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Former royal adviser sheds light on 1952-62 Rwanda


Olivier Nyirubugara, 31 January 2012 - 91-year-old Marcel Pochet, a senior colonial official before independence has started publishing his unique 1952-1962 archives from and about Rwanda. He served in Rwanda from 1948 as Territorial Administrator, among other things, and became in 1958 King Mutara III Rudahigwa’s adviser.

“My work was doing what the King asked me to do for him, advising him and ensuring smooth functioning of his cabinet”, Pochet told me on Sunday 29 January in Brussels. A day earlier, the first volume dedicated to ‘The Rwandan Problem” had been presented in public. This short report is about that volume.

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Surfing the Past: Digital Learners in the History Class


Cover Surfing the Past

Olivier Nyirubugara, 2012 - This books discusses one of the most frequently discussed subjects in history education during the last two decades, namely how secondary school pupils use the World Wide Web for their learning activities. Based on two case studies in two Dutch schools, the book shows some ways in which the use of the Web has changed history education in at least three respects: first, the findings of the two case studies show that the Web has a huge potential to turn the history class – previously described as boring and too abstract – into a livelier and more attractive environment, where concepts, events, phenomena and processes of the past almost always have textual and/or [audio]visual representations; second, strong indications were observed showing that the Web fosters historical understanding, not only by triggering thinking processes that take pupils beyond the shown contents, but also by prompting them to evaluate sources and sample relevant fragments for their assignments; third, the Web has brought into history education sources that were previously excluded, including those described as unconventional. This book shows, among other things, that convergence is underway on both the user side – since pupils use both conventional and unconventional online sources – and the content-production side, where heritage institutions are increasingly getting involved in unconventional platforms like Wikipedia...Read more


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Web-based videos in the history class: A qualitative Inquiry


Pupil reacting to a statement made in a Web-based video from the Canon of the Netherlands (Video recording:ON., 14 April 2010)Pupil reacting to a statement made in a Web-based video from the Canon of the Netherlands (Video recording:ON., 14 April 2010)

Olivier Nyirubugara, December 2011 - In this paper I sketch the place of online cultural heritage video clips in the history class, based on my January-May 2010 field research in one class of Het Baarnsch Lyceum, in Baarn (The Netherlands). During that research – for which I used ethnographic methods, including participant observation and interviews – among others, it appeared that online videos had a peculiar impact on the 13-14 year olds. Online videos integrated into the lesson seemed to have the power to keep the pupils attentive and engaged. Most interestingly, the pupils would interact directly with the clips, through their reactions, either vocal or gestural. In this paper, thus, I want to give an ethnographic account of that interaction between educational web-based videos and pupils, focusing on how the latter’s reactions and gestures reflect deeper, inner historical thinking.

Discussions about new media and education have been taking place for more than two millennia now. The same pattern observed at the time of Plato can still be observed in the 21st century, with on the one hand the pessimists and sceptics and on the other hand the optimists and enthusiasts. Many of the main actors in these discussions have not always based their arguments on experiments but were mostly driven by a nostalgic feeling...Read more


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‘Everything About the Past’: Wikipedia and History Education


Wikipedia

Olivier Nyirubugara, Amsterdam, May 2011 - In a 2006 article under the title ‘Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past’, historian Roy Rosenzweig (2006) reflects about the challenges Wikipedia poses to professional historians and tries to answer the question whether history could be open source. One of his points is that Wikipedia, despite some factual errors and issues of style due to the multiplicity of authors, is a valuable source of historical information. Rosenzweig (2006, pp. 126-127) notes that in the area of biographies of historical figures, Wikipedia competes with the classical and commercial rivals, and scores better than many of them in terms of coverage. He then wonders: ‘Why should we care?’ before providing his own answer: ‘One reason professional historians need to pay attention to Wikipedia is because our students do’ (Ibid., p. 136). In this paper, I want to discuss Wikipedia as it was used by 13-14 year-old pupils during their history classes at two schools I observed for a period of six months in the Netherlands. One central point I was interested in was the claim that the World Wide Web has given access to a variety of sources. What follows is mostly based on the analysis of written assignments in those classes, where Wikipedia appeared as the first and most cited source of historical information. For each class, I will discuss the significance and place of Wikipedia in the learners’ opinion ...
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Mobile Reporting: New Perspectives for Alternative Journalism

