Distribution and aggregation: its relevance in our world today

It is abundantly clear that the introduction of new media and a digital culture has broken down barriers to many forms of distribution and aggregation. Not only does this apply to stand alone devices such as computers and mobiles as Andrew notes, but also includes how our distribution and aggregation within the social and the public sphere.

Hubert Guillaud, writing a reflection of Danah Boyd’s “Flow of Information through New Media Speech“, discusses how historically forms of distribution were much simpler but also much more highly regulated, with the power lying in “those who control the channels of distribution”. However as we all know and he notes these structures are rapidly collapsing, with participants (actors) of the digital network now holding that power.

John Salvo notes that moving from an Information Age to a Systems Age involves “sensing, collecting, and manipulating data in near real-time with little to no human supervision… the separation between leaders and followers will cease to exist, as the internet democratizes the planet and good information becomes ubiquitous”.

However Boyd makes a good point here – she notes that just because WE now have the power to dictate what is distributed within the public sphere, that does not mean that attention is divided equally. In fact, as I’ve noted in previous blog posts, I’d take it one step further and say in a way attention is even harder to maintain now than maybe 50 years ago. This is because not only do users prefer fast bursts of information, but this explosion in the amount of “publishers” means that it is harder to get your voice heard. Obviously easier access to distribution and the destructuring of mediators makes getting it out there easier, but that’s not equivalent to being heard.

Another point which relates to this that Guillaud discusses through Boyd’s speech is that we choose content that stimulates us, not necessarily content that is informative. She notes the example of Facebook, saying it gives rise to parasocial relations: “on Facebook, you can turn your friends into celebrities, without actually gaining the benefits of social intimacy and bonding.” I think to an extent this is definitely true. For example, I have about 1,100 friends on Facebook, but if I had to count how many I interact with personally and physically regularly it would be about a tenth of that number. Regardless, how I publish and distribute data is affected by all of these 1,100 friends. I think this demonstrates Boyd’s point – that sense of connection that was there before has diminished to an extent. It becomes a way of representing one’s public image, rather than actually building a connective network. Boyd in her blog stated that during her presentation, having tweets projected on the big screen meant that she lost connection with her listeners, who became more invested in their communication with themselves.

Therefore, as Andrew notes, aggregation and distribution are forms of expression; ways of personalisation. YOU dictate your world by choosing what, with whom, and how you engage both digitally and physically. These forms of content/expression then turn into your experience, which you later archive. And this is the neverending circle of publishing!


Theories –> practices –> archive fever

The archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens out of the future.


Theories, as Andrew states in the lecture this week, are a “form of mediation/communication between ideas and practices” that allow us new ways of “understanding familiar things, so that we can work with them differently; or sometimes so that they might work differently.”

So, for example, classical conditioning is a theory. It connects the idea that learning occurs through interactions with the environment with the practice below. (as performed by Ivan Pavlov).

Now let’s look at archive fever. Jacques Derrida, author of ‘Archive Fever’, argues that archives are a basis for authority by having an ability to determine what is “inside” and “outside” out culture.

Ironically, Julie Enszer’s blog post, which summarises the writings of Derrida, is part of an archive surrounding his work . The irony is seen where she notes: “the archive is shaped by the “paternal and patriarchic, principle only posited itself to repeat itself and returned to re-posit itself only in parricide”.

archive fever


Further, we can see in the above photo that Facebook is a prime example of an archive. On Derrida’s page there is a year-by-year recording of his activities, and his information, photos and interests (“likes”) are categorised also. I think this highlights the 3 definitions of what archives are (as stated in the lecture):

  • a basis for individual or collective memory (we can view what happened in 2009 where our memories fail us)
  • a basis for authority, social formations, culture (those that have “liked” his page have formed a community)
  • a basis for individual/collective experience (we can experience as a community the activities of Derrida*)

*the guys that run his page

As Ogle comments: “without deliberate planning, we have created amazing new tools for remembering. The real-time web might just be the most elaborate and widely-adopted architecture for self-archival ever created.”

However he also notes a problem with this – “the current philosophy underlying most of the real-time web is that if it’s not recent, it’s not important. This is what we need to change.”

The way in which digital media advancements have influenced this is phenomenal (as I mention in every blog post). Omeka is one good example of this. As explained on their site, Omeka is “a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions. Its “five-minute setup” makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog.” I.e. technology = archive-making in 5 minutes. Me having this blog for example, is me setting up an archive. Thank you WordPress.

PS. I know Andrew suggested avoiding using Facebook as an example, but I couldn’t help but think it was the easiest way to exemplify the idea!

Print vs. online publishing – is the shift a positive one?

