Loraine Furter

Publishing workflows

With the new technologies, forms and tools, what is really changing with new forms of publications (digital, hybrid) is the workflows — the way the work is organised between different actors, new tools and new objects.

It is fascinating to observe representations of workflows, through diagrams, illustrations, montages. Workflows, because they involve different people, actions, times and spaces, need to be re-presented, synthesized, narrated. Workflows representations talk about labour, division and connections between people and “things”, tools, objects, values…

See Red Women’s Workshop feminists representation of “women’s workflows”.

One of the first representations of publishing’s workflow is the wood engraving published in an edition of the “Grande Danse Macabre”, by Mathias Huss (Lyon, 1499), a book representing all trades of the time, in a “Dance of Death” genre, late-medieval allegory on the universality of death. The wood cut depicts a printing press with a compositor, two printers and a bookseller – from production to distribution – separated by a pillar, a common way at that time to make a time or space ellipsis (later used in comic books).

The japanese printed publishing workflow, much earlier than the European one (the first wood cut book dates of the 8th Century, one million of copies!), is represented in this woodcut by Katsukawa Shunsen (Takarabune kogane no hobashira, 1818).

The different steps of illustrated book production are shown with the publisher (with a coin instead of his head) at the center and top of the hierarchy, giving orders to the writer on the right, the copyist below him, the illustrator on the left, the wood-carver below, and at the bottom, the printer. Here the division between the steps and actors is operated by the publisher’s orders, forming some kinds of speech bubbles.

(time ellipsis)

Contemporary representations of publishing workflows are much more abstract. They also seem to focus more on the connections between the different steps and object.

In the digital realm of the Chicago Manual of Style’s visual rethorics (followed by the Digital Publishing Toolkit), actors disappear of the diagrams, and the focus is on the files.

The Chicago Manual of Style’s XML workflow (appendix A, 16th edition).
The Digital Publishing Toolkit’s markdown workflow.

In the following Hybrid Publishing Consortium’s representation, the actor and the machine are both represented by a cyborg-transformer figure.

Picture of a slide of a presentation by the Hybrid Publishing Consortium.

Other metaphors are used, to try to grasp the constitutive elements of publishing, in a period of shift.

The Digital Publishing Periodic Table, by Simon Worthington, for the Hybrid Publishing Consortium.

A much simpler yet very efficient diagram: after its birth, another life starts for the book.

James Bridle’s diagram “Life / use of the book”.

A more complex diagram: my attempt for a more situated representation, that of the independent publishing, showing not only the actors or the steps of publishing but also the objects and notions that are in play.

Work in progress, version 0.4, 13 July 2015, license CC-BY-SA for my materials.