Olivier Nyirubugara, www.olny.nl Editor

Olivier Nyirubugara, Editor www.olny.nl
©O. Nyirubugara,October 2006

Olivier Nyirubugara, Amsterdam, May 2011-The last fifteen years have witnessed an unprecedented emergence of neologisms corresponding to, and reflecting new concepts related to new media technologies. Collective Intelligence appeared in 1997 to refer to the fact that the combination of the knowledge of many people is more powerful than the one of a few select people (Lévy, 1997: 29). Close to it is the wisdom of the crowd, which means that the judgment and appreciation of the masses tells much about the value of the appreciated media object of content, and crowdsourcing, whereby the public is invited ‘to perform tasks, usually for little or no money, that were once the sole province of employees’ (Howe, 2009: 8). All these new media phenomena are made possible by Web 2.0. technologies, characterized mainly by interactivity and user-generated content, among others. From the journalistic point of view, these technologies have opened new horizons both for professional journalists and citizens aspiring to become news brokers. With the right tools and technologies in the hands of users, the latter can turn use their skills and talents to create contents of all sorts, including news stories, reports, pictures, and videos. In what follows, I would like to focus on the latter aspect, by using experiences from VoicesofAfrica, a mobile reporting project run by Voices of Africa Media Foundation to train young African men and women to produce audiovisual news reports using mobile phones. In my position as senior trainer and coach, I have had the privilege to be involved ...
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Museum and Archives Moving from Net to Networking

Olivier Nyirubugara, www.olny.nl Editor

Olivier Nyirubugara, Editor www.olny.nl
©O. Nyirubugara, November 2010

Recent developments in the cultural heritage sector show that institutions are gradually abandoning their conservative attitudes with regard to new technologies. Although museums, archives and other institutions have embraced digitization since the late 1990s, they have failed to take full advantage of the other possibilities that new technologies have put at their disposal (Cameron and Robinson, 2007: 174).  This attitude is due to a long tradition and philosophy of ‘closedness’ and ‘control’ in which museums have operated for long. Museum studies scholar Ross Parry and his colleagues offer one possible explanation: ‘Traditionally, museums bring fragments of society’s knowledge and experience into a highly controlled environment, a closed system, within which order can then be found – or contrived’(Parry et al., 2010:96. Emphasis added). This philosophy turned museums into what Parry (2007:102) called ‘cultural freezers’. The current trend, however, shows signs that heritage institutions have taken a new direction by taking their collections from the highly controlled environment, from the closed system, into the uncontrolled and uncontrollable World Wide Web, first, and then into its Web 2.0 version. The Netherlands is said to be on top in this respect (De Haan et al., 2006: 5 ; 13 and 44; see also SNK, 2009:7), and the 12 November 2010 MuseumFuture! Connect conference in Zeist seems to confirm it. In the paragraphs below, I want to explore one of the most discussed topic during the conference – the social networking media in the cultural heritage sector. I will do that by highlighting the way heritage professionals are striving to build communities around their collections, and by providing a theoretical perspective to that subject.

