Page 1

OUT OF INK Interviews Case studies Âś Francesca Coluzzi 02/2013


Interviews with: ¶ Interview With Niels Schrader - Mind Design Studio PAGE N° 5 ¶ Interview with Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen - LUST Studio PAGE N° 13 ¶ Interview with Erik Kessels - KesselsKramer PAGE N° 21 ¶ Interview with Michele Aquila and Valeria di Rosa - U10 PAGE N° 27 ¶ Interview with Yolande van der Heide - Casco PAGE N° 39 ¶ Interview with Delphine Bedel - Hard Copy PAGE N° 47 ¶ Interview with Lars Böhm - Uncovered Magazine PAGE N° 57 ¶ Interview with Raoul Boers - Lecturer HvA PAGE N° 67 ¶ Interview with Monika Parrinder - Limited Language PAGE N° 83 ¶ Interview with Anna and Britt - Visual Editions PAGE N° 95 ¶ Interview with David Benqué - TIAM PAGE N° 105 ¶ Interview with Will Holder - Artist and Researcher PAGE N° 115 ¶ Interview with Anthon Astrom - Lines PAGE N° 127 ¶ Interview with Waldemar Wegrzyn - Elektrobiblioteka PAGE N° 135


AMSTERDAM,18TH SEPTEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 1 - PAGE N° 5

Interview With Niels Schrader - Mind Design Studio PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: When and how did your interest in book design begin? Niels: This is the first book I developed. By develop I mean not only the design, but also the content of the book. It includes some reflections on the relationship between front and back sides in general, not only book’s. The publication presents everyday artifacts, front and back of which are printed on the two sides of a sheet. Turning the pages reveals a sort of truth or story behind the objects, sometimes in a very literal and sometimes in a more metaphorical way. It all started when I was studying. During the course of semiotics, my dear professor Dieter Fuder, presented me with a challenging assignment: write a paper on ‘The Semantic Void’. What I delivered was a little provocation, an empty sheet of paper. My philosophical approach was simple. As the empty sheet speaks for itself, I can actually tell the story, but I don’t need to write it down. So I delivered the empty paper and in return my professor said: “Which side do I have to look at, the front side or the back side?” That was a good question indeed and the moment when I first thought: “What do front and back sides have in common, and how do they differ?” And so I decided to explore this issue further. Since digital media and screens only show the front and we can never see the


INTERVIEW WITH NIELS SCHRADER - N° 1

other side, I asked myself: “Do they have the back side at all?” That was when I started collecting back sides, looking for inspiration and answers. I had this feeling that I had to look and gather as much as possible to get to know what the back or front side of an object really was. And that is exactly what this book is about. I realized that some back sides match multiple fronts: it’s not always necessary to attach a back to its apparent front, sometimes the concept of truth may simply shift to a more semantic interpretation. So I came up with the idea of turning the pages as a metaphor of revealing the true story. The book is an archive that starts very simply and gradually becomes more and more philosophical. It combines for example Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of the ‘Vitruvian Man’ with Christ on the cross, and so a symbol of science is juxtaposed with a symbol of religion. The book is accompanied by an interesting essay that analyses whether spoken words can lie by applying the same concept to the world of language. INC: Where does the difference between a book and an e-book reside? N: I am a book lover and I think that any book is about exchanging knowledge. On this level of abstraction, ebooks and traditional books are about the same. As much as the printed book has the tactile quality, the advantage of the e-book is its dynamic character. INC: The concept of front and back sides made me think about a Leo Steinberg’s art essay called ‘Other Criteria’ (1972), in which he describes the work of some painters like Rauschenberg, and states those to had a very new way to conceive the spatial concept inside pictorial representation and the activity of reading an image: something that had always been vertical, for the first time became planar, and therefore this completely changed the meaning of how images are perceived in one’s mind. I see the concept behind your first book as similar, because you’ve been talking about screens and digital media and how the concept of back sides is missing or changes … N: Yes, you’re right: what started as a simple search became a long-lasting obsession and I still haven’t found the answer to that question. It’s an ongoing process and I have to admit that still every time I discover a new back side I


