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Print is Dead is a succinct and useful field guide to digital media. JavaScript is currently disabled, this site works much better if you enable JavaScript in your browser. Publishing With Us. Book Authors Journal Authors. Each zone of activity contributes to a dynamic and continuous cycle of cultural production, and each zone is animated by its own set of circuits.

These activities will culminate in the production of a physical commodity. Distributing books requires logistics infrastructure for managing inventory and shipping goods, administrative structures for maintaining sales relationships with retailers, and the support of these processes through marketing and promotion initiatives. The reception of literary works will in turn exert pressures on the publisher and influence what kinds of books are subsequently produced, whether authors are signed to multi-book contracts, and so on.

In the circuit I have described, the salient point is that once produced, a book is fixed in terms of its content and scope, if not its cultural meaning as theorists of intertextuality rightly assert. While this description of the circuit of literary production is simplistic, it permits us to consider the ways in which this normative arrangement is challenged. In the first instance, it is necessary to acknowledge that production occurs within a cultural field in which the creation of meaning and value extend far beyond those rights holders to whom ownership is assigned by rule of law.

The work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu establishes the significance of these undervalued relations. A literary work authored by a single individual, in other words, is substantively constituted by social actors who occupy positions within the cultural field and actively shape and support it. Certainly in the literary field of production, the normative model privileges the creative labour of writers working alone.

Joint authorship, while not unusual, is more common in scholarly discourse, and particularly prevalent in the sciences Biagioli. In the field of electronic literature, collaboration is astonishingly, yet at the same time understandably, widespread — so much so that the Electronic Literature Collections include both principal and additional credits for included works. Of the works collected in Volumes 1 and 2 of the Electronic Literature Collection , forty works assign principal credit to more than one author.

Of the remaining eighty-three works, fourteen acknowledge significant programming, design, animation, sound design or audio production contributions. Given the widespread use of video, audio, and digital images, and the wide variety of programming languages represented, it stands to reason that many works of electronic literature would be created through the distribution of creative responsibilities.

In the two volumes of the Electronic Literature Collection this is particularly evident among works classified as narrative. Among the fifteen works so designated, only two are individually authored.

Print Is Dead : Books in our Digital Age

While not absolute, there is a clear imperative to create works under conditions of collaboration and distributed creative responsibility, and this challenges the models of production and authorship specifically that predominate in the broader literary field. In considering the consumption of literary texts, and how their reception integrates with production activities, it is useful to recognize the ways in which the division of activities is challenged or recalibrated.

Within the field of electronic literature countless techniques have been deployed for integrating user agency in determining reading paths; 5 however modification of a work by a reader such that it is apparent to subsequent readers is unusual. This holds despite the early, enthusiastic claims characteristic of hypertext theory that authorial control is relinquished to the reader. In effect, Facebook and Twitter interactions, in particular, are indicative of the compression of cultural production, circulation and reception activities.

Consumption and reception are no longer restricted to a lengthy feedback loop involving a multiplicity of production activities; they are components in a dynamic and ongoing process. While this kind of frenetic textual and multimedia production may not lend itself to the creation of compelling and coherent prose narrative, it can contribute to the deepening of character development, setting, and description.

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Many adaptive production, circulation and reception strategies are already evident in narrative works of electronic literature. TOC recounts the story of a fictional people mythologically, culturally, and ontologically oriented toward time. The work promotes an exploratory experience that recalls the genres of hypertext fiction and interactive fiction, but it also channels the navigation practices of game worlds.

TOC departs quite notably from a model of solitary authorship.

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Four principal credits are provided, to Tomasula as author, to Stephen Farrell for creative direction and design, to Matt Lavoy for animation, and to Christian Jara for DVD authoring, programming, sound engineering, and additional animation and narration. The three principal exploratory components or chapters of the novel include additional credits for narration, music, video, animation, and painting.

There is an unsettled aspect to the designation of authorship and production credits in TOC that evinces the conditions of collaborative production in many works of electronic literature. However, the DVD cover and disc additionally list Matt Lavoy and Christian Jara, although their names appear in standard weight font, while the principal authors appear in bold face.

Lengthier credits appear inside the DVD case and they set Tomasula, Farrell and Jara apart, listing Lavoy within a more detailed and comprehensive listing of production credits. The creation of this multimedia narrative is facilitated by creative collaboration and the distribution of authority between distinct roles that bridge literary, new media, audio, and cinema production. Flight Paths is another example of collaborative production models in electronic literature. The work in progress consists, to date, of six fragments.


