Personal Experiences

Over the weekend, I went to a Barnes & Noble. I find it strange that people have “unpopularized” libraries, if you will, but still go to book stores with coffee shops and such to work on personal things. While I completely understand the temptation, because I do this myself, it’s funny to think that libraries could serve the same purpose. Anyway, I’m mentioning this because as I think about my project, I almost felt guilty looking at the section that features the Nook and the new tablets. This made me realize though, how important it is for my final website to argue both sides. The temptation to have a Kindle or Nook or table is strong and constantly pushed in our faces. However, I still think that the physical copy of the book is more rewarding.

I work for STAR-NY, which is a online tutoring program, where I help students edit their papers. More than a few times, I’ve told students that something they wrote is grammatically incorrect, and once they fix it they say, “but Word says it should be the other way” or something along those lines. And it’s completely shocking and sad that many of us don’t even think for ourselves anymore — if a machine says it’s correct, then it must be so. I think, as I’ve said before, we are too dependent on technology. Perhaps this isn’t directly related to artistry or e-books, but technology is becoming so invasive in our lives that we don’t think twice about what’s actually right. I don’t know anyone who cites anything without a website generator that does it for you. I do the same, but I also check mine over. Most people have no idea what it should look like without the generator. As I’ve been working on this project, I realize more and more each day just how invasive technology feels to me.

While e-books, self-publishing, nooks, etc. are all good and advance the publishing industry, I think we shouldn’t forget paperbacks, traditional publishers, and (old-fashioned) thinking for ourselves without having a computer tell us how to do something. So I think both these experiences showed me both sides of this argument and made me realize how I could possibly piece together my website.

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Where Do We Draw The Line?

Upon researching some other intersections between artistry and the digital age, I am across an article titled, “Artistry versus machine: Is artistry dying in dentistry and dental labs?” Written by Craig A. Pickett, this article argues that new technologies are cutting out the hand craft of dentistry. He also argues that these machines cannot compare to the craft that is dentistry by hand. Pickett briefly talks about the history of the art was developed for teeth whiting and even says, “Some of the teeth we see in patients are created much more in the Picasso or Seurat style (if you stand back a bit you can see it) than in a form and style we would recognize as artistically created restorative teeth.” His main concern in this article seems to be focused on the fact that technology is ruining the original artistry. He says, “Through automation we’ve been able to produce more in less time, produce more consistently, and produce for a lower price, but in many cases we’ve sacrificed some of the art.”

While reading this article, I couldn’t help but laugh, which is precisely the reason I chose this to discuss in relation to my blog topic. The question that immediately came to mind, as this post is titled, is where do we draw the line? Where is the line between artistry and ridiculousness? if we cannot call self published writers authors (“Self publishing is corrupt”) can we call all professions that require skills art? So which profession makes the cut off? Of course, dentistry takes a skill, but skills and talents are different: one can be learned and one can be developed. Talents could be learned as well, but someone who was not talented to being with probably couldn’t learn the talent to the same extent as a talented person would. Obviously, there are exceptions, but that’s usually the idea.

An interesting distinguishment to make between a talent and a skill is defined on this website. This website defines a talent as “the ability by a person that is inherent, inborn, or naturally occurring. A talent is said to be a special ability to do something without prior experience, study, or tutelage.” They define a skill as the “ability that is learned and practiced for a period of time. A skill is an acquired or obtained ability which is often the result of constant performance and improvement on a particular task or behavior.” Both seem like good definitions to me until I read the next paragraph, which begins with, “Skills are often taught and considered as a demonstrated talent.” I think talents and skills overlap, but not in this way. If anything, a talent is a skill that is naturally inherited, and a skill is the ability to learn to do something well.

This overlap is interesting because by their statement, dentistry is a talent, it’s a form of art. I have to say I disagree, but what do you think? Where do we draw the line between artistry and other professions?

Artistry is Everywhere

The headline to this video and short abstract intrigued me. Though most of the video was interesting but not necessarily related, it connects two separate worlds: business and artistry. Chase Jarvis interviewed Brain Solis about his new book, What’s the Future of Business. This video was particularly interesting because the two discuss, though briefly, the “Creator vs. Creative and the importance of artistry in everything”. Chase Jarvis calls Solis’ book a “new literacy” because from a business point of view, this book was approached and created in an artistic way, which is quite unusual for the business genre. Though Solis, in his answer, does not put the emphasis on being an artist, per se, he does focus on the importance of challenging conventions because “it’s the right thing to do”.

