In the soup with the digital book

Nicolas Negroponte of MIT famously defined the phenomenon of digital
convergence as ” digital soup” and I’m poised – or at least tottering – on
the point of scattering my bits of alphabet into the digi-soup, in the form
of an e-book for platforms like Kindle and/or i-Pad. In one way, it’s the
logical development of an involvement in electronic media since the early
seventies , using audio, then video, then the www. Yet it’s also a decisive
break with the fixed identity of the printed book as artefact. If the text
on one’s e-reader links to multi-media files elsewhere , or to inter-active
options, or options for updating the text then the reading experience
obviously changes. As a newcomer to the field, I’m probably re-inventing the
wheel in thinking through all this aloud, but I’d be interest to know what
other NetArtisans make of the e-book phenomenon, either as readers or
creators. For example, would Jim want to see his animated texts on an
e-reader rather than a full laptop or desktop screen? Would Gregory want to
add a visual or textual element to his audio dramas via i-Pad – or would
this lose the enigma of the immersive audio-only experience? What do people
think is an outstanding or prophetic work which exploits the possibilities
of the e-book format. I’d be intrigued to know.

2 Responses to “In the soup with the digital book”

  • Welcome to netartery, Paul! I’ve been a fan of your audio work since the 80’s. I played some of your work on my radio show in the eighties and early nineties. Several times. And one thing I’ve noticed is that your work ages quite well. “Gestalt Bunker” ( ) could be set in the present if the communications technology you mention in that piece, by simple substitution of vocabulary, were updated to today’s lingo. The ideas and situation are still current, however. It’s also very funny and telling about seekings of the writer at the ‘edges’ of language.
    If you’re that good on creating art that’s news and stays news, then I’d think your ideas on the questions you raise would be interesting to hear. Do tell.
    I don’t have an iAnything. Or a Kindle. So my knowledge of their charms is very limited. Though I recently was asked to write a poem for an iTouch literary application developed by Jason Lewis, which was fun.
    I would love to see my work on everything everywhere. But I can’t learn everything needed to get my work on everything everywhere. Most of my animations are also interactive. Transferring interactive applications is harder than transferring animations.
    Also, quite a bit of my work wouldn’t fit very well on the smaller screen. Some would, though. My main work in life, so far, has been the creation of Web site as one’s ‘book’ that is sometimes close, sometimes very far away from the book.
    How would you describe the possibilities of the e-book format, Paul? I suppose one could divide those possibilities into at least two categories. The first are artistic possibilities. The second are more pragmatic possibilities concerning distribution, audience, and economy.
    The artistic possibilities of the e-book format depend on the authoring technologies that the e-book format supports. I’m not really familiar with those. Also, they depend on the forms of input the user can do. On the home puter there’s the keyboard and mouse. Not sure what the e-book forms of input are. The iPad and iTouch are touch sensitive and support some poetentially interesting things.
    But I’m probably missing something about the e-Book and many other things.
    In any case, it’s great to have you on netartery, Paul. I look forward to the conversation and your posts. Many thanks.

  • Ahoy Paul, welcome to the flow. I just descended into the gestalt bunker, and yes, the world is still digesting the sum of its parts! Good fun.

    e-Book: for me, there is once again the promise of infinity, but I wonder what it is made from. If the medium is the message, well what effect does screen navigation have on consciousness? Certainly very different than the experience of reading a physical analog book.
    Though I intellectually understand the limitless possibilities of layers/dimensions/links/hypers/hoops/hooplah in the e-Book, my skepticism no doubt stems from having derived so much pure sensual pleasure from holding and leafing through and devouring physical books.
    There may be potential for synthesis, as in taking the conceptual possibilities of e-Book as map or model, but then transporting back into a physical object. In this sense, the most “digital” book I encountered last year was Anne Carson’s remarkable NOX, with its sensual layers and folds, but all very much in the material world, or welt. Thinking hypermedia, but communicating via a sort of mapped assemblage.

    For audio, I confess to being a purist: I absolutely refuse to send in digi photos for screen shots on streaming files, above all author shots: I mean, one of the most poetic qualities of the medium is not knowing who is THERE out there, and so now we want to voluntarily screw with that?

    I believe in the “total work of art” but not in the “total medium”. The experience of navigation is far richer when the media are dispersed, or it so it seems to me.

    A final thought: when I hold an ipad or kindle, it seems like a very cold medium (in Mar Mclu sense), and doesn’t that undercut or diminish the promise of “immersion”?

    I’m very curious to hear your thinking on these issues.