Saturday, April 14, 2012

Right Content, Right Medium

Throughout the term, we have been discussing literacy and transliteracy revolving around the question of how we have changed the way we consume and produce content in an era of advancing communications technology. A significant underlying tension in our readings and discussion has been the use of print media versus digital media.

Through focusing on transliteracy and examining new media narratives, it has become clear that those who use new media effectively have moved beyond the format of text to communicate ideas using a variety of formats: text, visual, audio, animation, video and interactive content. But perhaps in retrospect it is a good idea to look back at the format of text and how new media is changing the way we explicitly interact with it in the new digital age.

In the article, A Book Club of Billions: 52 Ways to Die in a Cave and Other Lessons in Social Media Marketing, Tammy Nam discusses how two book publishers have used social media to promote their works. In the case of James Tabor’s book Blind Descent, the publishers produced a two page Scribd document that was distributed virally to help push book sales. The book Marijuana is Safer by Steve Fox, Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert, was actually released in full and for free on Sribd. In two days, “the book was read more than 100,000 times and downloaded more than 11,000 times” (Nam, 2010). According to Nam, these publishers, “are using Scribd to take advantage of what's so great about the web for book marketing” (2010).

In the article Google puts $1m into academic research projects for digitised books, Jemima Kiss shows how Google is working to digitize older print content and to add relevant geographic content to the files. “Researchers say the project will help to open up interested in history, classics and archaeology, but will also help develop new tools and research methods as well as expertise in using data in this way” (Kiss, 2010).

It is well recorded that people read differently with digital text than they do with printed text. There is a higher propensity to scanning material and there is a bias toward shorter pieces. For me, in an attempt to sum up the term, there needs to be a recognition for the benefits and limitations of each media. It would be ineffective to simply publish a book or long academic article that is meant for attentive sustained reading in a digital form that looks identical to its published form. The use of new media should take advantage of all of the strengths that the media offers – in integrating video, sound, animation and interactivity. The richness of the content will come not from the length of the text but instead from the accompanying media. The corollary is also true, formats that require and work well with long text are best served in traditional print. Academic pieces that require in depth consideration and attention as well as vivid fiction for which the imagination on the reader is vital should remain in print formats.

To Jessica, the authors that we spoke with and my classmates, thanks for this course.


Nam, Tammy H. (2010, July). “A Book Club of Billions: 52 Ways to Die in a Cave and Other Lessons in Social Media Marketing.” The Huffington Post. Retrieved from:

Kiss, Jemima. (2010, July). “GooglePuts $1m into Academic Research Projects for Digitised Books.” The Guardian. Retreived from:

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