Once upon a time a friend of mine had prepared a brief leaflet for their exhibition at a festival. I always remembered what he mentioned about selling this single page to the visitors:
“We must charge at least a symbolic cost. Otherwise, some will just have a short look and throw it away. Most will even not have that look and just send it directly to garbage.”
I don’t feel myself like a good member of the consumer society. I think at least twice before I make a purchasing decison. This is not only for the financial cost. My personality declares me not to interfere with the environment excessively. I have a fear of giving an
irreversible harm with an unnecessary action.
But in the past, I was a collector of items like many others were, brochures, sample kits, trial offers, we were ready to take and keep anything.
I don’t remember when exactly this fact changed, but after some time, I started trying to minimize my arbitrary footprints in the universe. I gained a feeling telling “Any trace you leave must have a meaning.”
At the critical points of decision moments, I started refusing free offers unless they were absolutely necessary for me and I was ready also to pay for them. This approach was valid for years.
In the new world of global communication and interference, when I first saw the offer of University of Chicago Press, I was also at a mood of rejecting also the electronic offers due to increasing traffic of daily messages.
However, I requested free books offered by them since I had an impression telling those may have a value for me and I might find some time for at least fast reading them in a reasonable time. Besides, electronic copies did not have environmental effects and did not require physical storing spaces.
So, my free books adventure began.
Do the free books have value? How can it be measured?
The value of books can be argued from different aspects. As the commercial values of intellectual, scientific, cultural or artistic products. As the measurable values of dissemination, interaction, social effect or feedbak rate. As the academic values evaluated under standard approaches of international sciences.
Is it possible to explain the value of art product with general supply and demand curves? Production and exchange systems are not able to explain these mechanisms completely even for standard items. In the complex world of continuous communication, none of the affecting factors can give the answer alone. Dynamics of value can be worked to understand and find new criteria to define the value of tacit items.
There are many questions which can be asked. Can the trend analysis of new production and exchange forms be made completely for the new dynamic models? Is an item worthless when not paid? Is an item really worthy if it is paid and costly? Are the start-up and entry costs for sectors valid for both standard economy items and intellectual properties? What is the function of art and literature? What is their relation with economy? What are the functions of art and literature producers and consumers as independent individuals? What are their purposes? Is there a question of freedom? Are there large gaps between existing and expected situations? Is the number of questions on
values of art and literature a finite value?
In the communication age of fast living, it may not be possible to survive without “Computer Aided Life Support”.
I had once noted “Commerce At Light Speed” following the “Being Human at Light Speed”.
In today’s world, trade is important since each physical or abstract entity must have a commercial value to survive.
This, obviously creates a paradox.
At least some of the items must be kept away from the trade system, to keep the balance between moral and commercial values. However, this approach still seems to be too far to find a place in the current system.
On the other hand, life gains new meanings with the communication technologies.
I am not trying to mention medical aids, health alarm systems and monitoring.
I am focusing directly on the meaning of life for individuals. Understanding yourself, your region, your world, and the entire universe, giving a meaning for your existence, feeling you are a part of the large system, feeling you can change some of the unpleasant aspects of
Social media, being able to contact many people spread throughout the world, gives new opportunities for life. It is a new type of living for the individual, a new and probably very effective way of existing.
Can free books be the great values of the new era? Can they be the standard and perfect way of existence in the future? Can they build the interaction platform where each unique member of the world will store explanations and questions, and receive answers and new questions in a rapidly growing development cycle?
Do we need a new measurement system for evaluating the value of intellectual properties?
Are there ways of unseeing?
Does “not seeing” have the same meaning with unseeing? Is there a new way of existing?
“To see or not to see.”
The above description of existence follows “Ways of Seeing” (1) by John Berger (2):
“Ways of Seeing is a 1972 BBC four-part television series of 30-minute films created chiefly by writer John Berger and producer Mike Dibb. Berger’s scripts were adapted into a book of the same name. The series and book criticize traditional Western cultural aesthetics by raising questions about hidden ideologies in visual images. The series is partially a response to Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation series, which represents a more traditionalist view of the Western artistic and cultural canon.”
Ways of seeing had always included a certain amount of ways of unseeing. However, in today’s global village of communication, it is a surprise for me to witness the power of efforts for domination of the ways of unseeing against ways of seeing.
Whether it leans on word or it leans on sound, or whether it leans on image, any branch of art and literature reflects the reality from a point of view. Or more correctly, it presents only a selected portion of the reality, and besides it presents it after transforming, changing, and even distorting it.
From a point of view, it understands the reality on its own way, it commentates, explains, and tells.
