Idea Trek

Program in the Publishing Arts

This interdisciplinary program would allow students to learn about print and digital publishing, to understand its history and and imagine its future, and to approach it as both scholars and makers. Digital publishing is in its infancy, with possibilities for immersive, multimedia, 3D, VR, and AR storytelling still emerging. Despite the power and promise of the digital realm, print publishing isn't going away. The birth of the internet has not resulted in the "death of the book." Rather, books are as popular as ever and have become more beautiful in order to compete with digital forms. Books are once again becoming tactile, aesthetic objects to hold, interact with, and collect. Artist's books, scrapbooks, and 'zines are all examples of thriving print industries, whether commercial, independent, or cottage. Meanwhile digital publishing adopts and adapts the affordance of print, invoking its aesthetics and practices, while developing new ways to tell stories and communicate knowledge and information. As Sophie Seita argues in "Communities of Print in the Digital Age," small presses and magazines like Troll Thread, Gauss PDF, and Triple Canopy "incorporate print technology and its concomitant materiality, reading habits, and literariness into the digital to create printedness digitally without attachment to paper" (176). Peering into the future of publishing in her Davidson talk on the "Fourth Industrial Revolution from a Storyteller's POV," Susan Ruskin stressed the need for capacious thinking: "Arts deal with possibilities far beyond what the realist can imagine. Those who dare to embrace those possibilities must embrace the next reality." But storytellers today must also understand past realities, recognizing that the printing press was as much a disrupter as the internet, VR, and AR are today. The future of publishing requires an understanding of the affordances of both print and digital modes of production, along with knowledge of how various media have developed over time. Drawing upon courses and resources that currently exist at Davidson, a program in the publishing arts would prepare students for a wide range of careers in writing, editing, design, and publishing.

Does your idea have funding? (this will not influence decisions to support/not support the idea) No

What might prevent this idea from working?

At Davidson, we have faculty expertise in writing, editing, printing, bookbinding, web design, and publishing: Andrew Rippeon has a working letterpress studio; Tyler Starr teaches printmaking and bookmaking; Owen Mundy teaches critical web design; Suzanne Churchill and Sundi Richard teach digital design; Alan Michael Parker and Brenda Flanagan have students write, create, and bind original books; Shireen Campbell asks students to create group infographics and teaches writing for the community, in which students create promotional materials for local organizations; Cynthia Lewis and Randy Ingram teach writing, editing, and publishing skills in creative nonfiction. Several Davidson English major alums have relevant expertise as well: Emily Smith is the Director of University of Wilmington's Publishing Lab (; Amy Ashby, is Editor and Chief at Warren Publishing in Charlotte (, and Sarah Barley is Editorial Director of Young Adult literature at Flatiron Books/Macmillan. Nashville-based artist and bookbinder Britt Stadig, a close friend of Tyler Starr, has come to Davidson to conduct several workshops in bookbinding, working with as many as three classes in a given visit. Despite this rich range of resources and course offerings, we don't have an academic program that consolidates this expertise or makes it available and visible to students interested in careers in writing, editing, design, and print and digital publishing.

How might this idea solve it?

It would make the courses and resources visible, providing a rationale for their relatedness to each other, demonstrating their relevance to careers in publishing, and certifying students' preparation to enter those careers.

Who would benefit from this idea? Who are your stakeholders?

Faculty and students in English, art, communications, history, and digital studies, as well as computer science and entrepreneurship. This program could be run from the English department. It could draw attention to Davidson's strong writing program, attract applicants to the College, and highlight the relevance and vitality of the humanities.

How does this idea achieve your goals for a great senior experience?

administrative burdens of adding and maintaining another program.



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Idea No. 55