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 7

take a picture of it with the idea that I will finally find the answer, and eventually make a new book. I think it would be an exciting challenge to publish it digitally, as its original concept was conceived for paper and the physical experience of turning the pages. INC: Let’s get more into books and ebooks. In which ways do you think traditional publishing and digital publishing can coexist and intertwine? N: I definitely see a future for both of them. Since design is mainly about finding a way to structure and present information, both traditional and e-books seem to be of a similar kind. What makes them different is the nature of the platform itself: printed books are linear whereas e-books allow for non-linear reading of the text. The concept of non-linear storytelling, native to but not yet much exploited in e-books, is actually being already applied to various other media. Just consider these old books you might remember from your childhood, where every page would offer you a choice how to continue the story: “If you want John to go to the beach, continue the story on page 71”. You could have a very personal experience in reading the book going as far as creating your own plot. We can also find examples of non-linear story telling in cinema, e.g. in movies like Robert Altman’s ‘Short Cuts’ (1993), Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Magnolia’ (1999) or Olivier Otten’s recent ‘Order’ (2012). It seems that different media try to take inspiration from each other, mimic its features. But these are merely little steps in evolving the concept of non-linear storytelling. In my opinion, all the various media still coexist as they provide different qualities, all of them essential and valid on their own. We will only get to the point where e-books have a chance to replace the printed books, when the audience has fully mastered the non-linear reading and the content in e-books is presented accordingly. INC: The relation between text and image has always been one of the core matters in visual communication. How has it changed with the digital? What are the new problems and chances? What do you think about the relationship with book structure, storytelling and multimedia content? And what about


INTERVIEW WITH NIELS SCHRADER - N° 1

the whole design process? N: Deconstructing the linear code of a story entails learning to read and write again. The storyline has now turned into a network, a hyper-structure. In a book, for instance, a network could be a structure that connects different pieces of content through different types of hyperlinks: referring to the same topic, presenting a related thought or even changing the whole narrative. Looking for this hyper-structure makes the design process face a whole new challenge. It is not just the matter of design, nor only of content, ultimately the hyper-structure emerges from the both. Consequently, the responsibilities of individuals involved in the design process change. Author, designer and publisher must all work closely together. Just as the hyper-structure is by definition a non-hierarchical, interactive model, so must the production process become interactive rather than traditionally linear. I believe the role of a designer has spanned over the tasks of an editor. His role is not limited to just combining images with text anymore. By applying the interactive hyper-structure to books, the designer has to anticipate all different choices the reader can possibly make. Therefore, the designer is responsible for layering the information and defining the structure of content. Additionally to these changes, new media and e-books, allow not only for dynamic content but also for multi-sensory stimulation (e.g. audio or movie fragments). However, in the field of publishing, these new possibilities are not exploited as much as they could be. INC: I think that, in a certain way, even before Internet was created, all the elements of a design, and even knowledge’s ones, were not so separated. Now it’s just becoming more evident that communication is all about how the whole structure works simultaneously. We live in times of data overload. Never before in history have functions, algorithms and databases had more impact on our daily lives than today. Computers are capable of processing huge amounts of data within a short


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 9

period of time. People are slower, but have the capability to understand data and draw conclusions based on this information. Both go well together in modern communication: bitstreams need reasoning, and cognitive reflection requires processing of information. However, at present, the speed of data transfer is passing the level of understanding. Our minds have simply stopped processing all available data. So the essential question to consider when reinventing the book on the tablet is “How do we deal with this huge amount of information?” INC: So, you’ve been talking about networks, could this topic be seen as one of the main aspects of the identity of your design projects? In which elements of the project do you think your identity as a designer resides and why? N: Indeed, in one way or another all my work deals with the logic of network structures. I have even been called a “network designer”, and it seems there is some truth in it. Concentrating on hyper-structures comes mainly from my belief that they are the only true communication model of the information age. The growing ease of use and pace of technological developments stimulate the fragmentation of communication, which in turn is dictating more and more the style of how we interact. The ever shrinking attention span of humans and the general shortening of messages people exchange are examples of this process. The hyper-structure addresses these problems. My fascination in hyper-structures grew actually out of my experiments with translating the information between different ‘states of aggregation’. And by states, I don’t mean media or content, but the structure. It’s all about finding the most suitable model for the information and then implementing it in the chosen medium, regardless if it’s a book or a website. INC: Definitely the research on the book as a medium can be inspired by design practice in many ways, and what about design driven research about devices and open source tools? N: As a studio we often develop our own tools while working on our projects. I think such tools should be made available. I am a fan of the open source


