Archives for the month of: February, 2015

This week in LAPIS we looked at the history of publishing as well as issues surrounding copyright and intellectual property law.

Copyright and Intellectual Property: How much is it just about money?  Well, entirely, I guess.  Hogarth got an Act passed to protect his income.  Vera Lynn fought to get it back when her copyright as a performer expired (meaning, additionally that she had no say when the BNP decided to use one of her tracks), Portishead gave away copyright to help a charity.  The pirates that are turned on are those who are causing large losses of money – Pirate Bay and thingybob, for example, recently, and The Pirate King way back when.

As with Shermaine, I have done some piracy in the past.  I spent the best part of two decades taping music off the radio – initially the charts, then mostly live music (I giggled inwardly when Sarah said people did this thirty years ago, I only stopped about ten years back).  As a child, most of what I listened to was those tapes, it wasn’t until I got a paper round that I started, slowly (it took a few weeks to save up for a CD album, the price has gone down since the mid-90s), to build a collection.  Once I did, my pirating activities slowed.  I never embraced the internet for that, I always liked the real thing.  So, at times this stopped me putting money in but later it ensured that I did.  As did receiving taped albums from friends.  Though I spent years listening to a copy of Jagged Little Pill on tape, I eventually did buy it on CD.  With more legitimate ways of accessing good quality music online (esp youtube), will piracy fade away (along with record shops), as new models appear?  And that’s just a random snapshot of music!  What will the future bring elsewhere?

Young Jim in piratical days

Young Jim in piratical days*

Copyright is a minefield but one that is slowly adapting.  There may be many restrictions to what can be done on Moodle (there’s a whole team in the library dealing with the digitisation of items for posting, ensuring compliance with copyright law), but in the world of Inter-Library Loans there has been an opening up of material.  Now, the government tells us, we can print and send or email a pdf of any electronic article for another university – no matter what it says in the contract we have with the publisher who supplies it to us (to be fair, quite a lot are happy for us to do so anyway).  One university in particular is quite bullish about this point, quoting the law at us when submitting a request so that we don’t refuse.  However, at a conference last November (sorry Ernesto, I skipped your send RECs lecture for this – but then I did get to see the British Library book robots!!!), many librarians showed a reluctance to do this.  Despite what the law states, no one wants to be a test case- my own fear is that publishers might ramp up the price of subscriptions or refuse to sell to British institutions if they won’t comply with licence agreements.  Still, it is good that that law has been relaxed.  It would be even better, of course, if all journals just went open access, esp in cases such as this:


*Source of Pirate Hat: (via Google Image search)


Two of the articles we read for this week were in part concerned with items other than the published works of an author.  Michel Foucault in What is an Author? talks about what can and can’t be regarded as being part of an author’s work- are any notes a part of it, for example?

From What is an Author?

From What is an Author?

Matthew Kirschenbaum in What is an @uthor? extends this thought into the modern era, wondering about an author’s social media output as well as personal appearances and talks which are more likely, perhaps, nowadays to be reported on twitter or recorded for placement online.  A recent book tour and involvement on Twitter from author, William Gibson, is cited as an example.  As seen through this example, notes made by authors can sometimes bolster or diminish arguments around the works of that author, or others.  A note made by Coleridge in his copy of Othello (Iago’s “motiveless malignity”) was much later conveyed to my A Level class when studying the play.  When writing an introduction to Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks consulted the notes he made when writing the novel.  JK Rowling sketched her own characters and different ideas to help her when writing Harry Potter.  Many authors leave stuff behind  in this way – but also through interviews and, nowadays, via social media.  Should their views be regarded as the be all and end all, should everything they produce become part of their ouevre?

To a large extent this is, perhaps, an argument for scholars of literature but it does also have a knock-on effect on libraries and archives, who could stand to benefit from such interest- especially if they chose to publish their holdings.  City University London, for example, has a bound set of an old literary periodical called the Athenaeum (ultimately now The New Statesman), inside which are notes from the editor identifying the, otherwise anonymous or initialised, book reviewers and details of their pay.  Such details could be very important to researchers of the Athenaeum, or indeed those who contributed to it.

Libraries and archives are custodians of such information and need to be careful with it.  Believe it or not, there was a professor who paid a visit to an old library.  Upon leaving he announced that he had erased the pencil notes left in the books, thinking he was doing the owners a great favour.  He was promptly told the notes were made by George Eliot.

Foucault calls writing “something designed to ward off death.”  Does it also grant immortality?  For some, perhaps, where works survive, perhaps, but not where they are lost.  Aristophanes has done well, where many Greek dramatists have no doubt disappeared (some may slowly be discovered in Herculaneum).  (I tried to write a story about this once by googling my name around the world and creating a conference of James Atkinsons through history).  But digital survival is the new key.  People have worried about it for years (a google search takes us back at least as far as 2004) and it came up again this week with Google’s vice-president Vint Cerf warning about the safety of digital information.

As Ernesto pointed out in the lecture, Foucault, and Barthes, were both very image conscious.(Incidentally, my birthday is also 15th October).

As Ernesto pointed out in the lecture, Foucault, and Barthes, were both very image conscious. (Incidentally, my birthday is also 15th October).

This, and something Ernesto said (I’m not sure what as I keep forgetting to bring my notes to the blogface) at the the start of the lecture made me think about a line from Yes by Manic Street Preachers: “For $200 anyone can become a God on video.”  With smartphones and free software, I guess it is probably a lot cheaper these days – however, as ever, getting the timing right and reaching the right people is key- as shown, perhaps, by the example of Daniel Wickham’s tweeting during the Charlie Hebdo solidarity march in Paris.

