Listing entries tagged with the_networked_book
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discursions II: networked architecture, a networked book 08.28.2006, 6:09 AM
I'm pleased to announce a new networked book project the Institute will begin working on this fall. "Discursions, II" will explore the history and influence of the Architecture Machine Group, the amazing research collective of the late 60s and 70s that later morphed into the MIT Media Lab. The book will be developed in collaboration with Kazys Varnelis, an architectural historian whom we met this past year at the Annenberg Center at USC, when he was a visiting fellow leading the "Networked Publics" research project.
As its name suggests, the Architecture Machine Group was originally formed to explore how computers might be used in the design of architecture. From there, it went on to make history, inventing many of the mechanisms and metaphors of human-machine interaction that we live, work and play with to this day. Lately, Kazys' focus has been on contemporary architecture and urbanism in the context of network technologies, and how machine-mediated interactions are becoming a key feature of human environments. So he's pretty uniquely positioned to weave together the diverse threads of this history. Most important from the Institute's perspective, he's interested in playing around with the form and feel of publication.
And good news. Kazys recently resettled here on the east coast, where he will be heading up the new Network Architecture Lab (NetLab) at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. One of the lab's first projects will be this joint venture with the Institute. Unlike Without Gods and GAM3R 7H30RY, both of which are print-network hybrids, "Discursions, II" will grow one hundred percent on the network, beginning from its initial seeds: a dozen videos of seminal ARCMac demos, originally published on a video disc called "Discursions". The book will also go much further into collaborative methods of work, and into blurring the boundaries of genre and media form, employing elements of documentary film, textual narrative, and oral history (and other strategies yet to be determined).
From the NetLab press release (AUDC, mentioned below, is Kazys' nonprofit architectural collective):
Formed in 2001, AUDC [Architecture Urbanism Design Collaborative] specializes in research as a form of practice. The AUDC Network Architecture Lab is an experimental unit at Columbia University that embraces the studio and the seminar as venues for architectural analysis and speculation, exploring new forms of research through architecture, text, new media design, film production and environment design.
Specifically, the Network Architecture Lab investigates the impact of computation and communications on architecture and urbanism. What opportunities do programming, telematics, and new media offer architecture? How does the network city affect the building? Who is the subject and what is the object in a world of networked things and spaces? How do transformations in communications reflect and affect the broader socioeconomic milieu? The NetLab seeks to both document this emergent condition and to produce new sites of practice and innovative working methods for architecture in the twenty-first century. Using new media technologies, the lab aims to develop new interfaces to both physical and virtual space. This unit is consciously understood as an interdisciplinary entity, establishing collaborative relationships with other centers both at Columbia and at other institutions.
The NetLab begins operations in September 2006 with "Discursions, II" an exploration of history of architecture, computation, and new media interfaces at the Architecture Machine Group at MIT done in collaboration with the Institute for the Future of the Book.
For a better idea of Kazys' interests and voice, take a look at this fascinating and wide-ranging interview published recently on BLDGBLOG. Here, he talks a bit more about what we're hoping to do with the book:
The goal, then, is to create a new form of media that we're calling the Networked Book. It's a multimedia book, if you will, that can evolve on the internet and grow over time. We're now hoping to get the original players involved, and to get commentary in there. The project won't be just the voice of one author but the voices of many, and it won't be just one form of text but, rather, all sorts of media. We don't really know where it will go, in fact, but that's part of the project: to let the material take us; to examine the past, present, and future of the computer interface; and to do something that's really bold. It's not that we don't know what we're doing [laughter] - it's that we have a wide variety of options.
Congratulatons, Kazys, on the founding of the NetLab. We can't wait to move forward with this project.
encouraging 08.15.2006, 8:51 PM
The following was posted on Sunday by Mitch Stephens on Without Gods (for those of you still unfamiliar with it, Without Gods is the public work diary for Mitch's forthcoming history of atheism, which we've been hosting for the past eight months -- wow, has it been that long?!).
