the age of impermanence



Victor M. Ponce

200311 [Under construction - Do not use]

♦ Online publishing

The internet continues to revolutionize society and business. With the omnipresent internet, publication online has become commonplace. No longer is it strictly necessary for a prospective author to submit him/herself to the rigorous process of peer review in order to publish. In the past few years, self-publication has become the de-facto standard, as anybody that uses the web can attest to.

The ubiquitous presence of Wikipedia is the premier example of self-publication. Unlike traditional journals, online publication by individuals is less structured, follows no definite pattern, and sticks to few rules. Gone are the days when you had to wait one or two years for your article to see the light of day, if you were lucky and determined enough to successfully sail through the review process. Online peer review is either minimal or nonexistent, and this is seen by some as a liability in the conventional frame of things. But speed, expediency, and individual empowerment are at their peak.

♦ A double-edged sword

We recognize that online self-publication is a double-edged sword. The material may not have been adequately peer-reviewed; therefore, its quality is not guaranteed. Yet, online self-publication has an inherent, very powerful advantage which was not existent in the old system. Unlike traditional journal publications, the online self-publication is impermanent, not readily amenable to conventional archiving. On the surface, this appears to be a liability; however, a thoughful examination of the facts points elsewhere.

The very impermanence of online publishing is an asset, rather than a liability. With online self-publishing, one does not have to be extremely careful [within reason], or spend a lot of time checking the material through peer review or other means, because one can correct the material on-the-fly, when alerted by others to errors or omissions. [And human nature will ensure that this always happens]. Thus, online documents are bound to improve with time, as a good wine would do.

♦ The age of impermanence

The new online publication experience does away with the problem of the permanence of errors and omissions. From now on, things can be fixed and, thus, online publications could take on a life of their own. Technically, they are never finished; they can always be improved, complemented, or seen in an ever evolving perspective. Thus, they are truly dynamic, some may say "alive," a characteristic that could not be ascribed to the old print journals archived in the conventional libraries.