Faculty in the Spotlight: Prof. Paul Levitz
Seemed like a good idea—start the new class on Transmedia and the Future of Publishing with eight dirty words. Okay, it’s one more than it took George Carlin, but there’s been some inflation since 1972, hasn’t there?
It’s educational; unlike Carlin’s selection, these are words that at least some of the students don’t have in their vocabulary. It’s on point to the theme of the course; these are words that describe the changes that are wracking publishing and will play a role in its future. And like any effective use of a dirty word or two, it rachets up the stakes of the conversation.
Eight dirty words:
Decentralization, Distintermediation, Fragmentation, Branding, Curation,
Gatekeepers, Transmedia and Transcreation.
The underlying lesson is that students working on their M.S. in Publishing in this fine twenty-first century need to think about their fundamental skills more than the fixed form which is the end product containing their work. Skills like discovering, nurturing and shaping the work of creative people; managing the process by which work is created and made accessible to an audience; motivating and connecting an audience; and ultimately doing it all within financial disciplines that enable it to be done for the benefit of all concerned. These skills will survive and thrive, even if the jobs they’re performed in won’t necessarily be labeled editor, production manager, publicist, or accountant (okay, odds are the accountant label will continue long after all the others, I concede). People may choose to get their entertainment and information on screens, or even holographic glasses, rather than paper neatly bound in a printing plant, but they’ll still need us along the way.
So let’s look at some words rarely heard in the halls of book and magazine publishers, where the worst dirty word used to be “Returns.” Let’s explore the forces changing around us, and avoid the textbook error long taught in M.B.A. programs down the hall: the moment when railroads decided they were in the railroad business, not the transportation business. Welcome to the future, complete with a new set of dirty words.