The processes that underlie the repertory development process are heavily dependent 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:
- Thanks to blogs, social media and other platforms, far more people are now in the opportunity to publish;
- It has become far easier to respond to publications than was previously the case;
- Online, virtual communities offer people with similar interests unprecedented opportunities for interaction;
- Informal expressions of opinion and discussions are preserved for review for many years to come.
More than was previously the case, these processes have been made publicly accessible and available for electronic analysis.
A large number of 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. One case that is eligible for study is the debate surrounding ‘citizen reviewers’: people who write book reviews and publish them online, without any kind of specific education or much practical experience in the field. In addition to making the rounds on review sites, literature is also reviewed on many personal sites and blogs. But who are these ‘ordinary readers’? And what can we learn about literary appreciation from their contributions?
In addition, we find forum websites where the contributors publish their own creative work. At such sites, we can study repertory formation under ‘axenic conditions’: these texts are only available on the forum itself; many responses are channelled via the forum 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?