As an aside, as with Ernesto – has anyone else conversed with the famous on Twitter, or elsewhere on social media?

The theme of cycles and trends came up a lot in the second session.  With book shops becoming publishers, are things moving full circle?  This may actually be a flash in the pan example but Joyce’s Ulysses was published by a bookshop in Paris (ultimately because no publisher would touch it – additionally Robert McCrum’s The 100 best novels series currently being published in The Observer (it started about the same time I started this course) gives interesting notes on the publication of each text – its amazing with a lot of the early ones how many books first became big on the other side of the Atlantic from that on which they were written).  The blending of technologies, a la Brecht, is also something coming back as books become electronic and their future could mix with gaming; self-publishing makes a return as it becomes as affordable as it was in the Middle Ages; and mashups are what the Dadaists got up to.  We ended last week hearing about the history in the present – such loops and returns reinforce this idea.

Importance of medium… “The medium is the message,” said Marshall McLuhan many moons ago, also that art is a trap for your attention: advertising fights for it everywhere; book and album covers on shelves.  So much is invested in the medium itself: everything published, or more or less, will arguably only work in that one medium.  I can see how how you get your message across can be the message itself.  Or at least a part of it.  Probably the part that helps you remember it. Literacy is a form of awareness, McLuhan also says in a video we watched in class, which links in nicely with Information Literacy and knowing the gaps in your knowledge that need filling.  You need to be not only aware of available resources but what you what to get from them.



It was stated that there is only one copy of the Mona Lisa and there was also mention of Doctor Who.  Combined and taking Doctor Who as the serious historical documentary I believe it be, we know that Leonardo di Vinci actually made several copies of the Mona Lisa.  In an adventure written by Douglas Adams (and starring Grand Maester Pycelle while featuring John Cleese, it was also partially filmed in Paris and one episode had the highest Dr Who viewing figures of all time), City of Death shows that an alien visiting earth in the prehistoric era was split across time enabling him to force di Vinci to produce many Mona Lisas which he built into a cellar enabling them to be later sold on the black market (after stealing the one in the Louvre).  Therefore, there are, in fact, 7 Mona Lisas.

On a more serious note, I was also struck by the strangeness when viewing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre that Ernesto spoke of.  It is a celebrity painting, an adoring crowd always before it, kept back by a barrier not unlike those at concerts.  Even walking from one side to the other to see if the eyes follow is made difficult by this strange status I’m not sure is shared by any other work of art.  When there I found it rather nice to turn my back and view the painting at the opposite end of the gallery.  A painting that really shows how good it is to see the original because it is so flipping big.  Incidentally, after some thirty years of being told that the Mona Lisa “was smaller than I thought it would be” I was expecting something really tiny and was surprised by how big it was.  I think in art especially, the medium is, if not the message, then a huge part of it.

Finally (sorry I’ve drifted on so long), after Ernesto told us about his school typing lessons, I had meant to link to a new electronic typing tool called the Hemingwrite.  I didn’t last week, so here it is this week.

A new term begins and this blog gets resurrected (though I managed to add a couple of blogs between this and my old DITA ones – try The Princess’ Crown – it’s rather good, I think) as a reflection on module INM380: Libraries and Publishing in an Information Society (or LAPIS).

“Where do libraries and publishers interact and intersect?”  I wrote in my notes at one point, with the idea of drawing a Venn diagram being mooted.  After reading the blogs of others, I wondered if the two circles should not be completely separate with an arrow drawn from publisher to library.  This was inspired by my job at the moment, which involves a lot of receiving new books from publishers, so, to me, the relationship of libraries and publishers is that of buyer and seller.  But as, Jayne Sunley’s blog for this week showed, this is not the only case.  Indeed, anyone who uses social media or posts comments on websites is a publisher- the web has slowly changed things a lot (as a look at next week’s readings shows, even in the last ten years there has been a big paradigm (?) shift from knowledge to sharing economies). Therefore, thinking outside the box and looking at different experiences, via our blogs in the first instance, will be an important step to understanding LAPIS.

Thinking outside the box... in a cloud, apparently

Thinking outside the box… in a cloud, apparently

“Different uses of drones… maps… aid… war…” – This was an interesting point that our lecturer raised – the same is true of twitter and all publishing, libraries too potentially.  The former can be used for all kinds of propaganda, as is shown throughout the history of publishing, no doubt, from all kinds of lies printed and causes raised.  #everydaysexism and #nomorepagethree (as well as #jesuischarlie in a different way; in the margin I wrote #inventahashtagbecomefamous – a more cynical ? look at the use of publishing tools) are good examples of hashtags promoting causes.  Political wrangling, advertising, charity campaigning, education – all are different uses of publishing.  Libraries, too, in the hands of censors, could severely limit the “wrong” knowledge – from Nazi Germany, a similar example is that of Greek and Roman history disappearing from universities.

Self-positioning, Critical reflection – twice I made notes about reflection, a process we may all become very familiar with if we become chartered with CILIP; here as a way to detect and make changes, something libraries and publishers are having to do constantly now, perhaps more than they ever have.  Are we at the end of publishing as we know it or the end of the beginning?  Or just another step along an ever evolving change?  Perhaps, over the next nine weeks we will, through looking at different uses of publishing and using critical reflection, we shall see – or begin to.

Elsewhere – I am sure there is a way we City students (and staff) can watch theatre through the library catalogue, but cannot for the life of me find it.  I also really want to self-publish this term… I have an idea and will write more about it here if I get any further.