I have just now descended from the roller-coaster of folly that was creating a fake magazine. Even I am now wondering how this figures in my project management work. Why did I just commit this crime against humanity? Is it one? Am I undermining my whole academic career? Probably.

Perhaps I ought to explain: I have made a parody creative writing magazine using Adobe InDesign, the programme with which Romantic Textualities is currently designed and formatted. My reasons for creating such a magazine are numerous and flimsy, but seeing as I have made such a thing, and have invested a questionable number of hours into it, I feel I must use it to my advantage, if that is even possible.

The magazine is called ‘Is this Lit?’ and it critiques what it is that makes writing valuable and important. It critiques audience expectation in the bid for views. But how does this fit with my actual project?

Working on the Romantic Textualities journal has shown me how it is not only the content—the articles for example that are published—, nor its submission process nor editorial choices (in terms of content) that wholly shapes the journal, but its subsequent forms and appearances. These are ultimately design choices (yes, still editorial).

As a purely online journal, its two formats, PDF and HTML, seem to serve two different purposes. The HTML format seems focused on tagging, search terms, summary, abstract and the real textuality of the articles, reports and reviews, while the PDF equivalents seems to refer to an audience who expects a cleaner, more familiar and more readable format: the expectant student and academic. The PDF formatting, I feel, unlike the HTML format, offers the semblance of quality had there not been any (not that this is a critique I can put to Romantic Textualities’ door).

I am currently, as part of my actual portfolio-focused work, attempting to reformat some of Romantic Textualities’ older, archived articles, the ones that used Microsoft Word as its primary formatting tool. These articles’ current formatting makes them appear more outdated than they are. Realising that the importance of design shapes how I perceive the journal made me consider in what other ways design shapes signification.[1] It goes back to some of my earlier blog posts here about fake news. Fake news must in some ways look like real news, or read like real news. It works because it presents itself as genuine.

I asked myself here many weeks ago, ‘how [do] we professionalise, produce and present academic and other open-access products[?] How do we maintain the relevance and accuracy of our research?’ I also described how ‘it seems the premise of this module is to understand how we might apply critical and creative thinking to the digital–and other formats in light of the digital–in order to design, create and manage fruitful projects and conduct original research. For me, it goes back to the question of what we can do with all this information in our hands at all times. How can we make it useful?’

The concept of usefulness, of professionalisation and open-access combine quite well in the production of a parody magazine. I have made what was once entirely useless slightly more useful. The ethos of open-access remains, with only time invested or donated by myself and other writers as the primary exchange. My plan was to create a magazine out of the dregs and offcuts of graveyard writing, writing that has now been abandoned by its authors. I would be piecing together bits of dead writing as a poorly qualified Littérateur Frankenstein. I would be experimenting with the theory that Michael John Goodman describes in his thesis, ‘how an artwork creates meaning is determined by its context’ (italics in original).[2]

Using this abandoned material, attributed to suitable pennames, pseudonyms or anonymity, allowed me to repurpose old writing for a new audience. This wasn’t a creative writing magazine looking for quality writing, it was magazine whose existence produced entertainment from the waste that the abandoned writing once was. The writing would be an object of parody, one of the few theoretical places where anything goes!

While the majority of the magazine is comprised of graveyard material, other parts of the magazine are purpose-written pieces, generously donated by my friends. The rest is my own parody of advertisement, and juxtaposition of image and text from the dregs of my own imagination. (I do not own an Xbox for example, so a photograph of my Nintendo Wii (p. 2) had to suffice!)

And of course, the magazine is made of smaller inside-jokes, from the infamous revolving doors at Cardiff University’s John Percival building (an emblem of inadequacy in light of its predecessor: automatic doors that had always been comparatively functional), to Arriva Trains Wales and their impossible time-keeping, to Michael John Goodman’s ‘Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive’, to which I *playfully*(?) respond with my own ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ (p. 17).

I have also made a website specifically for the magazine at http://isthislit.wordpress.com/

The first issue is available under ‘Issues’ as a PDF if you do want to have a look.

 

References

[1] I take this specific word choice from ‘the design of the project represents […] ultimately […] how it signifies’ as in Michael John Goodman, ‘Illustrating Shakespeare: Practice Theory and the Digital Humanities’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Cardiff University, 2016), p. 96.

[2] Ibid., p. 53.

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