moments and a wider range of people can share in the knowledge presented than may have otherwise. In turn, these graphics also allow for more creativity and imagination which can be said to be a significant element in their appeal.
According to Goldhaber our current economy runs on information, this is because most people now earn their money through the managing or distribution of information in some form. This assertion is made even more significant when we consider just how much information the average person consumes in one day through technology. When on the computer, using a smart phone, or even watching TV we are blasted with huge amounts of information all of it competing for our attention. Our attention spans have been suggested to continually decrease due to the advent of so many different forms of information givers. As Matt Richtel explains:
“at one time a screen meant maybe something in your living room. But now it’s something in your pocket so it goes everywhere — it can be behind the wheel, it can be at the dinner table, it can be in the bathroom. We see it everywhere today”.
Due to the mass amounts of information produced and consumed daily, it is only natural that we must find some way to cope with it all. According to Howard Rheingold, this is achieved through Infotention. Infotention is a word created by Rheingold and it is used to:
“describe the psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today, a mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills with computer-powered information filters”.
That is, Infotention helps us to use our cognitive skills to decide what information is worth paying attention to and what we should dismiss.
The concept of Infotention is especially significant when we consider Emily Yoffes suggestion that in todays modern age:
“sometimes it feels as if the basic drives for food, sex, and sleep have been overridden by a new need for endless nuggets of electronic information”.
Although it seems a bold conclusion when one stops to think about just how much time we spend ‘Googling’ and how often we find ourselves going on the net ‘for a second’ only to realise two hours have passed it is not an assertion that can be easily dismissed. If anything, it seems that many of us are addicted to the pleasure gained by learning some obscure facts. Much of this, due to Infotention, will be dismissed soon after reading thus giving us the sense that we really haven’t been doing all that much online despite the phenomenal amount of clicking and reading the average person does in a session on the net.
Goldhabers comment that we live in an economy run on information is a very valid one. Constantly, we are on the hunt for new information just as people are constantly trying to throw information our way. As the archive of information online continues to increase the fight for our attention is likely to grow, just like our rate of Infotention.
The video “I Have to Get Ready” by Lev Yilmaz highlights just how quickly different minute things can grab our attention, similar to the manner in which ‘one sec’ on the internet could actually be an hour. Honestly, it’s a very amusing video and the last line is what best resonates with the topic of this post.
Merriam Webster dictionary defines an archive as:
“a place in which public records or historical documents are preserved”.
With this in mind, one could attest that all publishing qualifies as an archive as each publication is an arrangement of information that can be accessed again in future. The notion of accessibility is especially relevant when we consider Jacques Derrida’s theory of archive ‘fever’ in his work Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. Derrida’s work was originally a lecture given at the beginning of the internet age, when emails were only just starting to take form in the larger public. He suggested that:
“the technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archivable content…archivization produces as much as it records the event”.
That is, the manner in which content is preserved, be it online or offline, defines how said content can be discovered later. Thus when we look at the key elements within archive ‘fever’ in relation to publishing, such as the inside outside concept, and the authority figures, we can fully understand the manner in which archives set the foundation for the future.
In todays society archiving is done regularly, even now this blog is forming its own archive of information which can be accessed again in future. The reason for this can be attributed to the power of the internet. It can be said that the internet is a giant archive that is constantly being added to and modified. Jon Stokes takes this a step further and suggests that:
“if the web is a giant public archive, then the privately owned and secretive Google is its de facto interface”.
That is, Google acts an authority for the archive and as he who controls the archives lays the foundation for what will be recorded for the future, Google definitely plays a significant role in what the future will see of our world. Google’s power over the internet is unrivalled and thus when we think of the inside outside theory it is clear that whilst human beings do have considerable say of what is put in, Google decides what can be taken out.
However, whilst we can put whatever we want inside the online archive, along with Google’s authority there are also sets of separate archives defining what we can publish. That is, laws, code of conducts and even our own personal habits. Each person has their own archive of information about themselves, and within that there are things they leave inside, and some they leave out unknowingly as part of the ‘fever’.
Through the advent of websites such as Twitter and Facebook the recording of people’s lives is constant. As Matthew Ogle suggests, everything on those sites is in real time and whilst this may seem narrow and like we’re ignoring our past the reality is, nothing we post on these sites is deleted. In essence, they are permanent archives which will be accessible for many decades to come – we’ll never have to remember anything. Julie Enszer also makes this point when she references Derrida’s comment that:
“there would indeed be no archive desire without the radical finitude, without the possibility of a forgetfulness which does not limit itself to repression”.
Ogle goes on to summarise this point with this example:
“What were you thinking about on November 23rd, 2009? You probably have no idea, but Twitter might”.
Ogle’s view relates closely with the inside outside concept, that is, what is included in our historical archive and what isn’t. Due to the internet it would not be out of line to suggest that now, almost everything is now inside and the desire to preserve everything, or rather the ‘fever’, is growing.
According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary assemblage refers to a ‘collection of persons or things’. This definition stands true when we relate the word to publishing. When we examine publishing and its relation to society we are presented with a number of different ‘collections’ of concepts and physical ‘things’. Both concepts and ‘things’ are components of the Actor-network theory (ANT) which was devised by Michel Callon, John Law and Bruno Latour. In turn, when we look to the work of Manuel De Landa we can categorise each element in ANT and better analyse each component.
