Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute


Technology: Poetry and New Media

Submitted January 2009
By Rick Stevens
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Table of Contents

     What poets need to know about new-media technology
     The major issues and challenges
     What should be the “new media” focus of the poetry community?
Technology for New and Old Media
     Mechanical reproduction
     Notes on terminology
     Digital reproduction
     Digital distribution
     Indirect distribution
     Viral distribution
     The possibility of algorithmic content and distribution
Digital Publishing and Distribution
     Computer-mediated playback and presentation
     Search, download, peer-to-peer, client, and server
     Digital rights management
     Licensing, redistribution, platform, conversion, compression, and so on
     Copyright and copyleft
Technology and Social Networking
     The logic behind social networking and Web 2.0
     Poetry and social networking
     Technology for collaborative filtering
What Can Be Learned from the Music Industry?
What Can Be Learned from the Digital Book Experience?
     User experience is key
     Books as artifacts
Accepted and visionary methods for innovation
     Research in poetry and literary history
     Research on access and taste-making
     Research on new media and the form and function of poetry
Emerging mechanisms for distribution
Key people and organizations
Roles of Publishers in the Age of New Media
     Economies of scale in reproduction, marketing, and distribution
     The essential roles of “producer” and “editor”
     Protecting the rights and revenue of artists and authors
     Tensions between openness and ownership
     New strategies for authors and artists
The Role of Technical Standards
     Standards for text and image distribution
     Standards determine quality and size of the digital artifacts
     Standards can enable digital rights management
     The impact of open-source software
     Differences in copyright law between Europe and America
Key References


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What poets need to know about new-media technology

Poets increasingly need to understand the fundamentals of the technology that is used to produce and distribute their work. They need to know not only what is possible today, but also what trajectory the technology is on and how that is likely to impact their work in the future. To the degree that technology opens up both opportunities and new business models, those who embrace new technology will have an advantage in getting their work into circulation. At a minimum, poets need to understand media and technology in the ways that an end user does, but in addition they should know what is possible in a particular medium, how publishing and sharing technology works, how to generate material for new-media types, how material is protected (or not), and how it is archived.

This report provides a brief background that we believe would be useful for poets as they face choices about where and how to publish their work. It is incomplete, but we hope it may provide a useful starting point for those interested in the challenges of new-media technology.

The major issues and challenges

New media by definition is not static or well defined. At any given moment, we may attempt to make an inventory of established and emerging media types and what forms of works are captured or published via these media types. For some types of media, such as print, audio, and video, the concept is relatively straightforward. However, when we start to consider the variations introduced by digital publishing, duplication, and distribution in these relatively well understood domains, the issue becomes more complex.

If we add into the mix Internet-based media, ranging from websites to blogs to social-networking sites, it gets more complicated still, and when we include media opportunities in multiplayer virtual worlds, networked games, and iPhones, it becomes especially challenging. Trying to imagine the impact of media that have yet to be fully invented or widely used—such as, for example, “algorithmic media”—is especially difficult. However, in spite of the technological cleverness of some types of new media, we sense that human nature may be the constant that enables us to make sense of how new media will be used, how content will be created and distributed, and how users will relate to the underlying work.

One approach is to explore how the new medium will fit into users’ lifestyles and to consider how the integration of a new technology displaces and re-enforces existing technologies and the associated channels of content and distribution. Another approach is to study how publishers and the associated distribution networks are reacting to a changing marketplace and how the legal system is adjusting its framework to support notions of authorship, intellectual property, and ownership. In the following discussion we touch on both approaches to understanding new media.

What should be the “new media” focus of the poetry community?

William Carlos Wiliams writes, “A poem is a small (or large) Machine made out of words.” This idea of poetry as a machine provides a useful metaphor for the problems and possibilities facing those who are developing new technologies to collect and distribute old and new poetry. Sandy Baldwin (2003) extends this idea with the article “A Poem Is a Machine to Think With,” which explores poetry and digital technologies; this piece suggests that machines (or technological developments) might also provide means of developing new-media technologies. This report seeks to examine the issues of poetry and new media including the following key questions: What do poets need to know about technology? What are the major issues and challenges? What should be the focus of the creative energy of the poetry community?

Writing about the opportunities available to the poet in 19th-century America, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1936) declared that “a new nobility is conferred in groves and pastures, and not in castles, or by the sword-blade, any longer. The conditions are hard, but equal. Thou shalt leave the world, and know the muse only. Thou shalt not know any longer the times, customs, graces, politics, or opinions of men, but shalt take all from the muse. For the time of towns is tolled from the world by funereal chimes, but in nature, the universal hours are counted by succeeding tribes of animals and plants, and by growth of joy on joy. God wills also that thou abdicate a manifold and duplex life, and that thou be content that others speak for thee” (277–78).

While Emerson’s comments are focused on the ways that American democracy opens doors for poets to explore the life of the common man, his ideas have relevance for the changes that new technologies have brought to poetry and to poets. Distribution sites such as Google Books, Facebook, and MySpace make conditions for writing and publishing poetry “hard, but equal,” in part because such new distribution sites blur boundaries of ownership and authorship (277). These new technologies also allow poets, publishers, and readers of poetry not to have to “abdicate a manifold and duplex life” (277). Instead, the various forms that current technologies take invite the “manifold” complexity that Emerson claims the poet gives up. Current literature and research suggests that as new-media distribution develops and changes and as innovations in technology use occur, poets, publishers, reviewers, and poetry lovers and advocates would benefit from considering the influence of new media on poetry and the future of poetry.

Technology for New and Old Media

Mechanical reproduction

The use of a machine to reproduce a creative work so that it can be distributed to a mass audience has characterized publishing for the last 500 years. Initially, there was little distinction between the printer and publisher and, in some cases, the author; printer and publisher were one and the same. Gradually these became distinct roles, with the additional roles of retailer and distributor added to complete the linkage from author to reader.

The capability to use machines to reproduce audio recordings has been around for nearly 150 years, and for motion pictures for over 100 years. Both the music and film industries built to some degree on the successful business models of print publishing, but in many cases these technological developments served to separate further the roles of creator, producer, publisher, distributor, and retailer. The ability to broadcast both audio and video content added another mechanism for distribution, and prior to the availability of low-cost end-user recording capability, this was a channel that was easily controlled by the producers of content.

Many of the legal and policy issues faced today by the media and distribution industry have deep roots in the past. Frequently, when a new technology appears that impacts distribution, replication, or communication, it also eventually reshapes the cultural/social and policy/legal frameworks in which it exists.

For example, the creation of copyright was closely associated with the invention of means for mass production of works, while the development of patents is associated with the rise of industrial mass manufacturing. The creation of the per-use copyright fee is associated with the availability of inexpensive duplication, especially its widespread availability in public libraries.

It is interesting to note that the legal framework for copyright generally made the technological assumption (correct at the time) that the means for large-scale mechanical reproduction was expensive and operated by relatively large-scale enterprises, and therefore the primary risk of copyright infringement was the loss of revenue and profits to those holding the copyright, and hence copyright-related concerns were mainly an issue between authors and publishers and between publishers. These assumptions do not hold for purely digital works, especially when the end user of the work is the one enabling the copies to be made and there is no sale and no profit. What has changed through the introduction of new technology is nothing less than the underlying relationship between author, publisher, and reader.

Generally, policy and legal frameworks lag, sometimes by a considerable time, the technologies or social practices that inspired their need. This results in a “window of opportunity” when technological capabilities are ahead of policy, legal understanding, and even general awareness of possibilities. This opportunity can be exploited by those seeking to push the frontier and of course is often exploited by those challenging social and legal norms.

Notes on terminology

We use the following terms when referring to digital artifacts. We tend to use the term content to mean the actual material that the user listens to, reads, or watches. In database terms this would be called the data rather than the metadata, which contains information related to the data needed for identification of provenance, format, and so on. In networking terms this would be the payload as opposed to the header or trailer. We use the term format to indicate an agreed-upon standard structure in which the data is encoded or to describe the type of media required for a playback or encoding device. We use carrier to mean the physical object in which the data is encoded (e.g., a disc, CD, or chip). Bandwidth refers to the speed at which a digital data object can be transmitted. The greater the bandwidth, the shorter the download time for a given-sized object. The size of digital objects is measured by the number of 8-bit characters (e.g., letters) that are required to encode them. Often this quantity is abbreviated as kilobytes (KB or 103 bytes), megabytes (MB or 106 bytes), gigabytes (GB or 109 bytes), or terabytes (TB or 1012 bytes). The sizes of common digital objects are as follows: one page of text is about 1KB, a typical book without images about 1MB, a typical three-minute song about 3–5MB, the raw size of a CD about 600MB, a compressed audio album about 60MB, a full-length DVD about 5GB raw, and a typical compressed full-length movie about 1GB. The capacity of a typical hard drive in a new high-end computer is now about 1TB.

Digital reproduction

As digital consumer electronics became ubiquitous in the 1970s and 1980s, there arose the idea of replacing mechanical (analog) encodings of content with digital encodings. With a digital encoding, each successive copy is identical to the original, so there is no loss of fidelity no matter how many times it is copied.

Digital reproduction required the availability of, first, a digital representation of the object to be copied; second, some media to carry the digital copy; and third, some way to convert the digital copy back into the original (often analog) medium for playback. Because of the relatively small size of audio’s encoded content and the relatively low capacity of the “carriers” of the time, audio was the first medium to move from analog into digital encoding. Audio was also the modality that was most intensively studied during the time leading up to the 1980s. During the 1970s and 1980s, there were many attempts to develop digital standards for audio and video distribution. Some were based on tape and others on laser-read discs. Since the Internet was nascent at that time and of relatively low capacity, it was not considered a likely distribution medium by the music and film industry. Only visionaries held the idea that it would someday be the basis for most content distribution.