With another way of looking, it does not understand or seems intentionally as if it has not understood, distorts, complicates, brings it to an ununderstandable state.
“Ways of seeing” includes “Ways of unseeing” in its composition, in a way.
While showing one aspect, it covers everywhere with a dark fog.
It hides the reality from the eyes believing it understands the truth. It hides enjoying the moment, with a great joy.
Since we tend to believe what we see with our own eyes, the importance of this effect increases in visual arts.
Crowded traces running after dominating ideas cover everywhere.
Understanding the worn and eroded external world becomes more difficult. All seeks introvert. They point only their originator. (3)
Is “Being Human at Light Speed” possible?
My memory is not good. I forget everything. Writing is therefore very valuable for me, I always take notes. I admire and love the search option of the digital world. However, it is also not a straight-forward process for finding what you want. I was not able to trace the
origin of “Being Human at Light Speed”. The only link I could find was my messages about Jane Friedman’s blog. (4)
8 Feb 12, @JaneFriedman. I noticed your note “Being Human at Electric Speed”, remembered “Thinking at Light Speed”. I think being human is more difficult.
27 Mar 12, @JodyHedlund. This is very human I think. May be an example for Jane Friedman’s “Being Human at Electric Speed” I believe sharing is living.
I also remember the works about “Commerce at Light Speed” and “Continuous Acquisition and Lifecycle Support”. An article compares USA and Japan on CALS:
“This article reports on and compares early activity in the area of electronic business in the USA and Japan arising from the introduction of the Continuous Acquisition and Lifecycle Support (CALS) initiative developed in the USA in 1985, to improve defence procurement and operational support through the use of electronic, rather than paper, media. CALS is possibly the first major e-business initiative and, as such, it has important lessons to give the present plethora of e-business activity. Included are an overview of what CALS is and how it was adopted in the two different cultural and industrial contexts. The paper concludes by summarizing possible implications of CALS for the UK.” (5)
Anyway, “Being Human at Light Speed” is not easy today. Being human was not also so easy before the information age. But it is now very difficult to know what the world really lives and feels despite the existence of online information and news channels.
I had once tried to summarize light explosions:
“While our lives are getting faster each moment, ‘Light Explosions’ gain a specific importance. When people who had lived in darkness throughout thousands of years were illuminated with fire, when information previosly transmitted with manuscripts and smoke signals were transmitted with use of printing press and electricity, a transformation process had started. Now we are in a new era of change. We have
to re-define life in a world communicating at light speed.” (6)
Either in stone or digital age, “I think, therefore I am.” (7)
Is it the same or different at light speed?
“I think, therefore I write. I write, therefore I am.”
Should “write” in this statement be interchanged with “read” at the frequency of light?
From the first signs at the caves to online daily creation of global multimedia complex, who is writing, thinking, and living? Why is she thinking? Why is he writing? Why are they living?
My free books adventure began when I first saw the offer of University of Chicago Press and then I received many interesting titles, had a short look at them, told myself “How interesting they are, I must read them as soon as possible!”
But I have not read any of the books so far. I am not pessimistic. I am sure I will read some of them one day. This is just a normal delay due to my intense schedule!
I remember a scene and a powerful comment on sea trips accross La Manche by Mr. Hastings in one of Agatha Christie‘s Hercule Poirot novels. It was about the duration, like too short to start, too long not to do anything.
He was complaining that he could do nothing during these trips. At the beginning, he was thinking that the time was not sufficient to do anything, neither to look around and enjoy his time nor to read a book. He said he was always in a rush running from one place to another one in the ship and with this feeling, he was considering the time he spent at the ship as lost.
Isn’t this valid for life trips of most of us? Can we find the time required to live what we want to live?
The University of Chicago Press has an introduction at the web site. Following excerpts are from the information given there:
“Since its origins in 1890 as one of the three main divisions of the University of Chicago, the Press has embraced as its mission the obligation to disseminate scholarship of the highest standard and to publish serious works that promote education, foster public
understanding, and enrich cultural life.”
“Through our books and journals, we seek not only to advance scholarly conversation within and across traditional disciplines but, in keeping with the University of Chicago’s experimental tradition, to help define new areas of knowledge and intellectual endeavor.”
“The Press also recognizes the obligation to match the form of our publications to our readers’ needs by pursuing innovations in print and electronic technologies.” (8)
Can free books be considered as an important support for cultural exchange and success of international programs? (9)
The first book I was interested in the publications of University of Chicago Press was Alice Kaplan’s “Dreaming in French”, “The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis”.
“Since World War II, countless American students have been lured by that vision—and been transformed by their sojourn in the City of Light. Dreaming in French tells three stories of that experience, and how it changed the lives of three extraordinary American women.”
