I came into this series on the impact of digital – and indeed, the impact of print – on thought, on how we engage with the universe and each other as humans – and on our spiritual lives [but more about that in my religion blog].
This particular post looks at the idea of finality – how print required a self-contained, ‘this, and not that’ view of reality. A book, or pamphlet or article in a journal has a beginning, a middle, an end. It is self-contained, an object of and in itself, delineated from other objects. It can be just black print on white paper in an innocuous font – or as in many early books, an objet d’art – a thing not only complete, but a thing of beauty in its completeness – a cover design, the feel and texture of the paper chosen, perhaps a supple leather binding, interesting fonts within, colours, abstract and realist pictures and later photographs….
What, perhaps, digital publishing/writing [they are the same with the advent of self pub] has done is remove this finality. A text is never complete – and no longer requires the clumsy artifact of second, third and so on ‘editions’ – each of which in the non-fiction world require years of revision and are thus already out of date when they appear. The academic world has not accepted this intrinsic aspect of digital pub/writing as of yet – I was told once by an acquisitions editor for a university press that, they did a few eBooks – by which he meant, they took an out of date version of an academic work and put it into pdf form online. Yecccchhhh. [sorry, the best word i could come up with that expressed my opinion of this in one ‘complete’ expression!].
The ‘academic’ book I am writing on the relationship between religion and society will be permanently ongoing – well as permanent as there are others to extend, correct, and alter it after I am gone. I put ‘academic’ in [what are those thingies called?] because to be called academic, one must be peer-reviewed and printed… and this will have peer criticism I am sure, but will most definitely NOT be printed.
This idea of non-finality is more interesting when you turn to fiction, however. I am also writing a work of fiction – multimedia, bizarre and unending – call it a novel if you must – which will at some point be up and available, but unfinished. I hope to keep it going for as long as I am able, and then would hope others would play around with it beyond that point -……