Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Six themes

From our last discussion, our six themes will roughly cover the following situated contexts (I'm bringing a bit more specificity to them in order to narrow our focus):

  • amateur or nontraditional publishing in print and online, with the goal of reaching a specific community of interest or affiliation
  • state-sponsored education and literacy efforts, with the goal of bringing the tools for personal and economic advancement to the public in an equitable way
  • for-profit news publishing in print and online, with the goal of producing an informed public
  • non-profit librarianship encompassing both print and digital information organization practices, with the goal of providing information for a diverse community
  • local business or community service marketing to a target public through print or online means
  • scholarly knowledge production and publication for research and teaching in both print and online venues
Next week we'll start with the first theme, amateur or nontraditional publishing, through six articles focused on "zines" and "blogs":
  • Cenite M et al 2009 NM&S = Doing the right thing online.pdf
  • Duncombe S 1997 selections = Notes from underground - Zines and the politics of alternative culture.pdf
  • Gunderloy M et al 1992 selections = The world of zines - A guide to the independent magazine revolution.pdf
  • Levinson P 2009 ch 02 = New New Media - Blogging.pdf
  • Lopez L 2009 NM&S = The radical act of mommy blogging.pdf
  • Shirky C 2008 ch 03 = Here comes everybody - Everyone is a media outlet.pdf
Here are the assignments for next week:
  • Bard and Bond: Cenite article summary and author info, respectively
  • Bottomley and Ineichen: Duncombe article summary and author info, respectively
  • Marshall and Meneses-Hall: Gunderloy article summary and author info, respectively 
  • Pratesi and Roeder: Levinson article summary and author info, respectively
  • Stalker and Boehm: Lopez article summary and author info, respectively
  • Toff and Zhang: Shirky article summary and author info, respectively
  • Pegues: Take notes
All of the articles are uploaded and ready to read.  Cheers, GREG

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Accessibility for the disabled, and those who are digitally divided

The brainstorming session for group one produced many possibilities on how to address the issue of accessibility. When we talk about accessibility, we need to make sure that we look at how print, and non print materials are made available to people with disabilities that are both seen an unseen. Access must also extend to those who are trapped in the digital divide.  How can technology improve education for those who are marginalized? How can we make laptops available to all students, especially those whose parents cannot  afford one?  Can having the latest technology available in the home reduce and eventually eliminate the achievement gap?  These and other related questions are ones that we will wrestle with and struggle to answer in our assignment.


  •  ·         Publishers and audiences (zines, self-publishing)

  • ·         Scholars, fan groups

  • ·         Disabled

  • ·         Minorities…

  • ·         Non text

  • ·         Printing and print materials

  • ·         Inscription

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Jake's Proposal

For our iBook project on the future of print, I think an interesting avenue for us to focus on would be types of print that people don't normally think of, print that doesn't fit into the typical "print is dead" claim.  For example, we could examine the history and possible futures of things like:
  1. sheet music
  2. food labels
  3. movie theater film
  4. paper money
  5. signs, both billboards and fliers
  6. art prints and posters
Now, I know that the class is full of future librarians, literature scholars, and journalism scholars, so doing a project that completely avoids books and news might seem silly.  You probably took this class precisely because you wanted to study the future of print in your discipline.  "I don't care what happens to food labels," you might be thinking, "I just want to know what my book will look like in 10 years."  But that's what will make this project so interesting!  People are already talking about the future of print news and print books.  Everyone in the journalism and book industries has been arguing about it for years.  If you want to find out what your book is going to look like, a simple Google search will give you 50 different opinions.  We could add our voices to that discussion in a thoughtful and well-researched way...

Or we could start a whole new discussion.  Ask questions few scholars have considered.  What do people in the sheet music industry think of iPad apps like Musicnotes and Virtual Sheet Music?  Do music publishers have the same copyright concerns that book publishers do?  How are food companies using things like QR and VR codes?  Will digital completely replace film at movie theaters?  Will the stand at the farmers' market take cash in ten years, or will you need to type in your PayPal password?  Are print billboard makers concerned about digital billboards like the ones in Times Square?  Will our kids still be putting up posters of actors in their rooms, or, each morning, will they download the newest desktop image to their SMARTBoard-like Microsoft Surface that hangs on their wall?  Are there other people asking these questions?  These are the questions that I want the answers to.

Rachel ideas: value-added print

My interest goes beyond comparing text in pixels to ink. What does the electronic environment offer us that flat/stable print can not? I'm thinking about the purpose of print, especially in re journalism and librarianship.