The first commercially successful compact discs (CDs) became available in October 1982. The patents on which the CD and DVD are based, however, were issued in 1958, and the technology eventually used in CDs was derived from the technology used for laser discs for video, which preceded CDs to the marketplace by four years. The laser-disc format was not attractive, however; it was a niche product that was replaced by the DVD in the late 1990s.

The shift from analog to digital reproduction resulted in two significant impacts. First, the market got a taste of how quickly a format change could occur (the nearly complete collapse of the LP format in favor of the CD occurred much faster than anyone expected). Second, a price increase charged during the conversion of formats, which was maintained even after conversion costs were no longer present, gave the recording industry an economic lift.

But the exponential growth of the CD format was to have a third, largely unintended impact. CDs were distributed with the audio encoded in a very simple uncompressed and unprotected form, an artifact of the technological limitations of the playback devices at the time. Thus, by the end of the 1990s, billions of CDs were available to be ripped (content transferred from CDs to the hard disks) onto personal computers. This was something that was not widely foreseen by the recording industry, which was at the time preoccupied by the arrival in the market of digital audiotape (DAT) recorders and had entered into a decade-long legal battle to stop their distribution.

Digital distribution

Until the widespread deployment of the Internet, it was difficult to deliver a purely digital object to a typical end user. CDs encode the digital data into a physical medium (e.g., pits burned into the disc by a laser and copies pressed at the factory). But the disc itself is only a carrier of the digital file. If we want to eliminate the cost and inconvenience of the physical carrier, we have to move to a pure digital distribution, where we deliver the content directly to the user without introducing a physically instantiated copy as an intermediate carrier. Three issues are relevant to this move to pure digital distribution.

First, there must be a standard format that the producer and consumer can agree on (for audio, this initially turned out to be MP3); second, the mechanics of downloading a copy to the end user’s computer have to be reliable and feasible; and third, the user has to be able to use the digital copy effectively (e.g., PC audio players and iPods).

The first issue was initially resolved for music by adopting the audio coding standard that was developed for digital motion pictures (MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, from which MP3 gets its name). The advantage of using this standard was that it compressed the audio on a CD to about one megabyte (MB) per minute, a significant reduction from the 10MB per minute uncompressed form. In addition, because the standard had been internationally established by MPEG (the Motion Pictures Expert Group, a standards-setting body for the film industry), it was widely understood by the technical community and electronic-device manufacturers.

The second issue was resolved when broadband became widely available. Broadband is the term applied to persistent (always on) Internet connectivity, typically delivered over cable television networks or digital subscriber lines (DSL). Broadband download speed is substantially faster than dial-up over traditional phone lines and provides the performance necessary to enable widespread digital distribution of content. Broadband penetration in the developed world has grown to nearly 40 percent of households in some countries. In the United States, it is approximately 23 percent. Broadband makes it possible to download files at the rate of about 10 seconds per megabyte, enabling a user to download a full CD worth of audio encoded as MP3 in about 10 minutes.

The final issue was addressed in the mid-1990s by the widespread adoption of personal computers, including Macintosh computers and those that rely on MS-DOS. The presence of a PC in most households meant that if users could download audio files, they most likely would have some way to play them. The feasibility of direct digital distribution was thus established. However, in spite of the huge impact this was about to have on the music industry, the existing music publishers didn’t take a leadership role in promoting this method of distribution. Instead, it was pioneered by young computer hackers and originally was used to distribute content copied from CDs by end users. The initial users were high school and college students, but later entered widespread use. Within the last 10 years, direct digital distribution has become a widely accepted (though largely illegal) method of distribution for music, video, books, games, and software, and almost all publishers of electronic media have adopted some form of purely digital distribution.

Indirect distribution

In addition to a direct distribution model for content, there are two other varieties of distribution worth mentioning.

The first is the streaming-content model. In this model, the end user does not download a complete file that can then later be played back; instead, the user connects to a stream that sends the file in small pieces in a just-in-time fashion, to be played back in real time. A file is not left on the user’s machine, and the user doesn’t have the ability to copy the stream or to use it later. This streaming mode is similar to radio and TV use, but with the added benefit that users can get content on demand.

The second model, the subscription model, is a hybrid between streaming and downloading. With the subscription model, users have the right to use a library of content for a period of time for a certain fee. The content may be downloaded with a timeout, or it may be streamed. Streaming is also useful when the object is large and the download time is prohibitive (such as in high-quality video).

Viral distribution

Another distribution method, which has recently become available, involves uploaded content that is virtually shared by digital “word of mouth.” Typically the content is streamed and relatively short (e.g., YouTube video), but in principle it can also be downloaded. The viral nature of this method is based on the idea that the producer of the content is getting “free” distribution by exploiting the social-networking mechanisms of the underlying Internet, much as a virus exploits the biological machinery of its host to replicate and spread.

Viral distribution can be incredibly fast; in some cases, over a million copies of popular objects have been downloaded/viewed in less than 24 hours after first appearing, and in a few cases objects have been downloaded over 100 million times in one year. This rapid, Internet-based “interaction and awareness”–driven distribution has been likened to the “flash crowd” effect first described in 1973 by Larry Niven. The reality of “going platinum” in one day via the network has created a cult of instant Internet “rock stars.” Recently, NGOs, political campaigns, and commercial advertisers have been experimenting with this kind of “viral marketing” as a way to inexpensively get material into mass distribution.

The possibility of algorithmic content and distribution

In the future, it is possible that rather than downloading content directly (or, as is done today, downloading the content encoded and compressed with a known algorithm), one will download the “recipe” for constructing the content, where this “recipe” or algorithm is not known in advance; that is, it’s not a simple encoding of the content using a standard decoding algorithm but rather a unique “program” to generate the content. This is already happening in computer gaming, where many of the digital objects, including music, images, and behavior, are encoded not as static objects but as programs that generate the required objects on demand. While it is hard to foresee the evolution of this type of technology, it is likely that in the future we will see a merging of direct content and algorithmic content. Gaming is currently setting this trend, but we expect it to make appearances in music and film and eventually in literature. One way to think about algorithmic content is that it is an extreme example of expert “compression” of content or perhaps the logical extreme of artificial intelligence applied to the problem of creative works distribution.


As it has become not only possible but common to integrate different forms of media (audio, video, text, still and animated images) into a single user experience via the computer, it has also become possible to make the resulting experience interactive. The most obvious form of this is a computer “game” that requires nearly constant input from the user, but there are also interactive applications that have more structured input—modern web browsing is one that has many degrees of possible interactivity. Two important goals with interactivity are constructing a nonlinear end-user experience and involving the users so they can have some control of the outcome. Moving from a simple “playback”-type interface to one that enables interaction increases degrees of freedom enormously, but this also complicates the relationship between author and user.

Another factor that is becoming increasingly common is some form of “collaborative” interaction interface. Collaborative interfaces allow more than one user to interact with the content and with each other either in real time (i.e., synchronously) or asynchronously. Examples include collaborative editing of web pages such as Google Docs and wikis, as well as multiplayer virtual reality games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft. The more sophisticated of these systems empower the end users to be content creators as well.

Digital Publishing and Distribution

Computer-mediated playback and presentation

A major shift in entertainment technology has occurred due to the rise of personal computer ownership and the related developments of computer-mediated playback of multimedia content. Prior to the availability of personal computers, the devices for digital content playback, such as the CD player, required the integration of a digital processor in each of the playback devices. In a PC, however, the playback of digital objects uses the much more powerful general-purpose processor that is the main CPU for the system. This enables many new “playback” features to be added as software updates rather than hardware updates. While dedicated CD and DVD players are still available, there is a trend toward building these capabilities into game consoles (e.g., PS3, Xbox, and Wii) and PCs rather than creating dedicated stand-alone devices. This is resulting in a convergence of computers and multimedia and home entertainment devices. One consequence of the movement toward more general-purpose computer mediation of content is the accelerated development of new music and video formats and novel interactive formats that blend text, audio, video, and other computer-generated effects into immersive virtual worlds.

Search, download, peer-to-peer, client, and server

As more content becomes available in direct digital forms without a physical carrier or package, the need for integrated methods of searching, filtering, and discovery grows more pressing. The prospect of sifting through the millions of instances of content potentially of interest to a user makes the development of easy-to-use search mechanisms imperative. Once these methods are developed, users need means to download the desired objects and to facilitate their use on local systems.

Because content producers have lagged in developing centralized content services (and associated commercial business models), the technical community in the 1990s independently devised methods for encoding, searching, and downloading digital content. These methods were outgrowths of methods used to support collaborative software development in the open-source and academic communities, but they found a new and much larger market in the college-age communities that had already begun moving to the computer as the basis for audio and video entertainment.

These methods are commonly known as peer-to-peer systems. They are an extension of the widespread and revolutionary development of client/server programs that split an application’s functions into two parts. The client (e.g., a web browser) runs on the end user’s machine and initiates a transaction with a server (e.g., a web server), which “serves up data” to the client. Individual servers typically support hundreds or thousands of clients and host the content. They usually run on larger-scale hardware and are managed by the “owners” of the content.

In contrast, peer-to-peer servers run on the end-user hardware and both access content and serve up content from the same system without accessing a central server. The rise of peer-to-peer servers was especially rapid and difficult for authorities to control, since they are not operated by the centralized entities that run the commercial large-scale web servers. These peer-to-peer file-sharing systems quickly became the dominant applications on the Internet.

Recently, these systems have evolved into more sophisticated (and more anonymous) tools for sharing the large files most often associated with video. Instead of sharing single songs, users now commonly share entire collections of complete albums as well as feature-length movies. It is relatively rare for these systems to be used to share print media, though when it does happen, it tends to be for collections rather than individual books.

Traditional database methods for keyword search require sophisticated understanding of querying methods and objects tagged with relevant keywords. A recent phenomenon is collaborative tagging by social networks, but the traditional methods for associating keywords with content depend on the publisher and are slow and expensive. While simple keywords might be adequate for searching for music titles or general information on the web, they fail if the content in question is complex texts like poems.

