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Essay-in-lieu-of-examination – Question 1: Are digital and networked media dismantling the “publishing industry?” Is it being replaced? If so, what is replacing it? If not, what is the publishing industry becoming? Are there new difficulties or complexities or expenses involved?

June 12, 2013

The idea of publishing is simple; yet it is these simplistic notions that mask underlying complexities associated with the “publishing industry.” Publishing is integral component of our society; it shapes our relationships with one another and forms how our society’s functions. But concerns that new media is dismantling the publishing industry have augmented, causing uncertainty and debate among people who may not understand the full potential of new media. ‘It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because of the core problem publishing solves – the incredible difficulty, complexity and expense of making something available to the public – has stopped being a problem.’ Clay Shirky proposes the primordial ideology of the digital age forcing the “publishing industry” to become redundant; which was and still is widely accepted and speculated. Print is dead; journalism is dead. He believes the new technology and new ways of publishing would ultimately destroy the value and meaning of “publishing.”

Publishing is generally thought of the dissemination of literature or music and demands a very medieval outlook. Wikipedia’s readings on publishing acknowledge that the digital age is changing publishing but still focus primarily on the traditional method of publishing like books. Yet new media and new forms of publishing can merely be seen as the dissemination of information whilst utilising the technological advances of our society – thus encompassing the notion that publishing is in everything we do, from speaking to writing, to archiving even our personal lives on Facebook. No entity is separate, as it is all in relation to one another in some form. DeLanda prophesises a new way of thinking about our society as being interconnected at some point – information, people, history, future; it is all conjoined and it is just to which extent we choose to focus in on a particular aspect will we see how correlated other aspects are. This sense of connectedness relates to Derrida’s theory of ‘archive fever’ – where all media not only constructs archives, but abolishes them as well. Derrida proposes his ideology that archives are one of the most important aspects of publishing, in the sense that they embrace a sense of value of the society and even to the individual; thus cannot be disbanded as our engagement with publishing ultimately moulds who we are, or we can sculpt media to the condition we desire. This inability to isolate certain aspects of publishing and our media also equates to an inability to dismantle and eradicate traditional means; hence why it is certain digitalisation is simply morphing and shifting both the publishing and media industry and consequently society in its entirety.

The new form of publishing allows for innovative and resourceful distribution of information and knowledge; not only instantaneously, but across borders. The reality is new media is not dismantling the traditional approach of publishing but rather reconfiguring and augmenting the potentials of media in our society. The industry of media and publishing is perpetually transforming; an entity where we must keep entwined in the sphere or be left behind. This notion can be explained by Guillaud’s (2010) reading, where Nova Spivack explained that we are “living in the stream: adding to it, consuming it, redirecting it.” It where we publish ideas, consume other peoples’ ideas and make our own sense of it in the public domain – in this stream of information, there is a palpable community where information is shared and if an individual is unaware of a piece of information, they are no longer connected to others. Technology is redefining this flow – it is modifying the connection between the author, the publisher and the reader in the sense that anyone can be a publisher; a reader can become an author who is able to publish the book and their readers is determined on how they decided to network.

While writing this, I was sitting next to my 13 year old sister who was doing an assignment. She turned to me and said “What would we do if we didn’t have Google, Caitlyn?” “Use an encyclopaedia or go to the library,” I replied. It was her response that purely rattled me…”What’s an encyclopaedia?” The extent to which digitalisation has affected younger generations is utterly surprising, yet ultimately, traditional forms of publishing will by no means be replaced by digitalisation. Imagine not being able to curl up on the couch with a book on a rainy Sunday. The smell of the fresh paper, the aesthetic of the words sprawled across the page, the physicality of holding the book – the iPad is not altering the book, but rather engaging new audiences to actually read.   We would definitely lose something from our humanity if the traditional “publishing industry” was obliterated due to the digital age; but publishing is reconfiguring rather than dismantling. The networked book, unlike the standardised printed book has no limit in terms of space or time – this boundlessness provides unlimited distribution and is accessible to many. It also enables others to engage and edit the work as well, so instead of having out-dated books (like a few of our readings that were basic knowledge to us) there will be a constant update of information. The publishing world is morphing, the traditional forms will not be replaced unless people allow it to. Social media, online newspapers, bloggers, technology such as video cameras in phones and now Google Glass (meaning that anyone can provide an abundance of information at any given time) are stripping down the traditional methods and customs of the “publishing industry” and renovating it to become something completely different… every day. These news inventions are replacing traditional means but not completely. Digitalisation raises the concerns of finance and profit. Will publishers receive the same amount of money? Will there be new expenses put in place for the audience to pay to ultimately fund these publishing platforms and publishers?

