In today’s digitized world, public debate can erupt from one moment to the next. These debates have a need for reliable and intelligently presented information, made available at the right moment, in the right place, and in the right form. Publishing houses have traditionally played an important role in the public debate by printing and publishing such information, but are now having trouble keeping up with the speed of circulation of information. Today, anyone can publish online at the press of a button. But simply speeding up the printing and publishing process is by no means straightforward: all too often, one of the three success factors in publishing – speed, quality and positioning – is obtained only at the expense of the other two. This puts the role of publishers as catalysts within public and cultural domains, and their publications as hallmarks of quality, under pressure. However, digital technology also offers publishers a variety of opportunities to strengthen their position.
The Digital Publishing Toolkit (DPT) project (2013-2014) has already successfully experimented with digital applications in the publishing sector. The central question addressed in this project was: how can small and independent publishers in the arts and culture sector switch to digital publishing? Now the Making Public project is researching the opportunities that digital technology offers to optimize the publishing process and strengthen the economic position and social role of publishers. How can we ensure that publishers can make high-quality information available to the public in a prompt, attractive, and directed way? Different kinds of publishers are involved in this project: both more traditional book publishers, and organizations that publish alongside their research activities. The results of this project will therefore be relevant to a broad group of users. Three promising ways in which digital technology can optimize processes in publishing have already been identified: modular processes, computerization, and hybrid formats. These three findings will guide the direction of this project’s research.
The project will deliver prototypes of new tools and methods to deal with bottlenecks in the publishing process. Existing tools and platforms will also be analyzed according to the criteria that are most important to the publishing sector. We expect this to yield new work processes that will better enable (self-)publishers to take up a position in the public debate.
The knowledge generated by the project is made available through a variety of channels and an international conference around this theme will be held in 2019.
The project will comprise three working groups: ‘Stand-alone object’, ‘Periodical’ and ‘Platform’. Each group brings together (self-)publishers, researchers, developers and designers to work on a specific project area.
‘Stand-alone object ’
A stand-alone object is a self-contained publication that can be read offline, whether in digital or printed form – as a collection of separate pieces that the reader navigates independently, or as a book that takes the reader from A to Z. Using work from 1001 Publishers, Valiz and INC, this group examines the possibilities offered by modular processes in collating and publishing such stand-alone objects. Puntpixel and Studio BLT are also joining this group, as developer and designer.
- What technical possibilities exist for making modular publications? How can these be employed in a durable and flexible way?
- What consequences does modularity have for the content, reader experience, and design of a publication? How do writers and readers experience it?
- How can this alternative presentation of information be embedded within a critical tradition? And how can this form help to position work with regard to new reading publics, including authors?
The ‘Periodical’ group works on publications traditionally published on a regular basis, such as academic journals and academically oriented magazines. The publishers in this group – ArtEZ Press, Amsterdam University Press and Beeld en Geluid – are working together with the developer Arjen Suijker and the designer Megan Hoogeboom on a number of new challenges:
- How to best depict media such as film, images and audio?
- How to secure good findability for, and a strong connection with a target group?
- How can authors be best involved in disseminating their publications?
This group examines platforms where articles are published separately, and the identity and subject focus of the platform shapes and contextualizes the meaning of the articles. The articles are part of an environment, often online, in which the platform’s overarching themes are of central importance and where cross-fertilization can take place. The publishers participating in this group are Amateur Cities, Open!, Open Set, and UNStudio. Together with the designer Niels Schrader of MindDesign and the developer André Fincato of Hackers & Designers, this group will tackle the following questions:
- In what ways can different platforms benefit from each another?
- How can links between articles best contribute towards an engaged reading experience? To what extent can such referrals be automated, and how much curation is required?
- What different kinds of links and referrals exist? Which work well, and which do not?
The Institute of Network Cultures lectorate led by Geert Lovink (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences) and the New Media and Visual Culture lectorate led by Florian Cramer (Willem de Kooning academie, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) have joined forces for this research project. ArtEZ (University of the Arts, Arnhem) is also taking part as a knowledge institute. The other participants include both more traditional publishers and ‘self-publishers’ who publish alongside their other (research and other) activities: the Vereniging voor Zelfstandige Uitgevers, Amsterdam University Press, UNStudio, The Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision, 1001 Uitgevers, Valiz, Open!, and Open Set. The designers and developers taking part are Hackers & Designers, Mind Design, PUNT PIXEL and Studio BLT.
The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences was awarded a grant towards this project from SIA’s RAAK-MKB program.