I attended a conference on the future of the book in March and wrote a blog post about what I learned: that the future of the book will involve curating more than single-artist creativity; that “reading as something you do by yourself will be outmoded for our children’s children”; and that the future of the book is being developed in the gamer world. And then I promptly went back to my work as a solitary editor and writer, who reads novels and poetry at night and to small children whenever she can.
Nikolina Likarevic, who has joined the Descant team through a practicum opportunity with Ryerson University, expands on the ideas of the future of the book in her post below. Nikolina sets the discussion in the context of old vs. new media and provides us with some useful links to explain and support her ideas. (Plus, she gets bonus points for being the first Descant blog writer to use the verb “descant”).
Let us know what you think in the comments section that follows. Do you see this future as really that different from what’s going on now? Is the predicted difference one of degree or kind? And, in this new literary world where everyone shares their ideas and there are no more celebrity writers, um, dare I be so pedantic as to ask: who gets paid, how much, when, and will it be even worse than it is now?
Margaret Atwood, one of our most celebrated and well-known writers, writes alone even though she is one of the biggest proponents and users of new media. Would she be willing to have her next novel “curated” by online readers and editors?
The Future Writer: Creative Collaborator
by Nikolina Likarevic
It’s easier to change one’s terminology than it is to change one’s ideology.
To fit in a new media world, many writers will need to consider shifting their professional ideology from solitary genius to creative collaborator.
Creative communities made up of writers and readers are cropping up all over various new media networks. New media is anything that provides around-the-clock access through digital networks (like YouTube, Facebook and blogs) on digital devices, with constant feedback from other digital network users. This means new media actively promotes a creative, collaborative culture. In this culture, no one person is an expert, or solitary genius; instead everyone contributes to an idea.
For instance, with this blog post I am directly communicating with Descant blog readers, because readers can debate my ideas — which I have come to through collaboration in long conversations in seminars and speaking with publishing experts — in the comments section at the bottom of this post. Readers can communicate with me in real time, and together we can build on and/or debate my ideas. In fact, in the Western literary culture of the near future such statements as “my ideas” will likely be irrelevant as ideas become more about the collaborative effort of many individuals in real time.
If technology is the future, and new media changes and is changed by technologies and networks, new media will likely morph the future publishing industry even more than it already has. How can writers access these changes?
- By co-operating with each other.
- By reaching out to their readership, writers can become creative collaborators.
But before a writer can become a creative collaborator, an ideology shift is in order.
Ridding Ourselves of Solitary Genius, Finally
Writers have been working with publishing houses, editors and literary agents for a long time. How is new media so different than the collaboration that has already been happening?
New media demands a fluid relationship between author and readers, and even between author and author. New media ideology is all about changing the long held concept of “the expert,” or solitary genius, that one person can and should claim responsibility over an idea.
From the Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube. Author John Green collaborates with his brother, Hank Green, using YouTube, and their thousands of subscribers create and collaborate with them:
The end of the expert is explored in Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. Author Douglas Rushkoff comments on how Aristotle’s idea of stories having a beginning, middle and end has become less relevant. An example he uses is the kind of storylines on The Simpsons and Family Guy. The storylines for such TV shows rarely end with the traditional “resolution.” If one idea starts the story, it rarely becomes the middle and/or end discussion. Rather, these storylines display what I would call a tangent mentality. Start with X, X leads to D, and D leads to Y, and you never really feel like you get to a Z. This tangent mentality distorts the A→Z storylines we are used to.
And new media facilitates and encourages this. Now that information and stories are accessible to millions of people and can be commented on and created by millions of people (for example, Twitter and video blogs, or Vlogs), commentary can continue as long as the digital network exists and there are users on that network. Tied-up endings are no longer paramount.
In a story culture where no ending or resolution is in sight, how can one person (i.e., an author) be held responsible for representing the beginning, middle and end? Tangent mentality suggests there is no line between creator and reader, and that ideas flow from person to person and snowball, becoming greater for it.
How to Become a Community Creator: With Each Other
Is new media killing the publishing industry? Professionals are saying significant changes are forthcoming. (Take a look at the article “Literature Is Not the Same Thing as Publishing,” for more about the publishing industry.) The large presses and news conglomerates often cannot adapt quickly enough to keep up with new media. Yet, if you’re a writer or artist, having new media at your fingertips is invaluable.
New media, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, make it easier than ever for writers to find their own representatives (i.e., managing editors and literary agents) and to access smaller presses. Whichever way these relationships are fostered in the near future – whether writers hire editor(s) for assistance with grammar, ideas, and/or collaboration – as the “big” publishing industry shifts, editors will have more recognizably collaborative roles.
Additionally, as Douglas Rushkoff discusses, in a new media culture where everyone’s opinions are heard at once, it is vital for writers to come together and create community.
- Be it physical: for instance, a writers’ collective, or being involved with a literary magazine. Or something as simple as meeting writers from their area to write at the same coffee shop, or library, or attending the launch of a magazine other local writers may attend, or joining an existing writer’s collective can help foster the network mentality promoted by new media. Some existing collectives include, http://torontowriterscollective.ca/writers/; http://www.writersguildofcanada.com; and http://thewriterscollective.org/about/. Or, the writer can start a collective.
- Or virtual: for instance, meeting other authors on LinkedIn, or through Ten Thousand Coffees.
This ensures a support system for writers (and editors, literary agents, etc.) and the possibility to collaborate with others. In a new media culture it is important for writers to have the opportunity for validation and to fully descant on their artistic projects.
How to Become a Micro-Community Creator: Readers
Writers (with the editor, literary agent, and/or fellow writers, etc.) can work beyond their kitchen tables by reaching out to potential or existing readers through new media.
With digital networks the author can be interactive. For example, the writer can:
- Discuss writing/ideas in blog posts and readers can comment.
- Create storyboards of their process online, on such programs like Twine, or share their notes on Google Drive.
- Create videos, and/or Vlogs (video blogs), on YouTube.
- Set up a funding platform on Kickstarter, or Subbable, where readers can actively support the art about which they are passionate.
These interactive networks give readers the chance to share what they love with the creator(s) and other readers – to create a micro-community. On such digital platforms readers can respond with their own art and collaborate with other readers and the author to create more art.
If you search author “Stacey May Fowles” (former Descant circulation intern!) on YouTube, you’ll find a video titled “Books in 140 Seconds: Fear of Fighting by Stacey May Fowles,” in which readers Jen Knoch and Erin Balser give a 140 second review of the book:
Authors interested in creating a virtual community can create a YouTube channel and comment on videos like the one above, or link to them on their blogs. This increases the chances of them being seen by more people and connects the author’s readership/viewership. A potential collaborative project, based on the content in the above video, could be an author reaching out to reviewers for a virtual interview.
In this way, new media offers up the possibility for writers to organize which communities they want to be a part of and to communicate with their readers, creating micro-communities based on their particular cultural productions.
It’s looking like writers in the near future will be nothing without their micro-communities.
Nikolina Likarevic joins the Descant team through a practicum for the MA in Literatures of Modernity program at Ryerson University. Currently, she is working on a science fiction novel and on creating a career out of writing and her other interests (cultural studies, new media, political science, etc.). Feel free to contact her on her personal blog here or on Twitter (@NLikare).