Obviously with developments in technology and most importantly the advent of the internet, there are revolutionary new ways that content can be ejected into the public domain. But is this a good thing? In many ways, yes of course it is – it means greater accessibility, collaborative content production, direct and instantaneous distribution to the public – but if it’s so positive why are so many literates worried?

As well as the different forms of publishing, the different steps that each form encompasses are obviously very different (you get the point, a whole lotta difference). Take for example, the steps that need to be taken to get a book published (E-book, hardcover, paperback). The MIT Press (primarily a publisher of science and technology) explain all issues and guidelines that need to be considered before getting it out there. Pan Macmillan have a similar page, even specifically listing the categories of books they publish in the general market (e.g. thriller, crime). Then there’s getting a tweet, or a Facebook post, published. The differences between the two are insanely obvious, but are they not essentially performing the same function in the end? Yet I could open a new tab right now, open Twitter, and post 140 characters worth of anything I possibly want to (let’s forget about technical restrictions here). I, on the other hand, could not open a new tab, open HarperCollins, and write a book.

At least that was the traditional sort of way of thinking about it. But this week’s course material has forced me to try and think about things a little more contemporarily. The best example of this in my opinion is fan fiction. “Authors” literally write their own content – fantasy, erotica, thriller – and publish it directly to websites such as FanFiction.net and Wattpad. Other (somewhat more restrictive) examples are websites such as Wikipedia and learningtoloveyoumore.com; as well as me sitting here writing this blog post. As mentioned, there are many positives to this – but what about the authors that spend time, effort, and a whole lotta $$$ on getting their stuff seriously (for lack of a better word) out there? And what about issues of authorship, plagiarism and authenticity? Is this undermining their efforts? I would say in many ways, definitely. However, when Andrew also instructed us to consider the various genres, processes, tools and techniques of publishing, it’s also important to note that the authors that get their work professionally published are the ones we usually rely on most for factual, scientifically-based, informational content. I would not write an essay in consumer law with reference to what a blogger posted about buying something that looked different online.

There are so many benefits to how the processes of publishing are continually evolving, but many dangers present themselves as well. For me I think it ultimately lies on individual experience.

P.S. This has nothing to do with my post but this video is bloody hilarious.

PSS another good article:



Getting familiar with the term “Publishing”

It’s a common word, used in a variety of contexts and with different intended meanings. However there hasn’t been a time, until now, where I have had the reason (or thought) to really grasp what publishing actually means.

The two mind maps below reflect my ideas (and generalised misconceptions) about publishing before and after reading the coursework for this week:

One of the most interesting reads of the week was an article by Will Self, in which he comments on how digital media is leading to “fewer paper books being sold, newspapers folding, and bookshops and libraries continuing to close”; going on to state that “the advent of digital media is not simply destructive of the codex, but of the Gutenberg mind itself”. Although I do agree with most of his ideas – ‘difficult reading’ is in decline, producer-consumer relationships are rapidly changing and it is close to impossible to generate ‘original’ content – the shift of focus to digital media is not necessarily a negative one. With barriers being broken down in terms of accessibility, immediacy and resources, more people are able to publish material than ever before. Not only this, but online media sets the stage for a (or many) digital community(ties) of users who can connect and share data, reforming the top-down approach of communication that traditional forms of publishing had encompassed. This is reflected in the emergence of new projects that aim to keep up with these advancements in technology, such as the ‘creation’ of the multigraph and Future of the Book – creating books that “is not bound by time or space” and “is always a work in progress”.

However, Self raises a number of issues that are also echoed in other writers and statistics; many of which I agree with. For example, Tony Haile notes “we confuse what people have clicked on for what they’ve read. Where TV asked for your undivided attention, the web didn’t care as long as you went click, click, click.” Kendell further comments: “Today we’re driven less by the words on a page (or screen) inspiring thoughts in our minds, and more by how a title or topic trigger other people to validate, praise, and fight us.”

As well as this, there are so many ways of publishing that are continually emerging that it’s difficult to even keep up – the e-book, in particular the development of Spritz for example, as well as 3D and 4D printing. Have a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aghzpO_UZE. It printed a functioning wrench from powder. Crazy. Even better, with talks of 4D printing there are transformable objects on their way too.

I Think Barbara Brannon sums it up by saying:

In the 1450s the technology of printing arose as a way of duplicating the way people wrote; in 1984 and beyond, is it too much to imagine that digital technologies aim to duplicate the way people think?

Overall, one of the most valuable things I’ve learnt from this week’s material is that publishing is not confined. At all. It’s continually extending to include new methods of production and dissemination, from a newspaper column to new music on Soundcloud to Spritzing and all things in between. This means that our ways of reading and processing are changing – be it a good or bad thing.

I think I need to find a quiet corner to read now… on my Kindle.