...
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My name is a monument:The archival and memory keeping function of the name

Olivier Nyirubugara, www.olny.nl Editor

Olivier Nyirubugara, Editor www.olny.nl
©O. Nyirubugara,October 2006

During one of my visits to my local municipality of Haarlemmermeer (not far from Amsterdam) in March 2005, prior to the birth of my daughter, I discovered one folder that particularly drew my attention. The folder was a summary of, and comments about the Dutch Naamwet, the 1998 law governing the naming of new-born children. I understood that children must have either the last name of the father or of the mother. I already knew this, but I thought the law left some flexibility to those from other cultures to keep on with their traditions. I even asked the present civil servant whether there were other options, but she answered by merely quoting from the same folder I was holding. This may be a small detail for most people, but for someone coming from tradition-bound Rwanda like me, it was a point where the past and the future broke off. I was getting ready to put a sudden and unwanted end to an age-long tradition, according to which the father names children according to their gender and circumstances surrounding their birth. These circumstances could be glorious (won battle), painful (death, defeat, famine), socially-descriptive (employer-servant relationships), and so on. Whatever the case may be, the name is formulated in such a way that the gender of the bearer will be self-evident. The reality now is that my daughter bears a male name, simply because she was born far from home. In this paper, I want to explore this natural and cultural record-keeping mechanism in the light of existing memory theories. I will discuss first the name as a memory-archiving tool, then as a bridge connecting the past to the future, and finally as a crucial part of one’s identity.

...
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Amnesia and Nostalgia: The End of Home Memory

Olivier Nyirubugara, www.olny.nl Editor

Olivier Nyirubugara, Editor www.olny.nl
©O. Nyirubugara,October 2006

During one of my visits to the local municipality of Haarlemmermeer (not far from Amsterdam) in March 2005, prior to the birth of my daughter,I discovered one folder that particularly drew my attention. The folder was a summary of the Dutch Naamwet (Name Law), the 1998 law governing the naming of new-born children. I understood that children must have either the last name of the father or of the mother. I already knew this, but I thought the law left some flexibility to those from other cultures to keep on with their traditions. I even asked the present civil servant whether there were other options, but she answered me by merely quoting from the same folder I was holding. This may be a small detail for most people, but for someone coming from tradition-bound Rwanda like me, it was a shock. It was a point where the past and the future broke off. I was getting ready to put a sudden and unwanted end to an age-long tradition, in which the father names children according to their gender and circumstances surrounding their birth. These circumstances could be glorious (won battle), painful (death, defeat, famine), socially-descriptive (employer-servant relationships), and so on. Whatever the case may be, the name is formulated in such a way that the gender of the bearer will be self-evident. The reality now is that my daughter bears a male name, simply because she was born far from home.

...
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Africa goes mobile: The coming of the InPhonation era

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, www.olny.nl Editor

Olivier Nyirubugara, www.olny.nl Editor

Olivier Nyirubugara, Editor www.olny.nl
©O. Nyirubugara, April 2008

In the last decade of the 20th century communication technologies made tremendous progress especially with the birth of the World Wide Web (www) that transformed the whole planet into a small village. Other communication sectors, namely telecom, followed with the birth and proliferation of mobile phones. With most countries having rudimentary landlines for major cities and only for the rich, Africa managed to catch the train where it was. The result is that in the first decade of the 21st century, millions of Africans own modern mobile phones without having known or used a landline. In that very period, it appeared that the mobile phone could go beyond its traditional function of ‘phoning’. This essay aims to explore how the mobile phone has taken up one other function, namely the one of ‘inphoning’, understood as ‘informing with a phone’. I will first place the inphonation notion in the historical communication context. Then I will look at it more specifically from the African context. Finally I will focus on a case study that I consider to be the pioneer of the InPhonation era in Africa.

...
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Citizen Journalism: From ‘U’ to ‘O’ model

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

U-to-O shift: From journalist -to- news consumer model to generator-consumer model. ©O. Nyirubugara

Africa is traditionally said to always lag far behind other continents. At least this is the image that most media reflect in their reports. My point of view is that Africa has been lagging far but is now skipping intermediary steps to reach the current development stage where first world and second world countries are at this moment. And this principle will guide near future development projects in Africa. The information sector is steadily moving towards newly born citizen journalism, thereby skipping the traditional information chain that starts with a journalist who reports news and ends with a public who consume that news. My reflection here will turn around the move from this U model to the closed O model where the public reports and consumes news. My position as content coordinator for one of Africa Interactive’s platform known as africanews.com between June 2007 and August 2008 has put me on the other side of the news-production chain where my task was to interact not only with African professional journalists but also with citizen journalists.

