The Telegraph has run a series of “Sign Language” picture galleries of photos submitted by readers. The The best of Sign Language gathers some of the best of these collections of funny signs. While many play on poor English translations, some are amusing photographic juxtapositions of signs and backgrounds like this one:
Such sign humor is a way into noticing words in the wild, but ultimately such signs are not how text works in public signage.
The Journal of Urban Typography is a project like the Dictionary of Words in the Wild that “is dedicated to the documentation and study of signs, word fragments, and typography created with utilitarian intent in urban environments.” Many of the images are beautiful – the author of the site calls it a journal but it is more of an art book. The interface is intriguing as if it were a bunch of polaroids. You can dismiss some and rearrange them. This is built on Tumblr, an online blogging or service that you can adapt to collecting different types of things. Thanks to Peter O for this.
Lisa Young with the support of the Brown University Scholarly Technology Group (STG) has developed a Fortune of the Day – Fortune Hunting interactive art site based on a collection of scanned fortune cookie slips she created. It has elements of a public textuality site like the Dictionary though focused completely on fortunes. The interface is simple and elegant. I believe it has been exhibited recently for the first time. The project uses the TAPoRware Visual Collocator for one of its interfaces.
The Dictionary of Words in the Wild has now over 3,500 images and over 4,500 words. Willard McCarty delivered a paper at the University of Western Sydney reflecting on the Dictionary, “Stepping off the edge of the world or into it: The Dictionary of Words in the Wild as research?” Willard is the star contributor, but I’m catching up with pictures taken on the move across Canada including the moose danger sign above which is seen frequently on the Trans-Canada in parts of Ontario and Manitoba.
I just came across this Urban Dictionary where people provide definitions for new urban words and then vote the definitions up or down (with commentary). The social site allows people to upload images that capture the word; for example, the first definition of “scene” has 332 images. These are not images of the word but images evocative of the word. What is interesting is that further down on each page is an embedded visual Google ad (as in a small image rather than text ad.) The ad is pulled based on the word so you get a different type of image of the word. For “scene” there was this linked animated GIF for a dating service where you can “Find out who is waiting for you at the Goth Scene”:
Of course the book is being mined by the editor for a Urban Dictionary book compiled by Aaron Peckham. When you read the Terms of Service you will find the following:
When you post Content on the Website, you agree to grant the Company an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, fully sublicenseable, non-exclusive license to copy, distribute, sell, publicly display, publicly perform and make derivative works of your Content on the Website, on services affiliated with the Website and elsewhere (including but not limited to print, video, audio or computer media), regardless of the form of media used or of whether such media or services now exist or are developed in the future. By posting Content to the Website, you hereby represent and warrant that you have the right to post that Content and to grant the foregoing rights to the Company.
In A Brief History of Neon in New York Magazine I came across reference to Artkraft Strauss one of the first and most important makers of neon signs, ads and marquees. Artkraft Strauss dominated the design of neon signs for Times Square including the new year’s midnight ball-lowering. Artkraft Strauss is still around as a design and consulting company and they have a great archive of images of “100 years of commerce, design and Times Square celebrations”. It is a treasure of neon sign design in New York from the first days.
The Dictionary of Words in the Wild now has over 3000 images and almost 4000 unique words.
I’ve just finished 4 days hiking in the wilds of the northern shore of Lake Superior (Pukaskwa National Park) on one of the most spectacular back country hiking trails I know of. What struck me in the woods an on the shores of Superior was that there are no words in the wild unless scratched on a tree or rock. The only words I saw were all the logos on our clothing, tent, sleeping bags and so on. It really isn’t wild if there are words.
We know now that there is much more than text. “Texts,” as Geoffrey Hartman, has observed, “are false bottom.” The implications of scholars’ blindness to the nontextual and of their recent discovery of their own blindness have still not been worked out entirely. Textual squint is still with us, and, in some ways, with deconstruction has become more disabling in certain quarters at the very time that its diagnosis has become easier. The way to overcome textual squint is not to devise theories, which textualism promotes ad nauseam, but to call attention to reality, to the relationship of texts to the full human lifeworld, …”
Page 2 of “MLA 1984 Literacy Studies”
This passage is from the second page of a five page edited typescript at The Walter J. Ong Collection. The web site notes that “Ong’s notes indicate that this talk was part of the ‘What is Literacy Theory’ session (program item #190) of the 1984 MLA Convention.” I wonder what Ong would make of the Dictionary of Words in the Wild? I don’t think Ong had wild text in mind as a way of overcoming the “textual squint”; the hand notation “Alice Springs” in the left-hand margin suggests what he thought would be an example of nontextual human lifeworld.
SET 26 is a Swiss design company that sells furniture shaped like letters from the Roman alphabet. Each letter costs about 1,500 Euros and has doors that open revealing shelves. They have a Konfigurator so you can see any combination of 5 letters in the available colours (like the GROCK above.)
I read about this in a strange online Facsimile Magazine while reading a reproduction of a 1970 Time Life Books’ Nature/Science Annual article on “Art’s New Ally – Science.” The article documents a number of technological arts projects including the Experiments in Arts and Technology (E.A.T.) cooperative founded by Billy KlÃ¼ver and Robert Rauschenberg.
Typography Kicks Ass: Flickr Bold Italic is a Flash toy that displays messages left by people using letters from Flickr. It is a “letters in the wild” toy that uses the images of letters of others. I wonder what a similar toy using the Dictionary of Words in the Wild could do?