[-empyre-] Oublier "business models": Other Responses

Andrew Murphie andrew.murphie at gmail.com
Sun Jun 27 16:05:14 EST 2010

Hi All,

some quick responses to some of the other points in a wonderful
discussion (although I just lost some of my other notes .. I blame
Flying Lotus in Barcelona—http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00srzn8#-
). I finished my last post with 'a kind of push towards "publishing to
come"' an it's been inspiring for me to see how future-directed so
many of the ideas and projects discussed on Empyre this month are.
Gary wrote that "I’m interested in the potential it has to generate
what might be called an unteachable moment - in the sense of a crisis
in the teaching situation itself in which the very authority of the
educator is placed in question." Janneke wrote that "the power of Open
Access lies exactly in what lies beyond Open Access". Femke, Paul,
Sigi, David, Gary and others have shown us that this power, whatever
it might be, is already emerging. Michael asks, and this is again a
design problem as much as anything (I've noticed academics such as
myself probably need to talk to designers more who can solve some of
these problems): "how can art and cultural works might exist in
network societies outside of patronage, care-giving or charity, AND
residual systems of property"?.

I guess I wanted to respond this with some questions, and this is a
bit of a rave, so its maybe better skimmed ...:

_What is Publishing, really_

First, when it comes to publishing now: what is is that we think we're
doing? What are we doing, in actual fact? Are they the same?

In Adrian Miles deceptively simply observations here -
http://vogmae.net.au/vlog/2010/04/i-thought-of-the-novel/ - it turns
out that when we're watching a video on the iPad we're neither reading
nor watching a video, or we're reading a video, and no one really
knows what that means yet, or how to produce for it, let alone set up
publishing ecologies for it ...

_Past, Present, Future_

Second, what are the relationships that circulate between:

* "then" (simply, publishing as it was, the publishing more
comfortable for our bodies and brains, as much as corporations and

* the future "publishing to come" mentioned above,

* and publishing now?

And what does "now" or, we might say, as above, in "actual fact", mean
if publishing has a complex relation to the constitution of publics,
tenses, actual facts, even our "proprioceptive ecologies" (Adrian
points to this as the basis for his feeling that he was reading the
video), and so on, let alone to politics (Gary Hall and others have
pointed to the constitution of politics here, and those such as
Derrida have pointed to this elsewhere .. Archive Fever is still
crucial here to my mind).

_What role does the brain have in all this?_

How does publishing constitute itself as a fact? And what happens when
that constitution falters, Deleuze might say "stutters"?
How is publishing mutually constituted with brains, corporations,
readers, etc. Indeed, as Katherine Hayles discussed it, the
neurological turn is very much part of this at a deep ecological
level. How, for example, does publishing constitute what Varela called
(after William James) the "specious present", or how must/can modes of
publish engage with the formation of a "specious present". These all
involve very subtle questions of design. I get Geert's point
completely on the neurological turn (and much of this turn in the
humanities can be very silly) ... but also, the neurology (which is
complex, not a series of slogans) is very much a part of the economics
now, and broader ecologies, nowhere moreso perhaps than in publishing
(taken broadly here to include thinking, community, education,
research, even pleasure, dare we say). In fact, we might argue that it
is publishing that could play a vital role in negotiating the collapse
of economic models and practices (neoliberal I guess) in the face of
new cultures and "natural" events that simply don't fit with these
economic models and practices ... or, better, publishing finds itself
caught perhaps between these, and also the reactionary attempt to
reimpose older economic models and practices in the face of both
cultural shifts and environmental catastrophe. A simple example is the
Boycott BP "friend" on Facebook, with over 700,000 friends or fans
(I"m not sure which). Or, it's interesting to follow the science blogs
and their sceptic opponents not only on other blogs, but often in the
newspapers. Here there are strange new constellations of psychology,
neural constraints and freedoms, critical thought, science, publishing
and politics as the whole "climate change" ecology is meshed with a
very complex set of media ecologies (and political ecologies). It is
crucial for us to negotiate these constellations immediately in order
to address the problems of climate change ...  .

Or, Catherine Malibou points out in What Should We Do With Our Brain,
that we have to learn to differentiate between brains that might be
worked to push us towards being flexible servants of cognitive
capital, and those that might be plastic (that we might rewire
differently as individuals or communities). And we might also learn to
differentiate between publishing systems that push us towards one or
the other. It might be useful to think in terms of "neurocultural
tactics" here.

_To Forget (at least for a moment) Business Models_

A different way I think of this is, like many, via the well known
adventures in music publishing and its many controversies. I actually
think text publishing has approached the whole issue of piracy and so
on much more intelligently, although we'll see. But there's a danger
is, although it hasn't really been evident in this discussion (and I
certainly don't mean these issues aren't important).

In all the critical media discussion on music and the music industry
that I've read over the years, I've read very little about music. It's
as simple as that. The issues/discussions have very much centered
around, or opposed themselves to, the search for business models,
legal problems and so on. In the meantime, the vibrancy of the music
has hardly been noticed, and very little discussed (maybe I've missed
it, and I do mean in a "formal context" .. on Empyre for example). Yet
music is vibrant now ... not only in terms of the music being made
these days, but in terms of music as published in very many different
ways. In fact, I don't think I've known a time so glorious for music,
qua music. And I don't just mean we can download as much as we like ..
I mean that there's just such as variety of great music out there now.

Maybe this is because music has always had perhaps a much tighter, and
more self-conscious relationship to ongoing reconfiguration (and
technics in general) than other forms of publishing.

However, now this is changing. I think I'd say the same for publishing
as for music with regard to business models etc. In terms of actual
publishing, or even just published content, or ability to publish,
we've never had it so good ... once you forget about business models,
etc ... you see that publishing is now incredibly rich, diverse and
highly adaptive. I'm not being naive .. well I don't think so. I'm not
saying business models and the law aren't important. I am saying,
however, and really only echoing much of the discussion on the list,
that defining the whole debate in the legal and business terms, in
terms of what publishing has been in the past in terms of its
institutional structures, can all too easily miss out of the emerging
publishing-to-come, even when it's already here (related to this is
the whole question of journalism, which has moved from "the
destruction of news" refrain to a debate between this refrain and "the
new news is already here and it's exciting").

In fact, Gary mentioned much of this, as did others (Sigi, for
example, clearly sees OHP as a kind of careful machine for
transporting us to the future)... and they also suggested that part of
the problem is designing ways through the richness of publishing. For
me, the problem isn't whether I skim or read in depth .. I do both at
times. The real problem is how often I read at all! By which I mean do
I just go on collecting interesting looking material without having
time to read it? How do I find my way through my own, very mixed
format, libraries? Or through my community of libraries?

_Designing for Differential Ecologies_

In the end, for me the question is one of accepting on the ongoingly
differentiating ecologies involved. We need to design for
sustainability of community first in the midst of these shifting
ecologies, and often, in the meantime, forget the business models to
see what else might emerge.

all the best, Andrew


"A traveller, who has lost his way, should not ask, Where am I? What
he really wants to know is, Where are the other places" - Alfred North

Andrew Murphie - Associate Professor
School of English, Media and Performing Arts, University of New South
Wales, Sydney, Australia, 2052
Editor - The Fibreculture Journal http://fibreculturejournal.org/>
web: http://www.andrewmurphie.org/  http://dynamicmedianetwork.org/

fax:612 93856812 tlf:612 93855548 email: a.murphie at unsw.edu.au
room 311H, Webster Building

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