1-2: Print/Text as a vehicle for participation: One of the largest printing operations in the world, the US Government, is in the process of revamping/reimagining how its publishing will best serve democracy. It's testing ways to provide information dynamically, and simplifying understanding of legislation, participation in regulations, digitizing archival materials, tailored action alerts, multilingual features, transparency and accessible technologies. Since we're in the thick of the digital initiatives and beta testing, perhaps we could look at how to evaluate effectiveness and efficieny, based on the values of access to information. This crosses discussions of digital divide, freedom of speech/press, technology and journalism.

3. Missing from the discussion of the cycle of journalism is: what do people do with the information? Last week's readings focused on newsrooms/production and stopped with distribution and circulation. Perhaps journalism should look to the way libraries understand and assess their roles and success (user-driven/patron-driven)?

4. How can journalism and libraries partner together? What can each provide? And, why don't journalists know what libraries are and do?

5. What does print provide us that digital can not? What reading suits what? Can we find a way to include these features in digital development?

6. How, when there is so much more information available is there so much more misinformation?

Tracy's Ideas

My ideas for the six sections would revolve around the life of print.

The first four are similar to other people who want to look at Darnton's cycle.

1) Creation/Creators
           This section works off of others posts. It can be about the tools used for the creation of books (the change from handwritten, to typewriter, to word processor). The symbolic value of different authors can be explored including authors of books, journalists vs. bloggers, and academics who publish in traditional print journals vs open source journals.

2) Production
           What do changes in how materials are published mean for the print industry?  Do publishers play as important of a role with the advent of POD services and ePublishing.We could also look into the chain of production (I like the graphic from A.T. Kearney's website here.) There could also be a discussion of economics in this area.

3) Dissemination
          How are people obtaining their media? How will it change as readers become more inundated in the digital world? How does the digital divide play in? What roles does the language play in the dissemination formation of the item? How will sellers of digital materials follow, or abandon, traditional selling models.

4) Reception
           How have websites like LibraryThing, Novelist, booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble and social media play in the reception of print? How does reception/social media affect how the next edition or update, changed? 
5) Case Study 1: Changes in Economics
           What are the values of books? I think it would be great to focus in particular, on libraries and other large print purchasers in this section. It is important, especially from the education perspective of this books, that digital copies are leased, not owned, and that institutions, such as libraries and universities, have a limited use rules which are not applied to print materials (ie, eBooks are loaned for 28 days, then the library has to re-purchase the rights to the book). It would also be good to look at the intersection of different types of economies, such as the paper and education industry, and how they will be effected by the changes in the print industry.

6) Case Study 2: Changes in Manifestations
          I really want to look into the differences between physically printed items and digitally printed items. There have been several studies about how "born digital" items differ from print born items. This is especially pertinent in digital-first comic books. The format, design, and interactivity is inherently different. Marvel admits that "digital innovation not only gives added value to print comics, but also brings a delivers an entirely new reading experience" (website article here.) Because of the stark changes in the print and digital versions of comics, including ads vs. no adds, interactive content, print/digital hybrids with AR Codes, and born digital comics makes comics a good case study.

My Six Things

I am actually of two minds about how best to organize our project. The first of these is to structure it around six categories loosely derived from the Darnton communications circuit. Each node on the circuit has its own somewhat unique history and has been affected in sometimes differing ways by new technologies and shifts in the culture of reading and consumption. I think it could be helpful to include all of these as a way of thinking broadly about the full range of implications of our new digital world. The six, as I see them, are (and not necessarily in this order):

(1)  The future of print for authors: This chapter would focus on the changing nature of authorship, the breaking down of gatekeeper barriers to publishing, the phenomenon of self-publishing, blogging, tweeting, etc. but also the question of what it means to be an author today. This chapter would probably focus some on the “convergence” of media, the melding of video and images and audio and text, and the increasingly collaborative nature of multimedia digital authorship. But it would also consider the range of skills typically required today to be a professional author as more and more of the functions of other parts of the communications circuit are transferred to authors themselves. 
(2)  The future of print for publishers: As individuals and teams of individuals harness the new media tools of self-publishing and promotion and strive to develop business models to support it, the role of traditional publishers (both for books and newspapers) remains in flux. Although some of the middleman functions publishers once performed may no longer be quite so necessarily, in other ways, the imprimatur associated with a publisher’s brand may be more important than ever in terms of conferring a certain kind of prestige and status to authored works. As readers and consumers are increasingly inundated with information, this function publishers provide is nontrivial.
(3)  The future of print for manufacturers: Here we focus on both the technological innovations of e-ink, Nooks, Kindles, iPads, and whatever’s next, but also the implications for the way technology is changing old fashioned print production: new efficiencies associated with paper production, typesetting, printing on demand, distribution, etc. The labor and environmental consequences of all of these changes ought to be considered and assessed in terms of sustainability.
(4)  The future of print for wholesalers and retailers: This chapter will explore the changing nature of distribution, battles over digital rights management, the future of bookstores (digital and bricks and mortar), and evolving business models to sustain other pieces of the circuit. I suppose this is also where advertising comes in.
(5)  The future of print for libraries, curators, search engines, and aggregators: Not sure what to call this chapter except it seems like a hugely important area of concern about the future of print (and something we keep coming back to in seminar): how we find what to read, what gets recommended to us, and the tools we have at our disposal (or will have in the future or should have in the future) for browsing and seeking information.
(6)  The future of print for readers: This brings us around full circle to a discussion about how we read in the digital age and the need for different kinds of “print” for different kinds of reading. This chapter will also focus on new pathways for reader engagement and influence over authors and publishers, etc.

