Samizdat as Communication

Samizdat, derived from the Russian words “sam” (“self”) and “izdat” (“publish”) was the “grassroots practice” of written communication in the Soviet Bloc during times of heavy government censorship beiginning in the 1930’s. The term comes from a pun made by Nikolai Glazkov, who would write “Samsebyaizdat” (“Myself by Myself Publishers”) when typing his own poems for distribution. Anti-Soviet activist Vladmir Bukovsky describes the practice as: “I myself create it, edit it, censor it, publish it, distribute it, and get imprisoned for it.”

George Landow uses the term as an analogy for communication on the Internet and hypertext, and as Eco states, “A great many people do not want to publish; they simply want to communicate with each other” in the Section 3 of “The Future of the Book.”

The collective authors responsible for The Unknown take every approach to this process, from the growth of their self-published work, to sharing their efforts to have The Unknown published as a written text, to links to their praise and criticism. An interesting bridge between Bukovsky’s aforementioned quote and the portion of “The Unknown, an Aesthetic Debate” occurs in the discussion of control. In an e-mail, Frank discusses the varying levels of unease he experiences because of his contribution, citing the writer-reader relationship and his concerns of self and responsibility. William replies, “You’re in a weird situation because you are working on the hypertext but don’t hang out with us.”  It is through this conversation that the risk factor of hypertext self-publication is apparent, but then assuaged with the sense of community and the support collective authorship, at once minimizing and maximizing control as “the work he’s done.”

Martin, Cynthia. “The True Meaning of Samizdat,” 2004. (which is actually a foreward to “Samizdat: And Other Issues Regarding the ‘Source’ of Open Source Code” by Kenneth Brown, which utilizes the term with a connotation not unlike that of “plagiarism”)

Amelia Wagner


~ by ameliabwagner on March 1, 2010.

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