...
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Rwanda: The Genocide Ideology Then

While no one could deny the loss of innocent lives in the summer 1994, it is worth looking back at that genocide ideology especially now that the genocide ideologists are in prison (or are hiding out, or simply are afraid of speaking and writing) and no hatred media are spreading the genocide poison in Rwanda. Where are the teachers and parents fetching the genocide ideology from? Why is it called ideology? By the way, where is the boundary between ideology and memory? As I write this article, two other major genocide-related events are in the air, namely the publishing of Paix et châtiment’ by Florence Hartman (2007) [3] and the revision of the life imprisonment sentence to 25 years for the genocide media bosses by the Appeals Chamber of the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). I want thus to explore the above posed questions in light of Ungor’s Justifier l’injustifiable. I will first discuss Ungor’s perception of the genocide background and aftermath before considering his understanding and presentation of the Hutu-Power ideology, another name given to the genocide ideology in Rwanda. I will close with a reflection about the relationship between collective memory and ideology in post genocide Rwanda.

...
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The Memory of the Netherlands: Introducing Cultural Heritage
into the New Teaching-Learning Environment

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

National Library of the Netherlands

National Library of the Netherlands in The Hague where the Memory of the Netherlands Project is housed.
©O. Nyirubugara,April 2006

Educational reforms and the pedagogical innovations that go with them have become a major preoccupation of all those involved in the educational sector and a major subject discussed by scholars worldwide. The advances in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the fast-spreading phenomenon of cultural heritage digitisation are part of those innovations whose place in the New Teaching-Learning Environment needs analysing and defining. History teachers and their pupils are among those principally targeted by memory institutions when they decide to implement a digitisation project. The Memory of the Netherlands, a national programme of the National Library of the Netherlands aiming to digitise Dutch cultural heritage collections, is one of the newcomers on the educational scene and its place in the existing history teaching pedagogy needs to be studied. Should Digital History resulting from the Digitised Cultural Heritage replace or supplement conventional classrooms? Should history teachers go on with traditional textbook-based methods while their pupils are said to belong to the Internet Generation? To what extent should history teachers be facilitators or instructors? This article aims to answer these questions among others, with the educational modules of the Memory of the Netherlands serving as illustration. ...

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Digitisation as a Way of Enhancing the Boerhaave Museum
pre-1900 Book and Manuscript Collections:
Selection Policy and Benefits Assessment

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

The swinging Clock by Christiaan Huygens.

The swinging/Pendulum Clock by Christiaan Huygens (17th century) and Horlogii Oscilatorum in Museum Boerhaave, Leiden.
© O. Nyirubugara

This study was carried out as a second semester research for the course entitled Digital Access to Cultural Heritage within the Book and Digital Media Studies Master Programme of the University of Leiden. The lecturers, Dr. Patricia Alkhoven and Marcel Ras, asked the students to imagine ourselves in the place and function of a digitisation project manager and address in detail any aspect(s) of the digitisation process. I chose to work on selection policy and benefits assessment with regard to the Boerhaave Museum.

In less than eighty years of existence, the Boerhaave Museum established its name as a centre for the history of natural and medical sciences. The astronomical, physical, chemical, medical, anatomical, botanical instruments and specimens exposed in the Museum cover about five hundred years of relentless efforts by scientists, especially in the Netherlands.

Universal scientists such as Christiaan Huygens, Petrus van Musschenbroek, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and others left a huge heritage and this includes inventions, instruments and written materials to explain and clarify their achievements. However, the latter aspect is mostly overlooked, which prevents the visitors of the Museum from having additional and, in most cases, crucial information about the objects they contemplate.

