I’ve attended two extracurricular lectures in the last couple of weeks (just because I have nothing else to do.)
The first lecture ‘Digital publishing in 2010 – a Lonely Planet case study’ was presented by Lonely Planet’s Vivek Wagle (Head, Editorial) and Jane Nethercote (Senior Digitial Editor) and was organised by the School of Culture and Communication at The University of Melbourne.
The second lecture was by writer and educator Mark Pesce about ‘the changing trend of internet use, possible futures and the risks and benefits of what lies ahead.’ The lunchtime lecture was part of a Corporate Communications Unit seminar series organised by the Department of Health, which is where I work and seem to spend most of my life.
Actually, I lie. I didn’t go to Mark Pesce’s lecture. I wanted to, but due to ridiculous work commitments, I couldn’t manage to find the one hour needed. So I watched his talk on YouTube at home instead, which is a joke really, because a one hour lecture morphed into a four hour episode as I was continually interrupted – either by the kids or by my inability to concentrate on the one thing for more than ten minutes. (Maybe Nicholas Carr is right – the internet is making me stupid!).
Anyway, I’m really glad I made it to the Lonely Planet lecture. Vivek and Jane are dynamic and engaging speakers. They spoke about the sort of stuff I want to know about, like
- what is an editor (“ … a type of DJ, someone who understands the vibe and can put together content from a variety of sources for the moment …”)
- what e-publishing is and the differences between e-publishing and print publishing (in print publishing, errors are failures [who can forget Penguin’s ‘salt and freshly ground black people‘?], but in e-publishing, lack of responsiveness is failure. And getting it out there is more important than getting it right!)
- what Lonely Planet is doing in this sphere (“keeping on strategy, on tone and on voice”), and
- what challenges editors will face in the next few years (a lot, as the users replace the rules in editorial thinking).
I came out with heaps of notes, but interestingly, what has remained with me is that Vivek prefers the term ‘digital publishing’ to e-publishing, because the term doesn’t look made up and has a bigger word count! Also, this great quote that sums up one of the basic philosophies of Lonely Planet:
“We alone cannot provide everything. But we can show you where everything is. Lonely Planet is about an approach to the world rather than a prescribed set of content creators. We are about people more than places.”
Mark Pesce’s lecture left me with a couple of interesting thoughts too. He suggests that we can’t predict the future of the internet because it is constantly evolving, and that
“… the seeds of the future are always with us in the present, but of course it is up to us to water them … to tend … to sit back and watch them grow.”
He gave the example of a current seed – the development of the GPS tracker, working successfully on Melbourne trams but rejected by the Sydney bus drivers’ union – as a potentially insidious tool open to misuse in our ‘database nation’. Currently it works well for public transport, but who knows which way it will go in the future? It could track information by ‘absence’ as well as by ‘presence’ (i.e. where we are not as opposed to where we are). Mark wants to remind us that
“… it is possible to resist, to push back … to say ‘no’ to the forces that seek to measure us and to monitor us and ask us to comply.”
Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard someone actually say that we don’t need to embrace every new thing the internet and the world wide web throws at us. Happy with that.
Pause, take a breath. Over and out.