Each fragment combines text, motion graphics, digital images and music. Flight Paths tells the story of two characters, Yacub, an illegal migrant who hides in the wheel well of an airplane, and Harriet, an English woman. These contributions can be made through a number of communication channels, including email, text comment, Facebook and Flickr groups, and media storage services. Notably, these digital media formats and services are tools that are widely used for everyday communication, file storage, photo sharing, and social media networking.

Whereas TOC was created using a collaborative production model, the work itself was fixed for distribution, and further contributions to it are not solicited publicly. Flight Paths demonstrates how collaboration opportunities can be opened up to an audience, and how a narrative can be developed episodically, over time, in order to incorporate these contributions.

Flight Paths is also published to the web and can therefore accommodate an indeterminate number of chapters.

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Flight Paths , in other words, is produced within a circuit of production that, if overseen by principal creators with a high degree of authorial control, nonetheless establishes a model for soliciting contributions over a communications network and opens up the possibility for further transformative works to be developed. A final example of collaborative practice in digital media production demonstrates possibilities for wider distribution of creative agency as well as a formal structure conducive to a collaborative production process. It is not a work of prose narrative fiction, but rather an interactive multimedia documentary that invites exploration of global experiences of living in high-rise buildings.

Each apartment is comprised of a degree photographic collage panorama that encompasses both the view from the apartment and an expanse of interior living space. The work is largely visual, auditory and photographic, however many segments rely heavily on text translations of monologues from various world languages into English. Out My Window demonstrates how multimedia strategies can integrate video, audio, music, panoramic photography, and text in a web-based user interface very effectively, and deliver the experience over the Internet. And although the feature-length web documentary does not incorporate additive participation, user contributed photos and stories are invited in a companion web project.

The project also demonstrates that a diversity of documentarians, languages, and narrative voices can together coalesce in a larger thematic concern. Here it is perhaps no coincidence that the production emerges out of a cinema community in which collaboration is the norm. These three multimedia works together offer a glimpse forward to a born-networked narrative genre calibrated to the characteristics of contemporary computer mediated communications.

All three works exhibit a pronounced commitment to collaborative production practices. Their creators implicitly recognize that quality multimedia content requires specialized skills and the distribution of creative agency. Although documentary in nature, the structural features of Out My Window demonstrate how many separate yet interconnected stories may coexist within one multimedia narrative structure.

While Out My Window required the coordination of numerous documentarians for the release of a complete interactive project, a fictional adaptation of the same framework might give individual contributors a creative space in which to develop distinct characters. Story elements could be as loosely or tightly anchored to one another as the enthusiasm of independent authors for linking their work together. Applied to prose narrative, the extensible story framework of Out My Window would free a narrative project from the kind of managerial oversight required to advance the story in Flight Paths.

A looser network of stories would avoid the imperative of an ever advancing, sequentially ordered set of chapters, and better harness the energies of an active base of participants. The Flash production environments of Flight Paths and Out My Window present obstacles for shifting away from centralized, authorial control and fixed output, however blogging platforms offer extensive multimedia capabilities for integrating varied kinds of content.

Given a sufficiently large group of creators and an extensible narrative premise, a born-networked narrative might generate the kind of vigorous and participatory circuit of production, circulation and reception that we associate with social media. Anxieties about the future of print, the book, and the novel are anchored in particular conceptions of print culture, print materiality, and literary production. They rest on the conviction that deep incompatibilities separate particular cultural forms and communication media.

Today, network communications technologies significantly shape everyday communication practices, but they do not render prose narrative fiction incompatible with them. Surfing the web, following twitter and RSS feeds, tagging digital photographs, Facebooking and other everyday communication practices certainly do not constitute reading in the same sense that we speak of reading a novel.

Nonetheless, they activate processes that are compatible with reading, and that are highly textual.

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These processes are capable of supporting multimedia prose narrative works, and providing a fertile base for collaborative works of unquestionable literary merit to emerge. In order to adequately address the everyday practices of the digital media ecology, and move from novels to network narratives, authors and creators of prose narrative must substantively incorporate video, audio, digital image, motion graphic and textual resources into their work.

Creators must demonstrate a commitment to network models of participation, collaboration, and contribution. Without the emergence of a narrative genre finely tuned to the participatory and collaborative production values of network communications, electronic literature may remain on the margins of the literary field.