It is thus necessary and highly beneficial to digitise the pre-1900 written materials of the museum taking into account selection criteria such as their connectedness to the instruments, their intellectual value, their uniqueness, their fragility and potential users’ needs. Once digitised materials are virtually connected to the already existing database of instruments’ images, there is no doubt that the audience would broaden and research be stimulated as many unnoticed things and theories would be unearthed. ...

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Professional Publishing: Choosing Delivery Media and Formats

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

The publishing industry is among the sectors that have been and are still being affected by technological advances. These changes affected not only the production and distribution methods but also the publishers’ approaches to marketing their products. Professional publishing, which resulted from the segmentation of society, has the peculiarity of targeting a small and easily identifiable audience. This makes it easier for the publishers to closely watch customers’ needs and reading habits and meet them by delivering professional publications in formats and media that take into account those needs and habits as well as their own profits.

The aim of this article is to study and attempt to understand how professional publishers deal with the newly-born issue of delivery media and formats. Why should one medium or format or a combination be chosen for a particular type of publication? What criteria are being taken into account before deciding which medium or format is the most appropriate? What implication does such a decision have? These are the main questions I will try to answer with illustrative examples mainly from Kluwer Law International. ...

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‘THANKS FOR THE COOKIE…BUT NEXT YEAR GIVE ME RATHER A GOOD BOOK’
Essay on the Metaphoric Meaning of Book as Food for the Soul

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Bibliotheca Thysianna, Leiden

Bibliotheca Thysianna was built by Johannes Thysius in the mid-17th century in Leiden. © O. Nyirubugara

Philosophers and preachers have always distinguished the physical body and the invisible soul/mind as two components of any human being. Some even go further to establish a sort of hierarchy with the soul assigned to command and the body to execute the soul’s instructions. This work is inspired by Johannes Thysius’ childish New Year letter dated 1 January 1629 to his uncle Anthonie Thysius. This letter explicitly made reference to the body-soul distinction.

This essay is an inquiry into the use of books as containing indispensable food for the soul the way ordinary food is indispensable to any human being. It is divided into four parts dealing respectively with similarities between reading and eating, the necessity of ‘feeding’ the soul/mind, the quality of the soul’s food and the soul-body primacy debate.


I. Reading Is Eating

Before plunging deeply into the subject, I would like first to explain the words of Thysius (1621-1653), because the whole essay is both built on and inspired by them. To thank his uncle for the cookie he had offered him, seven-year old orphan Thysius seized the New Year occasion to write the following (only excerpts):

While presenting you my best wishes for the New Year… I would like hereby to thank you very much for the cookie…And with God’s help, I like to learn so well that my dear uncle will deem it best next year to honour me with a Good Book instead of a cookie. (1)

At least two points are to be highlighted, ...

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A SOCIOBIBLIOGRAPHIC STUDY OF L’HOMME MACHINE

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Julien Offray de La Mettrie(1709 - 1751)

Julien Offray de La Mettrie(1709 - 1751), author of L'Homme machine

This research work is an inquiry into the lives and works of two of the most celebrated figures of the city of Leiden during the Enlightenment. The paper aims at showing how and to what extent Julien Offray de La Mettrie through his L’ homme machine (1748) and Elie Luzac, the publisher of that same book marked the mid-18th century enlightened philosophy. I first endeavoured to study the physical features of that pamphlet, which keeps the original feel-and-smell of a typical mid-18th century book. Then I highlighted the exceptional lives of the two figures of French origins from their enfancy to their death, including their oeuvre. Finally, I studied the blind hostility and animosity that L’homme machine provoked among the clergy, scholars and secular authorities of Leiden and of Europe as well as their consequences.

