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Taxing Taxonomy

Written by Aysling

Published: 09/21/2015

Why We Define

In order to navigate the world, we create conceptual categories that we then associate with words. Without the making mental patterns we would be lost in a sea of sensation. The natural consequence of this psychological reality is that we tend to oversimplify and form stereotypes. Without going into the nuances of whether extramental universals exists, we can all acknowledge that we at least create them and share them to a certain extent or else all language would be devoid of meaning.

How We Define

In order to set a definition, one needs to distinguish one thing from another as well as how it is similar to other things. This is done by first placing them within nested categories. For example, printing belongs to the genus media. The specific difference from other media is that it uses print. There are a couple options whereby we can find what distinguishes something: 1) By it’s cause 2) By it’s effects. More often than not publishers have defined themselves by their formal cause, namely the medium by which they communicated; which is print. The material cause (stuff from which it is made) of print is paper and ink. The final cause -or why publishers publish- has always been quite diverse and up until recently the main reason for most was to make money. This produced a paradox which was discussed in a previous article. With digital technology usurping print to the extent that some magazines no longer even use print, the net result is magazine publishers now are becoming indistinguishable from other industries such as film, music etc… Both in how they create their media (efficient or agent cause) as well as what form it takes.

Why Publishers Need to Redefine

With this new reality, publishers are facing an existential crisis. While the root of the word “publishing” (to make public) is not tied to print, the connotative associations most people have is with print since that was the only means by which to make something public for centuries. Publishers need to do a bit of work in re-defining themselves when how and what they produce is identical to other companies. I’m not going to pretend to have the solution to this conundrum, however, I will offer that one of the distinguishing features of print publishing was the prevalence of the written word. This should, in my mind, be the starting place from how this redefinition and consequent rebranding occurs.

POSTED BY Aaron Harburg, to contact click here.

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