Between Ink and Hyperlink (completed)

This project analyzed the role of the book as a medium, its relations to other media, and its changing roles and functions in the cultural industries.

The book is our first mass medium, and well established as a national cultural industry with strong connections to national culture and language. The spread of literacy and public education has given literature a privileged place in national cultural policies which is now challenged by technological changes (the e-book) and increasing commercialization and internationalization in the publishing industry.

The digitalization of texts brings to the surface debates on copyrights, the changing conditions for symbolic creativity and freedom for authors, and questions regarding the universities and their societal functions. Because of the privileged position of the book in national cultures and languages, these questions become more principally informed, engaging cultural political institutions and organizations in intense public debates. Thirdly, there are theoretical or academic reasons, both regarding the structuring of course teaching and research cooperation in the universities themselves: The book has been the forgotten medium in media studies, as sociology has been the lost discipline in literary theory. Research on the book and publishing needs a new, interdisciplinary home within a sociologically oriented cultural industrial approach.

Theoretically the project builds on bridges between the British cultural studies tradition and the more continental traditions of the Frankfurt school and more contemporary cultural sociology, as well with Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology of culture.  Pierre Bourdieu himself laid the ground for this type of investigation in Les règles de l’art. Genèse et structure du champ littéraire.(1992). This involves three perspectives: First, a rereading of the connections between sociology of literature and media sociology, back to Weber and early attempts to formulate a sociological research agenda in European sociology, via the British Cultural Studies tradition. Secondly a discussion of how the book has become part of a larger media and cultural industry through increasing digitalization and globalization. And thirdly an academic self-reflection and history of social and cultural research on the trajectory of sociology of literature within media sociology since the 1960s.

This leads up to an analysis of the international publishing industry of how the publishing industry has become integrated in or disintegrated from the wider media industry. The research findings so far show an interesting change: From being seen by managers and owners as a vital, but not so significant part of an integrated media industry in the 1990s, publishing has become a specialized branch for text production, being divided into specialized industrial sectors. Particularly interesting is the way academic and scholarly publishing has moved to centre stage of the dynamics, particularly within the so–called STM-markets. A historical perspective is similarly important in our approach, since we find that organizational and professional structures, values and norms are transformed and reformulated as a negotiation of the historic structures. This is particularly relevant in view of contemporary technological change (digitalization).


Published Apr. 8, 2011 10:56 AM