INTRODUCTION

Initially published in 1747 and reprinted in 1748 together with its refutation -L’homme plus que machine-, L’homme machine was not received with enthusiasm by the theologians, philosophers and other citizens of the Republic of letters to whom it was intended. This philosophical and anti-religious pamphlet has the particularity of not only having involved two exceptional Leiden scholars, Julien Offray de La Mettrie and Elie Luzac both of French origin, but also having raised an unprecedented international protest and fury from scholars and thinkers of the Enlightenment.

This work comprises three major parts, notably a bibliographic study which includes reference bibliography, descriptive and analytical bibliography; the biographies of La Mettrie and Luzac; and the reception of L’ homme machine by the reading community. ...

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Institutional Libraries in Europe
A Comparative Study of Monastic, Court, University and City Libraries around 1500

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

Libraries, as a precious source of knowledge, have always attracted the curiosities of many scholars, especially their ancient and mediaeval functioning and organisation. This essay goes in the same direction but limits itself to the period around 1500 and focuses only on the similarities and differences between university, monastic, court and city libraries in Europe. This comparison will be made firstly with regard to their accommodations, then to their collections and finally to their functions and users.

1. Accommodation

The accommodation and location of libraries depended on the institutions to which they were attached and the same differences and similarities between the owning institutions also applied to the libraries themselves.

As a general rule, universities, monasteries, cities or royal palaces had their libraries within those same institutions. A special room was provided to serve as a library. For instance, in the library of the Carthusian monastery at Mainz in 1470, ‘the books were kept in a vaulted room in the tower’,(1) while those of the Frankfurt municipal library –opened in 1477- were located in the city hall. (2)

Likewise, in court libraries, like the one of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary (1440-1490) or Louis XII´s Bibliothèque Royale de Blois, books had a specially designed room. In this case, Kings would show all their megalomania not only through the collection but also through the building and decor of their libraries. Thompson gave an idea of what Corvinus’ library looked like: ...

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COMMUNICATION MEDIA: A SEQUENCE OF REVOLUTIONS AND EVOLUTIONS.
Analysis of the Nature and Effects of Major Changes in the History of Human Communication.

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Papyrus scroll of Isiah 33,1-24

Papyrus scroll of Isiah 33,1-24 in the Biblical Museum in Münster,
© O. Nyirubugara,24 May 2006

Human communication media have been evolving for now thousands of years. However, the earliest stages are not well known because only a few or even no vestiges survived. For that reason, stages like oral era, its apparition and development remain in the domain of speculations ranging from biblical origins with the first man, Adam, to the Big Bang theory. As for the remaining stages, that is the manuscript, the print and the digital eras, much more is known. The aim of this short essay is to analyse these four historical stages of human communication, their nature and effects on society. To achieve this, the following methodology seems the most appropriate: first each stage will be studied separately with particular focus on the revolutionary and evolutionary character of their nature and effects.


I. ORAL ERA

Despite the numerous studies that were carried out on the origins and evolution of the spoken word, no scholar has so far dared put forward a strong and indisputable hypothesis. When was the first words uttered? Where was it and in what language? Unfortunately, this section will not even attempt to answer these questions which are still covered by mystery and promise to remain so for long. Instead of spending time on the different theories on the origins of speech, one will rather concentrate on its nature, namely spontaneity, volatility, immateriality, vulnerability; and its effects, which are social creativity, interactivity, tradition-bearing and cultivation of memory.

To begin with, one should first deal with the uncertainty that surrounds the spoken words with regards to its beginning and developments. All researcher dealing with this topic always begins with the same regret about the lack of information about this crucial period in human development. For instance, John Niles begins his Homo Narrans with : We can only guess as to how far back into prehistory the practice of oral narrative extends .

The aim of this essay being not the origins of speech, one will directly go to the other aspects. The main characteristic of the spoken word is that one needs no medium to perform speech. This makes this communication medium more spontaneous, more natural. This spontaneity has its disadvantages, notably the fact that little time is devoted to preparing and thinking about what one will talk about. This leads thus to many uncertainties and incorrect declarations. ...

