Tag Archives: publishing

On embeddedness; or, I wrote a thing

I wrote a thing. I called it “Embedded Together: Artists and Audiences and YouTube.”

It’s one of many responses to a bigger question on the thick, rich site MediaCommons: “What is the role of the digital humanities in transforming and responding to the arts?” (Was the word humanities always there? If so, I wasn’t thinking of it in my answer; I was just thinking of intersections between DIGITAL and ARTS. Oh well.)

You can read it if you want; I like it. But what I’m thinking about here is the effect of time on how we view revision. Because that piece went through a lot of revising. The original draft was probably twice as long as it was supposed to be, and then I worked really hard to get it down to a place where it was only 2/3 too long, and then I cut out my entire heart to finally get it down to where it is now. (I thought about counting the number of comments I went through with smart editor Alex Nielsen, but it’s too many to count. He’s a good editor; I’m perhaps too insistent on my rambly style. Good job, Alex.)


There was a lot of this.

So reading it this morning after weeks of actually forgetting it even exists (and prompting this post), I was wondering this basic question: does it feel empty, short, sad, in its final form?

Mostly, no. It holds together, even though it feels very different from the genre of the other answers to the question (which I’m fine with). I’m proud of it. Here, in this blog post, I’ll tell you all about it, look at me, not ashamed.

But the one thing that feels off: I’m not giving a lot of time/space here to my friend Ian Scarfe, who spend so much time on smart, long emails to me about these questions. He got cut a lot; in editing the piece, I edited him. And even with the distance of time, it’s hard for me to get a sense of if he sounds the way I want him to. Is he more of a soundbite, a quotable, a few links, then let’s move on to the other stuff? Or are there hints of the real human that speak up under my edit, the sounds of his piano drifting through the screen?

Of course, I ask because of other projects: I’m editing a longer piece (the introduction to an edited collection), which currently means editing out a lot of the voices that I’ve collected. Where do those voices go after I hit delete? Where do their ideas go after I’ve stopped listening?


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Anonymity and Piracy

Fabio Trifoni - Where the Hell is Jack Sparrow?

Fabio Trifoni, "Where the Hell is Jack Sparrow?" available under a CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0 license at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeyh/2774291310/

There’s a great little piece over at The Chronicle of Higher Education about the piracy of academic books. The author walks us through his discovery that his scholarly book was illegally online for free, his alerting the publisher, his surprise that the publisher didn’t care too much, its suggestion that it might actually help sales, his decision to ask them to take the book down, and his subsequent uncertainty about if he made the right choice. In the pseudonymous author Clement Vincent’s words,

Even though I can claim victory in my first salvo with e-pirates, I now wonder whether engagement was a mistake. I recently checked the open seas of the Internet by typing the title of my book into browser with the words “free download,” only to discover hundreds of sites purporting to offer my book at no charge. I picked one of them randomly, and a just few clicks later, an electronic copy of my book appeared on my computer screen.

It was too easy. In my conflict with e-pirates, I’ve decided to withdraw from battle, at least for a while.

In some ways, this is nothing new. Cory Doctorow has claimed for years that he’s made huge amounts of money by licensing his novels with Creative Commons licenses that allow people to freely distribute them online. I’m also reminded of Richard Murphy’s narrative from a 1990 issue of College English about his efforts to get a student to confess to plagiarism, which she did, only to find out that she had in fact written the essay. And what’s that essay (from The New Yorker?) about a poet or novelist or someone who goes on an intense, crush-the-enemy campaign against someone who kept stealing his stuff?

So stories like Vincent’s aren’t necessarily unique, though they’re always welcome. But I was left with a lingering question after finishing the piece: why the anonymity? Why is Vincent so careful to not name himself, his university, his book, or his publisher–in other words, to make himself un-Google-able?

Maybe the answer is obvious: because he doesn’t want us to find his book online for free and pirate it. (Yahrr.) After all, it’s apparently still out there on other sites, even though he got it taken down from one.

But wait, I thought his narrative landed on the (albeit uneasy) decision to let his work float freely online in hopes that it will bring more readers and even more buyers. That feels like the aim of the article–to gently say to those who tightly hold onto their copyrights with iron fists, “Hey, have you considered that maybe loosening up would be better for you?”

Consider the power of an article like this in the Chronicle that wasn’t anonymous, that effectively invited the thousands of academics across the country, at their own risk, to Google this guy’s book and skim it on their own. Wouldn’t that almost certainly lead to more citations of his work, which would almost certainly lead to more people buying the book than currently do? Or am I assuming too much?

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