INTERVIEW WITH NIELS SCHRADER - N° 1

concept, because I believe it’s the way that technology will work in the future. Therefore, we often consider releasing a certain tool to the public. Obviously, sometimes it is a tough decision to give a way a month’s worth of work out to the world for free. So we only release our tools on non-commercial license, allowing the research world to benefit from them, but not the commerce to make money with. INC: Do you think that open source software and open culture can affect collaborative publishing projects, and how? Can the digital offer more opportunities for that? N: Yes, of course. If we want to tackle this paradigm shift, interdisciplinary working methods are becoming mandatory. Many of my large-scale projects for example involved close collaboration with specialists from different disciplines and cultural backgrounds, such as programmers, architects, musicians, type designers and printers. From this approach grew my idea for setting up Mind Design as a collaborative unit. It functions like a hub, where people of different backgrounds work together on various projects. I’ve always considered myself a team player. I believe all people involved in such interdisciplinary projects have the same position in collaboration. It’s a horizontal, non-hierarchical concept, where all the members try to approach the problem from different angles. Having worked in this style for over 10 years, I am really proud of the network of specialists I’ve built. As a contemporary designer, you simply cannot solve the given challenges on your own. You need to know your limits and have a clear view on what you are able to deliver. Only then you can execute more complex projects. It doesn’t mean that your work as a designer is less important, it’s just that meanwhile such projects require many different skills. As the complexity of the media is growing tremendously, also projects are becoming more and more sophisticated. We are not living anymore in times when the designer develops on his own something as simple as a poster! INC: Is it becoming difficult to define oneself as a specific kind of professional? Are the boundaries and the different roles getting more and


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 11

more blurred? N: Yes, I agree that boundaries between different roles are becoming more vague. I mean, what is the difference between a sound designer, a software developer or a book designer anyway? With all of us using computers and Internet, with all the specialized tools so easily available to everyone? However, I also believe that knowing your skills and boundaries can help you define or create your own role. Even if it escapes the standard classification. INC: Do you see the digital book as a new challenge and a thing you will try to do in the future? Yes, and I see it as a very positive challenge: there is a new world to discover. This is how I would love everyone in the publishing field to see it – as a new adventure that’s starting!


THE HAGUE, 3RD OCTOBER

INTERVIEW N° 2 - PAGE N° 13

Interview with Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen - LUST Studio PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you talk about your design methodology and how do you relate it to book design projects? Dimitri: To better answer your question, first I have to tell you about our studio. LUST was founded in ’96 by my two colleagues Thomas Castro and Jeroen Barendse. In ’99 I joined them and we decided to merge our two studios. Thomas and Jeroen come from a graphic design background – they both studied in Arnhem under Karel Martens. I, on the other hand, come from an interactive design background – Delft university & Design Academy, Eindhoven. We worked well together from the beginning. We were all fascinated with new forms of communication: the ways in which art, design, new media, information technologies, architecture and science overlap and how this interdisciplinary approach can be used anywhere from graphic design to creating urban systems. Over the course of the years we developed a design methodology which was later called “process based design” or “generative design”, and is founded upon the development of an analytical process which eventually leads to a final-product that designs itself. Using this kind of methodology means that you know from the beginning that there is no difference whether the end result will be a book or a magazine, an urban area or the whole city, because the process is what defines it.


INTERVIEW WITH DIMITRI NIEUWENHUIZEN - N°2

INC: Have you ever made an ebook? In which ways do you think traditional publishing and digital publishing can coexist and intertwine? D: I think that the ebook – which is actually a very incomplete word – was invented to build a bridge between something we are so use to, analog technologies and paper, and the digital world that we are trying to replace that with. For me the ebook is no more than a half product, it’s like the CD: one of the many steps that had to be taken in the transformation from analogue music to digital music. This is the same in the case of books and ebooks. Infact, I think that text in the digital age is never alone in any medium, since it has so many layers. We are all very skilled in using all these layers by just browsing the web, why not use them to read a book? So, did we make ebooks? Yes, we did, but not in PDF format. We made, let’s call them, interactive books or magazines, which were all experiments to help figure out how content and context could relate to each other. INC: Many LUST projects deal with rethinking material objects with a digital approach. Can you relate this concept to the book? Since it has always been a material object, is it possible to conceive the book in a different way and how? D: First, I have to explain some things about LUSTlab because it’s the place where we do a lot of research on these issues. We founded LUSTlab in 2010. At that time it was already becoming clear that the economic crisis was would happen and that times would have changed. We were used to doing projects in the cultural field, since that was where you could experiment the most, go a few steps further, see the potential of your ideas, even if it didn’t work out 100 percent. However, at that time, we had already realized that the cultural field was completely collapsing. Therefore, for us it was still a very important issue, and we decided to start a laboratory where we could keep doing these kinds of projects. Hence, with a huge amount of experimenting, not even necessarily having a clear goal, we started LUSTlab whose aim was to cross the lines of design, science and technology to find new forms of communication.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 15