The quality of the comments here lately has seemed, to me, extraordinarily high.
One of the purposes of blogging a book as it is being written is to have ideas tested and, possibly, sharpened, transformed or overturned. This has repeatedly occurred -- although I have not often weighed in with comments of my own acknowledging that. Please take this as a blanket acknowledgement and expression of appreciation.
GAM3R 7H30RY may be flashier, and more technically ambitious, but in many ways Without Gods has been a more revelatory experiment in networked writing. As Mitch acknowledges, the sustained activity, and quality, of the comment streams has been impressive, and above all, interesting to read. It's fascinating to follow this evolving collaboration between author and reader, and to watch Mitch come into his own as a skilled moderator of blog-based discussion. It remains to be seen how these conversations will end up shaping the finished book, but for some examples of a tangible collaboration taking place, take a look at these recent "Author Needs Advice" posts (part 1, part 2), in which Mitch asks for feedback on specific sections of the work-in-progress. Whatever the outcome, it's clear that this reconfiguration of the writing process is yielding real rewards.
notable wikipedians 08.15.2006, 7:21 AM
I just came across this story in The Toronto Globe and Mail about a young man from Ottawa by the name of Simon Pulsifer who, under the moniker SimonP, is Wikipedia's most prolific contributor: "with 78,000 entries edited and 2,000 to 3,000 new articles to his name. He can't remember the exact number."
Pulsifer is also the subject of an article in Wikipedia, which, like many of the vanity stubs devoted to the encyclopedia's editors, was nominated for deletion, only to be voted a keeper after some discussion. Justin Hall, a colleague of ours at USC, often cited as the first blogger, and a distinguished Wikipedian in his own right, offered the following in defense of the Pulsifer page:
As Wikipedia grows in importance and global reach, the most passionate participants in this collective editing experiment become important global intellectuals. Simon Pulsifer is one of the first public Wikipedians - with a great number of articles, a passion for editing under-developed subjects, and a strong sense of the mission of Wikipedia. He might not care to have an article about him here, but already mainstream media outlets (a Canadian newspaper) and online news sites (digg.com) have saluted his work. That attention and importance is only likely to increase. Let's keep this article because Simon Pulsifer has already reached a greater number of people than many of the "historic" individuals described on Wikipedia.
Both Pulsifer and Hall are members of what could be considered the Wikipedia elite, the "notable Wikipedians". Many of these probably deserve a good share of the credit for Wikipedia's success. Now, though, I'm more interested in how Wikipedia's corps of editors might gradually expand to include a greater slice of the public: teacher, students, and people from all walks of life.
Zealous Wikipedia hobbyists like Pulsifer, god love 'em, will hopefully, over time, be considered the exceptions that prove the general rule of participation: editing as a more modest pursuit that one builds into one's intellectual life and lifelong learning regimen. If enough people begin to take part in this way, Wikipedia could become more diverse, more exhaustive, and more accurate than it already is. The Pulsifers and Halls might end up being its governors, its civil servants, its politicians. Of course, it is the process that is most important: the kind of civic participation and engagement over points of dissent that collaborating on Wikipedia entails. Bob explained this eloquently last week. Or, as Pulsifer describes it:
You write an article and you think you've made it as good as it can be and then you put it out there for everyone to see and edit. And within just a few minutes, you have started a dialogue over how best to represent a subject.
pinkwater dips his toes (and quill) into the web 08.14.2006, 9:35 AM
The Institute is back in Los Angeles at USC, our home away from home in academe, where, for the next two days, we're holding an introductory "boot camp" session with a small group of professors who will begin using Sophie in their classes this fall. USC is just southwest of downtown LA, right near the La Brea Tar Pits, which, incidentally, is the starting point of the latest book by one of my favorite childhood writers, Daniel Manus Pinkwater, who, I just read in Publishers Weekly, is publishing his newest book online.
