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Task Three: Essay-in-lieu-of-examination

2. ‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’
(Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian newspaper, ‘The splintering of the fourth estate’, .. via

How is the diminution of traditional and often hierarchical, “authoritative” intermediaries changing the role of publishing in social life? You should choose one broad area of publishing, such as, for example, journalism or music publishing.

The rise and constant development of technology is changing the role of publishing in social life. Technology, more specifically the World Wide Web, has threatened traditional intermediaries due to its accessibility, convenience and its overall advantage of being inexpensive. Traditional intermediaries are diminishing because the World Wide Web has given people the freedom to publish information online for it to be used by the public. This is especially common with music publishing as various platforms have allowed people to publish large amounts of music. These platforms, along with Web 2.0, have changed the role of music publishing in our social life.

The role that traditional intermediaries play is clearly explained in Bruno Latour and Michael Callon’s Actor-Network Theory. This is the combination of material and semiotic actors which form the basis of a social network. An intermediary is ‘anything passing between actors, which define their relationship between them’ (Callon 1991, p.134). This theory is important as it considers the involvement and role of non actors in the relationship. In relation to music publishing, the traditional intermediaries are the record companies or the retail outlets which are supplying the music to its listeners. Prior to the development of Web 2.0, the music industry relied upon the efforts of record companies to perform functions such as the ‘talent development, production, promotion, and distribution’ (Helium 2011). Nowadays these traditional intermediaries have shifted towards to various music websites such as Soundcloud, Last fm and more recently Spotify. These sites are the new flexible and free-flowing intermediaries which are changing how we publish music in our social life.

Publishing was revolutionized throughout the 1400’s where Johannes Guttenberg’s invention of the printing press sparked the commencement of the publishing industry. Although it was not at this time, but in hindsight, Gutenberg’s invention had also laid down the foundations for the modern music publishing industry (Garofalo 1999, p.320). Post-Gutenberg, publishing was and still is constantly evolving. Yet in its earliest stages, publishing involved hierarchical intermediaries where everything followed a strict structure. These traditional intermediaries placed content as the focus of publishing and how it was distributed and aggregated was to be determined by the industry. Nowadays, it is ‘less and less top down’ as these intermediaries are diminishing due to publishing’s flexibility (Murphie 2012). Publishing’s focus has shifted towards everyone in that we are doing the distributing and aggregating now. Alan Rusbridger (2010) points out that ‘we like creating things – words, pictures, films, graphics – and publishing them.’ The introduction of the World Wide Web has allowed mass self-publishing and because of this it is replacing the involvement of traditional intermediaries. This is demonstrated in the music publishing industry where free access to online music has resulted in people bypassing traditional intermediaries. Soundcloud is an example of a new free-flowing intermediary compared to the traditional structure of the record companies or music retail outlets. This intermediary now performs the functions of traditional intermediaries, yet now on a larger scale. Soundcloud allows its users to ‘create, upload, search for, play (stream or download) and store tracks’ (Koomen 2011). Soundcloud ultimately allows everyone to be connected with one another through the publishing of music. Talent development, production, promotion and distribution were previously mentioned as roles that the traditional intermediary would usually undertake. However, Soundcloud is now able to do all of these with the access of the World Wide Web. Interestingly, talent development is able to accomplished by users uploading music with the chance that it might be recognised by a recording company. This not only shows how the new intermediary is diminishing the role of its traditional intermediary, but also highlights the changing role of publishing in social life. This being, the onset of the World Wide Web allows publics to access a constant flow of information without having to go through a series of hierarchical structures.

A major reason for the decrease in traditional intermediaries is because of the flow of information on the World Wide Web. There is an endless supply of information on the Web and as Danah Boyd (2010) discusses, it has an effect on our social life: “technology does not inherently disintegrate social divisions. In fact, more often than not, it reinforces them.” Intermediaries such as Soundcloud handle this flow of information with the use of archives. They are able to collect and store data which can be used in the future. This is a positive aspect of Soundcloud in that it can store endless amounts of music files. It is a reason why traditional music publishing intermediaries are diminishing. Record companies or retail outlets may archive as well, but the fact that they are storing physical objects becomes difficult.

