Tom McCarthy: International Necronautical Society

One of the people short-listed for the Man Booker prize is Tom McCarthy who, among other things created the International Necronautical Society. This “semi-ficticious organization” reminds me of OULIPO. They are “in our house” and recruiting. They have a lovely Joint Statement on Inauthenticity. A necronaut according to the Urban Dictionary is an “Annoying hacker and general asshole in Counter-Strike and other online games.” Or it could be someone who navigates death.

They have a Twitter feed, twitter.com/necronauts

Craig Mod: Books in the Age of the iPad

Jon pointed me to an online and illustrated essay Books in the Age of the iPad by Craig Mod that makes an interesting argument about the relative uses of digital reading devices like the iPad. He argues that there are two broad groups of content:

  1. Formless Content which doesn’t have a well-defined form. This sort of content can be easily poured into new bottles from iPhones to iPads. It doesn’t matter what form you read it in. (The illustration above is meant to suggest that such content can be poured into print, screen, or moble.)
  2. Definite Content which does have a definite form. The form for such works matters to the content so you can’t easily pour it into a new form. Such content could be designed to be viewed on an interactive screen (and hence it would be awkward to pour it onto print) or it could be designed to be read in paperback (and hence it would be awkward to read it on the screen.)

Mod argues that we should start moving Formless Content to digital devices and in the case of Definite Content we should be willing to leave it on the platform it was designed for. Thus art books should stay on paper while cheap novels should be available also in digital forms for mobile reading.

Contrast this to Dale Salwak’s To every page, turn, turn, turn (Times Higher Education, Sept. 2, 2010), an online essay  with the Times Higher Education bemoaning the loss of “deep reading.” I have no problem with Salwak’s defense of reading and the reading of books, but I’m not sure that there is anything inherently “deep” about books unless by deep he means longer (than essays on the web.) I don’t see why one can’t have a quiet, deep, reading experience off an iPad, though the argument might be made that the iPad has more distractions available. He ends with an argument I haven’t heard before – that books can be your friends (when you don’t have any?)

We all know that a love for books usually starts early in life. If our students come from homes where the predominant sound is the turning of pages, then from our experiences they will hear an affirmation of their own; if, on the other hand, they come from homes in which books are rarely seen, never talked about and seldom read, they may in time feel angry or cheated by their intellectual void. It is our task as educators and adults to provide a model for the reading life and the rewards and insights it can yield.

“Hold on to your books,” I say. “They will help you through. Let them be your best friend, and they will remain a solace in your life as they continue to be in mine.”

Of course today youth find false friends online not between the covers.

Stephenson, Subutai, The Mongoliad

Head of a Mongol

Thanks to Slashdot I have been poking around a project that one of my favorite sci-fi authors is involved in, namely the serially online published project The Mongoliad.This work is being supported by a company Stephenson helped create called Subutai Corporation that has developed a platform called PULP for digital novels that have social aspects and multimedia extensions. The platform looks a lot like a structured wiki. The first materials for The Mongoliad are up and smartphone apps are supposed to be coming. I found it hard to read off the web, but I tend to like my sci-fi on pulp.

It will be interesting to see how they explore the medium for this multi-authored novel.

The New York Times has a good story on the project here.

ubimark.com: around the world with QR tags

Shannon sent me this link to Ubimark.com a project from Purdue that is using QR codes to enhance reading. They created an edition of Around the World in 80 Days with QR codes that allow users to get at supplemental information and social media zones. I’m not sure I like the large QR codes all over the printed page, but the idea of augmenting things easily with QR codes is a good one.

NT2 | Nouvelles technologies, nouvelles textualit?©s.

NT2 LogoNT2 | Nouvelles technologies, nouvelles textualit?©s is a lab directed by Bertrand Gervais at UQAM that “promotes the study, reading, creation, and archiving of new forms of texts and hypermedia works.” (My translation from the French.) They have an excellent news blog, Activit?©s, that comments on cyberculture and research. Here are the questions they are asking:

Quel est le statut du texte litt?©raire, de l‚Äôart, du cin?©ma sur Internet? Quel est le statut de toute ?ìuvre, ?† l‚Äôheure de l‚Äô?©cran reli?© et de ses technologies? ?Ä quel type de mat?©rialit?© sommes-nous convi?©s? ?Ä quelles formes de lecture, de spectature, d‚Äôinterpr?©tation? (Pr?©sentation)

Hypertext Fiction Online

afternoon, a story, by Michael Joyce is arguably the first major work of hypertext fiction and is one of those works most critics deal with. This online version is from Hypertext Fiction Selections – part of the Norton site associated with their Postmodern American Fiction: A Norton Anthology (Edited by Paula Geyh, Fred G. Leebron, and Andrew Levy. Norton, 1997.)

Matt K. pointed me to an interesting digression – a report, Hypertext Markets: a Report from Italy, by Walter Vannini, that discusses an Italian translation of afternoon, a story and the state of hypertext fiction in Italy. He draws attention to the proliferation of CD publications. When I was last in Italy I noticed at the newstands a proliferation of hybrid publications – magazines including a DVD or CD. You don’t see that much anymore in Canada.

The interest among mainstream print publishers seems to have settled on electronic titles of a more traditional kind than hypertext, i.e., multimedia, “family entertainment,” and educational/recreational titles, mainly on CD-ROMs. The catalog for such work is fairly rich, even if most of them are quick-and-dirty (and sometimes very dirty) recasts of previously published material. For the moment, most of these titles resemble the worst of documentary television, and require more or less the same amount of interaction (i.e., next to none at all).

The Flâneur and the Arcade: Hypertext on Walter Benjamin’s, The Arcades Project

Walter Benjamin’s Passagenwerk: Reading in the Ruins by Giles Peaker is a hypertext project that brings together passages from Benjamin’s The Arcades project on themes like the the flâneur and the prostitute. Benjamin’s project is about fragmentary spectacle in the city, it is itself a collection of fragments, and the hypertext by Peaker re-represents thus. In some sense, this pre-modern moment of the flâneur and the arcade, is the urban precursor to the liesurely browser in the arcade of the web – watching, and through his (her) blog, posing for others.

The arcades were replaced after the convulsions of 1848 in the Second Empire by the great halls of industry of modernity according to David Harvey in Paris: Capital of Modernity (Routledge, 2003). The arcades were scaled up to the modern exhibition spaces from Les Halles to the Crystal Palace. The Paris arcades, thanks to critical interest Benjamin, have become a way to think through the spectacle of the hypertextual (and therefore fragmentary) web. Thanks to Marcel O’Gorman for pointing this intersection out to me.

Gibson Aleph: Agrippa

William Gibson aleph – essential information collection is a site dedicated to the work of William Gibson. They have images and the text of the poem Agrippa (1992) that was issued on a floppy that was coded to erase itself as you read. The floppy was in encased in art by Dennis Ashbrough that was supposed to likewise fade. The book/disk was published in 1992 by Kevin Begos Publishing, New York. This link came from Matt Kirschenbaum.

Fallen Sites

In response to a post on the Humanist Discussion Group about online ruins and grottoes, Vika Zafrin pointed at The Fall of the Site of Marsha by Rob Wittig of tank20.com. The Fall of the Site of MARSHA has three instants of a site by a character Marsha about angels that is then vandalized (possibly) by angels. It is an original work that develops a narrative around defacement of a web site and the arguments between the authors and hackers on the site.