As much as I like the breadth of these six categories, I wonder if it may be overly ambitious to try to cover all of them. So my second framework for organizing this project is a bit narrower and more forward-looking and also maybe more fun—emphasizing the future part of the Future of Print by thinking through six areas for what we imagine the future of print ought to look like. In other words, we could produce a sort of time capsule that takes stock of where we imagine the future to be at this moment in time. The six areas I came up with using this kind of organizing framework were:

(1)  The reading devices of the future: will anyone care about Kindles and iPads in two decades? Will future e-books look more like print books or something else entirely? What’s being developed right now and what can we imagine that nobody is yet working to create that maybe they should be?
(2)  The newspapers and magazines of the future: Will they exist and in what form? How do we envision news organizations adapting and establishing business models to sustain costly reporting, investigative and international coverage, in a digital age? Is there a limit to total disaggregation? Are long-form “singles” the answer? Will nonprofits and academia fill the void in some way? What does the printed product look like if it continues to exist and what will be its relationship with its digital cousin?
(3)  The word processing of the future: we all probably take Microsoft Word for granted at this point, but things are changing and maybe there are better ways to write and publish printed materials. What does this future look like? Probably more multimedia, better integration of text and audio and video, etc. We haven’t talked much about this area yet, but maybe we should.
(4)  The copyright of the future: can we (or do we?) envision a future in which concerns over rights and ownership take a different form? Can a better balance be struck between the need to properly compensate authors and producers and the consumer side demand to share materials as easily as the technology seems to allow.
(5)  The textbooks of the future: There’s probably a ton we could say about how textbooks will or ought to look in the future, and some of this relates to changes in academia in the coming decades. Will future textbooks include digital lectures, multimedia presentations, and will they be instantly updated as the world changes and new knowledge is incorporated? 
(6)  The card catalogues of the future: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information, but what do they and other companies have in store for us in terms of changes to how we find and seek out printed materials? There are of course benefits and drawbacks for highly personalized algorithms and recommendation engines. What do we want this future to look like?

Some of these questions/areas could be folded into my first proposal and vice versa, so perhaps these six and the other six aren’t mutually exclusive. But I thought I’d post both versions since I was torn between them myself.

E-book Proposal

Since we can't actually predict the future of print, I think examining the advantages and limitations of a variety of formats will give us insight into where the technology is going. What I'm envisioning for our final project centers on this idea of formats. There are positives and negatives to print, but they differ between formats. For example, the advantages and limitations of a print book vs. a digital book are not the same advantages and limitations of a printed vs. digital newspaper--or a scholarly journal, or printed music.

Therefore I suggest we examine five formats and consider what we gain and what we lose in a shift to digital (these can include the format's history, economic factors, cultural/social status, technological implications). The first chapter would set up the technologies that led to print (not sure how specific we should go--include paper?, include incunabula?, just start with Gutenberg?, start much later?) and the resulting cultural and/or economic shifts. The next chapters would be about the book, journals (scholarly and popular), magazines and other pop-periodicals (this would be a good place to discuss blogs), newspapers, and then other formats that are not words on paper--film, music, art.

Greg's Ideas for Further Study

Not sure if this picture is all that relevant,
but it was the second result on my Google
 Images search for "the future of print."
I have sketched out six possible directions for our study of the future of print. I have not developed a coherent model with an over-arching structure for these proposals (like several of my classmates' impressive postings have), rather I have listed six specific topics that I think would be fruitful to explore.

(1) The future of academic publishing. Many types of higher education in the United States have largely been built around a specific model of writing, reviewing, reading, and publishing that has long relied on print. Like most other types of publishing, it seems that academic publishing is at something of a crossroads, and I think it would be interesting and relevant to explore these issues. Studying the future of academic publishing could include topics like the (un)profitability of university presses; the role of non-print academic writing - particularly in tenure decisions; the rapidly increasing price of some academic journals; and the resulting open-access model of academic publishing (which would likely include the case of Aaron Swartz and JStor).

