Literary editors and peer-to-peer book reviewers: Rethinking the role of cultural intermediaries in a socially networked age

Kiernan, Anna (2015) Literary editors and peer-to-peer book reviewers: Rethinking the role of cultural intermediaries in a socially networked age. In: Books and reading in an age of media overload, 15-16 June 2015, Sorbonne, Florence.

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Abstract / Summary

The literary landscape has changed. Few authors enjoy the luxury of retreating to their ivory towers to write -- they must also engage socially, connect with communities and tweet. The role of reviewers has changed too. Literary critics, like many other arts reviewers, have been adversely affected by the decline of print sales and the rise of digital content.
Book publishing, and the marketing and publicity which surrounds the event of publication, has shifted its emphasis too. There has been much debate about digital undercutting print over the past decade, fuelled in part by tensions resulting from Google’s digitisation project, Amazon’s domination of the e-book project and the shift in perception and sales around self-publishing. Thankfully, this oppositional discourse has moved on to make discursive space for more creative possibilities emerging from the digital landscape, in which the most powerful advocates, compelling campaigns and influential cultural intermediaries sometimes emerge from unexpected places and through unexpected influencers. As social media marketer Mark Fidelman asserts, ‘For me, there are no “professional” critics that matter anymore. In our new social world, the crowd must decide.’ (Fidelman, 2012)
Fidelman’s apocalyptic assertion is deliberately unsettling. But the disruptive vigour of his tone, and the impulse, as it were, to reclaim territory (or even to appear to reclaim territory) that has previously been demarcated for the culturally elite, is telling, signifying as it does a dissatisfaction with ‘how things are’ and a seeming desire to democratize the mode of production of literary reception.

This chapter will examine the evolving roles of cultural intermediaries and cultural curators within the world of books. Drawing on James Curran’s research in “Literary editors, social networks and cultural tradition”, and adding to it through new interview material, I will investigate the changing role, identity and characteristics of reviewers in a digitally networked marketplace.

Indicative references:

Bourdieu, Pierre (2010). Distinction. Routledge.
McDonald, Ronan (2008). The Death of the Critic. Continuum.
Curran, James (ed)(2000). ‘Literary Editors, Social Networks and Cultural Tradition’, in Media Organizations in Society. London: Arnold.
Gracia, J J E (2013). ‘The Hermeneutic Role of a Book Review: A Response to Glover’ in The Pluralist, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Summer 2013), pp. 113-116. Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy

Web references:
Finn, E F (2011). ‘The Social Lives of Books: Literary Networks in Contemporary American Fiction’: https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/9238491
http://www.forbes.com/sites/markfidelman/2012/10/16/goodreads-ceo-these-top-25-book-reviewers-represent-the-future-infographic/2/
Michelle Smith In the world of Goodreads, do we still need book reviewers? http://theconversation.com/in-the-world-of-goodreads-do-we-still-need-book-reviewers-56455
http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/critical-space-341406
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/may/24/telegraph-deputy-editor-newsroom-cull
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/jul/29/independent-titles-cut-back-arts-coverage
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/mar/17/guardian-media-group-to-cut-250-jobs
(All web links last accessed on 7 November 2016)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Writing & Journalism > Creative Writing
Writing & Journalism > Literature
Writing & Journalism
Courses by Department: The School of Writing & Journalism > English & Writing
Depositing User: Anna Kiernan
Date Deposited: 03 Mar 2017 12:51
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2017 12:51
URI: http://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/2162

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