Abdolhossein Azarang [Writer and researcher; Member of the Great Islamic Encyclopedia]:
Speaking about publication and its relationship with the related and non-related debates and concepts such as information, knowledge, bibliography and etiology has raised some questions to which in this article and the following ones I will try to answer. One of these questions is what the publication’s nature is or in other words what is publishing activity? Is it a science or a technique or a business or a profession, or a cultural and enlightening action or a social effort or none of these or all of these? And in the modern world in which electronic and communicational technologies have added to range and diversity of the publishing activity, other and more questions would be asked about the publication’s nature?
Perhaps, it would be better to pay attention to the more tangible aspects to find easier answers for these questions and then deal with other aspects which are more hidden and abstract.
Publication, whatever it is, is something whose material effect is recorded in the form of something readable, hearable and touchable. The first form include books, magazines and anything else which is recorded on paper, paper-like material and electronic media which can be read with eyes. The second form includes visual messages. And third one includes audio messages. The fourth form is touchable such as special papers designed for blind people.
In all forms, the produced work must be delivered in to the market and to be sold. Thus, like other goods, it must follow rules of market and the balance between demand and supply. Now, if another factor is involved with production and distribution of this product, such as non-profitable and non-economic purposes in production and distribution, its considered as something peripheral rather principal, because there is no doubt about its nature as a product, but there are another factor which separate profit aspect from other aspects of the good and pays its necessary cost. For example, a charity foundation or a public organization or a promotional activity, given its certain goals, would distribute a product with its prime cost, or even free of charge. Books and publications which are distributed with the aim of making people informed about governmental decisions, legal statements, issues and concepts which are necessary to know according to the rules, political, faith and commercial purposes are among these. So, if we exclude the economic and profitable aspect from such publications, their other aspects such as information dissemination, announcing messages, promotions, propaganda, etc. would be remained. Now, if these aspects are along with development and extension of culture, intellectual enhancement and growth, extension of viewpoints, changing viewpoints, correction of behaviors, formation of a common mentality and synergy, development of new incentives and so forth, then one of performances of publication would be relieved which can be considered evidently.
Let me explain about this tangible and sensible aspect of publication. The product of publication, in any form of above mentioned ones, has a content which would reach our minds through only there ways-of course for now, it is possible other ways would be added to this list in the future thanks to the new scientific developments. These three ways are: eyes, ears and touching. Some studies have indicated that data would be transferred to mind during sleeping or via sending some waves to brains. These studies are in the pipelines and maybe one day-near or far-the society may find its tools and technology, but before the time we have no choice but using the three mentioned ways. Anyway, the content which is transferred from the publication is cultural, so publication produces a product whose nature is cultural. What is considered as an understanding, perception, conclusion, opinion, decision and viewpoint after being processed in the mind is essentially cultural; and the activity of publication, if it want and know, and if it does not want and know, is producing culture. However, culture would wither have positive and valuable aspects or negative and non-valuable aspects. Speaking about to what extent publication would act positively and valuably and vice versa is a relational, contractual and at the same time very difficult and controversial, as only people who are expert in philosophical, social, cultural, behavioral, educational, research and generally general and cultural policies can discuss about them. If we decide to continue discussion about publication in this bulletin, then we can invite experts and discuss about this from various viewpoints, however, here it would be sufficient to say that: publication is a productive act whose product is a cultural good. This composition actually means mingling three main variables: 1.Technology of publication, 2.economy of this production, 3.cultural nature of this producing product. So, it can be concluded that three variables of technique, economy and culture are undeniable and completely touchable in publication. But what are other variables?
(To be continue…)