Furthermore, the archives on the website Soundcloud are highlighting the changing role of publishing in social life. One of Soundcloud’s features is the ability to comment on another person’s track or to even comment on another’s comment. This opens up the user’s ability to self-publish and, in the process, creating a form of social archiving. It also shows the ease in which people can now communicate to each other, as Alan Rusbridger (2010) supports: ‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’ It is perhaps even more impressive that we communicate with those who we do not know. Soundcloud is ultimately changing the way we publish in social life. It is opening up avenues for different modes of self-publishing and we are essentially connecting publics, or as David Gauntlett (2011) discusses: forming bridges between people and communities. The social features of Soundcloud have created various networks of social relations. These relations can be traced back to Latour’s Actor Network Theory where ‘interaction, transformation and transfer can be described as the processes that revolve around the central music track’ (Koomen 2011). People are becoming more open and public on the Web and as a result, their publishing in social life is reflective of it. Traditional intermediaries are diminishing because we are able to access new flexible intermediaries which promote people’s interests of self-publishing. Being able to access vast amounts of recent and stored information and to communicate with those who we do not know is in fact incredibly transformative.

An issue which has been significant within the music publishing industry is the concerns with piracy. Commonly interchanged with the term ‘copyright infringement’, piracy refers to the unwritten permission of copying one’s intellectual property. The onset of the information age has seen piracy’s focus shift towards the issue of filesharing software which enables people to ‘download movies, songs and other creative works without paying for them’ (Murphie 2012). This may seem as a disadvantage for these online music publishing intermediaries. Instead, it has worked in their favour and has resulted in the demise of traditional hierarchical intermediaries. Users are oblivious to the various piracy laws and thus we are becoming more open to publishing in our social lives. Especially in the music industry, where ‘if an original music product is born digital and purchased as a file or stream, piracy and sharing become very easy’ (Frost 2007). Matt Burns (2012) from TechCrunch states that new intermediaries like Soundcloud are increasingly popular because they offer additional functionality and convenience. Publishing in social life is changing and is now focusing on the issue of time; a reason for the dimishing of traditional intermediaries. Services such as Soundcloud ‘thrive because they offer the utmost in convenience, which is something the media companies have failed to provide yet’ (Burns 2012).

Creative commons is another aspect influencing the role of publishing in our social lives. It is also hindering the involvement of traditional intermediaries within the music industry. The creative commons is a form of license which permits certain royalty-free uses of copyrighted worked (Carroll 2006, p.47). In doing so, people are given more freedom to publish their work. It also allows people to copy and distribute another’s work provided that credit is given to the source. Soundcloud allows its users to give up certain exclusive rights associated with copyright by promoting the creative commons license. These licenses are changing the role of publishing in social life as it gives users more freedom. Furthermore, the prices for which music is offered through creative common sites such as Soundcloud give consumers less incentive to pirate work (Frost 2007). It also gives consumers less incentive go through a hierarchical intermediary when what they want can be accessed more conveniently through these new forms of intermediaries.

Something that modern intermediaries do well is presenting published work visually. Traditional intermediaries also publish work visually but not to the same degree. Through the development of the World Wide Web, modern intermediaries have been able to present published works with such elegance through either sophisticated or simple visualisations. They simply present data through images which tend to engage with the viewer, showing them information which could not be seen before. As simple as it is; it unintendedly diminishes the presence of traditional intermediaries as they are unable to compete with newer intermediaries which show such beautifully published work. In regards to music publishing, record companies as traditional intermediaries try to publish their product, such as an album, visually engaging. Yet these intermediaries lack in creating visualisations which connect or intervene with publics. Soundcloud on the other hand uses a simple design which encourages user interaction. A visual feature on the website is its waveform player. This allows users to comment and discuss specific timed areas of the track. The waveform’s visual representation of the track enables a dynamic music experience where the audio of the track is reflected in its visual orientation (Tanaka 2001 cited in Koomen 2011). There are also additional social features which allow users to create interest groups by following other users. In a way, this allows users to create their own public spehere. Each of the audio, visual and social features affords user processes and interactions (Norman 1998 cited in Koomen 2011). The use of simple visualisations allows users to publish information which will engage and connect with the public. With new intermediaries presenting published work visually it has changed the way we publish in social life in that we are promoting public interaction.

The development of the World Wide Web has caused the diminution of traditional hierarchical intermediaries. Its endless supply of information and the rate at which it flows is changing the role of publishing in social life. In particular, the music publishing industry has been influenced by these developments. Traditional music intermediaries are unable to compete with such vast amounts of information. Nor are they able to produce a social setting where publics can interact by publishing their own work and discussing it. Traditional intermediaries are becoming outdated because of the World Wide Web; and the way that these new intermediaries change how we publish in our social lives, is truly transformative.