Within LUSTlab we have also done some interesting projects to investigate how reading was changing, not necessarily how the book will be in the future, but more about how we absorb information. McLuhan already said in the ’60’s that basically it is the medium that changes us, rather than the information that’s in the medium. Of course for us, as we are human beings, the content is the most important thing, but actually it is the carrier of that content that defines our society. We have always tried to find the bridge between information and the carrier of information, so now we are just doing the same with the digital world. For example looking at a digitalized text, we can create algorithms to figure out what this text is about. Some of these concepts come from the theories of Wolfgang Iser on how the meaning of texts changes depending on the context. LUSTlab tried to use these theories with digital text: for example, in order to analyze a text and figure out what it means, we can find algorithms to trace the meaning of it in terms of semantic orientation and location. Another interesting way to analyze a text is to have links to the context: who is the writer, where did he study, what is his background etc., and any other kind of meta information. We create something like a fingerprint, so that the computer can use its semantic orientation to find other information, for example, what is the emotional value of each word, or where are the people who are talking about any given subject. Again, for me, a stream of tweets is also like a book ... INC: Let’s talk about something that has always been seen as the main issue in graphic design and editorial design, the relationship between text and images. What happens to the image in the digital media? D: Images and texts are only different in form, but actually they are quite close. Images were the first form people used to try to easily pass information on to other people. Later, somehow, those images became symbols, and then symbols became characters and, combined with one another, they became sentences.


INTERVIEW WITH DIMITRI NIEUWENHUIZEN - N°2

With an image, with one glance you can find multiple layers of information, this of course has a different meaning, but there actually is not so much of a difference between text and image. However, now we are starting to realize that using the characters we have created, the ones from the latin alphabet, our communication is limited. This is finally being proved through the internet. Therefore, in the making of a book, being limited is a choice, it’s something that we appreciate and it’s also the value of the book, that’s why I think analogue books are not going to disappear. INC: New media sometimes make us feel a little bit overwhelmed by a huge amount information, especially because we are no longer only dealing with textual information: it seems that it’s becoming more difficult to concentrate on things. That’s probably because we still try to have the experience that we have with text and to absorb all the information in it, like we were used to doing since we were born, and like the generations before us were used to. Now we feel like something’s wrong and that it’s up to us, we have to change. Do you think that technology is becoming faster than us? D: First, I think there’s always been a gap between generations and we have to find ways to close this gap. On the other hand we can also go beyond technology itself, because it’s just a tool. Frequently, what I see with tablets and all this hype about ePublishing is that it’s only about tablets, but actually I think the main issue is absorbing information that has been digitalized. I wish that publishers and other people involved in publishing, for example content creators, would start to think about how they want to deliver their information. We got so used to paper, which was of course a fantastic invention! Moreover, with the press we could spread it out in a relatively cheap way and to millions of people...but this is going to come to an end. So how do you want this information reach the reader, now that we are living in a world in which these two things, the digital and the material, are integrated? Everyone now is walking around with digital machines in their pockets, so they definitely cannot be considered two worlds anymore. INC: What do you think about open source culture?


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 17

D: I think that there is place for both open source and not. When Tim BernersLee created the www protocol in ’91, it was a side project he did under the flag of science, so the internet as we know it today, was invented to be free. Open software is a very important tool for sharing knowledge. The same is for open data because the transparency of information becomes a part of the whole privacy issue. I think every company should be completely transparent about what they know and track about people and what they do with this information. Once companies will start doing that, it will be in their benefit too. Let’s take the example of a health insurance company: when their data shows which part of the city is healthier to live in, why shouldn’t this become public information? INC: Let’s talk about professions and their boundaries. Do you define yourself as a designer? What do you think about concepts like different professions, fields of knowledge? How do you interact with all the other professionals you work with? D: With education you can see the first new forms of professions. We all are teaching in several academies: Jeroen in the Interactive Design department in Arnhem, Thomas in the Graphic Design department. Myself I’m teaching at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, in the past few years there has been a lack of innovation within education. In practice you can see the emergence of a huge number of new professions. Different disciplines are merging and professions are building on top of each other. I don’t know what we’re going to call it yet, but it will be the result of a mixture of art, design, technology etc. I wish that this could go a bit faster in education, to prevent us from preparing students for professions that will no longer exist in 5 years. It is interesting to see the rapid changing methodologies in elementary school, because they have no choice: kids that start school at 4-5 years old can handle an iPad perfectly but they have a hard time using a pen. So, there are developments going on and of course there is also a down side of technology, it is often still quite expensive and lacks tangible qualities. With regard to new generations: they will not be limited by what other people have told them. There will be enough inventive and creative people to go