The most important thing he says that drew my attention to connect this video with this research project was, “artistry was a function of communicating the point” (Solis). I draw the attention to this quote specifically because this is where the break is in technology. Technology has it’s ups and downs when it comes to medium and messages. This is one of those cases. This book he created differs from the norm in that it doesn’t have a table of contents. it has pictures and quality images, colors, etc. The idea was not to create another book about someone who we think or perceive as being a successful businessman, but rather a time of leadership and trying things differently in order to reach the audience in a new and attention grabbing way (Solis, 6:15-7:40). My point here is this cannot be done on an e-book. Sure, e-books have advantages, but certainly not like print, which can be very much interactive between the pages and the book itself.

To that point, technology is very biased in the way that print will never be. In Henry Farrell’s interview with Astra Taylor, they discuss her book, The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age, and in this particular section, the bias we are blind to. Her book focuses on “how information technology and market changes are reshaping art and culture”.

Astra Taylor says at one point, “…these catered services generally rely on centralized vendors and services, like Amazon or Apple, that control the hardware we are using and the content we consume….Certain barriers to cultural participation have been removed, and we can all post on social media or comment on articles, but massive asymmetries of power persist” (Farrell). The second video linked in the page on Brain Solis’ interview with Jarvis, talks about Apple. In short, Solis says, Apple is a visionary company, and without a clear goal in mind, without sharing with their consumers what they have in mind for the company’s future, many of their users who use Apple products to accomplish certain things are not responding favorably to the backlash (I assume they are discussing the release of the free music trial, which at first didn’t pay any royalties to artists until Taylor Swift publicly called them out). He goes on to talk about “how we lose sight of what the company’s sole is all about…we lose sight of what that business represents”.

These quotes are significant in the way we look at certain artistry. Artistry is truly everywhere, especially in Apple’s products and hardware/software. Apple is an aesthetic company that controls much of our technological intake. Artistry is a big part of what made Solis’ book possible and artistry is hitting a barrier when it comes to technology. These two quotes, though discussing very different things, both show the impact of technology on artistry.

Works Cited

Farrell, Henry. “Five Key Questions – and Answers – about How Digital Culture Is Hurting Art.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 6 May 2014. Web. 6 Nov. 2015. 
Solis, Brian. “The Importance of Artistry in Business and Everything.” Brian Solis. Brian Solis, 14 Sept. 2015. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Digital Piracy and the Artist

Digital piracy is the ultimate fear for any artist. To do something for a living without receiving the rightful pay is pretty aggravating. But everyone has illegally downloaded something or other at one point in their lives. That’s the world we live in.

Digital piracy was at one point mostly popular with music. “‘If iTunes started three years earlier, I’m not sure how big Napster and the subsequent piratical environments would have been, because people would have been in the habit of legitimately purchasing at pricing that wasn’t considered pernicious,” said Richard Sarnoff, a chairman of Bertelsmann, which owns Random House, the world’s largest publisher of consumer titles.” This is an interesting point that he makes. I’m inclined though to believe that there will always have been some sort of digital piracy for music, or anything else digitally available, since people always want more for less. Perhaps we would not have been as hungry for free music, but to some degree YouTube makes that hunger a reality. If we can listen to it for free, why can’t we have it on our iPods for free?

Digital piracy has expanded since then to not only music, but films, and since pdf’s and e-books, print as well. “Now, with publishers producing more digital editions, it is potentially easier for hackers to copy files. And the growing popularity of electronic reading devices like the Kindle from Amazon or the Reader from Sony make it easier to read in digital form.”

Though published in 2009, this article still remains timely as self publishing (through companies like Amazon and Apple, who have the Kindle and tablets) is growing and challenging traditional publishers. In fact, I would argue that the need to have more content for a smaller price, even free, is becoming worse. Although now Amazon is allowing authors to set their content at their own price, many buyers are very stingy, and authors, especially in fiction, know they cannot overcharge for their books. After all, the consumer is who the writer writes for, and without pay, the write might write, but certainly not for a full time job. Consumers have the power to drive prices down, but thankfully, there are still avid readers who still believe in paying authors and creators their rightful royalties.

