Digitization: Rethinking the Editor


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The computer has taken over as the dominant method for just about every task in today's world. Writing and editing are no different and this paper looks at how the latter has evolved since the beginning of the digital era. Through the compilation of multiple sources, as well as personal interviews with individuals who have worked in the field since before the shift, I have explored how editing is best accomplished in today's technology-savvy world, how the position of editor is viewed after the advent of the computer and the Internet, and where those passionate about the profession should be focusing their efforts to shape the future of editing.

This was the presentation of my undergraduate thesis project combining my Journalism and Creative Writing majors at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 1 p.m. in Marsh Hall.

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Digitization: Rethinking the Editor

  1. 1. DIGITIZATION:RETHINKING THE EDITORKatie Sipos, Journalism + Creative Writing
  2. 2. Introduction“Roughly a hundred years ago the modern era ofcommunication begins. A precise date isunnecessary but the decade of the 1890s canserve as the approximate moment when, in theUnited States, space and time wereenclosed, when it became possible to think ofthe nation as everywhere running on the sameclock of awareness and existing within ahomogeneous national space.” -James Carey
  3. 3. Introduction“The knowledge of language sets us apart from allother species that we know of so far…It allows usto gain and express real knowledge, to learn ofour respective environments and ourselves, andultimately to reach many things and ideas that arebeyond our individual capabilities.” -Fred Field
  4. 4. Introduction An editor is a person who prepares written matter for publication.  Often seen in a negative light:  Grumpy newspaper mogul  Stalker-like manuscript hound  Obsessive, self-titled grammar Nazi  Tearful agent blubbering about deadlines Want to help others perfect their words
  5. 5. IntroductionThrough exploration of the past century, I willillustrate how the role of editor has become oneof ridicule and how those in the field can striveto alter the traditional author-publisher-editordynamic in order to escape extinction.
  6. 6. Philosophers Walter Benjamin  Reproduction displaces art from its culture  Art becomes a commodity  The editor becomes the art critic insisting a work fails to meet standards
  7. 7. Philosophers Marshall McLuhan  Print changed the oral culture that came before  Man looks down on others who cannot conform  Technological media are like natural resources
  8. 8. Philosophers Katherine Hayles  “Books aren’t going the way of the dinosaur but of the human – evolving.”  Erik Qualman  “While the transition from [physical] to electronic versions will occur, …we are at the beginning of that trail. It will not be as rapid or absolute a succession as other industries.”
  9. 9. Newspapers Began circulating in the 1400s  Lacked regulation until 1950s Associated Press Styleguide  “Presentation of the printed word should be accurate, consistent, pleasing to the eye and should conform to grammatical standards.”
  10. 10. Newspapers“The copyreader is the newspaper’s principalsafeguard. He is the constructive critic, thepoliceman of the news... To the experiencedreporter he is a prop, a backstop, a friend inneed, and a partner; to the several editors he isthe guardian of the language and of accuracy…” -George Bastian
  11. 11. Newspapers English is a constantly evolving language  2011 Merriam-Webster added “bromance”  2011 Oxford English Dictionary added “<3” Editors in place to aid in translation  While young people may understand these new terms, older individuals might need explanation
  12. 12. Books Editors in this field not valued as highly  Relentless,obsessive-compulsive perfectionists  Came about with 1700s commoditization of novel  More perfect = better-received
  13. 13. Books Digital methods changed entire process  Mark Twain Project  40 years of archived work, from novels to notes, available to the public free of charge  Project’s goal is to produce an annotated critical digital edition of the entirety of Twain’s works
  14. 14. Best Method Two main methods  Traditional(physical, pen+paper) lends itself to “global” changes, overarching connections, content and organization  Digital(electronic, computer) lends itself to “surface” changes, smaller corrections of spelling, grammar and sentence structure Each has pros and cons
  15. 15. Best Method Organization  Physical copies allow multiple pages to be viewed  Gives better understanding of concepts  More difficult to locate specific passages  Electronic copies allow quick searches  Findwhat you’re looking for immediately  Screen can only display so much at one time
  16. 16. Best Method A combination of these methods will yield the best results for a work  Articles for The Pacific Index are stored digitally, viewed physically and corrected digitally I prefer to look at a physical copy when I go over someone else’s work, but often receive just digital Should also incorporate community contribution  Follow models scholarly publishing develops
  17. 17. Digital Archives The William Blake Archive, The Walt Whitman Archive, even the Mark Twain Project  Collect works in multiple digital formats  HTML/XML text  High-quality scans of notes or other writing  Allows all stages of editing to be viewed
  18. 18. Digital Archives “I Hear America Singing” 1860 version with Whitman’s notes (left) 1891 version (below)
  19. 19. Digital Archives Utilizes many people working together  Encourages multiple eyes going over a work  Blurs lines between editor, editions and reader  Shows current shift in creative and editing processes toward community
  20. 20. Conclusion Editors underappreciated, ridiculed  2010 undergrads disinclined toward courses with “heavy” literary requirements  Online reinforcement of negative outlook  Finnish Pilkunnussija = “comma fucker”
  21. 21. Conclusion Not out of the running yet  Associated Press Managing Editors News ran a study that had readers rate articles  Edited articles rated higher “Editing really matters, [not just] to grumpy old white guys who still teach editing classes. It matters to younger people who might go a month without seeing a newspaper. Real people can tell the difference.” -Fred Vultee
  22. 22. Conclusion“The reason a lot of people are stuck is becausethey confuse the old ways, the best ways ofdoing something once, with the best way ofdoing something forever.” -Mark Prensky It’s time to stop waiting for the evolution of editing and start leading it
  23. 23. Images UsedPlato: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/1200/1247/Plato_1_lg.gifPlato’s Cave: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/PlatosCave.gifBenjamin: http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/assets/img/data/3706/bild.jpgMcLuhan: http://juliekinnear.com/imagesall/2011/10/Marshall-McLuhan.jpgHayles: http://www.dukemagazine.duke.edu/dukemag/issues/030409/images/030409-lg-017909hayles001.jpgQualman: http://www.gotham-artists.com/img/files/users/213/profile/qualmanspeakerpage.jpgStylebooks: http://jvanwyke.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/allfour_72dpi.jpgTypo: http://static-imgs-acf.hereisthecity.com/20110721/60/typo10_9907.jpgMTPLogo: http://www.marktwainproject.org/xtf/icons/mtp/header_narrow.jpgFischer: http://www.marktwainfestival.org/_images/_userfiles/Image/Vic%20Photo.JPGAmerica1860-1: http://whitmanarchive.org/published/1860-Blue_book/images/leaf106r.htmlAmerica1860-2: http://whitmanarchive.org/published/1860-Blue_book/images/leaf106v.htmlAmerica1891: http://whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1891/images/leaf14r.htmlFinnish: http://i.crackedcdn.com/phpimages/article/9/0/1/117901_v1.jpg
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