Wednesday, August 11, 2010


at The Atlantic, Tim Carmody writes about “bookfuturism:”

A bookfuturist manifesto could never really be like an avant-garde or political manifesto, partly because the whole idea of bookfuturism is to critically unravel these contradictions, rather than stake out definite positions that we'd cling to no matter what. For instance, when Amazon's Kindle first came out, I was completely of the mind that these text-only files cheaply mocked the experience of reading a book without actually including all its rich physicality, or trying to create a new, specifically digital experience. Now, as the whole industry's moved towards multimedia tablets and touch interfaces, I find myself thinking, "you know, maybe just focusing on text, and making that experience as useful and enjoyable as possible, is a really good idea. Text and textual interfaces are incredibly resilient and powerful. Bring back the command line!”

Bookfuturism turns out to be not just about books as such, but a kind of aesthetic and culture of reading, literacy, history, in connection with (only rarely in opposition to) other kinds of media culture. And reading here would also obviously include newspapers and magazines, and even things like maps and advertisements and data visualizations, plus whatever's displayed on the different screens most of us look at all day at home or work. What does it mean to live in this hyperliterate world? How do we make sense of it? There I think we need to actually articulate something like Jason Kottke's motto: "Liberal Arts 2.0."

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