During the DigitalHumanities 2011 conference in Stanford, BethanyNowviskie launched #Alt-Academy, a site within the MediaCommons project. I asked Bethany about the initiative…

via @melissaterras.

This article typically fails to engage with the semantic aspects of books which cannot be digitised: it’s not the cliché that ”what one loves about books is the grain of paper and the scent of glue;” it’s the fact that not all books are the same and that the physical qualities of some books and manuscripts, which are not only the ‘contents’ of a page, provide important information. The typically metaphysical take on digitisation— that what is digitised is the ‘soul’ of a book, leaving the ‘body’ behind— is a caricature of the sociology of texts and of how materiality is a matrix of meanings of different orders. The widespread idea, popularised by articles like this, that any defence of the material aspects of books is fetishism (or technophobia) needs to be actively rejected. This denial of the importance of the materiality of books and other cultural objects fits perfectly within a lack of critique of the political economy of digital technologies. Who are the direct beneficiaries of a trigger-happy acceptance of information as merely 1s and 0s? Who benefits from the lack of appreciation and therefore forgetting of the material conditions of cultural and artistic production? 

The sound of vinyl evokes an older regime of materiality — indeed, it evokes materiality itself at a moment when the consumption of music is increasingly divorced from material objects that we can see or touch.

Via padminiraymurray:

Hello world—

I’m writing a paper (and latterly an article) on webcomics, comics apps and how the comic reading ecosystem is changing. What ramifications does such convergence hold for the way we read, create and buy comics? The abstract for the paper this research will be used for is below—please feel free to contact me at padmini.raymurray@stir.ac.uk if you have any further questions.

Thanks very much for your time!

Webcomics vs. the World: Scott Pilgrim and the future of comics publishing

My paper will focus on how the internet has created an environment that fosters new ways to package and present text, and will examine the phenomenon of the webcomic and comic apps. I will address how webcomic creators are challenging the role of producer-publishers by directly accessing fanbases online and are consequently moving closer to a model where readers and consumers can be considered their patrons, and have increasing influence on what is being produced, thus changing the nature of the market radically. This encounter between traditional print comics and an emerging virtual comic culture challenges creators and producers to find ways in which to exploit this medium and is reshaping how producers, readers and consumers relate to comics, image and text. This paper will demonstrate the impact these alternative channels of self-publishing has had an on major publishing houses and the role of the producer.

Sequential art and comic books have been profoundly influenced and transformed by, to use Scott McCloud’s term, the “infinite canvas” that digital spaces allow, as well as by a flourishing download culture. The commercial forces to reckon with in the comic book industry such as Marvel and DC, whose stable of superheroes have given rise to numerous film versions and merchandising are now being challenged by a surge in independent comics publishing, both in virtual and print media. There appears to be a renaissance in comic book culture due the increasing commercial acceptance of the graphic novel as part of contemporary literary culture, as well as the role of the internet in growing new audiences. A recent success story has been Bryan Lee O Malley’s comic book series, Scott Pilgrim that despite its modest independently-published beginnings, was bought by Fourth Estate and then made into a major motion picture in 2010. The books themselves, while never having been published online themselves, drew on an aesthetic inspired by webcomics, which are comics that are originally first published online. O Malley’s paratextual material in the comics, for example, echoes the modes that webcomic creators often deploy to allow readers insights into their creative process, through blogs and personal websites.  I am using O Malley’s work as an example of how webcomic and comic creators have been more nimble than others in the publishing industry in creating a seamless continuum between their print and online worlds, and how this might be possible by investigating their pro-active relationship with their audiences. 

Are we ready for life without books? The seminar will pool contributions from book publishers, designers and multimedia storytellers.

Ffrom 17th-25th September 2011 at University College London. 

I think one of our big strengths is that many of our books are art objects in and of themselves. And many people, not everybody, but many people want to have that object and don’t necessarily want to read it as a download or on a Kindle or Nook or iPad. I think that’s probably helped us sustain our sales, the fact that the books are beautifully designed and great to actually hold in your hands. I think we have that advantage over, say, a prose novel.

"An attempt to figure out who the most important players and innovators are in the evolution of journalism — and to provide a centralized source for background, context, and the latest news about them.”

My first post of the year…