June 2018.

Towards a
Contemporary
Publishing
Lexicon

 Acceleration

The force which has propelled the act of publishing through time, altering associated formats exponentially whilst inventing new formats along the way. ¶ Similar to the way in which the mechanical printing press effected the manuscript, digital means of production has increased the speed at which the process of acceleration occurs. ¶ This can be linked to the shift in focus within capitalist structures from value being based on the accumulation of objects to time-based measurements, exemplified by the invention of the ‘Futures Market’ and described in Don Delillo’s Cosmopolis... “Money makes time. It used to be the other way around. Clock time accelerated the rise of capitalism. People stopped thinking about eternity. They began to concentrate on hours, measurable hours.” (See also: ‘accelerationism’) ¶ Within publishing, value often becomes linked to volume and distribution (or reach). The expedited trajectory digital means has facilitated, in turn nudged forward by time-based economics, can be seen as producing emergent publishing formats such as the digital meme, video streaming and the hybridisation of new and existing formats such as online print-on-demand services like Blurb and Lulu as well as independent experimental projects such as Jasmine Raznahan’s ‘The Metapress’ and Copyshop to name but a small sample.

 Archiving

The storing of material for referencing at a later date, away from the demands of the publishing schedule. The act of publishing automagically creates an archive. Publishing relies on the releasing of material (be it a book, a magazine, a YouTube video, a tweet, a meme, an event etc.) tied to a point in time. This is where a record starts. The record then becomes a body that could include authors, content, cataloguing codes, schedules, constellations and more. ¶ The internet being anchored by a web of physical servers, with these servers acting as data storage devices, has created the ideal platform for housing published data. This transference has been so frictionless that an assumption grew any content pushed online would create a capsule, accessible at any time, that would live forever. ¶ This great amassing, reliant on usually invisible but ultimately physical means (i.e. cloud-based servers), could prove to be un-undoing of sorts. The sheer volume of material being archived currently out-weighting the capacity to store all of it. This has resulted in questions around the value of ‘big data’ and institutional crises where material it was assumed was kept ‘safe’ has started to dematerialise. ¶ Fresh questions have arisen around what should be kept if the capacity and willingness to store—and, equally importantly, retrieve—archived material has diminished and who should be the custodians of these immense collections.

 Body

Body used here is derivative of the term ‘body copy’—as used within text-based editorial procedures when producing print publications, as an example—to describe the main bulk of a feature or written article. ¶ It is linked to the description of the ‘content’ of a publication. The body becomes a way to more accurately describe the ‘guts’ of a feature or written article as opposed to content. ¶ Use of the word ‘body’ also lends corporeal form to the author generated component of a piece of published material. ¶ Bodies, both as a publishing term and as a physiological entity, are also altered by external forces that can alter their function and form, much like the way memetic dispersion changes the thing that is being dispersed.

 Commune

Over time, the term ‘commune’ has proved useful in proving coherence within community-based organisational structures in a wide variety of ways—such as in uniting socialists, revolutionaries and radicals in forming a government body known as the ‘Paris Commune’ at the time of the French Revolution, and in giving form to countercultural communities such as Drop City in the 1960s and 70s. It is also the jurisdictional designation that allows The City of London to operate it’s own unique structure of local government from within the Greater London Authority where citizens from wards are represented by ‘Aldermen’ and meet to discuss issues via ‘Wardmotes’. ¶ Often, communes are initiated in opposition to a previously established jurisdiction allowing the community formed within the ‘commune’ to operate with it’s own distinct regulations, systems of infrastructure and ideological boundaries. Diagrammatically, this commune manifests as a bubble situated within a broader community or territory. It is not on the fringes, but situated closer to a ‘heart’ or a core. Communes are also associated with non-traditional thinking and can be seen as incubators for radical ideas that eventually filter out to a wider community. ¶ In recent times, digital means has allowed for ‘communes’ to further detach from physical locations. Where previously communes formed organically around sites where communities gathered, now similar groups can organise themselves online and meet whenever necessary at any agreed juncture. This has helped small scale and independent publishers, in particular, to take root and even flourish, although often operating within imagined ‘walled villages’.

