Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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26 October 2010
Filed under:Academia,new authorship at4:27 pm

Number of works of fiction published in UK 8022 (Children’s books 7,030) (BML 1994, quoted in Casey et al. 1996 p. 133)
Number of first time novelists published in the UK in 1990: 190 (Hutchison & Feist, 1991, p. 129)
“just 500 authors, less than half of 1 per cent, were responsible for a third of all sales.” (Prospect, Oct 2010) (presumably across all book categories)

“Both Jonathan Cape Ltd and William Heinemann Ltd, two of the best known names in fiction publishing, receive about 50 unsolicited letters of manuscripts each week from ‘unknown’ fiction writers. Heinemann no longer look at unsolicited manuscripts.” (Hutchison & Feist, 1991, p. 129)

Has the advent of the web and print on demand changed this? We’ll see…

Casey, B., Dunlop, R., & Selwood, S. (1996). Culture as commodity? : the economics of the arts and built heritage in the UK. London: Policy Studies Institute.
Hutchison, R., & Feist, A. (1991). Amateur arts in the UK. London: Policy Studies Institute.

25 October 2010

For a while now I have been looking for information on what proportion of people write “amateur” poetry or prose (outside of a school setting) and whether there is any evidence of change now that people can ‘publish’ themselves online rather than just having to stick the results in a drawer or struggle to get published professionally. Here at last is some data:

In the UK in 1991, people who practiced activity but not as a full-time profession:
2% were writing poetry, 4% making videos, 4% writing stories

Research Surveys of Great Britain & Arts Council of Great Britain. (1991). RSGB Omnibus Arts Survey : report on a survey on arts and cultural activities in G.B. London: Arts Council of Great Britain.

In 2007 14% of people who created a web page in the UK did so (at least in part) “to publish my own writing or music”.

De Rosa, C., Cantrell, J., Havens, A., Hawk, J., & Jenkins, L. (2007). Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World.

15% of UK internet users (c. 10% of population) maintained a personal website in 2007. Ergo, perhaps 1.5% of people in the UK in 2007 were publishing their own writing or music online.

Dutton, W. H., & Helsper, E. (2007). The Internet in Britain: 2007.
Social networking is an even more interesting case because it is more widespread.

No figures are available from the OCLC report for the UK alone on social networking site use like Myspace but 22% of users from 6 countries said they used it at least somewhat “to express myself creatively with self-published materials” – and at least some of the 24% who “document my personal experiences and share with others” may be doing so more or less creatively. This was at an early stage in the diffusion of SNS use though – in 2007 only 17% of UK internet users had created an SNS profile. This has doubled since then according to Ofcom.

Ofcom. (2010). UK Adults’ Media Literacy.

So very roughly 7% of the UK adult population are using social networking sites to self-publish (though this presumably includes video and music as well as text).

I couldn’t finish without mentioning one more study about creative use of the internet – Hargittai, E., & Walejko, G. (2008). The Participation Divide: Content creation and sharing in the digital age. Information, Communication & Society, 11(2), 239 – 256. doi: 10.1080/13691180801946150

It has more detailed information about gender, SES and education and their relationship with creative activity online but is based on a survey of US undergraduates.

Pointers to further data (especially quantitative data) about creative writing on and offline would be gratefully received. This work is conducted as preparation for my next major research project on what I’m calling the “New Authorship” (more work on this will also be tagged “new authorship”).

If you like this sort of thing you will likely also like Gauntlett, D. (2011). Making is Connecting: The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. London: Polity Press. I am looking forward to reading more than just the samples available so far on the site!

27 September 2010
Filed under:Academia,Personal,Privacy,Weblogs at11:37 am

I have argued in my thesis (and hope to argue at greater length in book form) that protection of online privacy in practice is not simply a matter of offering the right controls but for users is a complicated balancing of different priorities and values. I would like to chronicle my children’s lives online for a select audience of friends and family but it’s not clear where and how I should do it.

Livejournal offers good privacy controls so I tried using that but I couldn’t get enough of the people I wanted to be able to read it to sign up and remember their passwords and visit.

Facebook now has enough of my desired audience on it to make it worthwhile to publish there and it does allow me to make sophisticated choices about who can read any status update I post, which makes it convenient, but it is also more or less transient (one can read updates well into the past but getting to them is not easy). I would like what I write to remain private but easily accessible and archived.

For me the best security solution so far for pictures and video has been Picasa’s which provides ‘good enough’ security through obscurity (non-search-indexed and un-guessable URLs but doesn’t require visitors to register to view.

What would probably be ideal for me is if there were a blog platform that to enable me to blog semi-securely Picasa-style and more securely (on a post by post basis) to friends who are registered using Facebook Connect or Google Accounts (which most of my would-be viewers have). Any free solutions like that out there?

