Re: Let's hear more about CD-ROM publishing.

Sun, 12 Jun 1994 11:15:26 -0400

>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.

This is true, but I think authentication with paper is no less difficult.
If I receive a paper from you signed "Nicholas Gessler," I assume it 1) is
from you and 2) has not been edited beyond whatever you originally wrote by
some postal gremlin. There is no way to know that for sure beyond calling
you and asking you "did you type all this?" In electronic form, I can email
it back to you and say "Is this what you wrote?"
Etext authentication problems can be aided with 1) personal key
encryption, especially "digital signatures," and 2) as you say, by
distributing them as ROM rather than editable RAM... but most people lack
the resources to 'burn' their texts into a CD-ROM, and it's just much
easier to send by mail or on a rewritable disk... for editors worried about
authenticity, perhaps a standard task before publishing is verification,
i.e. it is sent back to the writer and they are asked, "Is this exactly
what you wrote?"
The one possible danger is that the plagiarist may have taken over
the net address (and hence identity) of the plagiarized... but I cannot see
many people going to these lengths to take credit for someone else's

>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?

You can't. Digital images are constantly retouched. Even 'highbrow'
magazines like National Geographic have done it for their cover photos. I
think we have to stop being naive about digital video or imagery as somehow
faithfully 'capturing and transcribing' an exact reality; but then people
were saying this about analog photography and video a long time ago. Analog
photographs could always be doctored, but it is true that it is much easier
to 'morph' digital ones.

>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?

So give up on the seal! To me, it's like all the elaborate copy protection
schemes that software companies came up with in the 1980s. Since every
single one of them were 'cracked,' they eventually gave up... and accepted
that a certain amount of copying would go on. Likewise, I think image
viewers need to smell the coffee, and just accept that a certain amount of
alteration may or may not have happened to what they see...

>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

Eventually, once multimedia mail catches on, I expect that eventually, as
with credit cards, people may even append digitized holograms...

>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

Well, with hypertext, you're moving into a different area. To try and make
hypertext fit old conventions of linear text is, quite frankly, a waste of
time... hypertext does represent, to some degree, what Barthes called "the
death of the author" (it at least makes him very hard to find), and to try
and make it fit old authorial molds defeats the spirit of its invention...
I agree with you, hypertext makes authentication very difficult, and
perhaps it is not the best place for 'scholarly publishing,' but it is
still a good means of communicating ideas if you're not uptight over
'scholarly conventions'...

>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?

Since I write for many of these desktop published, xeroxed publications,
known frequently as "'zines," I must say, no, they aren't given credibility
by the establishment. But to their readers (consisting often of both a
scholarly and non-scholarly audience), yes, they are quite credible... I
see only elitism in where you're going here. There is nothing about keeping
the level of production low which axiomatically results in keeping the
level of quality high...

>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).

I don't see why E-publishing is low stakes. In fact, since it potentially
goes out to a larger audience, the stakes are higher. I do seem to be
missing your point, I suppose.

>It may not be wise to rely too heavily on military and corporate surplus
>technology, to include the Internet,

Yes, but it's also NSF surplus, also...

> and upon Intel and Motorola for our
>vehicles and repositories of scholarly communication.

Ok, I see some room for other chip manufacturers too...

>Paper is relatively
>safe. It survives better in the field than any electronic device I've seen.

This is true. Fortunately, thanks to the invention of a nifty device called
the "printer," anything in electronic form can be printed out and taken
with you into the field.
And I suppose Apple may be coming out any day now with their "rugged"
(waterproof, temperature-proof, shock-absorbent, solar-recharging, etc.)
PDA any day now, for anthropologists... ;-)

>Nick Gessler

Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
CyberAnthropologist, TechnoCulturalist, Guerilla Ontologist, Chaotician
Discordian Society, Counter-Illuminati Operations Branch
"The map is not the territory." -- Alfred Korzybski
"The menu is not the meal." -- Alan Watts