Week 4: Assembling the Assemblages

From the past few weeks I think if there is one takeaway point that everyone should know, it’s that the world of publishing is one that is constantly evolving and changing. This is perhaps best attributed to the rapid developments of digital technology and they way that the public adopt such technological tools and techniques in the publishing world. 

This takeaway point seems simple, easy to rationalise and thus publishing seems like an uncomplicated concept, dare I say, basic almost. However, assemblage, a term coined by Deleuzem Guatarri and DeLanda has made me utterly confused. Neverthless, what I have gathered is that “assemblages” are the connections between elements and relations to create something new. This concept seems deceivingly easy, but that is something which it is not, thus the Actor-Network Theory, introduced by Latour, is a method which could be used to think about assemblages. This week’s blog will pay particular attention to ANT as a concept.

Despite my confusion, what I have gathered form, particularly the Wikipedia and reading by Banks is that the ANT is, to put it in simple terms, a network that consists of human and non-human actants and relations, all of which is “granted with equal agency within the webs” (Wikipedia, n.d; Banks, 2011). Basically, ANT is about about equal levelling of the network and everything involved. The best way to conceive the concept, I beleive, is  through the analogy posited by Hanseth who likens the human and non-human actors to a car, all of which functions to function the car (Hanseth in Martin, n.d.). As the video from this week’s reading suggests, ANT sees everything not as technologically determined nor socially determined, but instead a socio-technologically determined.

An example of an assemblage in today’s world of publishing is Instagram. With the advent of digital networks, while the nature of the non-human actants may have changed, assemblages, under ANT, still persists to be equal. The components that make up our ability to post a photo on Instagram, such as the phone, the filters used, the person who designed the app, users of the app and viewers of the photo uploaded onto the app all makes up the complicated web of relations and elements which is needed to create the photo as we see it. This gets every more unwieldily when one considers that through Instagram, this photo can also be shared on Facebook and thus, one has to consider all of that platform’s assemblages.

Of course the ANT is not without criticism. In fact as the Wikipedia readings highlight, it is largely controversial. For example, Langdon posits that “properties such as intentionality fundamentally distinguish humans from animals or from “things”” thus, non-human actants cannot be deemed as having agency (Wikipedia, n.d.). Others argue that it is does not consider power structures or that it does not consider race, class, gender (Bloor and Restivo 2010; Banks 2011). I would perhaps align myself with the critics with some reservation.

When talking about the human and non-human actants, I don’t necessarily see both as equal, I would consider the human actants as holding more power, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that assemblages are entirely socially-determinist. Nevertheless, I praise the ANT as it makes us consider any form of publishing in a more complex and analytic manner as opposed to seeing it as something simplistic but it does pose a challenge of where can one stop to consider something or someone as an actant or at least, as an element? I believe that with the ANT,  the old challenge that was once present in Tort Law emerges – that is, where does the principle of the ‘but for’ test draws the line – you can easily say, ‘but for’ Adam and Eve, Instagram would not happen! 

*The following videos helped me to understand the concept:


‘Actor Network Theory’, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory> (very short, very useful but more complex summary of Latour)

Banks, D (2011) ‘A Brief Summary of Actor-Network Theory’, Cyborgology, November 2, <http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/12/02/a-brief-summary-of-actor-network-theory/>

Delukie (2009) ’Actor-Network Theory in Plain English’, Youtube.com, 

Ryder, M(n.d.) ’What is Actor-Network Theory?’, <http://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~mryder/itc/ant_dff.html>


Week 3: Shift to Online Publishing – Is It really all that great? Are tools like Paywalls justified?



The shift from print to online publishing means that hundreds of 16-year-old history-enthusiasts can publish their work, while in the past, the ability to publish such work were strictly reserved for the likes of Peter FitzSimons. Clearly, the new world of publishing, as exemplified by the example provided above, leads to greater instantaneous, direct distribution to public, makes the publishing field more acceptable, allows different forms of published work and allows for collaboratively produced content.

In the past, and to some extent, today, to have their work published, authors would have to go through a grueling process in order to have their work published. AN MIT Press author would have to ensure that their manuscript met the requirements of the Chigo Manual, 15th edition, and that had to make sure that they “kept copies of all correspondence requestion permission” (MIT Press, n.d.). However today, different forms of crowd-sourced publishing such as Wikipedia, Twitter and YouTube allows for anyone to publish work in a significantly less tedious manner.

Lets look at my favourite platform, YouTube. Anyone can be a YouTuber, anyone can point-shoot a camera, add a video filter and upload it within a matter of hours, if not minutes. Then, anyone can access it. Surely, there are only positives to the shift to online publishing?

While, at face value, the changes in the process, tools and techniques of publishing such as that of YouTube have severely fostered the growth of crowd-sourced publishing and opened the doors to new and exciting methods of publishing that are increasingly giving power to the people, these changes have significantly impacted the methods and bottom line of traditional publishing methods such as the Newspaper.