Digital piracy definitely does not have the same affect on artists who produce paintings, drawings, and other forms of art in that respect. However, if you Googled Van Gogh’s Starry Night, not only is it readily available, but you can find it in a wide range of sizes, versions, colors, etc. So it’s definitely there for all types of art, but does not affect them all equally.

While reading this article, I was really surprised to see Wattpad listed. When I was in high school, I posted content on Wattpad, and I really liked the website for one reason: it had copyrights for every user for free. No matter how large or small of a portion the site’s content is made up of piracy, this violates authors’ copyrights to their content. And it obviously doesn’t end with Wattpad; all piracy is a violation of copyright. Copyright is especially aggravating because not only is it a violation of the royalties that rightfully belong to an author, but it also somewhat violates their privacy and intimacy with their own ideas, content, and time and effort that they’ve invested in their book or whatever it may be. This might be a stretch, but that is certainly how I would feel if my book was being pirated.

Works Cited

Rich, Motoko. “Print Books Are Target of Pirates on the Web.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 May 2009. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Technology and Publishing: Part IV

I think it’s extremely important to distinguish between the different interests and different aspects of writing / publishing that are being affected. Throughout these articles I’ve shared in the past few weeks, I have talked about: the writer, the actual physical book, the publisher, and publishing industry (the last two of which are not the same). I have previously clumped them all together though as I was learning about all of the components and getting a feel for what exactly is happening with regards to technological advancements. However, in this article, I plan to distinguish between them all and talk about which are being affected how. The last two texts, at least for now, that I will share on this topic are, “Digital Truths Traditional Publishers Don’t Want to Hear,” an article by Barry Eisler, and, “The Future of the Book,” a mini series of essays broken into five chapters published on The Economist, whom I will refer to as the publisher.  

The first realization that I was lumping all the different components together came when I read Eisler’s article. He points out that “publishing isn’t dying,” but publishers are and will if they aren’t willing to evolve. I found this extremely interesting because I hadn’t thought of them as completely two separate entities before. It’s very true, though, they are intertwined but stand alone simultaneously. Publishing content in the traditional way, meaning sharing with others, whether authors are paid for it or not, will never cease to exist. However, as Eisler talks about for quite some time, “Because of digital, legacy publishing, which used to be a necessity, is now only potentially useful.” Eisler also distinguishes very clearly what publishers do and what is necessary. He lists the services that publishers provide to authors: editorial, copyediting, proofreading, jacket design, printing, and marketing, all bundled with distribution. Nevertheless, all of this is becoming optional with online publication, e-books, and the newly self-publishing method. “We have to be careful not to conflate publishing services with the entities that have traditionally provided them,” (Eisler). So these services are available, but have become optional because of technology.

Writing, as I have spoken extensively about, also will never cease to exist; however, the ways in which it exists have been altered (i.e. Twitter, blogging, etc.), and writing, as a profession especially, is up for debate as to whether or not it can withstand the new advancements and the monetary changes. Lastly, the physical book: though we are moving away from it, I believe there’s still a long while before it becomes obsolete.

 The Economist has written it’s first chapter in this essay on the actual book and where it’s headed, and I believe this applies for the entire essay. The Economist, in chapter one, isn’t talking about the writer or the publisher — to some degree, they’re talking about publishing, but they are generally focused on the physical book. The first chapter uses Cicero’s de Officiis as the main example. This chapter discusses the many different media this text has gone through over the years of its publication, to which The Economist states:

But to see technology purely as a threat to books risks missing a key point. Books are not just “tree flakes encased in dead cow”, as a scholar once wryly put it. They are a technology in their own right, one developed and used for the refinement and advancement of thought. And this technology is a powerful, long-lived and adaptable one.

It goes on to say that there was the purpose of having private thoughts and pleasures when reading a book. However, technology can be used now to share thoughts, meaning, feelings about a given text. This is a very positive way to look at technology, the benefit that it gives readers. It allows the world to, in a sense, become smaller because thoughts from across the world can be shared instantly. The chapter concludes with, “The private joys of the book will remain; new public pleasures are there to be added.” In this respect, technology is a beneficial medium for books. However, this is just books we’re talking about not the whole spectrum of publishing and it’s components, discussed earlier. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a discussion about what degree this is changing publishing, as I mentioned in one of the first posts.

