Seven reasons for turning digital

I enjoy the process of buying a new book. Reading the reviews, going to the bookstore and spending my whole day there, getting involved by the smell of the ink, feeling the texture of the paper … It still has a particular connotation for me, and it is one of the things I see as a privilege. Nevertheless, as an author, I consider that the digital offers me better possibilities for both creating and presenting my work.

A book is a finished product. Once the book is published —or even before— there is not much to do for its content. I mean, you can neither add nor modify something inside of it. A book is a singular, solid and rigid material; meanwhile, a digital product, a blog, for instance, is entirely malleable and plural. From my point of view, there is not a better way for grasping a constantly changing multiplicity —the life outside— than using a hypermedia artifact.

The advantages are many, and today I have six: 1) the possibility of enriching our work using a multimedia language and in that way offering to our readers, now transforming in users, a different experience approaching our content. It is not the same to write that the street was full of people than showing them how it really was. 2) There are no spatial limits from our subject-matters, we can write as much as we can in the way and time that we want.

This point is relevant because we don’t need to have a 9000 words text for publishing; it is a matter of having a calendar and planning a set of post centered on specific ideas. The process of writing gets more natural and fluid. In fact, this is more than just the process of writing: publishing constantly, instead of waiting for the times of an editorial, allows us to put in circulation our thoughts faster.

However, not because we are regularly publishing shorter texts the content of them has to be lighter and vacuous. Not at all. Being conscious and acquiring a different rhythm for publishing is totally different from not taking care of the products we create. Also, we don’t have to post many times per day, and it is not an obligation doing it daily. We decide the frequency for publishing as well as the kind of contents we make. All depends on our capacities and working situation.

3) We can do (almost) everything by ourselves. We have total control of the writing and publishing processes. Nowadays, creating and maintaining a digital site is relatively easy. Hiring a Content Management System like WordPress, for instance, does not require a high level of expertise. 4) The prices for using those services are affordable —or even those are free— and 5) the possibilities of getting a big audience are high.

I know that one of the advantages of publishing in a journal is that journals already have a community of readers, but we also can have the same. Of course, that won’t happen in a day or two, but indeed, it is reachable on time. Having a good amount of content in our blog is perhaps the first step for forging our group of users, but this is also 6) a great way of organizing our own work. We can not just compile our publications but also we link them to others, as well as categorizing and permanently updating them.

7) As urban researchers being digital also means accessing to our locations in different ways. The possibilities of exploring a place acquire a new level. Through the digital, we can enrich our ethnographies including new spaces, new actors and, of course, new connections. In my case, working digital is allowing me to discover those other Times Squares that are beyond the physical limits of the area around the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

In future posts, I will come back to those reasons and how, as researchers, we can take advantage of the hypermedia for improving our work and proposing some experimental artifacts for following, grasping and representing that multiple and always changing life outside.