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Editors have crucial roles in publishing and they work with authors in different ways. A lucky author will have three kinds of editor: first an acquisitions editor who will help the book to find a home with the right publisher; second a book editor who will help the author to shape, model and revise his text or his concept for the book; and third a managing editor, or a copy editor, who will take the book in fine control and make every effort to tidy the work, to make it consistent, and to ensure that it says what the author means to say and not something else which can be too easily misunderstood.

I have been lucky with all kinds of editors, but I have a debt of gratitude and a particular fondness for the editor who acquired my book for the University of Chicago Press. At the time, I had largely written the book (or I thought I had) and was looking for a publisher who would not be put off by a book that was partly about philosophy and partly about technology, written by someone who was neither a professional philosopher or a true technologist.

Christopher Rhodes, officially the law and linguistics editor at the University of Chicago Press was the acquisitions editor who decided to take my book on, and who chased down three readers to review it. He clearly found the subject of my book interesting and the argument persuasive and he was quite assiduous in finding referees who would take a critical look at it. In the way of academic publishing, these referees are anonymous and I would find it hard to judge what discipline they come from. The reports were broadly positive, but they also had recommendations for revision and improvement, so there was more work to be done. We had several helpful conversations about the book and Chris was beginning to shape the book that he was encouraging me to finish. My last communication and encouragement from him, an email in April last year, was to finish the revisions and submit a response to the readers that he would use with the Press committee. In fact, these revisions and the additional chapters of the book, mainly on the work of Michael Tomasello,  that I had decided were needed, took me longer than I had planned and as I was finishing my work in September 2015, I learned from Chicago that Chris Rhodes had died. This was a moment of great sadness.

Since Chris was much younger than me and had been such an encouraging and energetic counterparty this was also shocking news. Chris had helped me in just the ways that an acquisitions editor should. So I hope that he would have liked the book that grew from his encouragement. My book editor, managing editor and copy-editor have also been of great assistance (thanks: Christie, Joel and Pam), but in one of my earliest blogs about Following Searle on Twitter: How words create digital institutions I want to give full thanks to their colleague Chris Rhodes.


This is a blog about a book that will be published in early 2017 by the University of Chicago Press. Since it will not appear for some months, I offer the reader the draft blurb that I have written for the Press:

Following Searle on Twitter is an original attempt to combine a highly conceptual and theoretical perspective with a down-to-earth exposition of present-day digital institutions. The author uses the theory of Status Function Declarations, a theory developed by the philosopher John Searle, as a probe for understanding Twitter’s institutional structure and the still developing toolset that it provides for its members.

Most of the actions through which we engage with Twitter are shown to precisely fit the definition of a Status Function Declaration. Twitter is an institution built, constituted and evolving through the use of Status Function Declarations. Furthermore, Twitter is shown to be a case-study, not a special case. The ambitious theory that emerges from the case-study concludes that all our interactions with these new, emerging, digital institutions are deeply language-made. So it follows that a scientific and humanistic study of digital institutions lies at the intersection of many disciplines: philosophy, social theory, the sociology of knowledge, psychology, media studies, network science and linguistics among others.

The author aligns his account of digital institutions with the anthropological and evolutionary framework developed by Michael Tomasello. Hodgkin’s theory, inspired by Searle and Tomasello, places language, action, intention and responsibility at the core of the digital culture and the digital institutions that we are constructing. [A fragment of the Twitter institution can be found at]