Pinkwater, author of Lizard Music, The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, the Snarkout Boys novels, and many, many others, is publishing his newest effort, The Neddiad, "a rip-roaring, foot-stomping, blood-curdling adventure, with station stops in Chicago, Flagstaff, and Hollywood, California," free on his website as a serial.
With the blessing of his publisher, Houghton Mifflin, Pinkwater has set up a simple, very readable little site, where readers can imbibe the book, in slightly raw form, one chapter per week.
What we are presenting is the original author's manuscript. There are some typos, and editorial corrections, and changes by me are not included. So the published book will be slightly different. I am a careful writer, and worked with a fine editor, so the differences are not great, but I thought it might be of interest for some to see what the book was like when handed in.
In many ways, this is a very PInkwater move -- plugging his book into an electrical socket and watching it glow. There's also a discussion forum, so it's something of a networked book:
Readers are welcome to post comments, criticisms, complaints, and exchange remarks--a link will be provided, and I may periodically chime in to discuss and argue with the posters.
Pinkwater told PW:
When I was younger a circus hand showed me how they let kids sneak into the circus. If they were bold enough to try, they got to stay. I'm trying to keep that feeling for kids with this project. It lets kids sneak into the tent. We're deliberately keeping it from looking slick; there are no ads. Of course, it's with Houghton Mifflin's kind permission that we can offer this, but it's still a bit of homebrew, slightly different from the finished version. We hope that the readers who enjoy what they find online will want to buy the book, too.
If nothing else, Pinkwater has grasped an important (and counterintuitive) principle of web publishing: that giving stuff away can help sell books. It helps facilitate a discussion about that stuff, and can make readers feel better disposed toward you and your work (i.e. more likely to buy it in print). One chapter per week is a rather dribbling pace, however (recall the somewhat disingenuous serialization of Pulse by FSG), and might be a bit like Chinese water torture for Pinkwater's ardent fans. But we'll see.
jaron lanier's essay on "the hazards of the new online collectivism" 08.08.2006, 9:37 AM
In late May John Brockman's Edge website published an essay by Jaron Lanier -- "Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism". Lanier's essay caused quite a flurry of comment both pro and con. Recently someone interested in the work of the Institute asked me my opinion. I thought that in light of Dan's reportage from the Wikimania conference in Cambridge i would share my thoughts about Jaron's critique of Wikipedia . . .
I read the article the day it was first posted on The Edge and thought it so significant and so wrong that I wrote Jaron asking if the Institute could publish a version in a form similar to Gamer Theory that would enable readers to comment on specific passages as well as on the whole. Jaron referred me to John Brockman (publisher of The Edge), who although he acknowledged the request never got back to us with an answer.
From my perspective there are two main problems with Jaron's outlook.
a) Jaron misunderstands the Wikipedia. In a traditional encyclopedia, experts write articles that are permanently encased in authoritative editions. The writing and editing goes on behind the scenes, effectively hiding the process that produces the published article. The standalone nature of print encyclopedias also means that any discussion about articles is essentially private and hidden from collective view. The Wikipedia is a quite different sort of publication, which frankly needs to be read in a new way. Jaron focuses on the "finished piece", ie. the latest version of a Wikipedia article. In fact what is most illuminative is the back-and-forth that occurs between a topic's many author/editors. I think there is a lot to be learned by studying the points of dissent; indeed the "truth" is likely to be found in the interstices, where different points of view collide. Network-authored works need to be read in a new way that allows one to focus on the process as well as the end product.
b) At its core, Jaron's piece defends the traditional role of the independent author, particularly the hierarchy that renders readers as passive recipients of an author's wisdom. Jaron is fundamentally resistant to the new emerging sense of the author as moderator -- someone able to marshal "the wisdom of the network."