INTERVIEW WITH DIMITRI NIEUWENHUIZEN - N°2

beyond the existing professions and profiles of today. So, am I a designer, am I an artist, am I a scientist? It doesn’t really matter. Understanding things is most essential, multidisciplinary skills will help you to always keep expanding the horizon.


AMSTERDAM, 12TH OCTOBER

INTERVIEW N° 3 - PAGE N° 21

Interview with Erik Kessels - KesselsKramer PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you tell me something about yourself and about KesselsKramer both as a design studio and as a publishing house? What are the main issues you deal with? Erik: My name is Erik Kessels and I studied as a graphic designer and art director. We started KesselsKramer, a design and advertising agency, about 25 years ago. I’ve always worked on the visual side of the projects and now, for about 10-11 years, I’ve also been producing a series of books called “I’m in almost every picture” as well as series of magazines called “Useful photography”. We publish these ourselves and for me it is a way to show the things that I’m fascinated about and that I’m curious about. In the company we work for national and international clients. The books that we publish under “KesselKramer Publishing”, are on subjects that fascinate us. The books that we make for other companies are then published by other publishers. INC: How do you develop an editorial project? E: In a way that is very personal. For example, the book series called “I’m in almost every picture” always contains series of photographs by amateurs: I find them online or in flea markets and then I make them into a book because in a certain way I take them out of their original context and then I put them into a new context, giving them another dimension.


INTERVIEW WITH ERIK KESSELS - N°3

INC: Have you ever done an ebook? Are you planning to make digital publishing in the next years? What are your expectations for the future of publishing? E: Some of the existing books are also digitally available but the thing is that most of the content of the book already exists digitally; all I do is take it from its context and make it into a print book again. So sometimes you can also do it the other way round, when you find a good book it is nice to make it digital, but when I find something interesting on a market or online, I would not only do a digital book because the material object is very important to me. INC: Why should a book be digital and why not? What are the main innovation, advantages and disadvantages, of the digital book? E: The ebook and the digital book are only there for convenience, to give us easier access to information. But this is something that is also very personal, some people like it more than paper and some people don’t. We are now living in a period where both still exist and we don’t know how things are going to develop, but in a way the ebook is nothing more than a new carrier of the same kind of information, there’s nothing fancy or innovative about that. The thing which is really innovative is that now we have access to a wide range of information, but however, that was also true ten years ago. INC: Can design and visual art practices inspire and contribute to the research on digital publishing and the ebook as a medium? E: I think that when everything becomes more crystalized with the ebook and with the digital book, then there will be a period when people start to experiment more freely with it and even go beyond. This will take time, because now is kind of a confusing time with the ebook, understanding how to use it, how to access it … you never know what happens. These are also all the developmental influences. For example, illustrators and drawers: ten years ago they only used the program illustrator, so all along the streets were these vector drawings, now that is completely gone and people use their hands again and they are more into craftsmanship and then they


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 23

scan these drawings and put them online again or they use them digitally … but the tactile thing is something that is still important. The tactile aspect also has many opportunities in the digital world, but this has not been totally crystalized yet. Of course, you can have an ebook with certain links but maybe it can be much more tactile. INC: If you picture yourself making a digital book, how would you manage to keep your visual identity? Which are the main visual (or even tactile) elements of the book that shape your identity? E: In this case it has to do with a certain idea. I mean, I just made a book on something that I found on flickr and the book is printed on paper, but I would never make that book only in digital format, because it comes from a digital world. When you make a book you really have to do it for a certain purpose, with starting idea that it can focus on? INC: How has the traditional book changed with the introduction of digital books? Don’t you think it would be better to talk about “reading experience” for both digital and non digital books? E: The digital book has its own advantages, we should not separate the concepts of digital and analogue or of online and offline. We are living in one world and the way in which one receives information, whether it’s by watching, reading or listening, is not what matters. Nowadays, there are just many more information carriers. What’s most important is the content of what you see, hear and read, whether on paper or digitally, and then of course you can experiment with its forms. INC: Most of your publishing projects deal with photography, reappropriation of images and reuse of those images in different contexts and with different meanings. How is the use of images changing with the increased use of digital photography? E: With the ebook there are many more ways to move an image, however, we have be careful because that can also be totally exhausting. Some people


