"When is a multimedia website better than a book? These are real questions we rarely address as a profession."
Cathy Davidson, in The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux, asks us to consider our audience and the impact we imagine for our work and the role its form, its genre, plays in that. To stop Benjamin's "mechanical reproduction" of the soulless, infinitely iterated, infinitely monetized, I am choosing here to write a multimedia website instead of a book. Embracing the charge to a "public humanities," I'm envisioning this website as ongoing and iterative and utterly unremunerated – which does not require any change in my language, and the efforts I make to be nuanced and also accessible. It is always my goal to offer my interlocutors in verbal or written communication, not only my analysis and my conclusions but also some texture of the thing we would consider, some rendering that is itself a shaping, a shaping that itself conditions our discussion in such a way that I have already shown you what my conclusions are. I must admit that this is unscientific. I don't offer some pure thing that we can test and test again. Instead what I'm offering is the sample distilled through my own mind. For my mind is my instrument.
So what we have here is a website more concerned with ownership than genre, and more open access. One where I am paying – through my labor and resources it affords – to create a resource that might be available to many more people than even a book that might sell thousands, not that this book would.
As an academic, I publish things that have sold thousands of copies and I have published things with reception that remains opaque to me. I've spoken to people directly and watch their faces and taken the questions and had the opportunity to revise and improve on the spot. I'm hoping the website will be some happy medium of the two, where I can continue to learn and correct while remaining useful and timely.