24 September 2010
Filed under:Academia,journalism at9:27 am

An interesting article in the latest issue of Media, Culture and Society by Andrew Mullen suggests academics have systematically under-examined the Propaganda Model (sorry the article is behind a paywall). I have tended to think Chomsky’s Propaganda Model (PM) is one of the better known and more discussed recent theories, perhaps because of the critical media scholars I tend to hang out with or perhaps because at least the outlines of it are reasonably well known among the general public (at least those who are interested in the media). It seems however that in a sample taken from ten media and communication journals between 1988 and 2007 only 2.6% of the total “attended to” the PM model and according to Mullen most did little more than cite it. Similarly 43% of media and communication textbooks he surveyed didn’t mention the PM, and 22% only discussed it briefly.

Whatever you think of the PM it is reputable enough to at least be worth engaging for the benefit of students who will have encountered it, and if as scholars assert its tenets need updating and would need to be applied differently in different national contexts more work could usefully be done to try to gather the empirical evidence necessary to see whether and to what extent it remains applicable in different countries and since the advent of the internet.

15 September 2010
Filed under:Academia,new authorship,Old media,research at12:59 pm

I missed this when it first came around in April – according to Bowker who owns ‘Books in Print’, the publisher in the US which published the most titles – 272,930 – very close to the number of new titles published by all traditional publishers – is Bibliobazaar, which was then written up by Publisher’s Weekly. Turns out they specialise in packaging and reselling out of print books via print on demand. More evidence of the long tail in action, though of course each book probably only gets a few new readers and it is not clear if the figures for these new publishers mixes new titles with newly reissued titles and with any title from their back catalogues which makes comparison difficult. It would be interesting to know more about what sells well and to whom in that market if there are discernable patterns and how this differs from mainstream publishing.

8 September 2010

There has been much concern about people selecting only news and information they already know they are interested in and that agrees with their point of view via the internet. I have found that increasingly the “omnivore” blog from bookforum.com has been fulfilling that role for me, bringing me articles every week on the future of books, of journalism or of academia. Unfortunately, I am starting to suffer from punditry fatigue. Read too much on the same subject from newspapers and magazines – even if the subject is important to you – and it all starts to blur together after a while. In truth, it shows up the problems even with good journalism as compared to academic work. There is copious opinion but often little reference or only selective reference to new data or even to new arguments or approaches to the issues. Yet I feel I still need to read or at least skim it all in case I miss some new piece of information. Perhaps I would be better off just relying on the stuff that my peers circulate via the blogosphere and twittersphere?

5 September 2010
Filed under:Academia at9:51 am

After adding most of what reviewers and friends asked for and subtracting the policy implications part that paid a significant role in motivating me to do this research in the first place, I still find my paper is 15% too long. It’s hard to believe as an ex-journalist used to turning out work in 1-2,000 word chunks that I am finding 7,000 words is too constraining these days! Of course it doesn’t help that this particular paper contains the work I am most pleased with from my thesis so is in a sense a distillation of one of the key findings from a 100,000 word work.

And just to discourage me further I wouldn’t be surprised if it took the resulting paper a year or two to see the light of day…

26 May 2010
Filed under:Academia at11:50 am

I found this in a study of underprivileged kids given the internet: “more visits to the following categories of websites predicted better academic performance in mathematics: technology, music, corporate, web services, downloads, MSN/Yahoo, pornography, search engines and information. More visits to these categories of websites predicted better academic performance in reading; technology, download, MSN/Yahoo and pornography.” Surprisingly, they didn’t advocate more porn access in schools…

From Jackson, L. A., Samona, R., Moomaw, J., Ramsay, L., Murray, C., Smith, A., et al. (2007). What Children Do on the Internet: Domains Visited and Their Relationship to Socio-Demographic Characteristics and Academic Performance. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(2), 182-190.

15 March 2010

This article, “What is the Good of the ‘Examined Life’? Some Thoughts on the Apology and Liberal Education” is to my mind the essence of an academic article. It’s thought-provoking, on an important subject (perhaps, the author argues, the most important – the need for each of us not just to live ethically but to reflect on what it means to live ethically), it’s written clearly and concisely and it’s open access so anyone can read it. I wish there were some way to make it a required reading for what I teach…

Thanks to the ever excellent Book Forum blog for bringing it to my attention.

17 December 2009

If you get a lot of email (and who doesn’t?) may I suggest my book, Dealing with Email? It was recently re-released in epub ebook form and for the Kindle via Amazon US (you can preview pages from it from Amazon’s page.

For the academics among you, how about a copy of Digital Storytelling, Mediatized Stories: Self-representations in New Media (also previewable on Amazon) featuring a chapter by yours truly about MySpace users? The paperbook is $30 – cheap for an academic work…

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