The Publication Studio – an Interactivist Publisher!

In my last post I talked about the iDC listserv. Today I was contacted by a lurker on that listserv. His name is Matthew Stadler and with his partner Patricia No he runs an extremely interesting organization called The Publication Studio, which describes itself as ‘makers and destroyers of books‘.

How cool is that?

Better still, they ‘attend to the social life of the book‘. And by this they do not simply mean organizing boring book readings. No, “Publication Studio is a laboratory for publication in its fullest sense — not just the production of books, but the production of a public.” So this includes “physical books; a digital commons (where anyone can read and annotate our books for free); eBooks; and unique, lavish social events.They actually have storefronts in different cities where they hand-publish micro-runs of books daily, and mobile book production tools that they cart around from place to place making and selling books onsite. In other words, by my definition, The Publication Studio is an Interactivist publisher.

I define Interactivism as the intentional design of bridges between oral and digital cultures for transformative social ends. Unusually, The Publication Studio has built a three-way bridge between oral, digital and literate culture. This is extremely hard to do and very rare. Specifically, what they have done is to celebrate the book within a profoundly non-literate context. Above all they have balanced literate values with non-literate values in a way that acknowledges and validates each. Again, this is a highly unusual feat.

Their publishing practices include improvisation and iteration, onsite interpersonal sharing, relationship-building and community-building, and generally focussing on the here and now, which all run entirely counter to literate values and practices, which are all about anonymously transcending time and space. So here literacy is nurtured even though its values no longer dominate. In this new post-literate context we discover a new form of literate magic, different yet still vital.


I am always searching for such bridges. I think we need many, many more of them to manage the increasing disequilibria in our social systems. So when I find them I like to examine them in detail to see what can be learned. I suspect there is a lot to be learned from The Publication Studio. And I’ll be connecting with Matthew soon, and when I learn more I’ll share that knowledge here. In the meantime, if you live in any of the places where The Publication Studio operates (Portland, Berkelee, Toronto, and the Midwest Radical Culture Corridor, or MRCC—“a centerless terrain in the middle of North America across which the studio’s equipment meanders unpredictably”) then I encourage you to connect with them and to explore their unique services and vision.

3 thoughts on “The Publication Studio – an Interactivist Publisher!

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  1. John, your blog post is right on. Incredibly so. You’re the first person to get this essential aspect of our project right, what you call “interactivist publishing.” Do you mind if I adopt this description of what we do, referencing your work coining the term? I have the hardest time explaining the reach of our project to anyone; usually we get beached on the shoals of “micro-publishing” (as if scale was the crucial factor) or “self-publishing” (as if anyone really could make a public by his or herself) or “experimental” (as if we weren’t actually publishing books every day). Publication Studio is a business that pays writers, artists, and other workers from profits made selling books. It’s an active “interactivist publisher;” not an idea or experiment or theory. Wonderful to have you see all of that with such clear eyes.

  2. Hey Matthew, I’m glad to have gotten it right. It’s always satisfying to get confirmation from the outside world that these ideas are as valuable as I believe them to be. So by all means please use the term ‘Interactivist publishing’. The more the merrier…

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