Panel: The Future of Publishing is GitHub
Open, collaborative, version controlled, shared, and iterative
November 22, 2014 | MCN | Dallas
I organized this panel and gave the titular talk. Shortly after I’d arrived at the Getty the year prior, I wrote “https://github/gettypubs” on a piece of paper and taped it up to my office wall. At the time, the Getty didn’t have a GitHub presence of any kind, I didn’t even have a personal GitHub account, but I knew that’s where we needed to be if we were going to pursue the kind of open, web-based publishing I saw as our future. And likewise if we were going to build any kind of community around that work. This talk, along with one given at NMPS earlier in the year, is my first foray into defining that move.
And while we use GitHub specifically, and I‘m a fan of the service, many of the underlying ideas here can be applied to other services like GitLab or Bitbucket, or just to book workflows and approached more generally.
Remember museum websites circa 1995? That’s pretty much where museum digital books are today: straightforward (with the occasional GIF), lightly trafficked, and only vaguely interoperable. Along with these similarities, digital books have been experiencing something much like that era’s Browser Wars, with ambitious, highly-funded companies fighting to be the one true solution. In art and museum digital publishing, the war seems to be largely being fought and won by two tools and one device: Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite and Apple’s iBooks Author, both targeted for iPad. The iPad offers a beautiful platform akin to beautiful books, and both tools offer low barriers of entry to get books onto it. This is good for workflow, finances, and perhaps egos, but creating books in proprietary formats that work only on certain devices is not good.
The future of digital publishing should be like GitHub. Books are cultural objects with value only when they are read, shared widely, and reused as source material and inspiration for new texts. GitHub, with its ethos of open, collaborative software publishing and sharing, and even its code management and versioning system, may offer the conceptual and perhaps even practical framework we need.
We’ll look at GitHub and the digital publishing tools there, touching on developments popping up across the publishing landscape. We’ll also look at web-based digital museum publications such as those of the Online Scholarly Cataloguing Initiative and the recent, multi-publication launch of the Art Canada Institute / Institut de l’art du Canada.
- Sara Angel, founding Director, Art Canada Institute / Institut de l’art du Canada
- Curtis Fletcher, Project Manager, The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture