Let's hear more about CD-ROM publishing.

Gessler, Nicholas (gessler@ANTHRO.SSCNET.UCLA.EDU)
Sat, 11 Jun 1994 13:10:00 PDT

Al Billings suggested looking into CD-ROM publishing. I haven't yet
installed my NEC Multispin CD-ROM player, but it's just under my overdue
library books, so it's coming. The convenience of storing graphic files is
definitely a plus.

I guess I'm attracted to Read-Only document for publishing, probably
because of the issue of authentication. Paper and CD-ROM documents can be
signed, certified and sealed. Forgeries are at least costly. But the run of
the mill e-mail, bulletin-board, sig-L, and FTP documents are usually just
ASCII streams, printable by any device, and translated to paper provide
relatively less assurance of authenticity. Certainly, headers provide an
audit trail, but how many of us are willing to double check those IDs and
routing records? It is easy to forge one of these documents.

With the ability to edit photographic images, I think this was also a concern
of Kodak and Nikon in developing their digital cameras. How can you certify
the digitized image as being unaltered? This is a problem for documentary
photography. I believe their solution was to incorporate a code into the
original image that would be destroyed by subsequent alteration. But here we
are again: If you can't see that seal of authenticity without buying more
software or hardware, what good is it?

We could do the same for ASCII cyberspace documents, but it seems to me that
the seal needs to be visible. I expect that fancy signature files appended
to posts attempt to satisfy that need to personalize documents. (I'm
reminded of a steam-locomotive graphic I saw appended to a post from a

Hypertext introduces not only a problem of authentication, but those of
authorship and a changing evolving text. How do you reference with
scholarship a paper created by unspecified individuals which exists in an
assortment of versions none of which is likely to be the same when

The costs of publishing bound books and journals on paper ups the stakes for
accountability. The spirit duplicator, gestetner, and Xerox have
democratized paper publishing by keeping the investment low. But do we give
much credibility to those publications? Similarly, CD-ROM would seem to up
the stakes for electronic media, giving more credibility to what is
otherwise in many ways a low stakes form of publication (this post is being
published to 600 people after all).

It may not be wise to rely too heavily on military and corporate surplus
technology, to include the Internet, and upon Intel and Motorola for our
vehicles and repositories of scholarly communication. Paper is relatively
safe. It survives better in the field than any electronic device I've seen.

Nick Gessler