Boyd, D 2010, What is implied by living in a world of flow?, Truthout, accessed 5 June 2012,

Burns, M 2012. With MegaUpload down, who’s next? RapidShare? SoundCloud? DropBox?, TechCrunch, accessed 6 June 2012,

Carroll, M 2006. ‘Creative commons and the new intermediaries’, Michigan State Law Review, vol.45, pp.45-65

Callon, M 1991. ‘Techno-economic networks and irreversibility’, A Sociology of Monsters: Essays on Power, Technology and Domination, vol.38, pp.132-16

Frost, R 2007. ‘Rearchitecting the music industry: mitigating music piracy by cutting out the record companies’, First Monday, vol.12, Number 8-6 August 2007, accessed 6 June 2012,                                            

Garofalo, R 1999. ‘From music publishing to MP3: Music and industry in the twentieth century’, American Music, vol.17, no.3, pp.318-354

Gauntlet, D 2011. Making is connecting, accessed 5 June,

Helium 2011, The rise of disintermediation in the music industry, Helium, accessed 4 June 2012,

Koomen, M 2011. ‘#heapsong1: sharing music on SoundCloud’, New Media Studies, mag.4, May 2011, accessed 5 June 2012,

Murphie, A 2012. Lecture notes week 6, [PowerPoint Slides]

Murphie, A 2012. Lecture notes week 11, [PowerPoint Slides]

Rusbridger, A 2010, The splintering of the fourth estate, The Guardian, accessed 4 June 2012,



Publishing is transforming into a more complex, distributed and aggregated world. The revolutionising of stand alone devices is strangely becoming out-dated as the industry moves towards interconnective and ubiquitous computing. As a result, new relations between content and experience are formed as publics become increasingly connected and more dynamic. The increase in distribution is causing such widespread connectivity between publics. The term aggregation focuses on this issue of what can be distributed. Aggregation involves gathering, combining or bringing anything can be distributed (text, images, sounds, code, platforms) into a new whole or a new relationship. David Gauntlet focuses on making something in order to connect with someone or something else. An example that he uses is blogging in where people are creating, connecting and communicating their social space to their publics. It is a mode of publishing which is essentially forming a bridge between people and communities.

The development of numerous platforms and our abundance of different modes of publishing is highlighting the evidence that we love to distribute and aggregate. Danah Boyd discusses the issue of ‘flow’ and how an endless supply of information has its limitations. She states they we are moving from a broadcast era to a networked era. In a networked era, people will collide by consuming overloaded information. People instead need tools “that allow them to get into the flow, that allow them to live inside the information structures, whatever they are, whatever they’re doing.” As publishing changes, we require a need for different means to adapt to the change. Publishing used to be heavily focused on the content rather than how it was distributed or aggregated. Yet nowadays publishing is becoming more flexible as the focus has shifted towards everyone; i.e. we are all distributing and aggregating (we are the hunters and gatherers).

Information Graphics

Information graphics are essentially a visual way of publishing data. It is a form of information communication through a visual register. It is the production of data-based images. Visualization, at best, which attempts to make people to do more than just look at an image, rather making them take notice of the information, connections and patterns that could not be seen before. It is intended to make the invisible visible and always tries to discover the unknown. Publishing such information graphics allows publishers to communicate their information through a simple and visual medium so that the public can understand their intended message.

These images above are examples of information graphics. These information graphics and thousands of others on are a refreshing change to the very simple and exhausted bar, line and pie type graphs. Information graphics are focused on presenting the aesthetics of publishing data. However, not all information graphics have to be bright colourful masterpieces. Timo Arnell demonstrates the visual effect that the dashed line has had on publishing images. As simple as a dashed line sounds, it has been used to represent images on as…


a sign of movement



and representing a path

By adding such simple information to an image it helps the public understand and gives them a better view of the information. There is an increase in publishing such information graphics as it ensures publishers that the public will understand their intended message.


We have all been exposed to the various features of piracy and its disciplines. Prior to the onset of the information age; the concerns for piracy were not as wide or as specific as they are now. Carrying on from last week’s topic; piracy also shares a concern for economies of attention and the economies of knowledge. As publishing is essentially making something known, the influences of piracy have caused much debate. None more so than the case of Wikileaks which is questioning the legality of piracy in an online publishing world.