(2) The future of copyright. Like many people dealing with the digital world, authors, publishers, booksellers, and librarians, have been forced to deal with the complicated area of copyright. In thinking about the future of print - particularly digital types of print -  issues of copyright loom large and will undoubtedly continue to have a significant impact on what, where, when, and how we read.  The first important question about copyright involves its philosophical purpose. Is copyright intended to encourage innovation and the "progress of...the useful arts;" or is copyright meant to protect the rights of authors and their ability to commercialize their work? Studying the future of copyright, would also involve understanding the history of copyright and its ever-increasing length in the United States; the idea of the public domain; the problem of orphaned works; and digital rights management schemes and other copyright preservation measures.

(3) The future of the audience. Particularly in discussions about journalism and the news media, many commentators have taken for granted the splintering of the audience. It is fashionable to say that modern media consumers increasingly live in information silos and that they do not interact with people or information sources that offer different opinions. Such a bifurcated "Fox News vs. MSNBC"-type of populace could certainly have a significant influence on the future of politics and society. I would be interested in further exploring this issue. First, I would be curious how much the audience is actually splintering, and how much of this is a modern development. Historically, what was the audience like for news consumption? In previous eras, did more people actually consume more news from  a larger number of sources? What role does digital publishing or social media play in the fraying of the audience?

(4) Digitization. Over the last decade or so, the mass digitization of print material has become increasingly prevalent. From books to newspapers from medieval manuscripts to letters and from academic journals to archival collections, libraries, publishers, repositories, and third parties (like Google Books and Proquest) have digitized significant portions of our print heritage. The digitization of printed materials, of course, has many positive aspects like increasing access to primary sources or other research materials and the preservation of fragile old media. I think it might be interesting, though, to study the idea and the process of digitization. Are there any downsides to digitization? Should we be worried about losing context during mass digitization projects? Should we be worried that much of it has been undertaken by private companies? Do we have sufficient standards and best practices to ensure continued access to digitized material? What happens to the original sources? Do digitized sources affect research, teaching, or learning methods? I certainly believe that digitization can very often be useful and good, but I think it would be interesting to analyze in more depth this massive migration from print to digital.

[NOTE: I wrote these first four ideas before reading my classmates' contributions. After getting my initial ideas down on the digital screen, I decided to go back and read other students' posts to see if any of their ideas inspired me.  Be back soon.]

(5) Recycled Print? I was intrigued by Zach's "material ecology approach" and by Andrew's idea of studying "the afterlife of print." I thought they both raised very interesting ideas about what happens when we are done with "print." I found Andrew's ideas about investigating the secondary book market to be compelling. Why are used books still so popular? Can rare books and first editions tell us anything useful about print culture? What books do people keep? What books to people get rid of? Is it possible to sell a used e-book? How will the move to digital books affect the secondary book market? Do ebooks tend to worsen existing socio-economic divides due to their required technology? In thinking about this move to a digital era, I thought that Zach's idea to study the "the afterlife" of Nooks, Kindles, and laptops to be a good idea. What are the environmental concerns with a transition to electronic or digital books? Zach points out that many digital electronic devices last about 4-5 years. Printed books, on the other hand, can exist and be accessible for centuries. Should we be worried about this change in materiality?

(6) The future amateur print. Several of my classmates, including Andrew, Mei, and Zach brought up the topic of amateur publishing and amateur writing.  The digital world certainly seems to make amateur publishing easier, and studying the activities and publications of amateurs might be able to tell us interesting things about print culture and the future of print. What niche does amateur print fill that commercial publishers have ignored? How do amateurs publishers act like commercial publishers? And, how do they act differently from commercial publishers? The Amateur Press Association in the United States dates back to the nineteenth century, and, during much of the twentieth century underground publications and Zines found exploitable markets. How will digital print affect the future amateur publishing?

Mitchell's Suggested Approach to the eBook/Seminar

Rather than stick with one type of approach for the six subjects to cover in the eBook and the next six weeks of the seminar, I propose we try a broader path, hitting highlights of methodology and media while finishing with a case study. Doing so would allow us to examine how to approach the issue of the future of print, then look at the key areas to be affected by the developments in electronic publishing, before finally applying what we have learned to an important example of an entity grappling with the complicated issues associated with this transitional time for the media.

For purposes of the book and seminar, I would limit the idea of "print" to printed works that are the primary product meant for readers to consume for information or entertainment. That means, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, consumer books and academic books would be included, but, with all due respect to the HP documentary we watched, labels on cappuccino machines, product packages and other incidental printed materials would not. Nor would material produced by consumer printers.

My suggestion is more about the structure than the individual topics selected for each subject, but I will put forth what I think may be good topics to cover. With that in mind, here are my six proposed subjects:

- Subject One: State of the Field. What is the status of print today? How much has electronic publishing encroached on the traditional print field? Are there specific print spaces that have been especially threatened by the digital revolution? Have there been areas that have been more immune? It seems to me that any publication, electronic or print, seeking to assess an industry should start with an examination of where we are now, before we can talk about the past or the future.