A related approach also relevant to the search problem involves “collaborative filtering” methods that allow users to rate their preferences and share their preference data in a way that enables programs to calculate titles that match the interests of the user without the user needing to make a formal query. These systems have had wide success in recommending movies (e.g., Netflix Cinematch), music (e.g., Apple’s Genius system in iTunes), and online shopping (e.g., Amazon’s recommendation system). These systems require large databases of ratings by users (or user-based access data) to be effective.

Digital rights management

Digital rights management (DRM) is the technical means used to control the use of a digital object by encoding it in such a way that a key is required for the object to be accessed. This key can be used to tie the object to a specific machine, a specific user or account number, or some other object that controls access. DRM has been used for many years to enable the relatively broad distribution of software and multimedia objects with the proviso that a key is needed for playback or to access the full functionality. The principal difficulty with DRM is that it requires managing keys and the associated software and hardware needed for authorized playback. Originally, audio CDs and DVDs were encoded without DRM to enable them to be played back without keys on a variety of devices, such as car CD players. 

DRM has been controversial. A recent trend to make digital music available without DRM greatly increases the flexibility of use but also increases the likelihood that the music will be shared. It is noteworthy that Amazon’s Kindle digital book player uses DRM for its content, while Amazon’s digital music downloads are DRM-free. It is widely held in the technical community that DRM will prevent the archival use of digital content (which often outlives the specific technology it was originally targeted for or the companies that are holding the keys). All large-scale public digital archives are DRM-free (e.g., www.archive.org).

Licensing, redistribution, platform, conversion, compression, and so on

Digital objects, whether software, music, or books, are typically distributed with a license of some kind. This has not always been true. In the past, in the academic community it was not uncommon for the distribution of digital objects (typically source code) to have no license or to be distributed with a simple public domain “license.” The public domain license predates the more recent open-source software licenses, which are considerably more restrictive (see the section titled “The Impact of Open-Source Software”).

While we haven’t the space or time to review the history or current practice of digital licenses in this paper, we should note a few significant developments that may affect how we think about licenses for poetry in the future. We should also note the different “authorship rights” traditions from the community of letters versus that of mathematics. In mathematics, theorems, proofs, and conjectures are freely given away, the assumption presumably being that they are discoveries about the world rather than works of art. The actual manuscript is often copyrighted, but the core technical content is freely available for others to build on. The best and most significant theorems, proofs and conjectures are named by the community for their authors, but the authors do not retain any rights to the actual theorems or proofs they have produced, and derivative works are freely constructed. Occasionally, individual mathematicians have tried to extend their rights to cover the use of “their mathematics,” but the community has quickly rebuffed these efforts. One might argue that this is because of the notion that mathematics is discovering something that is true and that truth itself can’t be licensed. Some might argue that poetry is doing the same thing.

Copyright and copyleft

Development and expansion of copyright laws within the computer-mediated environment, as well as within other venues, has led to licensing projects that attempt to protect the rights of the author while making material easier to share, distribute, and alter. One such license is the “copyleft,” which provides a license for software, music, or art that allows anyone who receives a copy of the product to share, or in some cases alter, the work as long as the original author is given credit.

A similar program is Lawrence Lessig’s “Creative Commons” licensing of art, music, and software. The concept behind the Creative Commons is that as long as art and other communication forms are being redistributed, there needs to be a form of licensing that offers the creator/author some chance to delineate how the work can be used or changed by those who access it online. Both copyleft and Creative Commons expand the definition of copyright and acknowledge that even though copyright exists, the ease with which files can be shared and redistributed through online technologies requires new policies to account for the strong likelihood that copyrights as we know them now cannot be maintained and protected. These programs establish a practical middle ground between public domain and traditional copyright laws.

Technology and Social Networking

The logic behind social networking and Web 2.0

Two primary forces have driven technology and shaped the evolution of the Internet.

The first of them is known as Moore’s law. Simply put, Moore’s law describes the observed trend in which the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every 18 months. It is this doubling of the capability of the microchip that has led to ever more powerful personal computers and the digital ecosystem they depend on, including the devices that power the Internet. As a result of this predictable steady increase in power, our machines and networking become faster and more capable each year. This has resulted in the rapid development of graphics and multimedia capabilities in computers, but it has also enabled a shift in relationship between the client computer and the servers of the Internet. This shift is leading to new types of services and applications in which the bulk of the work is done at the server level (think Google Mail, Google Calendar, or even YouTube).

The second force is known as Metcalfe’s law. It is much less known but is probably the more important force in today’s environment. Metcalfe’s law says that the value of an interconnected resource (e.g., a fax machine, cell phone, website, or PC) is proportional to the number of connected devices squared. In other words, the more devices connected, the more valuable that device becomes, and this value grows not in a linear fashion but exponentially. This has also been called the “network effect”: The more things are connected, the more valuable and interesting they become.

If the value of some capability is directly related to its degree of networking, then we can see the power behind social-networking applications. The final relevant notion is the idea that we are all connected socially through a relatively small number of connections: the so-called six degrees of separation. Beginning with the idea that the friends of my friends might be potential friends or at least useful contacts to have, many platforms (such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn) have been developed to enable users to build online presences that connect friends and build dynamic social networks. These Internet-based structures that capture, enhance, and promote social networks are the basis for the notion that the Web 2.0 Internet is somehow different from what came before.

The explosion of sites that use some form of social networking has been an amazing phenomenon, one that echoes the original Internet boom of the 1990s. What is relevant to the Poetry and New Media Project is that online social networks can be used to rapidly promote the creative arts (typically much faster than any other direct marketing method) at low cost, and these sites themselves are publishing opportunities that are starting to be used by innovative poets. In addition, unlike traditional distribution mechanisms, social-networking sites offer the possibility of knowing precisely who is a consumer of a work and, in many cases, what they think of it.

Poetry and social networking

Contemporary research is being done in literature, linguistics, and education on the significance of new media and its relation to poetry and other literary arts. The Lion and the Unicorn publishes an annual awards article on significant children’s poetry produced that year, and scholars of children’s poetry are beginning to explore how social-networking sites encourage the writing and sharing of poetry and how easy-to-access poetry texts and lesson plans on sites such as www.poetryforkids.com make poetry available daily in the classroom. Some scholars have compared the online presence and familiarity of some online poets such as Kenn Nesbitt and Bruce Lansky to the “schoolroom poets” of the early 20th century, such as James Whitcomb Riley, whom almost every schoolchild studying in the United States would have read, memorized, and performed.

Poets may use social networking as a way to promote awareness and create a following. Examples of relevance to authors and poets in particular include online bulletin boards, e-zines, and PDA e-poetry. M.J. Rose, writing for Wired (2002), has pointed out that poetry is especially suited for reading on the go on a handheld device. E-books of poetry may be downloaded to PDAs as well. Poetry bulletin boards allow discussion and information for specialized interest groups. Poetry e-zines have articles, bulletin boards, and workshops where poems and writing matters are discussed and encouraged.

Technology for collaborative filtering

It has long been the case that people seek the recommendations of friends for books, movies, and music (as well as new restaurants and almost everything else). Of course, individuals then adjust those recommendations to account for taste (their own as well as that of the recommender), and knowing the recommender makes it easier to do that recalibration. Given enough overall consumer preference and previous satisfaction data for a particular person, it should possible to predict their “taste” (see Balabanovic and Shoham, 1997).

However, until recently it was difficult to collect the data needed to make accurate consumer preference predictions. But now, with the Internet and the vast amount of consumer data available, particularly for automatically recorded digital transactions, it is possible to construct collaborative filtering networks that attempt to predict taste in film, music, and books. These collaborative filters require data from many individuals to work. One of the best-known collaborative filtering schemes is the Cinematch algorithm, which is used by Netflix to make recommendations to users about what other movies they might like. Apple recently introduced a similar mechanism in iTunes called Genius, which implements a preference function for music. Collaborative filtering is a major opportunity for the poetry community to improve access to poetry without requiring sophisticated searches.

What Can Be Learned from the Music Industry?

It is useful to ask what can be learned from the music and movie industries about their experience with new media and in particular about their experience in dealing with the opportunities and threats posed by the Internet, file sharing, and low-cost computers and storage. It is widely perceived by the technology community that the music industry has completely failed in its efforts to control access to content and that its approach to “protecting” its musical assets has been fundamentally misguided. There are five significant failures, which, when taken together, may lead to the collapse of the music recording business model as we know it.

The compact disc was designed in such a way that the music on the disc was unprotected and simply encoded in such a way that it could be played on a wide variety of devices. The assumption (at the time accurate) was that the 600MB content of a CD was too large for consumers to manipulate on personal computers—PCs at that time had 20MB hard drives and slow dial-up modems. But the assumption that the technology would not appreciably change resulted in billions of CDs being sold with digital content that was easily extractable and DRM-free. The industry’s first failure, then, was to underestimate the power of Moore’s law and its implications for the evolution of the capabilities of personal computers.

Second, the industry became distracted by a prolonged dispute with the developers of personal digital recording technologies such as DAT recorders. This fight was enshrined in legislation that put severe restrictions on the use of digital recorders at home. The industry argued that allowing DAT recorders to become widely available would enable users to create high-quality digital copies of musical content and to “share” them—something the industry had feared since the advent of high-quality analog audiocassettes. The battle resulted in the acceleration of the integration of CD and music software with PCs, since the legal restrictions on DATs made the stand-alone devices for personal recording of digital music very costly. It also accelerated the development of the portable digital music player based on hard-disk technology, since such players were outside the scope of the DAT legislation.

Third, the industry failed to understand the implications of the Internet—in particular, the rapid and broad penetration of broadband, which would enable high-speed file sharing. This was in a sense a failure to understand Metcalfe’s law and the combined effect of faster networks, larger hard drives, and widely available digital content (CDs).

Fourth, the industry failed to recognize the implications of the emerging technologies of peer-to-peer networking and social-networking applications. This was partly a failure of intelligence (awareness) and partly a cultural failure.