The public has been aware of the severity and legality of piracy. We have been exposed to campaigns such as the above video reminding us of the importance of piracy. This is issue tends to follow on from last week’s topic on attention. With decreased attention spans, our economies of attention are becoming limited and we are too often distracted to new focuses of attention. This is because of our habits of attention. People have various habits which require their attention. Media and social changes may add new assemblages causing a change in one’s attention. However others may not be distracted because of their intent on staying with their habits. For example, one may be uninterested in using e-readers as they have developed a habit for printed books. The scarcity of our attention is thus different to our economies of knowledge. This involves distributing information without losing its original form. This is reflective of the laws of copyright in that once an idea has been created it may be distributed but it will never lose its origin of ownership. However with the onset of the information age and the increased usage of the internet, it has allowed for the immense copying and distributing of information which inturn has affected the world of publishing.


The word infotention is a combination of the terms information and attention. It refers to how we combine learned attention skills with online information skills.

These days, there is a lack in drawing in one’s attention. Our economy of attention is affected by the information age. The introduction of the real-time web has seen a saturation of information. Our attention spans have decreased and we now suffer from what David Armano states as “technology induced attention deficit disorder.” Describing our lack of attention as a disorder due to increases of technology is something that I do not agree with. I see it that we do not lack attention rather that we are always looking for information which will compliment our attention economy. O’Malley states that “attention is a human constant and that it constantly seeks new forms.” He argues that attention is a constant and continual process, meaning that all attention is distraction, vice versa. For example, the publishing of the latest ‘breaking news’ story becomes the distraction of all previous stories and essentially becomes the new focus of attention.

Howard Rheingold, originator of the term infotention describes it as a “psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today.” Due to the increase in information available, Rheingold argues that we need to filter this information in order to know what is worth our attention. In regards to publishing, what attracts or distracts our attention is usually involuntary, making us exposed to the information published. Yet the system of mindful infotention suggests that the use of internal filters gives us a choice in what we focus our attention on.


An archive is any form of data that is stored away to be used in the future. They are the basis of individual and collective memories and experiences. A fundamental principle of an archive is their provenance. Meaning who created the data, where did it come from, and how reliable is this information.

In order to understand the structure of an archive, the lecture’s example of a sea sponge can be used. Firstly the sponge itself acts as the archive and allows for data (and other recordings) to be stored away inside. Secondly, when the sponge is squeezed, you hear the recording. This acts as a form of content and expression. Finally, the last aspect of the sea sponge/archive is concerned with its distribution in that is found everywhere. The combination of these aspects or assemblages come together to create a mode of publishing.

The concept of an archive is primarily concerned with the preservation of data and information. As Jacques Derrida states in his work ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression’, “the archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens out of the future.” Derrida shows that nowadays we are seeing new forms of archiving, especially in the self-archiving form. Thanks to the power of the real-time web, society is now able to archive their information through various online applications. The use of social networking sites such as Twitter acts as a constant and permanent online archive. In Matthew Ogle’s post he poses the question “What were you thinking about on November 23rd 2009? You probably have no idea but Twitter might.” The question infers to the growth of such online archives and how our own recollection of memories are becoming outsourced to these types of archives. Yet it us, the users, who are recording the information and ultimately catching and spreading the fever by grounding things we create in both the present and the past.


Actor-network Theory

Actor-network theory, developed by Bruno Latour and Michael Callon, proposes that a combination of material (physical) actors and semiotic (intangible) actors form the basis of a social network. Actor-network theory is different to other network theories in that it doesn’t just account for humans rather it considers the importance of many non human actors. With this being the case, it is considered quite a general theory and allows for such broad usage. For example, the theory may be used to explain a school system or even as large as explaining a nation’s media network (the video below is quite useful).


Actor-network theory also states that all actors are equal and share the same importance towards the network. As the theory relies upon the collaborative efforts of all actors; disorder within network can occur if actors or even if just one actor is removed. Thus a criticism arises, in that if one actor’s removal is affecting the whole network, does it not suggest that certain actors are more important than others.

By breaking down the actor-network theory, we are able to see all the collective parts/actors and can categorise them into their corresponding roles. This is referred to as the assemblage. The concept of assemblage was presented by Manuel de Landa in his text ‘A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity’. As with the criticism of actor-network theory; de Landa’s assemblage theory proposes that some actors of a network will have a greater importance and attention than others. Assemblage theory also suggests that a component may be unplugged from one assemblage and plugged into another without losing its original identity. Using de Landa’s assemblage theory in regards to publishing; it shows how a collection of a network’s components such as the paper, the pens or ink, the fonts, the colours, the authors, etc result in the formation of a publication.