- Subject Two: Methodology I, History. How have historians of print gone about their work? What kinds of histories have been done? What do they tell us about how we should look at the future of print? We have looked at some of this literature, but it might be helpful to more fully look at how scholars have studied print. We can devote time here to other methodologies, too, such as a sociological look at print.

- Subject Three: Methodology II, Economics. For print or electronic media to exist in any form, there needs to be a viable economic model to sustain them. When discussing the future of news, one of the weaknesses I often find in theoretical work is a lack of attention to the economics of how a predicted future will work. So understanding the economics of print and electronic publishing is necessary to understanding the future of print.

- Subject Four: Books. With an assessment of the field and an overview of two key methodologies in place, we can now move on to the actual objects that are being transformed by electronic publishing. Books would seem to be an obvious choice to go first, given the long history of the physical book. How are books--trade, business and academic--making the transition (or not) to electronic publishing?

- Subject Five: Newspapers and Magazines. Newspapers have existed on an advertising-based model since the introduction of the penny press in the 1830s. But a number of factors, including the loss of revenue streams (like classified ads) to the Internet, declining circulation and increased debt from corporate acquisitions, have undermined the model that lasted for nearly 200 years. What does the future hold for newspapers and magazines? This is an important question, as dissemination of information is vital to allow citizens to function in a democratic system.

- Subject Six: Case Study. Putting the tools to work we covered in the first five subjects, we will choose a case to examine closely. Depending on the interests of the class, two possibilities come to mind. If books are the paradigmatic example of a print product, then it might be useful to look at Amazon. The Kindle is the most successful dedicated e-reader, and Amazon's policies, especially on pricing, have wide-ranging effects on the publishing industry. Another option is the New York Times, which had a registration system, then dropped it for many years, and then went back to a pay-wall approach two years ago. As a national brand, the experience of the New York Times may not tell us much about how metro daily newspapers will adapt to the unbundling of the last decade and a half. But as a major provider of information for the larger news ecology, understanding how the New York Times manages to find a sustainable economic model would be important.

I think pursuing an approach like this one would not only make for a cohesive eBook, but would also provide the students with a solid overview of the key areas in play when thinking about the future of print.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Zach's Suggested "Approaches"

So that you can get an overview without scrolling, I'll summarize my "approches" here: 1) Material Ecology Approach, 2) Economic Approach, 3) Legal Approach, 4) Historical Material Approach, 5) Reader Approach, and 6) Miscellaneous.  I like the "approaches" way of organizing my suggestions because they are capable of encompassing a lot of material, including things that might not obviously appear connected.  I have also tried to use them to get a handle on what I think are some important underlying issues.  Nevertheless, I do realize that their biggest disadvantage is that they encompass a lot of material. 
1) Material Ecology Approach:  “Material ecology” is my disciplinary-buzz-word way of saying that I think we should examine not only the afterlife of books, but the afterlife of Nooks.  Where does the Kindle go when we’re done with it?  Amazon and Barnes and Noble come out with new versions of their devices every year, and they strongly incentivize updating.  It’s still early in the electronics race now—everyone thinks e-readers will supersede books soon and all—but what happens to all those outdated devices and “bricked” Kindles?  What’s piling up when devices are broken?  And it’s not just e-readers.  If the current average life of a laptop is five years, where will the ten or so laptops (or whatever replaces them) I burn up throughout my life end up?  I think this is an essential question because it’s already an important problem in the world, and it may be that in the next five years, someone initiates a campaign against the device craze of the early twenty-first century.  This brings up the question of whether things are shifting towards digital media, but it is a reminder that digital doesn’t mean “immaterial.”

2) Economic Approach: Another thing I really want to consider is how companies in a capitalist market are affecting the changes happening in the textual-information world (is there a way of saying it that doesn’t involve “print” or “digital”?).  This topic is, probably, hopelessly related to the previous one.  I think it would be productive to study how markets have changed.  Andrew and Mei also bring this up.  Within this topic, I would group three things, which some other people are splitting up (probably for good reason): 1) retail, 2) amateur publishing, and 3) digital rights management (DRM).  I include these three because I think it would be productive to study how they are developing alongside each other.  In their own way, each responds to some of the unintended consequences of the ways print has changed recently.  Retailers have had to change their strategies, so now we have stores at (what I view as) two ends of a spectrum: Half-Price Books, the re-retailer, and Barnes and Noble, the hybrid e-book/popular publishing/coffeehouse/multi-media super-outlet.  As for the second group, amateur publishing, I admit that I don’t know enough about it.  The third group, DRM, seems really important because of how it has changed ownership of documents (this will probably blend into another area I suggest, though).  For this economic question, I’d be really interested in doing case studies of Amazon, the NYT, or even Apple because they seem to be the companies who are re-creating the relationships between author, publisher, and retailer.  What I’ve outlined here already seems like a lot to me, but what I think is most important in this is 1) cutting through the marketing hype about the “death of print” and 2) exploring how the relationships between author, publisher, and retailer are being restructured.

