Subscribers to this blog may have noticed that I have posted a lot about publishing in the last few days. Well, I’m taking a class on Digital Publishing, so there’s your reason. But that does beg the question: What is publishing, anywho?
A Potential Definition
John Batelle provides an interesting definition of what publishing really is. According to him, “Publishing means connecting a community through the art and science of communication.” Basically, he goes back to the beginning and explains that when we didn’t have printing or writing, the message and the medium were the same – I spoke and communicated my message. When publishing came out, this conjunction of message and medium stayed. The message – the content – was seen as inseparable from the medium – the printed word. Batelle holds that this is not true. Publishing is about the message, not the medium.
I would agree with this, to a point. Something written has no point unless it carries a message, and that message has no point unless it has an audience, and thus a community. But Batelle carries this idea farther than I would. He insists that publishing should be thought of as speaking and so things like social media are included in that definition. He doesn’t come right out and say it like that, but that’s where his logic takes me. I can’t agree with that.
Now, I’m not belittling social media. Not only do I love it, it’s what I do. And I will acknowledge that there is a gray area. Blogs like this one are often considered as part of social media, but there is no doubt in my mind they are also publishing mechanisms.
Published Messages Stand Alone
While publishing has morphed and is no longer about the printing press and paper, it is still about the message, and a particular type of message at that. Publishing does not include conversational messages. If I post “Hi there! How was your day?” on Twitter I am not publishing, I’m engaging in social conversation. If I post a well thought-out haiku on Twitter, I am publishing. My message does not rely on a response for its meaning.
I think that that is the key. Communities rely on this response, so Batelle’s definition in really a definition of conversation. I think published content can be the focus of a community, like any novel’s fan-club, but it carries a meaning and a message by itself.
Comments Inform that Message
Responses are going to be important to the future of publishing. Comments from readers will inform the next thing to be published, tying the published material more closely with the community that feeds on it.
This blog is a good example. I write my message here, in the post section. My message has been thought-out and stands on its own. By including links, I’ve inserted it into a general body of knowledge and commentary on a question – “What is publishing?” But those links are back story or examples. I’ve coopted them for my message, which is what I’ve written here. Now, you, dear reader, can post comments, changing the context of my message but not my content. Your comments may inspire me to engage with you in conversation by replying to them, or they may inspire me to write a new post, linking to your comment, and thus coopting it into my message even as I give you credit for it. (Any graduate of high school had to learn to cite other works, after all. That doesn’t make my work any less original for the citation.)
So, go on. Engage me in conversation in the comments. What do you think of my definition of publishing?
*This post was written as part of an assignment for my
but since the topic was interesting, I decided to use it for this blog.