“All three women would go on to become icons, key figures in American cultural, intellectual, and political life, but when they embarked for France, they were young, little-known, uncertain about their future, and drawn to the culture, sophistication, and drama that only Paris could offer. Yet their backgrounds and their dreams couldn’t have been more different.”
Jacqueline Bouvier: 1949–1950
“Jacqueline Bouvier was a twenty-year-old debutante, a Catholic girl from a wealthy East Coast family.”
Susan Sontag: 1957–1958
“Susan Sontag was twenty-four, a precocious Jewish intellectual from a North Hollywood family of modest means, and Paris was a refuge from motherhood, a failing marriage, and graduate work in philosophy at Oxford.”
Angela Davis: 1963–1964
“Angela Davis, a French major at Brandeis from a prominent African American family in Birmingham, Alabama, found herself the only black student in her year abroad program—in a summer when all the news from Birmingham was of unprecedented racial violence.”
“Kaplan takes readers into the lives, hopes, and ambitions of these young women, tracing their paths to Paris and tracking the discoveries, intellectual adventures, friendships, and loves that they found there.”
“For all three women, France was far from a passing fancy; rather, Kaplan shows, the year abroad continued to influence them, a significant part of their intellectual and cultural makeup, for the rest of their lives.” (10)
It is not easy to keep records even in the computer age but as far as I remember, the book on the Phoenix Poets can be one of the first books I requested.
“A Charm” from David Ferry’s “Stranger” with four lines quoted below can be the first poem I read there:
“I have a twin who bears my name
Bears it about with him in shame”
“When I was brave, he was afraid
He told the truth; I lied” (11)
In the introduction of “Phoenix Poets”, “Quality of feeling underscored by quality of thought, the mind in motion, the eye and ear attentive, formal ingenuity in the service of important subjects” are specified as “some of the qualities that the series embodies” as
they “look to publish the best books of poetry being written, regardless of fashion.”
“Phoenix Poets was founded in 1982 by Robert von Hallberg and the Press, and began in 1983 to publish books by individual American and British poets. After the initial years, culminating with Donald Davie’s Collected Poems (1990), the series shifted its focus to American poets. Phoenix Poets continues to publish books distinguished by keen awareness of the history and possibilities of poetry.” (12)
Since the first one, I received many other free books. Unfortunately, I was not able to read any one of them completely. Priorities, priorities!
From a point of view, this is a failure of the program. None of the books were able to transmit a full message to me.
From another point of view, this is still a success. I was informed about the publications of University of Chicago Press and many, tens of books they published. This is far more than checking books at a book store or browsing the introductions and excerpts of books on Internet.
The anwwer is not clear and unique. Like any answer found in life, in nature or in human societies. It has a complex and transforming shape. It is not an answer but a set of new questions. Like any book which can be read. And even complex cloud of unknowns and pieces of information is not visible, stable, and permanent. It starts evaporating as soon as it touches to mind. Like any word said or heard, written or read, sent or received, shared or kept personal.
Anyway, I am very happy to have some brilliant reflections from publications of Chicago Press in my mind.
Even I know that I may not remember them after a period of time, maybe several years, maybe more, but absolutely not more than a century.
This is life as far as I know and I feel, with I have lived so far, isn’t it?
As a conclusion, what can we say? Do free books have value? Is it measurable with their impact on their current and potential readers?
1. Ways of Seeing, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ways_of_Seeing
2. John Berger, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Berger
3. Mehmet Arat, Gormeme Bicimleri (Ways of Unseeing), http://www.sanatlog.com/sanat/gormeme-bicimleri/
4. Mehmet Arat, My Tweetures 2012, https://mehmetarat2000.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/my-tweetures-2012/
5. Tony Holden, Ruth A. Schmidt, Commerce at light speed – an international comparative evaluation of CALS strategy and implementation in
the USA and Japan, http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/02635570110366014?journalCode=imds
6. Mehmet Arat, Cocuklar ve Secmenler (Children and Voters), http://www.sanatlog.com/sanat/cocuklar-ve-secmenler/
7. René Descartes, Cogito ergo sum, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cogito_ergo_sum
8. About the Press, http://press.uchicago.edu/press/about.html
9. International Partnerships, http://harris.uchicago.edu/applied-experience/international-partnerships
10. Alice Kaplan, Dreaming in French, The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis,
11. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago Shorts, Thirty Years of Phoenix Poets, 1983 to 2012,
12. Randolph Petilos, Acquiring Editor, Phoenix Poets, http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/series/PP.htm