To conclude, the four components mentioned (books, the writer, publishing, and publishers) are all being changed throughout this development of technology. I think for the most part, publishers are taking the hardest hit, following that, are books, and then writers. However, I am the least concerned with publishing because it’s still thriving, but simply in a different form. The fact that publishing has changed doesn’t seem to really cause any damage. However, this doesn’t seem true for the other three components. Of course, all of these will survive, but they might be compromised. Everything comes to an equilibrium at some point, and whether that “homeostasis” is something that we are satisfied with in the future or not is a different story.

Works Cited

Eisler, Barry. “The Digital Truths Traditional Publishers Don’t Want to Hear.” The Guardian. The Guardian News and Media, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.

“The Future of the Book.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 8 Oct. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.

Technology and the Publishing Industry: Part III

Last week’s post was depressing in many ways, but gave more insight on the negative effects of technology on the publishing industry and addressed the most important piece: to what extent. So for this post, I will be discussing an article that is, as suggested by the title, more uplifting than the last. It was published in 2013 by Evan Hughes on The New Republic.

The page’s title is, “The Publishing Industry is Thriving,” although the article‘s title is, “Books Don’t Want to Be Free”. They are separate titles referring to two different things, but it feels as though either one could have been this article’s title. The subtitle reads, “How publishing escaped the cruel fate of other culture industries.”

So the titles and headings all seem very promising, until I began reading. It’s not so much that the publishing industry is still thriving or doing so well there’s no need to worry. What this article is falsely advertising is that the publishing industry, compared to other industries, is doing okay for the time being, not even amazing. The article was not all bad news, as Hughes says,

At the individual level, everyone in the trade—whether executive, editor, agent, author, or bookseller—faces threats to his or her livelihood: self-publishing, mergers and “efficiencies,” and, yes, the suspicious motives of Amazon executives. But the book itself is hanging on and even thriving.

Hughes compares the publishing industry to the music, film, and journalism industries. No wonder, in this perspective, books are thriving. However, he never claims that the industry is not facing it’s fair share of inevitable decline or that compared to industries which have actually become better through technology, the publishing industry is doing well.

However, on a more uplifting note, he continues on to say that although technology has most certainly depredated from the three aforementioned industries, in the publishing industry, the entirety of a text is only given once the customer pays the asking price. This directly contradicts the viewpoint of Morrison, whose argument I discusses last week. Morrison points out that many people, with the new freedom of e-books, can now pirate those for free, in turn driving the prices down.

Hughes acknowledges that there’s more to this industry than merely the cost of producing and paying for the production of a book. He says, in the following paragraph,

Reading never depended too much on sensual verisimilitude, only a mental leap from the words to the ideas they represent. The book is so low-tech, it’s hard for technology to degrade it.

This seems, to some degree, to be true. But to think more critically of what Hughes says casually here: technology has somehow succeeded into making print less practical and usable than it used to be. When every student, for instance, has a laptop, Kindle, Nook, or tablet, it’s almost counterintuitive to print out a reading, or to buy a paper/hardback book. Perhaps Hughes is not directly speaking of the physicality of a book, here, but it is a huge part of the degradation of the publishing industry. Yes, text that is published online is just as viable and valid as a physical print copy. But the art of publishing and the art of written word, the art of reading when it’s not surrounded by other contexts (the rhetoric of a website) all gets lost when the physical book becomes obsolete. And who wants to waste paper and their money on printing?

Hughes continues to talk about libraries, to which I had to stop reading for a moment. It’s sad to think about how vital libraries used to be just a generation ago. There was no Google or Internet, there was no where else to get information but the library. Whereas today, libraries have also become obsolete in that the most they’re used for is avid readers and people who need a quiet place, but have no intention of looking for or using any of the books in the library. His point here is that books there are free — but what he might not recognize is that books there have probably not been updated in a while. Moreover, he disagrees with the prediction (made in 2010) that book piracy will skyrocket.