3) Legal Approach: When I think about the history of print both in books and in newspapers, I think about the history of copyright law (which Striphas, I think, discusses).  The market is, after all, regulated both nationally and internationally by laws.  This approach could encompass a history of both print and digital media by exploring intellectual property, digital rights management, and piracy.  Part of this approach would be tracing copyright law, but it would also pay attention to new ways that laws regulate intellectual property and how this has changed our discussions of what people actually “own.” 

4) Historical Material Approach: I admit that I don’t know fully how to articulate what I want to say here, but what I have noticed over the past few weeks of the course is that my own questions and doubts about what is “new” in print and digital media are often addressed by asking what came before.  This came up last week when Greg asked about what the historical precedent of newspaper comment sections was.  I personally, didn’t know much about chat rooms, etc.  I think that this kind of approach could be applied in several other places.  I like Ambar’s focus on printing (especially personal printing), and that makes me wonder, What is a personal printer?  What is the history of personal printing?  Can we historicize it?  Jordan asked, What is a link?  What is the history of hypertext?  I think that’s a good and interesting question—one that seems counterintuitive to me, a humanities grad student with no background whatsoever in computer languages.  I also want to know, What is an algorithm?  Who makes algorithms?  What preceded algorithms?  I think there’s an interesting material history to the rise of the computer and its computational abilities that could have additional unintended consequences for print and how it circulates via Amazon recommendations and for information and how it circulates via Google.  (Could this also be a place to talk about the post office?  I think that Mei’s question about shippers is especially interesting given the recent reduction of postal services.)  Ultimately, I think we need a way to get out of the hyper-focus on our present moment that it is so easy to fall into (I speak for myself), and I think that focusing on material or physical objects (and I do include hypertext in this) can help.

5) Reader Approach: I admit that this isn’t a very clear categorical name, but I think this fact emphasizes its importance.  What is a reader?  Is “reader” a sufficient categorization?  Is a reader a “user”?  A consumer?  A citizen?  An owner?  A producer?  A viewer?  A listener?  Do we imagine only people who are able to intake media with their eyes?  Do we imagine only internet users?  Do we imagine only people with purchasing power?  Are readers shifting from one of these categories to another?  And who reads anymore?  E-readers, if anything, signal an increase in readership, but as one of our readings points out (I can’t remember which) it could be that fewer people are reading more.  I’d be interested in seeing statistical or quantitative analysis of this aspect of media and readership.  I think that this approach could also get at the knowledge question Jordan brought up in class.  If we know what people are doing with the stuff of media, then we can know a little more about what kind of information/knowledge value they think it has.

6) So, I only have five things, and I’m really stretching to think of another logical “approach” category.  Perhaps, if I were to propose six “stops along the way,” I would break apart the Economic Approach or the Historical Material approach into two stops rather than just one—they’re large enough.  But I also recognize that I haven’t addressed how information access and libraries fit into this framework, and I think they are quite important.  Perhaps these leftovers get at something important I haven’t yet considered—the function of media.  What do people use media (print, digital, auditory, and otherwise) for?  Why do we even want it in the first place?  Maybe this question isn’t important.  Maybe it should go first.  I’m not sure, but I throw it out here at the end in an attempt to consider whether I’ve forgotten something foundational. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Proposition (from Andrew)

Here are my suggestions of 6 topics that we could possibly pursue. I don't have an overarching theme that's guiding these choices, though they do mostly relate to ideas about the reading public/audience, amateur/independent/self-publishing and user-generated content, and trying to interrogate the construction of firm distinctions between authors and readers (or producers/consumers, etc.).

In this way, all of these topics speak in some way to issues of access and control and many also connect with the emergence of new technologies that enable more decentralized print production, distribution, and consumption. And therefore, there's a good bit of correspondence here with Ambar's earlier suggestions.

Readers & Reading Choice: In general, I'm interested in reception and what it actually means to read a book (or newspaper, magazine, webpage, etc.). But for our purposes here, I'd be curious to explore more closely questions about how readers choose what to read and reading as a social activity (and attendant issues of taste, class, gender, et al). Janice Radway's work on female readers of romance novels and also on book-of-the-month clubs could be informative here, as could Ted Striphas' more recent work on Oprah's Book Club. As for the "future of print," some further exploration of online recommendation engines (Amazon, online library catalogs), in addition to user reviews/comments, might be one direction to take.

