Sunday, March 30, 2014

Assignment: Re-proposing the Object of Study

What is your object of study? Define and describe it.

For the remaining assignments in the case study, I will continue to examine the Underground Press Syndicate (UPS). This organization operated between 1966 and 1973, allowing underground newspapers to become members. Member papers would submit their issues to the UPS where they would then be disseminated nationally. Content could be freely reprinted by other newspapers with syndicate membership without copyright restrictions. UPS began with with five founding periodicals - New York’s East Village Other, California’s Los Angeles Free Press and Berkeley Barb, Michigan’s The Paper, and Chicago’s Fifth Estate - then quickly grew to include over 150 members. UPS also attempted to secure advertisements, especially from record companies, to help financially support members. Additionally, archival attempts were a part of the mission with microfilming submitted issues and creating directories for sale to libraries.

Microfilm - a preservation attempt by the UPS. Perhaps now nearly irrelevant in the digital age and more cause for the push to digitize underground archives. Image posted by Family History Detective, labeled for reuse.

Thus far, I have focused on the collection and distribution aspects of the UPS, but I hope to research the archival aspects more fully going forward. How successful were these endeavors? How many papers were preserved in microfilm? Where were the microfilms stored, and are they still stored somewhere today?


How/why is this object of study important/useful to English studies?

Growth through connection. This could have been the motto of the underground press after the emergence of the UPS. It is obvious that the UPS helped “to plug [one] radical community into radical communities around the country” (Wachsberger qtd. in McMillian 46). The result of that plugging in was an increase in underground publications. Connecting subaltern voices proved to inspire new local papers to emerge. The UPS can help us to understand the role distribution has on creativity and production. The CHAT authors highlighted for me the role of delivery as mediation and distribution and how these dual purposes need to be re-instituted in the rhetorical canon. Building on that, this object of study offers a new way perhaps to understand the effects of delivery not just on one rhetorical product, but on an entire discourse community.

It would also be interesting to view the object as seated in the intersection of delivery and memory. The work to archive the magazines and distribute these archives was a novel approach to publishing and for libraries. Could it be useful to think of how dissemination and preservation are linked rhetorical activities? The UPS perhaps took this to a new level, seeing the role of distributing texts only part of the essential work of building a community. It was also necessary to document and archive the texts. How and why are these two functions related or dependent upon each other?


How/why is it important/useful to think of this object in terms of/as a “network”?

My first new thought here is about crowd sourcing. The idea that pooling resources to achieve common and worthwhile goals is certainly not new, but the way in which the internet has facilitated this kind of fundraising is a new and more highly efficient way to do it. Where we have Kickstarter today, the underground press had the UPS. Its later efforts to obtain advertising that could be reprinted across its members raised funds to help sustain the literary work. How do economic networks support (or restrict) the production of literature? The expense of operating, licensing, printing, and distributing the newspapers often forced smaller publications to fold. Thinking of the UPS as a network of economic support, builds on the earlier work of the organization as a network that transmitted unifying ideas.

UPS information about library subscription posted in Inquisition 1.6 (1969). Image from personal collection.
As an archival network and not just a network of member papers, the UPS disseminated newspapers on microfilm (or at least membership directories) to libraries. Libraries are repositories of knowledge, and the UPS was often responsible for placing the underground into these places of preservation. This shift in thinking allows for the UPS to be seen as responsible not just for helping radical communities share in a common movement with a unified voice, but for having the forethought to create the stable archive necessary for future generations to connect to the same ideas.

Thinking of the UPS as advertising and archiving networks raises questions that are more difficult to answer than the previous focus on its more primary purpose, but I think they push the case study work in new and more interesting directions.

1 comment:

  1. I think you are right that there are possible implications for helping us think through memory and delivery. That's just flat out exciting. I also like that you seem to be drilling down into the OoS further as a rhetorical site. Nice!

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