how would you design the iraq study group report for the web? 12.12.2006, 6:53 AM
posted by ben vershbow
The "Iraq Study Group Report" paperback could have been wrapped in a brown paper bag, its title scrawled in Magic Marker. It would still sell. This is a book, unlike trillions of others on the market, whose substance and national import sell it, not its cover...Disproving the adage, this genre of book can indeed be judged by its cover. From the reports on the Warren Commission to Watergate, Iran-contra and now the Iraq war, such books are anomalies for a publishing industry that churns out covers intended to seduce readers, to reach out and grab them, and propel them to the cash register.
How would you design an unauthorized web edition of the ISG Report? Would you keep to the sober, no-nonsense aesthetic of the iconic print editions of past government documents like the 9/11 Commission Report or the Warren Commission Report? Or would you shake things up? A far more interesting question: what functionality would you add? What kind of discussion capabilities would you build into it? Who would you most like to see annotate or publicly comment on the document?
The electronic edition that has been making the rounds is an austere PDF made available by the United States Institute of Peace. A far more useful resource for close reading of the text was put out by Vivismo as a demonstration of its new Velocity Search Engine. They crawled the PDF and broke it into individual paragraphs, adding powerful clustered search tools.
The US Government Printing Office has a slew of public documents available on its website, mostly as PDFs or bare-bones HTML pages. How should texts of "national import" be reconceived for the network?
alex itin on December 15, 2006 10:16 AM:
This is very exciting. It reminds me of the tradition of Free Speech Commons (Speakers corner is still there in Englad). Forums where ideas could be discussed were a very important part of the revolution and the democracy in general. It seems like a step in the right direction to have new media serve that need as the old media has become a spout of disinformation and statements from the ruling elite. Does anyone trust the evening news or the New York Times even? A book like this (an maybe all congressional publications) should be open for commments by the constituents of Congress: the people. Furthermore, "our leaders" should engage in that dialogue with their constituents... I hope it will come to pass (course there'll be a lot of conspiracy theories, but that needs to be part of the stew in this national tragedy... all of it is a tragedy... all of it).