 Creators

A label previously used to describe a cache of interdisciplinary designers identified by design-led magazine titles (such as GasBook, Relax, Studio Voice as well as online platforms such as Shift) that came out of Japan in the late 1990s–2000s that has seen a reemergence today. ¶ At the time, this label was applied to ‘creators’ such as Geoff McFetridge and Mike Mills for whom established job titles such as—illustrator, graphic designer, film maker failed to describe the variety of formats, materials and outcomes they produced. ¶ The derision that often greeted the term by those labelled with it, lay in its lack of specificity and therefore lineage or professional qualification. ‘Creator’ was too easily adoptable by those seen as amateur in comparison to the aforementioned cache. ¶ Use of the term within design-led media subsided for a time but has been resurrected recently to describe a nimble, self-sufficient breed of publishers and online practitioners utilising platforms such as YouTube, Patreon and Kickstarter (particularly Kickstarter’s new platform ‘Drip’). ¶ For example, when you post a video onto YouTube, it gets “published” and when you publish a video on YouTube you are considered a ‘creator’. You then get access to your own ‘Creator Studio’ and the ‘YouTube Creators’ community. Kickstarter launched their new venture, ‘Drip’, with the opening text “A new tool for creators.” and Patreon currently declares on it’s homepage “Creators, come get paid.”

 Distribution

Publishing and distribution are concepts that are interwoven. There is a common assumption that distribution provides a type of aequitas amongst formats (i.e. In ancient Rome aequitas was used to refer to either the concept of fairness between individuals)—“the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed” to quote William Gibson—but this is a desire often imposed on the term. At its essence, distribution can be seen a ‘dispersion’ or a ‘dissemination’. ¶ Systems have been developed over the years to address the scatter-shot nature of this integral tool but are now regularly shown to be imperfect and slow to adapt to change. ︎

︎ As much as there are well established networks of distribution, supported by specialists and circulation measurement tools, distribution is often shown to be an inexact science. This is particularly evident when it comes to physical product and distribution to the newsstand or newsagent. ¶ In the years leading up to the advent of the internet, magazine publishers had become enmeshed in a complex web of clauses and deals with distribution houses who had created bottlenecks between publishers and sellers—wielding influence over both. ¶ Digital means shifted emphasis away from large scale publishers, to be spread amongst a range of emergent magazine producers (helped by the development of a commune around said publishers). ¶ A raft of experiments in magazine distribution have also emerged. Print-on-demand services such as Lulu, Blurb and MagCloud embedded themselves online. The Stack magazine subscription service was launched in 2009 with the express purpose of tackling distribution issues within the area of independent and small scale publishing, opening up new networks and audiences for a range of titles previously ignored by ‘high street’ stockists. Peter Biľak’s ‘Works that Work’ magazine launched with a ‘Social Distribution’ model in which readers were encouraged to order extra copies at a discounted price to resell to friends and stockists. ¶ The recent wave of disruptive distribution, encouraged by the advent of online services, is not exclusive to print publishing. Netflix and The Pirate Bay have forged new routes from producer to public changing the way video entertainment is delivered. Apps and social media have dramatically altered both the way photos are shared and news media is perceived.

 Hybridisation

The process by which one publishing format is combined with another, often mixing a pre-existing format with an emergent form. Since the advent of the internet this has been a field of investigation for both commercial entities and independent artists and designers alike. ¶ Hybridisation operates within a widely expanded field of formats. Aspen magazine, for example—produced in the late 1960s—used magazine as an umbrella term to describe the container for an ever-changing combination of film and vinyl recordings with printed material of various sizes and shapes alongside artist’s editions and more. ¶ The use of compact discs adhered to the covers of magazines in the 1990s is an early (and literal) example of commercial publishers combining audio and video content with a printed publication. Moving magazines online often resulted in a similar hybridisation of formats that would contain the same articles and features but presented in HTML. The iPad’s brief dalliance with mainstream publishing  proved a test for many established publications attempting to create hybridised titles. ¶ Today hybridisation continues on a highly experimental level with institutions supporting endeavours such as Publishing Lab and experimental publishing workshops and programmes who work with both established and emergent formats to find new routes that put hybridisation at the centre of their multiplicitous processes.

