Ah, Internet writing. What does one call thee?

What does it mean “to publish”? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as when one makes information available to the public. In A Writing Revolution Seed Magazine written by Denis Pelli and Charles Bigelow at Seed Magazine, the two make claims around what publishing means today. Yes, what they consider as contemporary publishing is supported with graphs and statistics, conveying that the Internet is making it even easier for anyone to essentially publish (make things public); however, I’m not so entirely on board that what they are describing is called “publishing”.

This reading reminded me of the discussion we had on when something should be called a book. When I think of the word “publishing”, I think of the traditional act of going through a publisher and making work public that way. After all, the two words are from the same root. And that’s where I have the first disconnect with this reading. To put something on the Internet, and make it available to the public is not, in my opinion, publishing. Yes, by definition it makes sense to call it so; however, because making something public on the Internet I do not believe his is publishing. It all goes back to finding new words to name things that are fairly new. Just like how we debated when a blog post becomes a magazine, then I think this article is a perfect starting point to open the discussion of when a “post” becomes a piece of writing that is “published”. Maybe because material on the Internet lacks the official stamp of approval of a publisher, which is why they should be labelled as something else? Possibly just “posts”?
Pelli and Bigelow also present a graph saying that it is “the first published graph of the history of authorship”:
Here, I find it problematic how they use the term “author”, and I never found it clear if this graph referred to authors who have written books, being on Facebook or Twitter. My sense of the article was that anyone writing on these platforms is considered an author. With this huge rise, in using the word “author” as an umbrella term, they conclude that, “authors, once a select minority, will soon be a majority.”
Yet, can we truly consider someone on Facebook (you or I?) an author? Does tweet make you an author? The blog attachment, I can get on board with as there are consistent blog writers; but, they produce long form material under whatever the theme of their blog is. When someone puts something on Facebook or Twitter, it is usually all disjointed materials.
To spare you from a more ranty response, I’ll end on a more…constructive note:
The Internet brings with it a lot of opportunity for publishers, writers, and readers. And the statistics, ignoring the terms they use, are quite staggering in regards to the amount of content being dispersed into the world. It’s a strange time to become an author or a publisher. Things must be considered that never entered our minds before concerning our Internet identities. I think that in the wider scope, the Internet is in fact still quite young. We are still figuring out our place in it, and its place in the world. But, to gain a better understanding of it and write better articles that concern it, there needs to be a better vocabulary for it when discussing  online writing. The tradition of publishing is an ages-old one, and I truly believe it is not as easy to just transfer its terms to this new digital landscape.

One Reply to “Ah, Internet writing. What does one call thee?”

  1. I certainly appreciate the call for new terminology, and I certainly agree that the use of the same terms (i.e., “publishing” and “author”) for very different activities is problematic. However, we do have online-specific terms (i.e., “posting”, “tweeting”, “user”, “user generated content”, etc.). So: why do we fall back on those default terms? Is there not something that remains the same about the activity that we want to capture? Why should we see them as different?

Leave a Reply