Sunday, February 24, 2013

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?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.