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What is the actual motive of publishers?

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

The title of my comment is at the same time the question I would like to answer while commenting on the answer (to the same question) that A.N. Greco gives us in his book.

In chapter 1 largely dedicated to statistics and inquiry reports on the publishing industry in the United States, Greco attempts to define the motivations, or let’s say, the vocation, of publishing houses. He writes:

“In a market economy, the objectives of the most publishers are rather modest: to sell enough copies to pay the publishing house’s employees, taxes, and other expenses while making a contribution to the world of letters. Hopefully, a profit can be made and a royalty paid to the author”(p.1).

I deduce from this quotation that the objectives are presented going from the most important to the least important, which seems to be the logical way. In that logic, the primary motivation of publishers is to generate money in order to pay salaries, taxes and other expenses. The second, which can be combined with the first, is the ´altruistic´ mission to contribute to the world of letters. The third, which comes after a highly meaningful “hopefully” and after a `full stop`, is PROFIT. “Hopefully” makes it accessory, not as important as the two other motives. It means that if the two first are satisfactorily met, the publisher will have done a good business.

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Pitiful authors!!!

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

I would like to discuss the reward-related debate from page 245 to the end. The reason is because the first part about a number of successful authors presented in the first part seems not to depict the actual situation of the majority of authors in the 18th century.

From the little literature I have so far come across during the course, I came to the conclusion that the author was the most forgotten, the most unfortunate and even the only loser in the whole chain of book production.

John Brewer writes on page 245 that authors of the 18th century England (this can also be applied to western Europe) could be divided into two camps: “those who write to edify, amuse and instruct but who shunned [avoided] monetary reward” and “those who wrote for money”. My focus is on the latter camp, which was commonly laughed at. Brewer writes that at that time “writing for money not only reduced authorship to a mechanical trade but subverted [destroyed] the value of the work…”(p. 245)

By viewing them that way, society was unfair because the same was not applied to the printers/publishers and booksellers whose work was to exploit and take advantage of the raw materials provided (and not sold) by the author. He is the starting point and the only one not to gain a penny from his own work.

Since this situation was common to the whole West, I would like to mention the book production costs in the early 19th century Netherlands. BPM Dongelmans details in Bibliopolis, page 183, the costs of ‘Alwin en Theodoor’, a popular child book, but the author (CFW Jacobs) appears nowhere on the list. The publisher and booksellers made huge profits from it and confirmed Febvre and Martin’s assertion that “the bookseller…was not normally willing to include the author in his profits”(page 164).

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When will e-books become reality?

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

I would like to discuss chapter one of W.E. Kasdorf’s The Columbia Guide to Digital Media, especially the part concerning the coming, or let’s say, the development of the e-book and the major obstacles on its road.

Kasdorf mentioned at least four times PROFIT as the major obstacle preventing further developments towards the long-awaited e-book. Both publishers and authors are not keen on moving forward before the “DRM” ( Digital Rights Management) issue is settled. Here, PROFIT is given a legal and less disgusting name of RIGHTS, but both terms mean almost the same thing.

On page 19, one can read: “Another important factor, however, is the rights issue. Trade book authors actually make a living-or at least some meaningful income-from what they write, and what they earn is based on their books’ success in the marketplace…”. And then some lines down “Trade publishers make a disproportionately large part of their profit from a disproportionately small number of their titles”.

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The Church and the Book

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

The three chapters (2,5,8) of Luigi Balsamo’s ‘ Bibliography: History of a Tradition’ summarises the history of the written word under the form of the codex and the book. I would like to discuss the different roles (positive and negative) that the Church played in the transmission of texts since the Middle Ages.

