Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is it the Delphi Method or Delta Method?

Blogger's Note: More stuff from my publications management class. We were asked to sum up where we agree and disagree on what makes up a publication. I consider this kind of a minority report, as I'm in the minority camp in class. That can be a good thing.

Rather than approach the question from a standpoint of rules – which in my view can always be broken or reduced in overall “ruleness” by exceptions – I’d rather look at this discussion from the viewpoint of where we agree and where there still appears to be a divergence of opinion.

Where we agree:

Not everything is a publication. Such general guidelines as audience, intent to publish, context and completeness, amount of effort/work put into a text and the intended use of a text all are important as we consensually decide what is a publication and what is not.

Audience: We agree that, even if a publication’s audience is only one person, a text is a publication if it reaches its intended audience and causes some kind of action in them, even if that reaction is to drift off into a blissful slumber.

Intent to publish: We agree that if a text remains unseen by the audience, it is a manuscript, a chalktalk, or any other type of classified thing, but not a publication. Accidental publication, be it pure accident or distribution to an audience without our knowledge, however, turns that unpublished whatever into a publication.

Context and completeness: We agree that to be considered a publication, a text need not be complete, but should offer ample inferences and clues as to where the audience may find additional context in order to aid in their understanding and use of the publication.

Amount of effort/work put into a text: We agree that work texts that are more “formal,” into which we’ve poured a lot of “organizational thought,” “time,” and “effort,” are publications, whereas “informal” notes, letters to family, and other such truck aren’t publications. (I put terms in quotes here because there is some varying level of disagreement on defining these terms.)

Intended use: We agree that the end use of a text weighs heavily on whether it is a publication or not. A grocery list is not a publication because of the mundane use to which it is put. A formal proposal to a superior on a matter of interest to the company certainly is a publication.

Where we disagree:

To varying levels, we disagree on what is a publication and what is not. There are some who do not consider personal letters, informal notes, and such, as publications, while others have taken flights of fancy into considering singing in the shower and architecture as publications. These extreme views, while interesting to consider, do not fall into the realm of consensus among this group.

Where consensus is still developing:

I can’t say confidently that there is consensus on whether genre plays a role in defining a text as a publication, but I will admit some bias in this, as I’m still in the minority camp on this opinion. As there are some who have still not commented on the genre question, I can’t say for sure that a consensus has been reached, but as time passes, that consensus may arrive.

This is good. As the Delphi method Prof. Hailey outlines for us, coming to a consensus is eliminating (or at least moderating) these extreme views and helping us all, in general, approach a middle ground.

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