I also think it is interesting that Jaron titles his article Digital Maoism, with which he hopes to tar the Wikipedia with the brush of bottom-up collectivism. My guess is that Jaron is unaware of Mao's famous quote: "truth emerges in the course of struggle [around ideas]". Indeed, what I prize most about the Wikipedia is that it acknowledges the messiness of knowledge and the process by which useful knowledge and wisdom accrete over time.
network v. multimedia 07.28.2006, 6:12 AM
During Bob's synchronous chat with the Chronicle of Higher Education on Wednesday, I was reminded of the distinction he's drawn between digital books that incorporate multimedia--text, audio, still and moving images--and those that are networked (and, as such, seem more dynamic and/or alive). Of course these two attributes are not mutually exclusive--and Bob never states/implies/screams that they are--but these two features, media-rich and networked, do seem to comprise the salient features of digital texts and the ways in which they part company with their paper counterparts. Moreover, the networked aspect of digital texts and all that it implies has NEVER escaped me--I wrote an hypertextual Master's thesis complicating this very notion--still, I have bristled each time I've heard Bob's proclamation that "it's all about the network," though I couldn't seem to account for this reaction. Until, that is, I noticed other academics reacting similarly...
It hit me when the other day when Bob was asked a question by Michael Roy (one which reiterates a query from H. Stephen Straight) which said:
I was curious about your quote in the Chronicle article that suggests your change in focus away from multimedia texts towards networked texts. Can you elaborate on why you feel that the priority in development of new genres of electronic texts should be on their 'networkedness' rather than in the use of media?
it's not really a move away from multimedia, just a re-orientation of its [sic] centrality in the born-digital movement. when i started working in this area full-time -- twenty-six years ago -- the public network that we know as the internet didn't exist. our model at the time was the videodisc, an analog medium that suggested the book of the future would be just like the book of the past, i.e. a standalone, frozen, authoritative object. it took me a long time to realize that locating "books" inside the network would over time cause more profound shifts in our idea of what a book is than the simple addition of audio and video.
As I read this exchange it occurred to me why I/we have been harping on this issue and it has to do with our training. Poststructuralist theory taught us that there is no single book frozen in time; we have long since abandoned the notion of the authoritative tome. Foucault, for instance, posited the 'author function,' a position in a discourse community, one that contributed to the social construction of knowledge. Books, by extension, are always-already (given Jacque D's recent passing, a little nod and an enactment of my point here), networked; they are part of a larger oeuvre and refer to each other extensively--thus they contain copious links, even if said links are a good deal more metaphoric in nature than the hyperlink of the networked text.
Moreover, reader response theorists such as Wolfgang Iser and Louise Rosenblatt taught us that the reader never approaches a text without bringing her own perspective to bear on it--a notion that renders each reading act as discrete--and each act of reading by the same reader is unique from the read that preceded it. In this world, then, the notion of a dynamic book versus one that is "frozen in time" becomes a non-issue. Indeed, in some respects, the networked book is in fact More traditional if it depends on textual language to conduct the interaction. Look at GAM3R 7H30RY--the method is unique but in terms of the knowledge made/gained etc, it is perhaps business as usual except for an accelerated and maybe more inclusive pace. By contrast, were you to put out a multimedia networked 'book,' and have it reviewed IN MEDIA-RICH language, that would be revolutionary.
wikipedia lampooned in onion 07.27.2006, 12:21 AM
The Onion takes a shot at Wikipedia this week:
Wikipedia, the online, reader-edited encyclopedia, honored the 750th anniversary of American independence on July 25 with a special featured section on its main page Tuesday.
Not bad, though it kinda beats the Wikipedia-is-error-prone point into the ground. But the fact that it's being satirized says something.
Naturally, the piece has already been noted on Wikipedia's article on The Onion. The talk page points to another, funnier, wiki-themed "news brief" from last September: "Congress Abandons WikiConstitution."
today at noon (e.s.t.)! online colloquy at chronicle of higher ed. 07.26.2006, 11:56 AM
UPDATE: you can now read a transcript of the chat here (same as the live link).