According to Wikipedia, the Actor-network theory aims to determine the relationship between materials; that is ‘things’, and semiotics, or rather, concepts. These two elements form together to create a network. With this explanation in mind we can assert that in terms of publishing the network consists of the actual published work (things) and the relationship it has with the media consumer (concepts). When creating a publication not only is there the actual content, but the content creators who devised the work, the ideas created by these creators, the publishers who release it, the people who consume the media and so on. When we break down the assemblage in such a manner, we can further categorise each ‘thing’ and concept into actants. That is, human and non-human actors. ANT asserts that there is no difference between the abilities of human and non-human actors and thus each is as significant as the other. This is referred to as generalised symmetry.
Generalised symmetry sounds good in theory, after all in publishing every element be it human or non human, ‘thing’ or concept works together to create a publication. However there are obviously some components of an assemblage which require more attention and focus than others. Therefore the notion of examining each component within an ANT network is present within De Landas ‘A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity’. De Landa believes that each component should be defined by its role within the larger picture. For example in publishing the creation of the content would play one of the largest roles and thus should be defined in a larger manner than other elements. In turn, De Landa suggests that each component can be removed and added to another assemblage without losing its identity. In some ways this again can be related to publishing, as if we use the creation of content example again one article could be removed from one publication and quite easily be added to another without any serious issues.
In regard to publishing an assemblage refers to a collection of the ‘things’, concepts, and human and non-human actants that make up a publication. The manner in which these elements are defined and categorised can vary depending on which theory is applied. However no matter which way one approaches it, a publication is a mix of many different components each one adding its overall value.
Publishing is an aspect of the media industry that is continuously changing through the advent of new media. Whilst traditionally most publishing was completed through the printed press in the form of books, magazines and newspapers this is no longer the case today. There are now many different modes of publishing; most of which are forms of new media, and include publishing devices such as Twitter, blogs, YouTube and Facebook.
Twitter and Facebook are social media sites which allow people to publish anything they like. Whilst Facebook, for most people, is a more personal form of publication; Twitter is broadcast to the world. Trending topics allow millions of people to publish their thoughts on particular issues and retweets allow for one person’s views to be shown on the wall of another. The same goes for blogs; citizen journalism allows anyone to have their say and to broadcast these views to an audience. In the past only some people could be a publisher, now everyone can. The online world allows for an evolution in publishing and an ability to easily modify one’s work unlike in ‘old media’. This is an example of electracy and the manner in which it allows nothing to be fixed and a much wider range of data and reach in terms of publishing.
Traditionally, when one wanted to get a book published, you would send in a hard copy of your manuscript to a publishing company and hope for the best. The idealised dream of finding a new up and coming author who would become a best seller was at the forefront of the thoughts of many and sales were steady. In contrast, many publishers do not accept unsolicited work anymore and if they do they only accept work electronically. As stated on the Pan Macmillan Australia website:
“We no longer accept hard copy submissions. If you have an unsolicited manuscript which you would like us to read please visit the Manuscript Monday page.”
In turn, the site states that they as they are cutting back on their publishing programme only the very best original work will be considered. A similar fate can be attributed to newspapers and magazines. According to Felix Salmon’s article, ‘How The New York Times Paywall is Working’, many of the major newspapers have taken to charging people for reading articles. However, in the case of The New York Times, this is backfiring and people are simply finding loopholes in the system to get content for free. After all, many citizen run blogs showcase the same information for free so many consider it wasteful to pay for news.
The editor of the UKs Guardian newspaper, Alan Rusbridger, also spoke out about paywalls and what it meant for the publishing industry. Rusbridger believes that charging people to read newspapers online would “remove the industry from a digital revolution”. That is, if the newspapers don’t embrace the changes that are taking place in the industry then they will simply fall behind to the new modes of publishing out there. In many ways, this is fall in step is already taking place.
The ereader is designed to allow users to read the work of others. This is much like the staple device that has been used for centuries, the book. However, as John Naughton states in his article, ‘The original Big brother is watching you on Amazon Kindle’, the ereader does have quite a few differences from the ‘ancient’ technology of the book.
As Naughton explains, there are many freedoms we are denied by using the Kindle rather than an actual book. With a book we are free to lend it to whomever we like, but to do so with a digital book on the ereader is actually illegal. As the terms of service of the Kindle state one cannot:
“sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast… the digital content or any portion of it to any third party”.
One of the best things about reading a book is turning the page, seeing how much you have left to read and feeling excited when you realise you’re almost finished. These simple pleasures are denied to us by the ereader, as you cannot physically hold your book. Although it seems a petty reason to disregard the ereader this again links to Naughtons notion of a ‘loss of freedom’. The ereader is changing what a book is and will be.
In turn, Sarah Lacys article ‘Confessions of a Publisher’ dictates the manner in which Amazon has been lowering customers expectations of how much a book should cost, this has resulted in the closure of countless book stores and loss of revenue for major publishers. This affects those in the media industry significantly as it is a huge loss of jobs. As Lacy suggests, it seems that:
“Amazon could probably afford to lose $20 million/year in their publishing arm just to put the other publishers out of business. I think that’s what they’re trying to do–throw money around in an industry that doesn’t have any, until Amazon becomes not only the only place where you buy books, but the only place that publishes books, too”.
The world of publishing has changed and will continue to do so in years to come. Already, the presence of the ereader is creating major shifts in the way we read books and the way books are being published. Marshall McLuhan famously made the observation that “our official culture is striving to force the new media to do the work of the old”. This statement resonates in every sense with the ereader.