Technology & Culture Update 3/29/13

Extraterrestrials trying to contact the Mayans?

It’s Good Friday, peeps, so here’s some good reading for y’all!

Capitalizing on the astounding sales of the erotic smash hit, Fifty Shades of Grey, Vintage Books announced the forthcoming release of E. L. James’s The Fifty Shades of Grey: Inner Goddess (A Journal), which will no doubt bury the author and her publisher in fifty shades of green. In addition to titillating excerpts from the trilogy, the journal will include tips for aspiring writers. Seriously. I can think of several writers who are rolling over in their graves…

Publishers at the Digiday Publishing Summit muse about their biggest worries. No surprise: encroaching digital technologies and the shift toward mobile devices dominated the conversation.

In a particularly trenchant post, Seth Godin articulates the distinctive features that characterized the industrial age (obsession with scarcity) juxtaposing them with those that are organic to the “connection economy” (which prizes abundance). Go ahead, pick yourself!

The Scholarly Kitchen serves up a tasty review of Academic and Professional Publishing (Robert Campbell, Ed Pentz, and Ian Borthwick, eds.). This comprehensive tome offers essays touching on every aspect of the current academic publishing landscape — from the nuts and bolts of the biz to philosophical soul-searching about what the future holds (can you say “disruptive innovation”?). The reviewer offers a sobering bullet-point summary of the book’s highlights, the last of which is: “Digital skills (media, analytics, marketing) and leadership/management skills are needed to guide publishing through its next phase.” How ’bout “editorial skills”?

Google is fightin’ mad! The techno-leviathan insists that its trademarked moniker is not a verb! The company is determined to protect its brand and get the entire world to quit talking about “googling” something. Yeah, good luck wi’ dat. So listen up, y’all: cease and desist! Google knows where you live (and what your house looks like).

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog reports that MIT plans to release documents relating to its role in the Aaron Swartz case. “At MIT we believe in openness, and we are not afraid to examine our own actions,” university prez L. Rafael Reif solemnly pronounced (with a straight face). It should be noted that the documents in question will be redacted, you know, to protect the privacy of the guilty. Redacted? MIT, what don’t you understand about “open access”?

And here’s another timely read from the Scholarly Kitchen: “Open Access — Idealism and Realism Remain Difficult to Reconcile, Survey Says.” Surveys can be problematic, but the article does discuss some interesting aspects of the OA tug o’ war (like the many flavors of Creative Commons licenses).

Lord, how I wish I could convince aspiring authors that the skills involved in penning a provocative blog post, engaging long-form article, or masterful dissertation are not the same as those marshaled in the production of a book. Helen Hazen plumbs the depths of this innocent self-delusion in her essay, “Endless Rewriting,” in the current online issue of The American Scholar. The most important point in the article is her recollection of her editor’s declaration that “without clear and accurate language we cannot communicate effectively.” This is, of course, the crux of the matter — and the editor’s credo. So while I am thrilled by the prospect of the literary liberation offered by the self-publishing craze, I am also afraid of writers who don’t think they need an editor. Very afraid…

Has civility gone completely out of fashion? What are the new rules of (digital) etiquette? Do we just take ourselves too damn seriously? PLEASE DON’T TEXT WHILE I’M TALKING TO YOU! The Smithsonian considers how technology is affecting — and altering — how we relate to and interact with one another. Beware, one researcher suggests that “if you don’t practice connecting face to face [or is that f2f?] with others, you can start to lose your biological capacity to do so.”

And finally, for the ultimate in a techno-cultural mashup, check out the QR codes embedded in the pavers in Rio de Janeiro (photo above). When I first saw this, I thought it was proof that the ancient Romans invented smart phones. Turns out this is a clever (and subtle) way to provide touristas with scads of information about historical/cultural attractions (uh-huh), restaurants, lodgings, etc. You just take a photo with your smart phone and it zooms you straight to a helpful website. What’ll they think of next?

Have a fantastic weekend!

the DW-P

Aden Nichols is an independent editor and writer. He is available for print and digital projects: books (academic, narrative/creative nonfiction, memoir, speculative/alternate history, etc.), websites/social media, and business communications. Visit his website ( or email him at: