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Thursday
Jan122012

New Answers for New Questions: (More Than) A Decade On

Back in 2000, as part of my dissertation, the subject I wrote on was the concept of how electronic publishing was changing media and literature. Well, I didn't coin the term blogging or social network, but reading it now is fascinating. The question I posed was:

"One of the key social and philosophical issues confronting society in the beginning of
the 21st century is the sharing of all kinds of information. How we react to this issue will
change the very nature of the creation and distribution of literature, which is just one form
of information, albeit information with very special properties. Textual media and our
notion of it are changing. Old methods of sustainability and funding in publishing (literally
sales of printed material) are no longer so assured. As literature adapts to the new medium,
the nature of the material being published will be altered forever, as will the mechanisms
and organisations that support publication. The purpose of this paper is to examine the
likely nature of the impact of new media on literary publishing."

I concluded:

"It is clear that the major impact that electronic publishing is having on literature derives from its immediacy, its flexibility and its interoperability. The activities of the underground art scene with their emphasis on anonymity, and implicit and advanced understanding of practical methods of exploiting intellectual property in the digital medium means that the relations between privacy, speech, academic freedom and accountability must be an intrinsic part of any system of quality assessment and validation online. Indeed, experience shows that where a publication or public (broadcast) communication environment does not make such features an intrinsic aspect of the communication, the noise will invariably rapidly begin to outweigh the useful content.

The issues surrounding copyright, academic freedom, the right to privacy, and freedom of speech are provocative, and practical conclusions seem to challenge accepted normalities. These issues can only be effectively addressed in the context of a thorough understanding of the digital environment itself.

The electronic environment will force us to reassess our notion of intellectual property, and publishers, academics and critics will have to reassess their roles of they want to continue to provide value in the electronic environment. If the Internet and Electronic Publishing are to fulfil their promise of an interoperable, searchable canvas –the world’s biggest library, in which all creators can play their deserved part, such review should be the product of an open-minded and informed public debate; one that interested contributing members of literary communities should not only witness but also be at the centre of..."

The University gave dispensation allowing me to publish this paper on my personal website. It is available to download from here.

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