The industry’s fifth and perhaps nearly fatal failure was the inability to quickly shift business models to embrace digital music distribution. It was left to the technology community, in this case Apple, to demonstrate a successful model of electronic music distribution.

The lesson to take away from these failures is simple: if something is easy to do, users will do it, if they have a reason. If something is hard to do, users will do it, but only if they have a really good reason and easier routes are not available.

In the case of music, the industry made it easy to copy music off a CD even while they made it hard to buy legitimate digital copies for computers and portable music players. They provided no legal mechanism for digital sharing and no legal way for users to curate and expand their digital collections and share their preferences. The rise of illegal sharing was as much a result of what the recording industry didn’t do as of the things they actually did do.

Analysis of the music industry’s troubles has become a popular topic. Recently, National Public Radio’s Terry Gross interviewed author Steve Knopper (2009) on the rise and fall of the music industry. Of particular interest were his comments on the state of the industry and what artists can do to support their work. The short answer was concerts or live performances. For well-known artists, offering free downloads of a song from an upcoming album is now a standard promotional mechanism. When asked what new or lesser-known artists should do to create a presence, Knopper pointed to online social networks, noting that the band OK Go had launched itself by posting a creative video on YouTube. Addressing how the music industry could make money now, he mentioned creative bundling of subscription services, concerts, development of new formats, and even a return to vinyl as options.

The film industry is in a similar situation, although it lags by about five years. Computer power, networking, and storage have all improved to the extent that it is not only possible but common to extract a movie from a DVD, store it on a hard drive for watching on TV or computer, and, if the user is so inclined, share it via the Internet. Access to legally streamed movies is becoming more widespread, but the obstacles remain: small catalogs, no widely agreed upon standards, and few legal distribution channels. Most digital copies of recent and new movies are still available only through illegal channels.

The situation for print media, however, is quite different. There is not yet a widely available, standard, high-quality digital format for distributing print materials and producing a quality user experience. As a result, most book-length material is still distributed in physical book form. Alternative platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle and Sony’s e-book reader are emerging, but they are still more a novelty than a necessity. The cost and difficulty of creating digital copies of existing print material (particularly existing bound books and high-resolution illustrations) has resulted in relatively low levels of spontaneous distribution (for instance, of the over 1 million items indexed in the BitTorrent search engine isoHunt [risohunt.com], fewer than 30 are books of poetry).

The problem for traditional print media appears to be the need to leverage the opportunities of the Internet and digital representations rather than the problem of monetizing the illegal digital sharing and trading of works. To the degree that poetry is “traditional print media,” it shares the same fate and opportunities from a technological point of view.

What Can Be Learned from the Digital Book Experience?

The concept of digital books has been around nearly as long as the computer. In 1971, Michael Hart started Project Gutenberg to create a million digital texts. Today, Archive.org contains over a million digital texts but many fewer full-length books. Due to copyright issues, most freely available digital texts are public domain works published prior to the 1930s.

In the last 10 to 15 years there have been various commercial efforts to create a market for e-books, the most recent being Amazon’s creation of the Kindle and the associated library of digital works that can be “played” on the device. The Kindle is the most successful digital book reader so far, and Amazon has developed a novel online delivery mechanism for content, so a Kindle user does not need to “dock” the reader to a computer to upload content. Content delivery uses a built-in wireless network. Amazon has worked with publishers to build a catalog of over 200,000 books and periodicals. However, the Kindle sells for about $360, which is more than the average American spends on books each year, so in the near term the device is unlikely to have a dramatic impact on traditional print media.

User experience is key

Neil Gershenfeld, in his book When Things Start to Think (1999), compares an “old-fashioned” paper book to an e-book found on a laptop computer. He lists the specifications of a book as such: “boots instantly; a high-contrast, high-resolution display; is viewable from any angle, in bright or dim light; permits fast random access to any page; provides instant visual and tactile feedback on the location; can be easily annotated; requires no batteries or maintenance; [and] is robustly packaged.” He jokes that, because the laptop has none of these specifications, “[if] the book had been invented after the laptop it would be hailed as a great breakthrough.”

The biggest improvement in digital books during the last five years has been the development of electronic ink, a new type of computer display that looks and feels more like ink on paper. This display technology is not fast and so cannot be used for computer monitor displays, but it is ideal for e-book readers, as it is low power, high contrast, and relatively high resolution.

However, in spite of the efforts of many companies—in the late 1990s nearly all the major book publishers and distributors seemed to be investigating some form of digital book—such technology has remained a niche product. Content is still relatively difficult to acquire, especially any content that is not on the national best-seller list. Content cannot be freely shared in the same way that a book can be loaned, and the DRM that is used to prevent copying also prevents an open market from developing in reader technology. While demand has been relatively strong for the Amazon Kindle device, it is not clear that the market is poised for exponential growth like that we have seen with the iPod. Still, the Kindle is an important step forward in digital text distribution and provides an interesting opportunity for the poetry community. Of the 200,000 books available for the Kindle, fewer than 3,000 are books of poems.

Books as artifacts

The music business has recently seen an uptick in vinyl record sales. When this trend was investigated, purchasers commented that three things were encouraging them to purchase vinyl records, even though the content was also available in CD or MP3 formats. These consumers indicated that they enjoyed the experience of browsing through racks of LPs, particularly in used record stores, liked the cover art and liner notes in the large format, and liked the idea of owning the LP as an artifact.

Despite the wealth of digital text content available on the Internet, book sales have not seen the same spectacular collapse witnessed in music. Traditional-format books may continue to be popular long after other forms of media have been fully integrated into the digital milieu. Books are hard to copy, and they have a tangible user interface that music and film lack. Books are not dependent on distribution in a few standardized formats. Books can be easily produced by individuals and published through thousands of independent channels, with a wide variety of packaging styles. Books, more easily than recordings, films, and computer games, can be icons. Books are self-contained machines for transferring thought among individuals.

Accepted and visionary methods for innovation

For poetry in the public domain, accepted methods of distribution include making publicly available images of rare-print documents, or simple plain-text reprints of well-known poems. Some of the challenges related to accurate editions and “authoritative” texts mentioned above need to be worked out here. Innovations include shared authorship platforms for performing poetry in new-media venues and also poets who have enhanced their reputations by making their poetry available in poem-by-poem format online before publishing the poetry in print form. Children’s poet Kenn Nesbitt is one such innovator. When the concepts of ownership and authority are re-envisioned, new-media venues seem to offer some possibilities for both economic and artistic success.

Some older technologies that have required changes in distribution and oversight include radio and TV broadcast, photocopying, and mobile devices. One of the iconic works addressing the topic is Walter Benjamin’s 1935 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” which looked at the cultural changes that might be expected to arise from technology’s ability to infinitely reproduce and distribute art.

That Benjamin’s article still speaks to our moment is demonstrated by the frequency with which its title is mimicked in subsequent analytical writing, which might change “mechanical reproduction” to “digital reproduction” or, as in T.B. Cavanagh’s July 2008 article, “mechanical production.” Cavanagh’s essay addresses the advancement of technology to the point where not only is anyone able to reproduce art, but they may even produce it with software-based artistic assistance. Manuel Brito (2006), in “From Paperspace to Hyperspace,” has addressed the issue in terms of e-poetry texts and how e-anthologies are considered as a resource from which to cut and paste. The essay examines creative production in relation to new nonlinear modes of reading and writing. Gert Verschraegen, in “The Digitalization of Culture” (2002), looks at specific characteristics of new media and their cultural effects via an historically informed comparison between traditional media (e.g., the printing press and photography) and new, computerized media.

Research in poetry and literary history

A significant area of research in poetry and new media relates to the preservation of poetry from the past and its distribution in new formats. Brown (1998) writes about what he terms “elegiac performance” in early New England poetry and prose, pointing out that new technologies can make more readily available not just the text but the images in original printed forms such as broadsides and engravings. Sound technologies also can make it possible for 21st-century listeners to hear words pronounced the way they would have been pronounced in previous centuries. Brown notes that the nature of poetry lends itself well to the multisensory forms of new technology: “[v]erse itself is an especially conflicted discursive form, depending on visual and aural reading modes to convey its meanings” (68). These multiple modes for conveying meaning can be accessed through new technologies. Brown points out that new technologies have also changed who can access early American poetry. Websites such as the Making of America and Project Gutenberg have helped to crack open the doors to the archive and to make previously rare documents available to nonspecialists: “[t]he advent of computing technology and electronic texts, which partially endangers the book while enlivening us to its hypermediated status; the closing of library schools and cessation of rare books training, which opens study to non-specialists while threatening the long-term stability of bibliographical research; the critique, both inside and outside of the academy, of theoretical excess and multicultural “relativism” in humanities studies, an often reactionary critique that finds in the hard tactility of books a moral and historical center—these trends and more have created a minor paradigm shift” (92). Since Brown published his study in 1998, the “minor shift” he describes has become major, and the ways in which poetry written in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries can be accessed and viewed have changed permanently.

Research on access and taste-making

Related scholarship that examines poetry and the archive focuses on the ways that accessing poetry online shifts the readers’ relationship to the poetry. In “My Digital Dickinson,” Lori Emerson (2008) writes about reading Dickinson’s poetry online. Digital technologies continue to make available images and sounds of poets reading their own poetry that previously were available only to scholars with access to rare-book rooms and the training to locate and make use of the archived sources. In “What Is the Matter? Or, What Literary Theory Neither Hears nor Sees,” Laura Mandell (2007) discusses Wordsworth’s poetry and showcases how computer programs have made accessible visual images and aural details embedded in arrangements of words on the page.

Even as technologies open up new avenues for research, there is a simultaneous politics of taste-making and access that occurs every time poetry is made available online. Alan Liu (2005), N. Katherine Hayles (1999), and Johanna Drucker (2005) all discuss the complex cultural pressures at work in making art and poetry available in new formats. Liu, for example, asks compellingly, “what does preservation mean in a digital age when conserving a work requires periodically migrating or transforming it?” (6). He goes on to ask, “isn’t such preservation already interpretation?” Questions by theorists such as Liu, Hayles, and Drucker draw attention to the ways that new media’s influences on poetry and its use, creation, and distribution are always connected to the economic and educational privileges that make technologies easily accessible.

