Under the drastic technological and socio-economical changes brought by the publishing industry, every parameter that used to define the act of making things public has been transformed, from authorship to expanded copyright practices, manufacturing, hardware and software, ownership and sharing knowledge, digitisation, preservation and all distribution models. In this context, what could be the role of publishing for artists and designers? How can we articulate the idea of publishing as a critical post-digital network art practice? And what would be the motivation to do so in the golden publishing platform age of art as user-generated content and design as template culture where all the tools and means of distribution problem seem to have been solved and where social media claims to be the main and only communication channel for global culture?

To explore these questions, each trimester, first year students will work with core staff of the XPUB course and guests together to make a publication. Such publications are called Special Issues. Each Special Issue addresses a specific issue, often coordinated with outside events, collaborations with guests and partner organisations/collectives, and it culminates in a release party. The form of each Special Issue varies as a means of critically engaging with the diverse media, scales, and historical specificity of a particular issue. This multiplicity of form rejects the conception of “cross-platform” and “multi-media” as seamless, uniform, and ever improving. The object that is published will never be limited to print media, it could be a vinyl, a software, and ideally a combination of different things.

The organisation, tools, and workflows are reset every trimester to both allow the rotation of roles within this publishing experiment, but also permit to explore novel collaborative methods beyond their archetypes and stereotypes. To be sure, the making of these publications can therefore follow traditional division of labour relevant to a particular publishing industry (editorial board, graphic designers, production and distribution teams, etc), but, and this is something we actively encourage, can also become something to critically reflect upon and challenge such structures (algorithmic publishing, participatory and crowd-sourced content, constraint and system art inspired games and rules, piracy, publishing as performance, etc). Similarly, XPUB considers software not just as a means of getting things done, but as a significant writing space for critically engaging with culture. To this end, the tools and methods used to produce each publication are themselves part of the release itself. Code is not monolithic and linear but rather speaks across different systems, at different temporalities, in different voices and modes. Decision processes and hierarchical models should also not be seen as static but instead something to play and experiment with. Choosing the right production and organisational workflow is the first collective decision to be made every trimester, and might of course be influenced by the topic of the Special Issue itself.

Last but not least, a modest fixed budget is allocated for the production of each Special Issue, and making efficient use of this limited resource is an important aspect of the process. At the end of each trimester a release party will be hosted at a partner organisation, and the Special Issue will be made public and create a public for the topic discussed.

An archive and documentation of the past special issues is kept on the special issue website.