Print Distribution & Retailing: Similarly, I'd be interested in more closely examining recent and ongoing changes in the distribution and selling of physical print formats. Possible areas to consider here would be big box store booksellers, as well as niche online retailers. There's generally a lot of cynicism and doom-and-gloom about how the big box stores killed off independent booksellers (and rightfully so), but less considered is the role these cheap, affordable books might've made in popularizing reading and making books available to a wider public. (Historically, there are certainly some connections to be made here to the introduction of the mass-market paperback in the mid-20th century.)

The Afterlife of Print: Something of a tangent here, though it relates to both of the first two points. I'm also really interested in used books and book resale, including eBay, Amazon's merchant partners, other online book marketplaces like AbeBooks, and even library book sales. There's still a thriving market for used books, and it goes beyond just textbooks. But it is rarely mentioned; any discussion of bookselling is typically focused on first-sale only. If resale gets mentioned at all, it's usually in terms of being a nuisance to authors/publishers and an intellectual property concern. This also brings up questions of materiality (tied to some of Jordan's suggestions), as well as obsolescence.

Independent, Amateur & Self-Publishing: Obviously, we could talk here about digital platforms and services like iBooks that offer alternatives to traditional publishers and retailers (including alternative retail outlets like Smashwords). But I'd also be interested in examining traditions of the alternative press, from alt-weeklies and zines to independent or "underground" publishers and distributors that operate well outside the traditional commercial publishing industry. Stephen Duncombe's work on zines or Chris Atton's work on alternative media could be starting points. Many of these alternative newspapers, magazines, and books have transitioned to the Web in the form of websites, especially blogs. Too often, I think, blogs get denigrated as merely amateur content (or poachers of professional content), but I'd be curious to look at the range of publishing that falls under the "blog" category. Or to put it another way, to question the very distinction made between amateur/professional production.

Intellectual Property & Piracy: Obviously, one of the publishing industries' major concerns over the Web has been piracy, from news aggregators and websites like HuffPo that either redistribute or "repurpose" newspaper and magazine content to digital file-sharing and straight up pirated e-book editions. There's no shortage of commentary available on copyright issues. But what's less considered is the perspective of the copyright pirates - both the individuals who knowingly acquire pirated content and the actual producers/sellers of that pirated content. Adrian Johns has produced some really interesting historical work about copyright pirates. Part of this topic would be to look at the rhetoric of piracy, and what it means to call someone a "pirate" (or thief) and how/why pirates justify their actions.

DRM & Access Control: This last topic is closely related to the previous one about intellectual property. Striphas discusses DRM toward the end of the chapter we read, but it's a relatively brief treatment. But many content producers are looking beyond copyright protections and instead trying to use digital rights management technologies (e.g. watermarks, locks, authentication devices) to directly control what users can and can't do with their media and hardware. Electronic media over the past half-century has tended to grant more flexibility and control to users (e.g. audiotape, videotape, photocopying), but rather abruptly that long-term trend is being reversed toward technologies that favor more and more restrictive uses. These developments risk undermining users' sense of agency with their own technologies, and thus drastically alter the experience of reading.

6 Concepts, Topics & Corresponding Print & Printing Products

I was thinking we could organize our book topics around 6 revolutionary printing technologies of the 20th and 21st century. The idea is that each chapter, depending on its topic, would feature a print or printing product as an example/ embodiment of that topic. Together, each chapter and featured product would illustrate different convergent concepts in relation to 20th and 21st century developments in the history of print and printing. We could look at what these products promised and at how they have helped change the rules for how we engage with print. I have actually picked mostly products for which there is also a personal printing counterpart product. I think it would be interesting to explore how each product both enables personal printing practices that copyright rules of fair use then crop up to attempt to restrict. Below I first list potential products to be featured and the topics they could be related to. Then I elaborate on each idea.

Possible Products & Related Concepts/ Topics:
1. The Typewriter & Word Processors
We could connect these products to how they changed standard business practices.
2. HES & FRESS Hypertext
We could connect this product’s history to the concept of accessibility, the rise of the Internet and how it revolutionized access to print materials.
3. Computer printers & personal printer
We could connect this product to the concept of empowerment, and how personal printers enabled anyone to distribute print materials such as flyers and posters.
4. The E-Reader, Smartphones & E-Books
This could also be connected the exponential increase in digital print materials and formats and to the accompanying proliferation of copyright restrictions.
5.  E-Book Authoring Software (Such as I-Books Author!)
This could be connected to the topic of self-publishing and what are some ways in which the producers of these software attempt to restrict their uses.
6. 3-D Printing & 3-D Personal Printers
This product could be connected to the blurring of the line between printing and manufacture and the connection between printing, consumption and innovation. This would be the more future-looking chapter.

