New Media, New Readers & a New Literacy

So the digital humanities world is all a goo-goo over a new toy: Anthologize.  Created at the One Week: One Tool institute at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, Anthologize will (hopefully) revolutionize academic publishing–and thereby (hopefully) give the academic tenure and promotion process a much needed reboot:

Anthologize, software that converts the popular open-source WordPress system into a full-fledged book-production platform. Using Anthologize, you can take online content such as blogs, feeds, and images (and soon multimedia), and organize it, edit it, and export it into a variety of modern formats that will work on multiple devices. Have a poetry blog? Anthologize it into a nice-looking ePub ebook and distribute it to iPads the world over. A museum with an RSS feed of the best items from your collection? Anthologize it into a coffee table book. Have a group blog on a historical subject? Anthologize the best pieces quarterly into a print or e-journal, or archive it in TEI. Get all the delicious details on the newly revealed Anthologize website.

But academia is actually a little late in the game. In the Land of Sable Fan Girls (where I spend my time when I’m not dissertation writing or course planning), famed black horror author Tananarive Due, her equally famous scienece fiction writing husband Steven Barnes and the delicious-as-he-wanna-be Blair Underwood have been producing? writing? a novel called From Cape Town With Love that capitalizes on all that new media has to offer.  A Vook (as opposed to book, ha ha, get it) is a video e-book, available on iPad, iPhone or desktop, with pictures, video and interactive text (click here for the deets and sample video).  And this past May, a group of writers and software developers took inspiration from the gargantuan gaming industry to produce an interactive e-book called The Mongoliad. Ignoring, for now, the huge race-fail in the title, the book is less of a book and more of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure meets the fantasy epic gaming console–and had its baby.

With Barnes and Knobles up for sale (wow) and the Kindle and iPad changing how we read, it only follows that new ways of writing, researching and telling stories will follow.

But….

I miss the days of the book.

It isn’t just that I love books, although I do. I like to hold them in my hand.  I hate paying for them and I hate the hyper-exclusive elitism of the academic publishing industry.  But I’m not convinced either of those are going away anytime soon.  I’m pretty sure that if I need or want a print product, I’ll still be able to find it even as words-on-paper become more reclusive.  And I am actually a HUGE supporter of digital humanities and what it does to bring academia closer to the people academia was meant to serve.

What I really love and have always loved about being a writer and the writing process is the solitude of the process.

If you follow the links above,  you’ll find one theme unites all of these projects–they require group work.  Teams of professors got together at GMU and produced Anthologize.  Due, her husband and an entire production team–along with Apple and the publisher–got together to make the Vook.  Stephenson had a team as well.  I mean these are huge projects that just seem really small and simple after they are done.

If I wanted to follow Due’s lead–and I have definitely thought about it–I’d need to deal with a software developer, a visual artist, a webtician (my catch-all for all those more tech saavy than myself), and an animator….along with the odd agent, a publishing house, the Apple magnate, lawyers to protect my rights….

Once upon a time when I was writing, all I needed was a computer and me.  And maybe an agent and a publisher and a Borders for when I was done.

But the actual process itself was about me and words and paper and sometimes pen and the characters that lived in my head.

I don’t want to see that go.  There is a certain amount of solitude, time and reflection needed to make really beautiful sentences appear on the page.  Or on the screen.

We still need time for reflection.  We still need time to think.  We aren’t finished yet.

Besides…

Sometimes you get tired of playing well with others.

Sometimes it’s just your fucking sandbox and your toy and your sunshiney day and you want it all to your damn self.

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One thought on “New Media, New Readers & a New Literacy

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