Research on new media and the form and function of poetry

A productive area of research scholarship takes up William Carlos Williams’s statement that “a poem is a machine” and examines how new technologies emphasize this aspect of poetry making. Sandy Baldwin (2003) and Brian McHale (2000) explore this concept, while scholars such as Jan Baetens (2007), Joseph Tabbi (2008), and Gregory Jusdanis (2005) examine aesthetics and Plato’s and Aristotle’s conceptions of poetry and craft (techne) in the context of new media.

Other scholarship takes up the question of how new media and its distribution might make more available poetry from a variety of cultures—for instance, Geetha Narayanan’s work on the digital arts in India (2006). Daniel Punday (2006) examines how multimedia formats connect to the history of the Black Arts Movement. Productive questions can be asked about how developments in other areas, such as the Japanese cell phone genre, might be adapted in order to distribute poetry.

Emerging mechanisms for distribution

At least four emerging distribution “channels” likely to be important in the future should be considered as opportunities for new-media distribution of poetry. The emergence of Web 2.0 technologies has created an unprecedented encoding of what historically would be called the “word of mouth” marketing and distribution channel. Social networks previously intangible are now made plainly visible via social-networking web applications. These environments are used not just for keeping one’s business contacts up to date but for sharing everyday activities, events, and opinions, including tastes in music, art, film, and literature. The use of social-networking sites for “viral” promotion of creative works is in its infancy, but it has been successful in building communities for some new artists.

Computer-gaming platforms have a market volume that now exceeds that of film and music and are used daily by millions of people. Recently, gaming platforms have been used as novel mechanisms for distributing political advertising, product placement, and music samples. Computer games, especially multiplayer virtual reality games, offer interesting examples of flexible channels. Virtual worlds such as Second Life are being used by IBM and NPR to reach new audiences and existing audiences in new ways. Users in Second Life have sponsored poetry slams and other interactive literary events in recent years. A typical poetry-related event in Second Life might be advertised this way:

Poetry International Web is launching a Second Life pilot project to coincide with Poetry Day in the Netherlands and Flanders. Two short films of the poets Mark Boog and Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer reading original work in Second Life will be premiered at the Red Sky Club, Cookie Island, in Second Life on January 30. The films will also be shown in Rotterdam during the Gedichtendag opening—for more information, see link below.

If you are not already a Second Life regular, in order to attend the screening you will need to sign up at www.secondlife.com, download the application, and create an avatar for yourself. The slurl for the event, which will take place at 9 p.m. CET (noon SLT), is:


Teleport up to the Red Sky Club by right-clicking on the red column.

The screening will be followed by live entertainment. The Second Life pilot project has been made possible by the help and cooperation of the Written Word Foundation within Second Life. The Written Word group provides free space within SL where writers in all forms can socialize and display and share their work. It is organized by published poet and fiction editor Jilly Kidd (Adele Ward in real life) and novelist Hastings Bournemouth (aka Peter Chowne).

The advertisement is complete with Second Life aliases for the organizers. Users of course must have Second Life accounts, create characters, and navigate and interact in the Second Life world.

Shortly after the development of the iPod and iTunes, Apple created the ability to download serial episodes of audio (and later video) files on to the iPod, creating the podcast. The podcast is a new distribution channel for independently produced material as well as content redirected from traditional broadcast media channels. Podcasts have been created by thousands of individuals and organizations. They are an effective way to time-shift content for playback at the user’s convenience, and they are a low-cost way for small groups to have access to a large market. Podcasts are usually freely available and have very low production costs, resulting in a dramatically lowered cost to reach the over 200 million users of iPods, not to mention those who might listen on other electronic devices.

Some publishers are starting to use podcasts to cross-promote works. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for example, produces the podcast poetic voice, with a recent episode including Donald Hall reading “Affirmation” from White Apples and the Taste of Stone; David Tucker reading “The Dancer” from Late for Work; Michael Collier reading “Birds Appearing in a Dream” from Dark Wild Realm; Ron Slate reading “The Final Call” from The Incentive of the Maggot; Natasha Trethewey reading “Self” from Native Guard; Galway Kinnell reading “Middle Path” from Strong Is Your Hold; Glyn Maxwell reading “Harry in the Dark” from The Sugar Mile; and Alan Shapiro reading the first and second sections of “Tantalus in Love” from Tantalus in Love.

A group of independent poetry podcasters has created the Association of Poetry Podcasters to cross-promote their nearly 30 independently produced, poetry-related podcast channels (www.poetrypodcasting.org).

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds were developed in the late 1990s to provide a simple way to stream content to web browsers. RSS has become a popular way to stream news, articles, and audio and video feeds. Most web browsers support it, as do dozens of stand-alone applications and some stand-alone devices. RSS feeds can be used to publish indexes of content described using a simple XML tagging system. Poems.com has developed the Poetry Daily RSS feed, which contains the title of a daily poem, the first few lines, and a link to the full poem on their website. The Library of Congress produces the Poetry180 RSS feed, which supplies a poem a day to high schools. Poetry180 is led by Billy Collins, the poet laureate of the United States from 2001-2003.

One additional emerging distribution channel is the cell phone, in particular the applications platforms represented by the iPhone and the Google phone. These devices have the capability to run hundreds of independently produced applications. Applications range from games to productivity to e-book readers and social-networking applications. Poets.org has developed a poem browser and reader especially formatted for mobile devices such as the iPhone, which can be accessed at poets.org/m. The service provides easy access to about 2,500 poems via subject icons, authors, and first lines.

An interesting variation on magnetic tile poetry is an application for the iPhone called PoetrySinger, developed by Neutrinos. As the company explains it:

Using PoetrySinger users can make their own poems using Apple’s innovative touch technology. PoetrySinger can be used to create, play back and publish poems directly from an iPhone.

Finished poems can be uploaded to the PoetrySphere using either the 3G cellular network or a wireless Internet connection. Published poems can be viewed by the public on the website PoetrySinger.com, and can also be downloaded by other users of the application. “We wanted to create a new level of interaction for magnetic tile poetry fans. PoetrySinger kicks this off by allowing people to interact by their publishing their poems online,” said David Peixotto, CTO of Neutrinos.

An innovation found in PoetrySinger is the ability to play back a poem in a spoken voice. “Part of the fun of creating poetry with magnetic tiles is that you’re working with a limited word set. We realized that this would allow us to create audio recordings of each word so that poems can be read back out loud without a speech synthesizer,” said Neutrinos co-founder Rob Banagale.

Key people and organizations

N. Katherine Hayles and Alan Liu have made significant contributions to opening avenues of theoretical inquiry about new media and definitions of poetry and literature. Theoretical discussions of children’s poetry and children’s access to poetry, initiated by poetry scholars such as Richard Flynn, have been and continue to be influential in identifying and grappling with questions of preserving poetic knowledge and developing means of embracing and challenging new media’s relation to poetry. Poets who have published online first and then successfully published print versions of their poetry provide fruitful models for considering the efficacy of a both/and (rather than either/or) approach to new-media poetry distribution, copyright, and authorship issues.

Organizations that have driven policy and are active in new-media distribution provide good examples for approaches to technological innovations. The Arts Council England (2006) has written a useful policy document for the arts with respect to new media. The document explores ideas for taking advantage of recent technology and considers ways to increase the size and diversity of poetry’s new-media audience. In addition, it makes good points about the changing relationship between artist and consumer as it has moved from passive to interactive.

Organizations that have a solid online presence related to print and poetry technology include the Electronic Literature Organization (www.eliterature.org), which seeks to facilitate and promote the writing, publishing, and reading of literature in electronic media; the Electronic Poetry Center (www.epc.buffalo.edu); and LibraryThing (www.librarything.com), an online service that helps people catalog their books and allows access to the catalog from anywhere.

Frederick Glaysher, the founder of Earthrise Press, is a dynamic presence among the advocates of self-publishing and adopting the independent music model of direct purchase from artist to consumer. The website www.fglaysher.com/LitLinks.htm provides a very up-to-date list of online and print poetry and literary magazines, journals, and e-zines.

Roles of Publishers in the Age of New Media

Economies of scale in reproduction, marketing, and distribution

Historically, the economics of mass reproduction, mass marketing, and global distribution have required writers to work with publishers (often large companies) to get their work into broad circulation. While it was possible in principle to self-publish, in practice it was difficult to get into the mainstream distribution channels without some association with a large-scale publisher or marketer.

The advent of the Internet and the possibility of purely electronic distribution are challenging these assumptions in several ways. Electronic distribution does not have significant reproduction costs: once the infrastructure is in place to enable customers to browse, order, and download, it is extremely inexpensive to add digital content.

The Internet is not only making possible extremely low cost global distribution but also enabling a revision of the cost structure for physical media production and distribution. In the last decade, a number of Internet companies have appeared that will handle the physical production and distribution of books and other printed materials at low cost, with no contracts and with essentially all the interaction being conducted electronically. These Internet production houses provide printing, physical distribution, and electronic distribution, but they do not provide marketing and editorial services. The writer or another entity must provide those.

The availability of low-cost printing and distribution services, however, makes possible a new type of “small press” or “virtual publisher” that provides just those services needed by the author. These virtual publishers are then free to seek novel, nontraditional distribution channels.

The essential roles of “producer” and “editor”

Regardless of the end media involved in distribution, there remains the need for “production” (i.e., the management and financial aspects of developing a work) and “editorial” functions. These functions do change depending on the media involved. Some media have limitations or challenges for the editor, and some new media have yet to be put on a firm financial model that enables producers to confidently construct contracts. In many respects, the role most highly affected by the availability of new media is that of the producer. Determining the new-media opportunities most appropriate for a particular artist or type of work, and which opportunities are likely to generate sales and profitable distribution and which are best thought of as promotion opportunities, requires a deep understanding of the market, the technologies, and the work.

