Disclaimer: You are reading one of my early blog posts for a class and will have no context for what I’m about to say. For that, I apologize
Hayles asks, “Will the dissemination mechanisms of the internet and the Web, by opening publication to everyone, result in a flood of worthless drivel?” What a great question!
It’s subtly poking at an issue beyond what we talked about last class period (which was, loosely, how the internet is changing the way we deal with words and reading). It’s instead talking about the phasing out of a familiar paradigm—the unknown artists get “signed,” “published,” etc. by a company, and those companies make them famous/successful. But now, the internet allows artists/writers to cut out this familiar middle man, and it’s fair to say the middle man won’t go quietly. And should they? Perhaps we need them to act as a filter so we are not so overwhelmed by choices that we give up trying to filter out the good stuff in a sea of trash. But several things should be kept in mind.
I would first like to point out that, if words are printed on a page, cut, bound, and sold in a bookstore, it doesn’t make it more “literary” than words on a screen. Therefore, publishers don’t necessarily work as filters. There are plenty of items that I see while strolling thought Barnes and Noble that I think belong more rightly in a shredder than in someone’s hand. There is one particular best-selling author of last decade I’m thinking of whose books, from a “writer-ly” perspective, don’t hold a candle to half the blogs I read. It’s as much amateur hour at the bookstore as it is online.
I’m also reminded of one of my first smart phones, a Blackberry, and the brand new app craze. I wanted to get in on the app fun, but the only place I could find them was on slightly shady sites, accessed through my browser. There were no guarantees I would even get something safe for my phone, let alone what I thought I was paying for, and frankly, weeding through and trying to find something I thought might be quality-made was a pain. Then I found the Blackberry App Store, where user reviews determined which apps I would see first. It was like a giant self-correcting system–after all, I didn’t want the equivalent of an app “publisher” to limit my choices and control the market. I just wanted to know what wasn’t garbage. I see no reason why we can’t develop a reader’s version of this system for electronic lit. And, for fear of eliminating a potential job position before I’m even out of college, let me suggest English majors as the authoritative (but not the sole) members of this community of readers!