Decisive Role

The fall of the Western Roman Empire (495 AD) was a turning point in the history in general and in the book trade in particular. As Balsamo notes, the author disappeared as well as the booksellers’ shops. All codex-related activities “became the exclusive responsibility of the writing workshops of individual bishops and monasteries” (p. 8). At this point, the Church played a decisive role in the survival of the written word, which is highly positive. Otherwise, who would have cared for all these classics that we can still enjoy today?

Balsamo goes further to say that “the monastery was able to provide for all phases of the [production] cycle (here one may refer to Darnton’s circuit)- from the production of the writing materials [authorship], and the execution of the writing and binding [printing and publishing], to the gathering [distribution] and organization of the books in a library, and the daily use of the books[reader]”.(p. 8). Also, monks played a crucial role in distributing and circulating written texts as Balsamo notes on p. 12, that they would move from one place to another to establish new libraries. The situation remained so until the rise of universities in the late Middle Ages, when universities and related institutions started taking care of the book. They inherited about eight centuries of monks’ relentless endeavour.

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Describe Me the FORM I Will Tell You the CONTENT

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

I had not planned to comment this text but I have to because it provides essential information that Bringhurst’s “Grand Design” failed to provide. Since I have already dealt with the theoretical part of the form-content issue in an earlier posting on Bringhurst, I would like to focus on the many examples (demonstrations) provided by Grendler.

I have first to admit that I marvelled at this impeccable text. Its length (26 pages) had somehow discouraged me from reading it. I thought I was going to read it en diagonale but when I started I could not even stop a second to drink my coffee. The reason is because I had found an answer to my question ( posed in my previous posting) to know which form or letter type was meant for which sort of book.

What I liked in this text, is that there are a few theories/declarations and many examples/demonstrations. The very first paragraph, which reads “Form and Function are closely connected in books” (P.451) is a good example of theory, which needs immediate and clear example/demonstration for it to be accepted and understood. Bringhurst limited himself at this stage and failed to demonstrate his sayings. The four case studies are full of such demonstrations.

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FORM versus CONTENT

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

Before starting my comment, I would like first to admit that Bringhurst has drawn my attention on the importance of design and typography and the influence they have on the understanding of the text’s meaning. Not only has the simple style with which he wrote this chapter captivated me but also the arguments were to some extent convincing.

In this short comment I would like to discuss the FORM-CONTENT issue and the influence they have on each other. Obviously, Bringhurst is concentrating on the form, that is the appearance of the text, rather than on the content, which is understandable since the subject is typography not content.

I totally agree with him when he writes that “well-chosen words deserve well-chosen letters”(P18, para 2). If my understanding is good, Bringhurst wants to say that when the content is good, perfect, original, exciting,…the designer should take his time to think about the best appropriate way to present the text. Can one imagine the book like Lucien Febvre and HJ Martin’s The Coming of the Book with hardly legible small characters, condensed lines, no spaces, no margins,…? It would be a betrayal to the remarkable content of this unique book.

Very unfortunately, Bringhurst did not provide any example of a text he thought the typography fitted the content. That way, we would have seen by ourselves what he means with a palpable example before our eyes.

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Reading with Eyes and Ears

(Olivier Nyirubugara)

Olivier Nyirubugara, June 2005

Olivier Nyirubugara
Graduate in Publishing and Digital Media Studies
Graduate in American Literature.

Before starting with my comment, I would like to mention that I read the French version of Chartier’s Culture écrite et société: l’ordre du livre (XIVe-XVIII) not because I like that language but because I could not find its English translation. For this reason, my pages and paraphrases will be different from the ones some of the classmates have in their English version.

This chapter I want to comment - De la fête de cour au public citadin - is almost exclusively about a feast that took place at Versailles in the royal palace and Molière’s “George Dandin” that was performed on that occasion.

The “reading public” in this chapter is Louis XIV and hundreds of his guests, most of whom were foreign ambassadors and knights. They constituted a special reading public because their way of reading was different from the one we know. They actually read not from the book but from the stage, not with their eyes only but with both their eyes and ears. Also, they read the same text simultaneously.

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