Protecting the rights and revenue of artists and authors

As mentioned previously in this report, the creation of electronic instances of work lowers the barriers to unlicensed distribution: while the threat of spontaneous electronic distribution of physical works such as books is fairly low due to the costs of creating the initial digital copy, for those works that are intended to be distributed electronically, this threat is much higher. While the economic impact of piracy on legitimate sales is debated (Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf, 2007), those who hold copyrights or moral authorship rights certainly have a major concern about having their work distributed in ways they agree with. Much of the tension in the debate on digital rights management is focused on the relationship between different notions of ownership and fair use.

At the heart of the debate is a very technological issue: the long-term viability of the media. Media that requires a large-scale or external infrastructure to function in the future is much more likely to fail, thus rendering the digital copy useless. This is easily apparent when you consider what happens when a company publishing material in a proprietary format goes out of business and the format is no longer supported. The digital equivalent of this occurs when the company whose technology protects the rights of the artist fails and renders the media incapable of use. Advocates of open formats and non-DRM media argue simply that the consumer has rights of access to media they have purchased regardless of the downstream status of the company that sold the media or associated technologies.

This is easy to agree with, especially in the case of books. Everyone would agree that books published by a long-dead publishing house should still be readable by their owners or their owner’s descendants. Physical books, by their very nature, are self-contained and do not depend on external infrastructure or complex technology to render them. When we consider electronic media, however, the issue becomes less clear. The open-source community has argued that, in order to avoid the difficulties associated with proprietary formats and copy protection schemes, software and media should be open. Openness here means that media formats are published in such a way that no license is required to develop software to read or write these formats and that DRM mechanisms are not included in the formats. This does not mean that the open-source community is advocating piracy or unlicensed distribution, simply that the formats should be open so that the media will not be orphaned if the company that created it or is trying to protect it ceases to exist.

Tensions between openness and ownership

Because of poetry’s visual and aural properties, it is a form that has a public or shared component that destabilizes questions of complete ownership even when new media and technological outlets are not part of the discussion. Innovations in theoretical and practical approaches to this shared/public quality of poetry may lead to solutions to establishing authority and protecting intellectual property in new-media venues. Another challenge related to this tension has to do with continuing to make new-media outlets for poetry more widely available to less economically and educationally privileged populations.

Another problem or tension has to do with protecting the authors’ rights for both known poetry that is not in the public domain and new poetry. In order to resolve this tension, policies need to be developed or established that define limits for carrying or purchasing poetry and constructing anthologies of poetry as well as distributing and sharing it. The various new-media outlets in which poetry sharing or distribution might occur must be considered when developing these policies or when rethinking whether these policies might be useful at all. A technological ownership or rights “stamp” which indicates that poetry accessed through blogs, podcasts, new poetry-reading technologies, recordings of performances, electronic book formats, cell phones, and PDAs is being accessed legitimately might be a possible solution and may result in developing a culture of responsible use.

Jason Potts et al. (2008) posit that redefining the “creative industries” within a social-network framework might provide some resolution of the tensions between access and rights because of how individual choice works within this framework: “decisions to produce and to consume are determined by the choice of others in a social network” (169). Potts et al. suggest that supply and demand within the creative industries need to be seen as “operat[ing] in complex social networks” (167). One way to see this applied is to consider that poetry may be made available online as a free sample but that there may also be small fees attached to the poem, so that even if some audience members obtain the poem without paying a fee, there might still be a number who pay the fee and are granted permission to share the poem or use it in some other way. Both Ken Hunt (2007) and Peter Shawn Taylor make these points in their articles about file sharing. The ephemeral and contemporary nature of graffiti or other informal public artworks that are not housed by institutions might also provide another useful image for thinking about how rights to poetry might be re-envisioned.

New strategies for authors and artists

Some strategies for embracing new media appear to have some traction in the arts community. One that is emerging in the music business is to view digital distribution of recorded music as promotion for live events. The business model assumes that the distribution of recorded material will not be the primary revenue generator for the artist, but its successful distribution and broad penetration will increase the size of audiences at live events and, thus, increase ticket sales and the prices that can be charged.

In this strategy, it might be imagined that free and viral distribution of recorded music and video would be highly desirable, since it will increase market penetration and lower distribution costs. It has the major impact of shifting the revenue model of the industry to live performance as the primary mechanism for revenue; hence, the record labels naturally would need to become more integrated producers of both recordings and live events. This approach is still controversial and is not yet accepted as the ultimate state of affairs for the music industry. How it might be adapted for the poetry community is not completely clear.

The Role of Technical Standards

Unlike a book, which has a self-contained user interface and implicit standards (e.g., format, fonts, and language), digital representations of work require an agreement between the software that produces the object and the software that renders the object for the end user. A good standard is one that is simple, open, and inexpensive from a computational standpoint, so that the device the end user requires for rendering can be small and inexpensive. A good standard also is neutral and owned by the community rather than by a particular vendor. Such a community-based standard enables a marketplace of technology for producing and consuming content where the barrier to entry and the cost to comply with the standard are both low.

Standards for text and image distribution

There exist today many standards for text and image distribution. Some of the more important ones include JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) for images and PDF (portable document format) for text documents.

JPEG is a widely used standard for images and photographs and is nearly universally deployed in cameras and software for image viewing and manipulation. JPEG is a relatively open standard that has community support, though it is not a community standard (i.e., the JPEG group is not an open-community standards body).

PDF is a proprietary format developed by Adobe Systems to enable the broad distribution of formatted text documents that can be rendered on screen and for printing on a wide variety of devices. PDF is an example of a standard that is asymmetric, in that it is designed for largely one-way distribution (programs are either for generating and editing PDF documents or for reading them). PDF has been implemented in several open-source community tools without the permission of Adobe. The PDF format includes a variety of features to control distribution (such as password-protected files) and to prevent changes or edits to the original document. Both PDF and JPEG standards are still evolving, with later versions that are typically backward-compatible (meaning they can read older versions of the standard).

Many standard formats exist for exchange of text and image documents. Because of technological issues related to variable resolution (e.g., spatial and chromatic) of different rendering devices (e.g., laptops, printers, and cell phones), it is very difficult to encode the printed work in a form that will render the same on a wide variety of devices. It is relatively easy to capture the textual content but quite difficult to reproduce the look and feel of a particular work.

Determining quality and size of the digital artifacts

One important impact of standards is that they determine the relative quality (fidelity) of the encoded object and the file size required to store it. While it is true that digital objects can be copied without loss of fidelity from one generation to the next, there are choices at the time the object is created that determine its quality or fidelity relative to the original work or performance. Digital images, for example, have a maximum finite pixel resolution that is established when the object is first created (either from a digital camera or a program). The particular standard format used will most likely then also reduce this resolution using some encoding that compresses the file to save space. Most compression methods are “lossy,” meaning that they must remove information from the original to achieve the large factors of compression (greater than 10) needed for rapid digital transmission. Lossy compression schemes also leave artifacts in the image or media file. Good compression schemes achieve a significant reduction of file size while minimizing artifacts and can be decompressed to a high-fidelity facsimile of the original object.

Enabling digital rights management

Standards also determine if any digital rights management (DRM) is attached to the object. A typical DRM scheme associates a key with each digital object. At the time of playback on the end-user system, the key is checked to validate the right to use the object. This validation can be accomplished in a number of ways. The software can compare the key to a list of keys stored on the user’s disk that contains the keys the user has the right to use, or it can query a central database to confirm that the user has the right to use the object.

Since rights can change over time and keys can be tied to specific devices, users, or accounts, the methods for managing keys and validating them can be quite complex. It is this complexity that makes implementing DRM difficult and prone to failure. For example, none of the current DRM schemes make it easy, or in most cases even possible, to transfer digital ownership from one user to another. Thus, even simple sharing models that work with physical objects (such as the loaning of a book for a week) become nearly impossible to manage with DRM, since both end users would have to be in the same “database” and the database would have to track the temporary loan of the object and its key from one user to another.

The impact of open-source software

The global community of software developers has created the concept of “open-source software,” which is typically freely distributed and includes the source code (the human-readable instructions needed to generate the binary programs that run on the computer). The open-source movement has resulted in a very large group of loosely connected software developers working together to produce software that is used on millions of computers for nearly every conceivable function.

Open-source software is distributed with a license (see below) that enables building on others’ work in the historical tradition of mathematics, science, and medicine. It grew out of the academic world in the 1970s and 1980s but includes cultural features often associated with amateur radio, the do-it-yourself movement, and the culinary world. Eric S. Raymond (2001) has written about the unique culture that is the open-source movement in his book The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

One side effect of the open-source movement has been the creation of a global community committed to opening up proprietary software, data formats, and programming interfaces. Often open versions of programs can read and write closed formats and standards. In many cases, this requires the circumvention of DRM or other undocumented proprietary standards. This community-based exploration of technology has resulted in an acceleration of technology development and the creation of a marketplace and culture that appreciates open standards. One impact of this trend is the increased ability for smaller firms and some nonprofits to compete with the major developers of proprietary software and standards. It has also led to the widespread adoption of open technologies in the developing economies around the world. It is worthwhile to examine the open-source licensing principles because they may provide some insights for possible shifts in ownership and distribution rights concepts for poetry. Wikipedia lists them as follows:

Open source doesn’t just mean access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria:

1. Free Redistribution

The license shall not restrict any party from selling or giving away the software as a component of an aggregate software distribution containing programs from several different sources. The license shall not require a royalty or other fee for such sale.

2. Source Code

The program must include source code, and must allow distribution in source code as well as compiled form. Where some form of a product is not distributed with source code, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining the source code for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably downloading via the Internet without charge. The source code must be the preferred form in which a programmer would modify the program. Deliberately obfuscated source code is not allowed. Intermediate forms such as the output of a preprocessor or translator are not allowed.