The move from print newspapers to online circulation of newspapers such as the New York times have led to the introduction of Paywalls where “subscribers can read up to a certain number of articles before being asked to pay” (Gillmor, 2011). It has been argued while paywalls can be understood in terms of the benefits it serves to the publishing house, it is not of benefit to the audience. Some have even said that the imposition of paywalls “removes the industry from a digital revolution which is allowing news organisations to engage with their readers”. While I can understand this perspective, I would argue that in light of new tools and techniques of publishing this shift to online by newspapers is a wise one and the imposition of paywalls need not be criticised. Why? Well, it is clear that there is a consumer appetite for digital news as it has been suggested that the average digital news reader is significantly younger than that of the print counterpart (Doctor, 2013; Coscarelli, 2012; Gillmor 2011; Busfield, 2010). Furthermore, given that there are changes in the process, tools and techniques of publishing, newspapers still need to make money thus, they have to reconfigure their traditional business formulas and models, to adjust to an increasingly online world of publishing


Busfield, S (2010) ‘Guardian editor hits back at paywalls’, The Guardian, January 25, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/jan/25/guardian-editor-paywalls>

Coscarelli, J (2012) ‘The New York Times Is Now Supported by Readers, Not Advertisers’, NYmag.com, June 26, <http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2012/07/new-york-times-supported-by-readers-not-advertisers.html>.

Doctor, K (2013)  ‘The newsonomics of The New York Times’ Paywalls 2.0’, Nieman Journalism Lab, November 21, <http://www.niemanlab.org/2013/11/the-newsonomics-of-the-new-york-times-paywalls-2-0/

Gillmor, D (2011) ‘The New York Times paywall: the faint smell of success’, The Guardian, August 3, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/aug/03/new-york-times-paywall> (on The New York Times decision to implement a pay wall in 2011).

Pan McMillan<http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/submission_guidelines.asp

MIT Press, <http://mitpress.mit.edu/services/authors>

Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia>

Week 2: Turns out “Publishing” is not that simple!

 Before ARTS2090, I thought “Publishing” was a simple, straightforward concept. Sure, it’s used to describe different mediums and methods like books, the printing press and online newspapers, but surely it is not a concept that needs to be dissected over a whole semester! However, as exhibited in the two mind maps below, what I thought was an easy concept to grasp is in fact, one that is layered, multifaceted and much more convoluted that I had initially assumed.


Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 9.54.15 PM


Perhaps what spoke to me in preparation for this week from the material provided and from further research, are the differing views that arose out of the advent of digital publishing. Prior to my preparations, I am definitely not one to lament the emergence of technology in the publishing sphere and I would instead, herald this evolution but Self’s statement that ‘fewer paper books are being sold, newspapers fold, bookshops continue to close, libraries as well’ is a point that I would concede on. However, while Self’s point that “serious novels will…be an art form” and his opposition to the Gutenberg mind has merit, this is where I draw the line and argue that the shift to digital publishing is not entirely negative occurrence (Self, 2014).


I would argue that McCormick and Lehrer’s positions are closer to that of mine. E-books or digital formats of publishing indeed act as a “second coming of books”. I would concede however, that “physical forms will be analogous to FM radio… always there, but less than” (McCormick 2014; Lehrer 2010). Is this bad? Is Self correct in lamenting this evolution? After all, Haile noted that “we confuse what people have clicked on for what they’ve read” (Haile, 2014). Additionally, even Lehrer who owns a Kindle deems that the crisp fonts used on digital books can negate our engagement with the text and Kendall states that most people are more concerned with public’s views of reading choices and how others perceive your reading choices than to actually focus on what they read (Lehrer,2010; Kendall 2014). Surely it doesn’t help my position when I consider the fact that I shared the following photo on my Instagram and Facebook before I even finished reading the article?!


 sssss However, I would argue that the movement to online publishing fosters an exciting world where members of the public can share and distribute the power previously held solely by media conglomerates and publishing houses to more people, thus creating more content and more creative ways of publishing to get people to consume published content. For example, the Spritz app, suggestions posited by multigraphs and Future of the Book, which harnesses these changes rather than rejects it (Spritz n.d.; McCormick 2013; Lehrer 2010). Eventually, we will also be posited with the challenge of reconfiguration our business structures and conceptions of publishing with the emergence of 3D and 4D printers, but this merely opens up an opportunity to take advantage of the evolution of publishing  (Schiller 2014; Condliffe 2013).


This week’s readings notes the criticisms of the evolution of publishing to the digital world; it seems like a big problem, but it’s not a new problem. As depicted in the following video and as could be seen through the Wikipedia page, we’re always afraid and frustrated of new methods of publishing, but that’s just the nature of publishing – it never stops evolving and this just posits an exciting challenge for us to take advantage of the changes… I mean, we did grow to love printed books, who knew it was baffling to us once upon a time?!




Condliffe, J (2013) ‘This Is Why 4D Printing Is Cool’, Gizmodo.com, November 29, <http://gizmodo.com/this-is-why-4d-printing-is-cool-1473482371>

Haile, T (2014) ‘What you think you know about the web is wrong’, Time.com,  March 9, <http://time.com/12933/what-you-think-you-know-about-the-web-is-wrong/>

 ‘History of Printing’, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_printing>

Lehrer, J (2010) ‘The Future of Reading’, Wired, September 8, <http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/the-future-of-reading-2>

McCormick, T (2013) “From Monograph to Multigraph: the Distributed Book”, LSE Impact of Social Sciences weblog post, 17 January, <http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2013/01/17/from-monograph-to-multigraph-the-distributed-book/>

 ‘Publishing’, Wikipedia, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publishing>

Schiller, B (2014) ‘Move Over 3-D Printing, The Future Is Objects That Morph And Shift Shape’, Co-Exist.com, June 10, <http://www.fastcoexist.com/3030757/heres-an-idea/move-over-3-d-printing-the-future-is-objects-that-morph-and-shift-shape>

Self, W (2014) ‘The novel is dead (this time it’s for real)’, The Guardian, May 2, <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/may/02/will-self-novel-dead-literary-fiction>

Spritz <http://www.spritzinc.com/>