Online vs paper publication

In a most interesting post titled Open access -for all?, Stuart Elden remarks:

We started the Society and Space open site as a partner to the print journal and the publisher’s site […]

You would think that a quick – material goes up usually within a day or two of being delivered in final form – and open-access venue would be appealing. And certainly, some people have already taken advantage of it and we have more to come. But there has also been a very curious resistance. People have complained about ‘being relegated to the blog’ or suggested that they are ‘old-fashioned’ and want their book review in print.

In my view, this hesitation reflects the fear that publication online – even when through a reputable commercial press – is not as serious or as permament as paper publication. The written word is a solid and permament object in the physical world when it is on paper, but an ephemeral thing of light and energy online. There, it could disperse into the ether at any moment, leaving the author with no material possessions and no physical evidence of his or her accumulating presence as an author in the world. One could perhaps refer to Foucault’s notion of the materiality of discourse here – what does that materiality mean in digital form?

For another post which touches on these and related issues see the In the Middle blog (via Stuart)

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