3. Derived Works

The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

4. Integrity of the Author’s Source Code

The license may restrict source code from being distributed in modified form only if the license allows the distribution of “patch files” with the source code for the purpose of modifying the program at build time. The license must explicitly permit distribution of software built from modified source code. The license may require derived works to carry a different name or version number from the original software.

5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

The license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons.

6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

7. Distribution of License

The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed, without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

8. License Must Not Be Specific to a Product

The rights attached to the program must not depend on the program’s being part of a particular software distribution. If the program is extracted from that distribution and used or distributed within the terms of the program’s license, all parties to whom the program is redistributed should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original software distribution.

9. License Must Not Restrict Other Software

The license must not place restrictions on other software that is distributed along with the licensed software. For example, the license must not insist that all other programs distributed on the same medium must be open-source software.

10. License Must Be Technology-Neutral

No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface.


We have four general recommendations for the poetry community as it faces the opportunities, challenges, and risks of new media.

The first recommendation is to develop a core technical literacy campaign aimed at writers and poets to enable them to understand the significance and impact of technology on their field. This literacy campaign should be forward looking and should cover the basics of media technology and examine the connections between technology, business models, property rights, and culture. The campaign’s goal should be to enable poets to fully participate, in an informed way, in the choices they and their publishers make in adopting new technology and new media.

The second recommendation is to conduct research to understand more clearly the impacts that existing digital distribution and production are having on the poetry market and current business models. For example, are the nascent efforts to get poetry into new media having a positive (or even detectable) impact on book sales or other measures of poetry popularity or consumption? Is there a correlation of sales with online events and promotions?

The third is to investigate the barriers to increasing poetry awareness and market development relative to other forms of literature or artistic work. Is the poetry market paralleling developments in any other media? Is it tracking the general print market, or is it finding niche areas of development that are dramatically outperforming the print marketplace?

Finally, we recommend that a comprehensive effort be undertaken to automatically search the Internet and Web (including the legal and nonlegal distribution channels) for instances of poetry and to characterize their use. Automated tools can identify known texts and software tools that can recognize many poetic forms. The resulting database would provide a useful resource to help track the availability of legal and illegal distributions and could inform the poetry community about actual patterns of use and provide statistical support for decisions of poets and publishers.


In this report we have reviewed the literature on new media and poetry, and we have examined the impact of open-source culture and the Internet on new-media development, the changing patterns of compensation and publishing associated with the availability of digital distribution, and the technical basis for some types of new media. We believe it is important that any analysis of the impact of new media be structured around the combination and interplay of social/cultural, policy/legal and technical issues.

The high cost, technological difficulty, and legal restrictions on media “duplication” have inspired many novel means of lowering the cost of sharing and distribution. From the concept of the subscription library to the idea of the movie rental, history is full of creative attempts to devise means to enable broad access to media and content at a low per-user/use cost.

The widespread adoption of file-sharing technology is a modern equivalent response to the relatively high cost and inflexible access to content distributed on physical media such as CDs and DVDs. We have reviewed some effects of digital technologies, the Internet, computer-mediated content, and the more recent impacts of peer-to-peer technology and online social networks. These technologies have inspired new and novel viral marketing concepts that are now being effectively applied by both commercial and creative industries.

Related issues include the struggle between commercial media sales, digital rights management, and unauthorized distribution of content. Since the advent of file-sharing software in the mid-1990s and the refinement of various peer-to-peer distribution mechanisms, a succession of digital content types have become increasingly available to public searching and downloading. Much but not all of this content is illegal or unlicensed.

Where industry has responded by creating effective legal equivalents that enable simple searching and downloading (e.g., iTunes), they have become preferred means for acquiring legal digital content; however, their catalogs often are incomplete and lag availability of content, especially informal content. In parallel, we have the development and distribution of user-produced content via YouTube (Google) and Flickr (Yahoo) and their equivalents. These systems grew out of experiments in sharing and free distribution of user-produced content. As they have grown in popularity and have been acquired by large firms, there is now increasing pressure to convert them to revenue production, with the process occasionally alienating the communities that made them successful.

It is notable that the online sharing of text is still relatively undeveloped—due in part, we believe, to the difficulties of acquiring high-quality digital copies of traditional print media, the relative low quality of the experience of using computers for reading or enjoying large-format materials, and perhaps the cultural differences between passive media and active media (books require much more time and effort to read than to download). Whether e-books and e-book-related technology will have an impact on the broad adoption of leisure text sharing remains to be seen.

In academic research, there is a movement toward online open-access literature, but its adoption has been relatively slow, and it appears not to have affected the monograph (book-length) segment of the literature market. A major open question is whether poetry, given its relatively compact nature, can be the driver for new means of distribution and sharing.


I would like to thank Lorinda Cohoon for her insights from the perspective of children’s literature and for assistance in researching and preparing this report and drafting the sections on research and innovation, and Deborah Stevens for editorial and research help and for keeping the coffee hot.


Differences in copyright law between Europe and America

As Yader (2008) has written, there are several crucial differences between the laws of European countries and the United States when it comes to intellectual property. For those contemplating an intellectual property agreement that is international in scope, it is important to know these differences.

The main difference is that European countries protect the moral rights of a copyright, trademark, or patent. Known in French as les droites morales, these rights refer to the respect and dignity, so to speak, of intellectual property. Take, for instance, the U.S. case of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose, filed after the rap group 2 Live Crew sampled Roy Orbison’s classic song “Pretty Woman” in one of their rap songs without permission. In deciding the case in favor of 2 Live Crew, the Supreme Court ruled that the group’s action was “fair use” since they were using the song in order to parody it. Parodies and satires are recognized as fair use in American copyright law.

In Europe, Acuff-Rose probably would not have won the case. Most likely, a European court would have decided that the use of the song violated Orbison’s moral rights to the work by changing the lyrics and mocking the song. Thus, although most of the laws in the United States and Europe with respect to protecting intellectual property are similar, this is a crucial distinction between the two. It is therefore important for copyright holders to know that moral rights are not protected under U.S. law, and this knowledge should govern their conduct.

Key References

Arts Council England. “Distribution Policy.” London, England: Arts Council England, 2006, www.artscouncil.org.uk/downloads/distribution_policy1.pdf.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935). Reprinted in Illuminations (1968): 217–51. Benjamin’s famous essay shone a light on the cultural changes implied by technology’s ability to infinitely reproduce and distribute art. One of the important consequences of this development was the democratization of art’s availability, which allowed the general population to experience artwork that they would otherwise have been unable to access.

Brito, Manuel. “From Paperspace to Hyperspace: An Evaluation of E-anthologies in Innovative American Poetry.” Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses 52 (2006): 105–27. In the late 1990s and early 21st century, poets, critics, scholars, and readers increasingly accepted the Internet and the Web as almost material objects, certainly a reality hard to ignore. This essay analyzes how today e-poetry texts are considered as a new practice to and from which words, paragraphs, and pages are moved, appended, or cut. Such a formulation shows how electronic technology has built a new panorama for creative production and also implies ways in which the printed text might be replaced. In this sense, a new technology like digitization has provided a new mode of writing/reading able to substitute old values—such as linearity of the book in time and space, or the objectual presence of the text—for digitized structures facilitating more individual and creative responses.

Cavanagh, T.B. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Production.” International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction 4.3 (July 2008): 27–42. Now technology has advanced to a point where not only is art’s reproduction available to anyone who wants it, but its means of production is now accessible to almost everyone, even if the prospective artist is utterly devoid of training, expertise, or even talent. With software-based artistic assistance and low-threshold electronic distribution mechanisms, we have achieved the promise of Benjamin’s blurred distinction between artist and audience.

Cheok, A.D., O.N.N. Fernando, J.P. Wijesena, A.-U.-R. Mustafa, A.-K. Barthoff, and N. Tosa. “Blog Wall: Displaying Artistic and Poetic Messages on Public Displays via SMS.” ACM International Conference Proceeding Series (2007): 483–86. An abstract blog wall extends the SMS to a new level of self-expression and public communication by combining art and poetry.

Glaysher, Frederick. The founder of Earthrise Press (P.O. Box 81842, 
Rochester, MI 48308; www.fglaysher.com), Glaysher is an advocate of self-publishing and adopting the indie music model of direct purchase, from artist to consumer.

Jones, Steve. “Music that Moves: Popular Music, Distribution and Network Technologies.” Cultural Studies 16.2 (March 2002): 213–32. This essay examines the impact of technology on how music reaches people and how people reach music. It argues that new-media technologies, particularly the Internet, create new territorializations of space and affect. The spatial distribution of music wrought by new technologies provides an opportunity for cultural studies to bring distribution to the center of the study of media. By so doing we can better understand cultural processes as not only industrial ones, but ones of geography, audience, and fan, thereby de-centering production and consumption as the sites of cultural critique.

Knopper, Steve. Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age. New York: Free Press, 2009.

Knopper, Steve, interviewed by Terry Gross. “The Rise and Fall of the Music Industry.” Fresh Air with Terry Gross, NPR (January 14, 2009), www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99312293. Gross and Rolling Stone contributing editor Steve Knopper discuss Knopper’s new book, Appetite for Self-Destruction (see above), which chronicles the rise and fall of the record industry in the digital age.

Nunberg, Geoffrey, ed. The Future of the Book. Davis, CA: University of California Press, 1996. This work consists of 11 scholarly papers, most by academics, presented at a recent conference. Contributors include Nunberg, Carla Hesse, James O’Donnell, Paul Duguid, Regis Debray, and Patrick Brazin. The presenters take a variety of approaches to the ways, rates, and degrees to which the computer might kill the book., e.g., historical, philosophical, and linguistic. None of the authors reject computers or see their takeover as complete and immediate.