Hughes seems to be in favor of e-book, to which he demonstrates the profit margin (at 75%). For paper and hard backs, the profit margin is 41%. He favors this because “publishers can charge much less, but make much more,” the title of the image provided reads. So it feels as though people with views parallel to Hughes’ seem to care more about the profit margin and the ability to keep the industry going, even barely, than they do about preserving the art of reading, physical books, and the artistry of the publishing industry and the writing industry as it was before technology.

I also found this article titled, “50 things that are being killed by the internet,” and for some reason, it was less depressing than the last two I mentioned. Though it doesn’t directly speak about the publishing or writing industry, I thought it would be a fun read to look through.

Works Cited
Hughes, Evan. “Books Don’t Want to Be Free.” The New Republic. The New Republic, 8 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
Moore, Matthew. “50 Things That Are Being Killed by the Internet.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 4 Sept. 2009. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.

Technology and the Publishing Industry: Part II

In my post last week, I mentioned two articles which argue two different sides of the same issue. One article says that technology will overpower the publishing industry, and even now, is changing the way we read. The other argues that readers and consumers are actually demanding longer content due to technology making it possible to take it on the go. I was neither convinced that either were right, nor was I satisfied with only one person’s opinion for each side. This week, I found an article titled, “Are Books Dead, and Can Authors Survive,” written by Ewan Morrison. This article is a brief version of the arguement he made at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (published in August 2011).

In his argument, Morrison starts by making it clear he thinks writing as a profession is dead. He states, “The digital revolution will not emancipate writers or open up a new era of creativity, it will mean that writers offer up their work for next to nothing or for free” (Morrison).  This is not to say writing is dead, but anyone who wants to make a living of it won’t be able to do so. He makes this point, that paper will soon be gone, based on statistics pulled from widely different sources, all claiming that digital delivery is drowning all types of physical content.

Morrison poses an important question: will authors be able to make a living of writing throughout the digital era? And he attempts to answer this question based on history. He says, “The economic framework that supports artists is as important as the art itself; if you remove one from the other then things fall apart. And this is what is happening now.”

Morrison, here, is tempting his readers to believe that artistry as a whole wouldn’t be able to survive if there were no advances for artists to do their work. He says this is precisely though what is happening in this era. Authors are taking risks publishing their work through publishing industries, drowning in debt in hopes that they will make a big break. There are little to no advances from the publishing industries. Publishers are focusing more on short term profits.

And this is where self publishing comes into play and gains popularity — but that is for a later discussion. Self publishing leads to Morrison’s discussion of the long tail.

In simple terms, the long tail derives its name from graphs of sales against number of products. Whereas throughout the 20th century publishers concentrated on selling only a few heavily promoted “hits” or “bestsellers” in bulk, digital shopping has meant that what was originally a tail-off in sales, has now become increasingly profitable. Rather than selling, say, 13m copies of one Harry Potter book, a long tail provider can make the same profits by selling 13m different “obscure”, “failed'” and “niche” books (Morrison).

Morrison, in the last section of his argument, draws the connection between the long tail and sweatshops, claiming that the long tail is the sweatshop of the future.

Morrison continues to talk about the “Free Revolution” and provides several examples about the “financial downturn in the digital industries,” including home videos, music, computer games, newspapers, and the internet. The downward slide towards free content comes from both consumers demand for discounts and their ability to pirate material, which brings the realization that it’s ridiculous to pay for e-books and other content which is available for free, legal or not.

The final “answer”or solution that Morrison comes to at the conclusion of his argument is that the way to get past this is by demanding that writers get paid a living wage for their work, strengthening the bond between writers and publishers, who must learn to take a long term risk, and restrain from giving into the temptation for “quick-fix consumerism”.

After reading through Morrison’s argument, I have found that it is much more stable and provided much more evidence towards his claims. Though this article was somewhat depressing to read through, this is something to consider seriously. The technological industry, if you will, is in a much more complex relationship with the publishing industry (and the writing industry — which are not the same) than one can imagine. No, there is no simple solution or answer, but Morrison provides his own. However, as for me (and this project), there is still more research to be done. The ultimate question I face is towards artistry as a whole and whether or not technology is destroying it, or simply, to what degree?

Works Cited
Morrison, Ewan. “Are Books Dead, and Can Authors Survive?” The Guardian. The Guardian News and Media, 22 Aug. 2011. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.