The very crux of this idea is the impact crowd funding has on the creative industries of film, design and music. It is highly dependent on our society – it is contingent with our personal interests of what we choose to pay attention to and what we choose to make publishable.

Crowd funding is a new medium established for amateur film-makers, designers, musicians and other artists to propose their projects online to solicit donations from the public. Artistshare, an American company, was the initial crowd-funding platform for the creative industry in 2001. Subsequently, copious other websites, like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, emerged in hopes to involve the public to financially assist creative projects.  This new platform introduces an amateur level of publishing to yield artists a foot in the door of the publishing industry. It is no longer who you know, but rather what you know and how you can translate and apply that to the new media that is available. For an assessment in my news reporting class, I investigated the corporate invasion on crowd funding and how that affected the community. I found that the community was surprisingly supportive – in comparison to other critics – of corporations moving towards crowd founding in the film industry. The Veronica Mars movie and Zac Braff’s project reached millions of dollars in less than a day, while other sovereign film-makers struggle to reach their set goal by the time frame that has been set out. Unanimously, Sydneysiders did not share the equivalent distaste of the critics to celebrities imploring money from the public.

Statistics show that the Veronica Mars and Zach Braff’s projects have attracted over 10,000 new people to Kickstarter. The staff blogged, “63% of those people had never backed a project before. Thousands of them have since gone on to back other projects, with more than $400,000 pledged to 2,200 projects so far. Nearly 40% of that has gone to other film projects.” The Veronica Mars movie convinced 91,585 backers to donate to the project and raised $5.7 million (words from my assessment). One of the donators, Chiara Middleton – a 19 year old UNSW media student – donated $50 towards to the Veronica Mars campaign. She believes that corporate films should be allowed to do this as long as they don’t expect the public to fund the entire project. With the Veronica Mars film, they wanted to bring the attention to studios to show they have a fan base that would pay to see this in the cinema, and without Kickstarter the film would not have been made.

“Part of the beauty of Kickstarter is getting to see the project unfold,” Tina Giannoulis, a 19 year old Screen and Sound student explained to me in an interview. “A lot of the things you can purchase are development points such as scripts, stills, work that’s still in progress or, best of all, a ticket to the final product. Traditionally, this ticket to the final product is ALL you would buy to fund a film so I delight in seeing it as an option as it inverts the industry. Instead of having a company give money then expecting to get it back from the audience, the audience gives its money and gets a product in return; creatively controlled films on demand.”

The new difficulties that face the publishing industry are indicative of the society and the developments in media and technology. Traditional forms of publishing need to adapt to these changes or be profoundly abandoned. It is feasible to suggest that the creative and media industry are now more independent – with developments such as crowd funding, it opens new, potential opportunities for journalism.

The publishing industry is blurring the lines between consumers and producers. It is catering to everyone’s needs and creating a free platform; and in our society, we are primitively based on profit, money and power. If everyone has an equal playing field, and everyone is just as good as each other – who will benefit?  It is practicable to suggest that individuals in the media and publishing industry will need to be fresh and innovative every single day they wake up in the morning and go to work – they will need to learn how to utilise the technology not only for today but for tomorrow’s changes and work that to their advantage. In other words, they need to be able to predict, to utilise their intuition and instinct when it comes to technology, as well as being a professional, accurate writer. People in the media industry need to now know everything and have a practicable approach and understanding to their work. The changing industry of publishing is indicative of our society and the nature of media and technology. But what is truly interesting is that the power ultimately rest in the public’s hands.

It is feasible to suggest that the digital and networked media are not inhibiting or dismantling the publishing media, but rather enhancing it and recreating the entire model. Media has always been the future – every form of media was affronted with criticism that it will ultimately change our humanity in some way because sometimes it is difficult for human beings to try and adapt to change. The technological age is most definitely daunting for the older generations, but for us 90’s babies; how can we be alarmed by the environment that we were raised in? We are extremely adaptable and we already know that the publishing world is on its head at the moment, thus we are the generation to grasp this uncertainty and generate a new, sustainable publishing industry. What we must learn as a society is not to criticise today’s media tenaciously, but instead embrace the constant newness and unearth possibilities that will benefit the public in diverse ways.

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