publication ≠ productivity. this equation is made instantly self-evident through the crabs epidemic. we can publish endlessly without ever producing a thing. at uws the other day, i was reminded of the discussion of two years ago (here and here) around poetry, the internet, publication and the post. unfortunately, again, we’re going to have to talk about space and the page, the eye and the brain, the bureaucratic organism and the writer. responding to a question about publishing opportunities for young poets/writers, i said that i almost* don’t see the point in publishing work on arbitrary ‘online journals’ unless i’m getting paid.
unlike higher research degree panels i think the evolution of creatively critical communities is more important than a list of publications. peer collaboration is as important as peer review. practically, at this point in time i regret not having ‘published’ more work during and after my undergrad. but i was part of a community that made things public all the time. in this context publication is an abstraction for which a public which must be reified by some sort of bureaucratic recognition. a book is published and then pulped, while friends of friends post pingbacks for a blog post. the published work without a public and the public unpublished piece.
the thought of doing a degree in an english department terrifies me and i feel relieved to have been spared it. a trad english lit approach to the internet cannot achieve much online. as is pointed out in the previous debates, i’m not a new media enthusiast – if only because i know nothing about it. but i guess i’m saying that engaging with online publication (read literally: making things public) must come to terms with some of the ways in which the internet is neither a really long book nor a really large library. this is confusing, since the internet has pages, but still it is not a book? unfortunately not. it is tempting to think that since the internet has pages which cost less money than the pages of books, and postage for email is cheaper, that the internet is the best place for niche publishing. i don’t pretend to understand the first thing about the potentialities of the internet as a truly communicative medium. i’m imagining cross-cultural, multilingual, machine-generated and automated dialogues and self-aware machinery, but these are (to me at least) pure imagination**. in a much more basic sense, from the point of view of someone who is between the generation of people for whom new media is new and people whom the internet predates, there are certain terms that should be addressed. a short list might be: curation, design/function, spatiality, dialogue/critique, traffic, light/dark, image/text. basically, the making-public of text online has a lot more to do with the role of the curator than the role of the editor or publisher. this could quite gratefully be carried over into a lot of print media. last week’s grumbles about the responsibility of editors to actively instigate and cultivate a culture of critical writing around poetry is relevant. curators don’t sit around and wait for submissions to arrive. neither do good editors, good editors are pro/active, but i think there’s something about the practical ease of posting (physical world) written work and a conception of writing as something other than a visual medium that leads to the creation of online journals that might be pieces of paper stacked one upon the other. where these journals already exist and function, great. keep them going.
when i say that publication in itself exists as a bureacratic category, i mean that the only people for whom volume of publication is paramount are academics (or aspiring academics), journalists (and aspiring) and grant-seekers. these three groups (don’t think i’m being critical here, the only one i have no intention of becoming is a journalist). for the organisms that govern these three groups quantity is a far more important criterion than quality. as a young poet productivity is of more import to me than publication. obviously publication is important, but you won’t find me asking online magazines to let me write reviews of cds. if i want to come to terms with something i will write about it. and if i feel that there is a good place for that working through (piece of writing) then i would approach whoever organises that place. and i would compose something for someone if they wanted something from me that i wanted to do. i guess that’s the point; publication is valuable insomuch as it encourages productivity (which i’ll define personally as the creation of interesting, new, worthwhile work). from what i can see the internet is a place for collaboration, curation and archiving, networked spaces developed through the collaboration of people with varied skills and interests. that, or the work of people with a genuinely intuitive sense for what might work in an electronic setting. but to keep this close to things that closely resemble publication, i’d refer to things like ubuweb, triple canopy, or a project i’ve been involved in, when pressed. these environments deal with the elements that i mentioned earlier. ubuweb is on the side of the archive, triple canopy of the magazine, when pressed perhaps closer to the gallery. or might be. when pressed is still coming together. it needs wider involvement, more commitment from the people who take on the curation (than me, for example). the networks are still embryonic. i think it will function best when it operates between the journal, the archive and the gallery space. submissions are sought along themed collections, but the space benefits from remaining open, i think. adding more work and rotating its focus. breathing.
it might seem that i am against publication. but i think our generation is able to come towards publication comfortably in a critical way. the happening was the unpublishable public work. documentation isn’t frightening to us because we are familiar with its partiality and is temporality. text is fleeting. publics are imagined and moving. it is for them/us that we make work (public).
*the almost here is as important as the rest of the phrase.
**really, this is an incredibly old-fashioned approach to the topic, replacing an outdated conceptualisation (the printing press) with something older (space) when approaching the online.