The typewriter and later computer word processors made it possible to create legible copies of texts faster by potentially any individual who owned it. As we read in “The Paperless Office” they revolutionized business practices, including the relationship between executive and secretary and the further professionalization of secretarial jobs.

They were also used by journalists and novel writers. They helped create a modern problem, the carpal-tunnel syndrome. While type-writers were displaced by word processors in the 1980s, they influenced computer word processing in great part by imposing the QWERTY standard keyboard. Digital Word Processing and the use of the QWERTY keyboard are now ubiquitous standards in the business world.

The HES and FRESS Hypertext: We should discuss how hypertext, together with the Internet, seemed to actualize the ideal of universal access to information and how later developments, such as firewalls, passwords, copyright laws and so on sought to restrict that access. Hypertext Editing System (HES) and the File Retrieval and Editing SyStem (FRESS) were pioneering hypertext-producing technology developed at Brown University between 1967 and 1968. (Wikipedia). I think we should feature HES & FRESS as part of a milestone in the history of print because hypertext is a great part of what made building the Internet possible. HES & FRESS were all about making digital pages more accessible and hypertext was all about making the Internet more accessible and easier to navigate.

The Personal Printer and Computer: The personal printer empowered the masses to print. Now anyone could print legible and eye-catching flyers and posters to promote any cause or organize any protest. The spread of the personal printer is tied to the spread of the personal computer. According to the personal printers did not become a popular home consumer item until the 1988 release of the HP DeskJet inkjet.

I think we should feature the personal printer in our e-book because it has itself been a tremendously revolutionary product. According to Wikipedia
Most noteworthy was the role the laser printer played in popularizing desktop publishing with the introduction of the Apple LaserWriter for the Apple Macintosh, along with Aldus PageMaker software, in 1985. With these products, users could create documents that would previously have required professional typesetting. (Wikipedia)

The E-Reader, Smartphones & E-Books: This could also be connected the exponential increase in digital print materials and formats and to the accompanying proliferation of copyright restrictions. As you know, some e-readers such as the I Pad function more like computers and allow users/ readers to access written texts, movies, applications and “enriched” e-books. E-Readers and smartphones have contributed to the exponential proliferation of newer print products, such as “applications.” Most printed materials, such as webpages and e-books, now exist in different formats intended for use through tablets or smartphones. With the proliferation of more digital print products in various formats, newer restrictions and copyright rules crop up. 

On the positive side, E-Reader and E-Book because give the users/ readers, by now mass users, the ability to “re-produce” purchased or public domain texts on a digital screen. The user/ reader is can now have more various books opened while searching the Internet or reading a PDF journal article and more. E-readers and e-books thus potentially empower the user/ reader to read a greater variety of books and documents, to read them more frequently, and to read this greater variety more frequently from anywhere: on the bus, at McDonalds, at the beach.

E-Books Authoring Software: I think we should feature e-book authoring software because it has revolutionized self-publishing and made our class project possible. Some e-book authoring software can only create PDF books, others can produce more interactive e-books. A few examples of these software are I-Books Author for Mac, and Desktop Author and EBooksWriter for Windows. I think we should talk about the most cutting edge e-book producing software and what it allows individuals to produce almost on their own.

3-D Printing and 3-D Personal Printers: 3 D printing seems to be the most cutting-edge in “printing” technology. It actually blurs the line between printing and manufacturing. I think we can relate this blurring of the line between technologies, which I mentioned in relation to the E-Reader Tablets and the smartphones, as both a byproduct of consumerism and something that enables consumerism. (HP will actually soon release new mobile 3-D printing application that will allow users to use their phones to send an object to be printed in their 3-D printer.) Consumerism can be seen as important engine of innovation in print and printing products in the 20th and 21st Century. I think 3-D printers embody consumerism because of their close relation to product manufacturing. They also further illustrate the ethical complications around increasing and restricting access that arise when individuals obtain technologies that allow them to print and to produce high quality graphics and materials. 3-D printers basically allow the user to “print” a 3-D model for an object in either plastic or metal or other materials. Here is how The Week magazine describes 3D printing and compares and contrasts it to regular printing:
                Just as a traditional ink-jet printer sprays ink onto a page line by line, modern 3-D devices    
                deposit material onto a surface layer by layer, slowly building up a shape. (The Week 11,  
                January 18 2013)
The New York times also published a piece on personal 3-D Printing/ manufacturing. The coolest and scariest thing about 3-D printing is that it is quickly evolving. According The Washington Post some people are using 3-D printers to print weapons while according to The Smithsonian scientists are in the process of modifying the technology to use stem cells to print human organs. 

3-D Printer