London Experience, Day 1: E-Publishing as an Information Problem
I arrived in London on Monday to overcast skies and blustery temperatures – blustery at least for a Tennesseean, especially one who’d just spent 3 weeks in New Mexico’s high desert at the University of New Mexico Environmental Information Management Institute.
I’d been chasing the sunrise eastward since 10:25sunday morning, leaving the arid desert for a 2 hour hop to George Bush International Airport in humid Dallas, Texas, then taking a direct 9 hour International flight to Heathrow International in London.
The sun rose high over the northern latitudes above a sea of clouds – I pondered how generations of Europeans had made the reverse trip across the frigid North Atlantic towards a better life in the Americas – and how some never made it to that promised land. It is odd to be an American making the reverse journey, especially so non-chalantly as on a jet aircraft. Perhaps the former fleet of Air France supersonic jets gave an even more injurious insult to the hard-won sea voyages of early seafarers.
As the plane made a descent to London, I caught a few glimpses of the rocky coastline – which only a few weeks before I’d been discussing the fractal nature of the British coast. It was nice to see in person. Nearing London, I took interest in the orderly structure of the city’s layout, especially in comparison to U.S. cities like Atlanta and Charlotte I’ve flown into – metropolitan areas with much surrounding land where sprawl freely creeps. The countryside was lush and verdant. Rolling hills in the distance surprised me for their semblance to the rolling green hills outside Knoxville, Tennessee. The city grid seemed efficient and bustling – my eye focused on the steadily snaking rail lines and linear beads of mercury running along iron oxidized tracks, carrying morning commuters to their destinations.
In as much as communication and information is a transportation problem, essentially how to transfer information from one location to another, the idea of my transatlantic flight and these inner city commuters captured my imagination. As much as my flight makes earlier transatlantic flight seem hopelessly primitive, I wonder how many years will pass before out fossil-fuel based jet setting is also hopelessly primitive, perhaps as our atoms are bounced across continents, transmitted and re-assembled as a data stream a la Star Trek transporter fame.
As I embark to study scholarly e-publishing, the same question arises: what technology has yet to exist that will revolutionize publishing as much as the printing press did in 1450? Certainly the Internet has significantly enhanced publication and dissemination options, but it is still largely based on an electronic version of the print medium paradigm. Even with tablets, many newspapers simply offer a PDF version of their daily magazine – embracing the full potential of digital publishing may require not only technical expertise but also a strong imagination to envision and embrace the possibilities presented by fully digital scholarly content.
I’m looking forward to exploring this topic in the next two weeks.