 Magazine

Before The Gentlemen’s Magazine came to solidify current definitions around the term ‘magazine’, it was used to describe a type of storing house, usually for munitions. ¶ Many of the built magazine structures that are in existence today exhibit a unique style of architecture that was required to protect surrounding areas from the potential detonation of the goods stored within. Jack’s Magazine on the banks of the Maribyrnong River, in Melbourne, is a prime example of this—the site consists of two pairs of elongated, fortified buildings with thick curved ceilings and shielded, obscured windows reminiscent of ‘arrowslits’. These horizontal buildings are then surrounded by smooth, artificially made hills sloped at an angle so any explosion emitted from inside the magazine, would be directed into the sky above to dissipate. ¶ This link to the heritage of the term ‘magazine’ is useful when thinking about the changes the digital realm has enacted on publishing terminologies. If a magazine can be seen as a metaphysical storing house then it’s form becomes infinitely malleable. Gone is an over reliance on paper and ink to define it—a magazine can also be a building, an archive, a storing house. ¶ This malleability has also allowed publishers to separate content from format. The ‘magazine’ becomes an overarching term for a place to store said content. This renewed definition also brings back into focus the function of the ‘magazine’ as a type of archive that—like the physical buildings—has kept the act of publishing secure and (relatively) intact despite being situated within an industry heavily buffeted by often volatile economic circumstance.

 Versioning

The practice of reproducing a divergent work, based on a previously produced work, using various tactics—both intended and incidental—in reframing it. Versioning, within curation, is often an incidental outcome of the need to display works without being able to reproduce their original ‘aura’. Versioning does not produce copies but new versions of works. ¶ By negating the perception of the copy, the version breaks the binary preoccupation of the ‘original’ and the ‘copy’, instead enriching a work through a prismatic effect that allows for a multiplicity of readings. ¶ As Silvio Lorusso explains—the move away from copying to versioning, “produces an uncertainty about the original, because every reframing adds a certain ‘charge’ to the work and therefore makes something new out of it.” ¶ Oliver Laric goes further in framing versioning as a curatorial tactic in his work ‘Versions [2010]’ in which he gives the example, “Five people interpret an action and each interpretation in different because in the telling and the re-telling, the people reveal not the actions but themselves.” ¶ Within publishing, it can be argued that the act of creating multiples will always generate versions, therefore all published material uses versioning as a tool that masks or diffuses any allusion to the source material. ¶ Indeed, using the print publication as an example, sub editors create versions by ‘correcting’ raw text; editorial designers create versions by type-setting said text and printers create versions by transmogrifying digital files into ink.

 Wardmote

The name ‘Wardmote’ refers to a meeting of community members, from within a distinct field or designated area, initiated to provide support and information to said members. The traditional use of the term follows jurisdictional guidelines, as used within The City of London today, to describe an arena where citizens and their representatives can meet to share news and discuss issues directly relating to the area in which they all reside. ¶ The term ‘Wardmote’ becomes useful within publishing (or any similar entity) when it is used to describe a point in time when members within a distinct field break from their day-to-day activities to meet and commune with one another around their chosen field of interest. ¶ The advent of digital means of production has not only provided increasingly malleable tools for independent and small scale publishers, but has also encouraged said publishers to develop a type of commune around this shared activity—forging links through a range of events which can be grouped under the banner of ‘Wardmotes’. The main difference being that unlike location based ‘Wardmotes’ (such as those held within The City of London), formats and agendas for Wardmotes that are set within specific fields of interest can vary from meeting to meeting. ¶ Through the lens of the independent publishing ‘commune’ these events come in the form of wayzgooses (Printer’s Fairs), meet ups, publishing fairs, speaking events, exhibitions, swaps, workshops, markets, pub quizzes, ceremonies (awards) and more. The variety of formats for these Wardmotes limited only by engagement. 



Submitted as part of the Design Curation & Writing MA at Design Academy Eindhoven.
Tutors: Shiloh Phillips & Loes Bogers.