Price, M.E., S. Haas, and D. Margolin. “New Technologies and International Broadcasting: Reflections on Adaptations and Transformations.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 616:1 (March 2008): 150–72. International broadcasters, like all media institutions, adjust to reflect the existence of new distribution technologies. Technological change is part of a new-media landscape that has rendered older definitions and contexts of international broadcasting insufficient. The pace and extent of adjustment differs among the players. Adaptations range from the superficial to the highly integrative and, on the other hand, from the merely adaptive to the pervasively transformative. Can one compare, among institutions, how this process takes place and what factors influence the patterns of accommodation? Theories of organizational structure shed light on which factors lead international broadcasters to which path. This article considers U.S. international broadcasting as a model to tease out some of these factors, among them organizational complexity, political influence, and control and contradictions embedded in institutional purpose. In this scenario, technological adaptation can mask a critical need to address institutional transformation.

Rose, M.J. “Roses Are Red, Your PDA Is Dead.” Wired, August 6, 2002, www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2002/08/54330.

Veale, Jennifer. “Seoul Searching.” Foreign Policy 158 (Autumn 2007): 94–96. A South Korean community newspaper’s six-year-old website has risen to prominence so quickly that it has been held up as an international symbol of modern journalism for the 21st century.

Verschraegen, Gert. “The Digitalization of Culture.” Tijdschrift voor Sociologie 23: 3–4 (2002): 303–24. This article examines the effects and implications of the new media for cultural communication. Drawing on an already large literature in the field of sociology and “medium theory,” it argues that the computer media revolution affects all stages of cultural communication (acquisition, manipulation, storage, distribution) and all types of media (text, images, moving images, sound). The specific characteristics of new media and their cultural effects are analyzed via a historically informed comparison between traditional media (printing press, photography, and so on) and new computerized media. It turns out that a lot of the commonly held characteristics of new media can already be found in traditional media. One can, however, distinguish some general tendencies of a culture undergoing computerization, such as increasing possibilities for modulation and transformation of data, the variability of new-media objects, and a tendency toward decentralization. From a sociological point of view, the most important tendency is the “individualization” of mass communication. The new media create a segmented, differentiated audience that, although massive in terms of numbers, is no longer a mass audience in terms of simultaneity and uniformity of the messages it receives, because computers can intervene actively on the content they diffuse and present them at any point in time in the format corresponding to the interests and needs of the individual user.


Academy of American Poets. www.poets.org.

Aull, Felice. “Commentary.” Academic Medicine 78.10 (October 2003): 1055.

Baetens, Jan. “New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories.” Leonardo 40.3 (June 2007): 304–5.

Balabanovic, Marko, and Yaov Shoham. “Fab: Content-Based, Collaborative Recommendation.” Communications of the Association of Computing Machinery 40.3 (March 1997): 66–72.

Baldwin, Sandy. “A Poem Is a Machine to Think With: Digital Poetry and the Paradox of Innovation,” review of Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries, by Loss Pequeño Glazier. Postmodern Culture 13.2 (January 2003).

Bergsdorf, Wolfgang. “An Assault on Language Barriers: New Communicative Opportunities through ‘New Media’?” Publizistik 29 (2004): 503–9.

Bolter, J. David. “Digital Media and Art: Always Already Complicit?” Criticism 49.1 (Winter 2007): 107–18.

Brown, Matthew P. “‘BOSTON/SOB NOT’: Elegiac Performance in Early New England and Materialist Studies of the Book.” American Quarterly 50.2 (1998): 306–39.

Chiarglione, L. “Balancing Protection of Intellectual Property and Its Use.” Proceedings—First International Conference on Automated Production of Cross Media Content for Multi-Channel Distribution.” AXMEDIS 2005: 3–6.

Coleman, S., and N. Dyer-Wifeford. “Playing on the Digital Commons: Collectivities, Capital and Contestation in Videogame Culture.” Media, Culture, and Society 29.6 (2007): 934–53, 1033–34.

Drucker, Johanna. Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Emerson, Lori. “My Digital Dickinson.” The Emily Dickinson Journal 17.2 (Fall 2008): 55–76.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “The Poet.” Emerson’s Essays. Reading, PA: Spencer Press, 1936. 251–78.

Gershenfeld, Neil. When Things Start to Think. New York: Henry Holt, 1999.

Gwiasda, Karl E. “Bibliography: Relations of Literature and Science.” Configurations 6.3 (Fall 1998): 403–93.

Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Himma, Kenneth Einar. “The Justification of Intellectual Property: Contemporary Philosophical Disputes.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 59.7 (May 2008): 1143–61.

Hlebec, Valentina. Review of Social Consequences of Internet Use: Access, Involvement, and Interaction, by James E. Katz and Ronald E. Rice. New Media and Society 6 (June 2004): 429–31.

Hunt, Ken. “Don’t Fear the Pirates: Illegal Downloaders of Music and Movies Are at the Forefront of Technology—and It’s Time the Industries Caught Up.” TQ Magazine (November 27, 2007): 21.

Joint, N. “Is Digitisation the New Circulation? Borrowing Trends, Digitisation, and the Nature of Reading in U.S. and U.K. Libraries.” Library Review 57.2 (2008): 87–95.

Jusdanis, Gregory. “Two Cheers for Aesthetic Autonomy.” Cultural Critique 61 (Fall 2005): 22–54.

Kiskis, M., and R. Petrauskas. “Compensating Creativity in the Digital World: Reconciling Technology and Culture.” Proceedings of the ACM Symposium on Applied Computing 2005: 282–86.

Krupnick, Mark. “Marshall McLuhan Revisited: Media Guru as Catholic Modernist.” Modernism/Modernity 5.3 (September 1998): 107–22.

Lai, W.K., K.M. Hoe, T.S. Tai, and M.C. Seah. “Classifying English Web Pages with ‘Smart’ Ant-like Agents.” Proceedings of the 5th Conference on World Automation Congress 13 (2002): 411–16.

Lennon, Brian. “Screening a Digital Visual Poetics.” Configurations 8.1 (Winter 2000): 63–85.

Liu, Alan. “Understanding Knowledge Work.” Criticism 47.2 (Spring 2005): 249–60.

Mandell, Laura. “What Is the Matter? Or, What Literary Theory Neither Hears nor Sees.” New Literary History 38.4 (Autumn 2007): 755–76.

McHale, Brian. “Poetry as Prosthesis.” Poetics Today 21.1 (Spring 2000): 1–32.

Narayanan, Geetha. “Crafting Change: Envisioning New Media Arts as Critical Pedagogy.” Leonardo 39.4 (August 2006): 373–75.

Narismulu, Priya. “Examining the Undisclosed Margins: Postcolonial Intellectuals and Subaltern Voices.” Cultural Studies 17.1 (January 2003): 56–84.

Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, and Koleman Strumpf. “The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis.” Journal of Political Economy 115.1 (February 2007): 1–42.

Perelman, Bob. The Marginalization of Poetry: Language Writing and Literary History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Potts, J., S. Cunningham, J. Hartley, and P. Omerod. “Social Network Markets: A New Definition of the Creative Industries.” Journal of Cultural Economics 32 (3): 167–85.

Pressman, Jessica. “The Strategy of Digital Modernism: Young-Hal Chang Heavy Industries’ Dakota.” Modern Fiction Studies 54.2 (Summer 2008): 302–26.

Punday, Daniel. “The Black Arts Movement and the Genealogy of Multimedia.” New Literary History 37.4 (Autumn 2006): 777–94.

Raymond, Eric S. The Cathedral and the Bazaar, rev. ed. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, 2001.

Reisman, S. “Fast-Tracking Content: The Dramatic Evolution of Intellectual Property.” IT Professional 9.5 (2007): 58–60.

Schnell, Christiane. “Public Good or Free Market? Cultural Professions in Germany and European Copyright Regulation.” European Societies 10.4 (September 2008): 635–52.

Shang, Rang-An, Yu-Chen Chen, and Pin-Cheng Chen. “Ethical Decisions about Sharing Music Files in the P2P Environment.” Journal of Business Ethics 80.2 (2008): 349–65.

Tabbi, Joseph. “Locating the Literary in New Media.” Contemporary Literature 49.2 (Summer 2008): 311–31.

Taylor, Peter Shawn. “A Brief History of @: Illegal MP3 File-sharing? Pirated Movie Downloads? Contraband Cellphones? Mark Twain, Call Your Office.” National Post, A17.

Tizhoosh, Hamid R., and Rozita A. Dara. “On Poem Recognition.” Pattern Analysis and Applications 9.4 (November 2006): 325–38.

Vassiliadis, B., V. Fotopoulos, A. Ilias, and A.N. Skodras. “Protecting Intellectual Property Rights and the JPEG 2000 Coding Standard.” Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including Subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics) (2005): 705–15.

Wark, M. “Information Wants First to Be Free (But Is Everywhere in Chains).” Cultural Studies 20 (2006): 165–83.

Wilson, J. “Could There Be a Right to Own Intellectual Property.” Law and Philosophy 35 (2008): 1–35.

Yader, Ross. “Differences in Copyright Law Between Europe and America.” RealDealDocs Legal Research Center, August 28, 2008, legal.realdealdocs.com/index.php/2008/08/28/differences-in-copyright-law-between-europe-and-america.

Yung, Betty. “Reflecting on the Common Discourse on Piracy and Intellectual Property Rights: A Divergent Perspective.” Journal of Business Ethics 87.1 (June 2009): 45–57.


The Poetry in New Media project’s working document reports and meeting summaries reflect a process to collect information, consider ideas and develop recommendations in preparation of a final report. Because the new media environment is ever-changing, some of the assumptions discussed early on became outdated or were seen as no longer relevant as process progressed and new information was considered. Thus, the materials presented here must be considered working, in-process documents which are provided only so that those interested in understanding the approach and interim discussions of the working groups can have a look inside those deliberations. As you read them, please consider them to represent an evolution of a free-flowing conversation about a timely topic and not as substitutes for the final report and the recommendations it contains.

The various views presented herein are not necessarily the views of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute or the Poetry Foundation. We look forward to sharing the working group’s final report in early 2010.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

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