An enduring myth we live by is that of the lone genius — the solitary individual (usually male) who is preternaturally disposed to frequent “eureka!” moments and who possesses great personal strength, and who is the main engine of change and progress. They cast long shadows too — whether it is promising physicists having to aspire to be a “New Einstein”, entrepreneurs constantly being positioned as the “Next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs”, and even political leaders being pitched as the “Next Martin Luther King”. There’s nothing inherently wrong with looking up to individuals, but what would a vision of success that stressed cooperation look like?
Enter the Content Management System or CMS. At its most basic, a CMS is an application that allows for the creation and modification of content according to a pre-selected workflow in a multi-user environment. Consider the CMS offered by PageMajik:
Since this is meant for publishing, there are five relevant tabs — manuscript (for the author), Review (for the editor), Art (for the illustrators), InDesign (for the designer), and Miscellaneous. Using a workflow chosen in advance, clear rules can be provided for how files are to be transferred and treated. For example, it can be decided that once the artwork and manuscript are uploaded, an InDesign file will automatically be created, PDF generated, and then a proofing exercise run by the author repeatedly until satisfactory. Moreover, since every file uploaded is stored on the cloud, previous versions can be looked at whenever needed, and if a newer version turns out unsatisfactory, you can just continue work on an earlier version.
One reasonable objection to such a set-up is that trying to formalize a workplace using a CMS might constrain those people who do not have a fixed way of working, those who really do rely on unpredictable “eureka!” moments. This however is not a problem for sophisticated content management systems like PageMajik’s. For example, if a user wants to be unconstrained throughout, then a workflow which grants total access and management capabilities can be chosen. Alternatively, if someone wants to submit their manuscript and then be done, this is straightforward too. This way, the idiosyncrasies of individuals can be taken into account while still holding fast to the notion that every aspect of publishing deserves recognition and respect.
While the benefits of Content Management Systems are substantial and largely uncontested, what goes unmentioned is that they also instantiate a moral principle: no longer is any particular individual seen as the central point around which everything revolves. Of course, it’s still the author’s book and it is still the author’s name that will appear on its cover. But the formal recognition that each book is a team effort, brought to fruition by many hands, is still a valuable change. At least in the day-to-day functioning, there will now be explicit acknowledgement that each person’s contribution is indispensable, heralding a new and more respectful workplace ethic.