Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Pervasive Proximity

In the "olden days" when publishing was a controlled environment, complete with gatekeepers and massive infrastructure, dialogue about a published piece was often lengthy. Book or article is published. Critic writes review in the New York Times Book Review, say. Next issue, insulted author provides rebuttal if the gatekeepers allowed it to be printed. And so on, and so on.

Here's an example of how much publishing has changed. If you get the NYT Sunday edition, you may have read a "thought piece" in the Style section titled "The New Nanny Diaries are Online", by Helaine Olen, a journalist. Ms. Olen writes about her nanny's blog...I don't think it's giving away the plot of this to tell you the outcome is the nanny gets fired. My personal reaction was what a very New York-y person the author seems to be--a Woody Allen-worthy character.

This all gets very "meta" very quickly. Before the pervasive proximity afforded us all by blogging and the web, this article may have been the end of the matter--at least for the readers. The nanny might have had to seethe ineffectually to friends and family. But in this new more transparent media world, the blogger responds to the journalist the same day--before lunch-- the article is published.

The nanny fisks Olen's NYT article in a long post.
Less than 1 percent of this blog is about being a nanny for the Olen family. The New Nanny Diaries? Not at all. Making characters out of my employers? I challenge you to find it. Ms. Olen has chosen to write a malicious and selectively edited essay because writing about bad nannies and blogs is trendy. Its a sad commentary on her self described moniker as "journalist."

And then the blogosphere grabs the's all over the place, discussed, commented on, analyzed and even reported in another paper's blog, The Guardian in England.

All by itself this is an interesting phenomenon, but as a librarian I found myself wondering about "publication." The original NYT piece will be archived by libraries that subscribe to the newspaper...but what happens to the rest of the material that circles it, adds to it, changes our understanding of the original piece? This is related to the train of thought triggered by the Cory Doctorow comments I posted this morning....if original publications are amended, augmented, and re-released by people other than the owner, will even the upcoming "AACR3" be anywhere remotely adequate to describe the bibliographic solar system that evolves?

And it is quite interesting that Olen fires the nanny (actually her husband does and doesn't tell the nanny the real reason) for what she thinks are writings about her and her family--without permission, but then writes about the nanny without permission for a widely read newspaper--and gets paid for it, one assumes. Odd, isn't it?

1 comment:

Laura Smart said...

If RDA (aka the AACR3) uses FRBR to full advantange it's possible that related and deriviative works could be linked, although I'm not entirely certain about the practicalities of that.

Further research into superworks and their implications for communities of practice will probably bear more fruit in finding ways to describe relationships between bibliographic entities. The work of Smirglia and Leazer is a good start.