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Online repertory development

The processes that underlie the repertory development process depend on differences in people’s access to publication channels. Online technology – and specifically the World Wide Web – has brought profound changes to the publishing infrastructure. These changes have four major consequences for the repertory formation process:

More than was previously the case, these processes have been made publicly accessible and are available for electronic analysis.

Many hypotheses have already been formulated about the effects of these changes on the development of repertory. Do they amount to a form of democratisation? Of vulgarisation? A weakening of experts’ influence on the debate? Many of these hypotheses demand a more detailed study. But who are these ‘ordinary readers’? And what can we learn about literary appreciation from their contributions? What can we learn about the question of how readers are affected by texts? How do fictional texts affect readers? How do readers argue about books they consider important? These are all questions that were previously hard to investigate. Online book responses bring about change in this respect.

Also interesting are the websites where the contributors publish their own creative work. At such sites, we can study repertory formation under under ideal conditions: these texts are available on the website itself; responses are channelled through the site and the forum members are the only ones to determine their fellow members’ status. What can we learn from sites like this about the workings of the ‘regular’ literary sector?