Knights of Publishing

The future of publishing is a topic akin to religious apocalypse, alien contact, and other impending cataclysms. This bizarre conversation is alternately disturbing and miraculous, and those with children would be well-advised to protect them from these matters.  The publishing industry will decide the form of communication, intellect, perception, memory, and education. So the industry is a pit of strife over our future life-forms. When people today plan their families, careers and institutions, they inevitably make wagers on the future of publishing. They make assumptions about how they will gather information, send messages, make purchases, and participate in democracy. The future of life on Earth will be decided in a violent nexus between publishing and finance. These are matters which can only be addressed in the grave tone suited for the horrors of the supernatural or the abominations of war.

Groups with similar investments are natural allies, and the conflict between alternate investment plans is the primary sense of the term “war” today. The most prominent armies have forged their allegiances around metals, bonds, properties, stocks… but the value of these investments will ultimately be decided by publishing. The form of our species is a side-effect of the form of publishing, and so this industry shall determine the Value of value.  The greatest danger is that publishing might be treated as just another opportunity for financial investment, and dragged into the miserable skirmishes of bond-holders and gold bugs. If this singular industry ever went thus afoul, then we humans would become like beasts whose only recourse is to hide themselves in remote caverns lest they expose their shameful condition.  But conversely, if publishing can overcome the quagmire of finance, and attained its glorious providence, then our species would become the blessed of the Earth. This is indeed a serious situation which demands vigilant action, such as the clandestine operations of knights-errant.

My hypothesis is that the form of publishing determines the form of human life. This is “form” in the sense that the old German psychologists spoke of Gestalt.  This has integrity and durability despite complexity.  Or we could go beyond mere resilience to consider forms that are anti-fragile, which mutate to exploit disturbances. Anyway, a publishing Gestalt  naturally includes aspects like raw materials, technical experts, distribution networks, financial mechanisms etc. The form of publishing is the relational constellation of these diverse aspects. But one particular relation is the kernel of any publishing Gestalt. In its traditional variant, this is the approximately 40cm retinal relation between the face and the printed page. But this classical relation bifurcates technologically as the page becomes a screen, or a projection on the side of a building, or it becomes auditory or haptic.

It’s over this nameless core relation that the most important battles will be fought.  The demonic lords of finance hold the industry in the classical retinal relation (face-to-page), and this maintains the bleak conditions in publishing today. They have reproduced the classical form as a technological zombie, or unstable optical fetish, by treating the screen as if it were the page. This results in a structure that oscillates between depression and mania, a polarity that is familiar to those who visit bookstores. Smaller bookstores fall into a depression on the verge of foreclosure, and in the few profitable stores there are large sections where newly published books are reduced by 70%. When Dan Brown’s eagerly anticipated new book comes out, his previous book is sadly moved to the reduced section. Excited customers buy piles of new books, but never read them so they feel guilty. Under the yolk of financial tutelage the entire publishing industry oscillates fetishistically.

It’s necessary for knights-errant to operate outside this structure, and that means taking a wider perspective on the evolution of literacy. The timelessness of the knight moves outside history, in the nowhere behind the slit in their armour.  In medieval times, nobles would post announcements on public sign boards. When there was something to announce, say a foreign dignitary was visiting, or a nearby village was under quarantine, they would post the message so that literate subjects could be informed. Those messages were sporadic – several might appear one day, and then none for a few weeks.  The medium was only used when it was necessary to communicate something. This is how normal communication works – something is only said when there is something to say.  But with modern periodicals it became necessary to publish the same volume of material at regular intervals. This regularity of publications has to do with financial cycles, and it changes the nature of communication. Regardless if anything happened today, the six O’clock news will still be an hour long. Under the power of finance reading becomes ritualized as an optic fetish.

This fetish is a frame relation where reading becomes an imaginary facial contact. The words may be “read”, but this reading involves something extra that we’ll call mediumship or noetic transmission.  The knights’ task is not simply to throw away the fetish. The phantasy enactment is linked with the horror of finance, but to reject this element would just repeat the swing of the fetishistic structure. The fetish system already assumes its rejection,  so the noetic is not attained by simply subtracting the phantasy. The phantasy must be sustained as the medium through which the noetic transmissions pass, the screen or veil through which signals arrives.

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