Back to class, back to the Monday/Friday routine. Although I’ve been working on some thoughts for all the modules I’m in this term, I’ve devoted this post to Libraries and Publishing in the Information Society (LAPIS). #LibPub on Twitter (and frequently lapis lazuli in my head because those words belong together always), this class gets the first post mostly because it left me with a lot of thoughts. They swirled around and demanded to get out of my head.
The major discussion of class was asking “What can you publish?” What counts as published output, and who’s doing the publishing? One of the things that came up was social media output, of course. In our small group, Megan and Kendra and I were debating about whether Facebook status updates and other such things would be considered publications if they’re private. While it’s tempting to just assume that all written content on the internet is published, is it really a publication if you’re just posting to a small, private group of friends and family? You wouldn’t consider a letter written from one person to another a publication (but then, if that letter were collected and put into a book or museum for some reason, it would be). Yet digital content seems to be caught in this weird middle ground that fluctuates between public and private, so it can be hard to say for certain what is or isn’t published content.
Traditional publishing is gate-keeping, for both fiction/popular and scholarly publications – now that those gates are open, huge changes are already happening. I had this idea about “sanctioned” publishing versus “rebel” publishing, although I’m not entirely sure how that would play out. Blogs, or tweets, or maybe movies – you could say these are non-traditional ways of thinking about publication. But it occurred to me that there are several examples of what we might call published output in which the content creator may not think of themselves foremost as publishers. When it comes to blogs or movies, the people making and producing them likely aren’t focused on the published aspect – they would think of themselves as writers or filmmakers first. The final product is ‘published’, in that it’s disseminated information, but most of them wouldn’t say they “publish” (excluding books from this scenario because books and magazines are still the core image of what publishing is, and people identify themselves as publishers, published authors, etc, even when it comes to self-publishing).
Now, what about the people that do these things and DO consider themselves publishers, and know that they’re publishing and in doing so, are challenging that main framework of what publishing is. That I think, might be the start of what I mean by the idea of “rebel” publishing- something that a person does with intent to undermine the traditional idea of publishing. Deliberate challenge to tradition, compounded by certain contexts (e.g., politically charged, taboo, oppression fighting back). The methods, together with the information itself, are battling traditional power structures. WikiLeaks came to mind immediately, but it is by no means the only example. I think sites like Black Girl Dangerous also fall into this category.
Another thought: is a vinyl album a different publication from an mp3 of the same music? If the song itself is the publication, does the medium matter, or is “publication” defined by the medium? If publishing is the dissemination of information, then the medium is just as important as the content, since the medium is how that content is made available.