INTERVIEW WITH ERIK KESSELS - N°3

just like to read the book and prefer to read it in words and on paper. It has to come from an idea, the idea is the most important ingredient of anything, of a book, of a campaign, or of a design. INC: What about the structure of the book, the organization of content, indices, hypertexts etc. or different kinds of narratives? How are all of these things changing? E: All these new ingredients will expand opportunities and could also influence the idea that people have about books, but that will only happen when it finally becomes more widely used. We are still in a very experimental phase, even though the ebook has existed for some time now, it is still not very commonly used. When the ebook becomes more commonly used, people will really start to experiment with it. This is almost like a second layer of skin: the books on paper have been there for a very long time but it’s only now, in the last few years, that people have started to experiment with different forms in literature. For example, I saw a book that was made in the form of a catalogue and the next to all the stuff showed on it there was a small portion of the whole novel. Last year I made a book with perfume next to it, so you could look at the picture, read the text and also smell it. There are many ways of making a book that appeal to our different senses. INC: Do you think that the practices and ways that we interact with books (and through books) are different now? and how? For example, digital libraries and archives, social networks, collaborative practices, selfpublishing, etc. E: There is total freedom and democratization in publishing but you see that when you still want to have a presence on the market, both with the ebook and the paper book, it all comes down to publicity and distribution. But now there are also many pioneers, and they are increasing the opportunities and possibilities in publishing.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 25

INC: How do you deal with delivery industries? What do you think about the “fight” between big corporations and small circuits? Do you think that internet first, and then the digital book have change the trends? E: They live in unison with one another: one is like the “big mama” and there are all of these angry kids that are trying to kick down the big mama. I think it’s a very healthy confrontation. But then, for the small independent self-publishers, the publishing of both paper books and ebooks are just ways to express themselves and the most important thing is showcasing. In many cases, it is not something they do to earn money. On the other side you have big companies that are only trying to make money, they need to pay thier employees, and that’s a totally different thing. INC: How do you see the future? Is it an interesting time to be involved in publishing? E: These times are very eclectic and also very confusing because there are so many possibilities and there is so much accesses to everything, you can see anything, you can do everything … but the ideas are becoming more and more important. The ideas for books, ebooks or other, are the most important. The possibilities are already there and the channels already exist, but it’s not everyday that a really good book is made. The ideas are the only real challenge, all the other opportunities have increased in the last few years and they will continue to increase, we haven’t hit the roof yet.


MILAN, 15TH OCTOBER

INTERVIEW N° 4 - PAGE N° 27

Interview with Michele Aquila and Valeria di Rosa - U10 PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Video interview - The following text is for subtitles: U10 is very young, we started it last February. Before that we had already done some work about ebooks and digital publishing, so when we quit our first studio, we opened a new studio which at first didn’t have a name. It was called Michele Aquila but it didn’t have its own identity yet. After we had been working on ebooks, we produced one more or less, as publishers usually do, but we weren’t a publisher and we also thought that we didn’t want to be like that, because it is not our job. I am an architect and my name is Michele Aquila, she is Valeria Di Rosa and she works on the content, and together we work on the project management. Then there are some developers and some graphic designers that work with us if necessary. So, after our first ebook, we started to think about how to go ahead. We didn’t want to do another one just like that, and since we had decided to spend our time and energy on that, we started rather to think which were the most interesting features about the ebook, to stretch its meaning, and so we made a very pop experiment, when there was the Sanremo festival, I don’t know if you have read something about that,


INTERVIEW WITH MICHELE AQUILA AND VALERIA DI ROSA - N째4

we made an ebook with the most entertaining, relevant and debunking tweets about Sanremo festival, so we had organized the stream of information about the festival and we put it in to an ebook, we launched it during the festival and we communicated that to all the people that were quoted in the book, and so it has been a terrific hit, because in that weekend this ebook travelled around a huge part of the Italian Twitter. Was it possible to download? Yes it was. Both in a PDF format from the web site, and in ePub format from the iBookstore, it was for free because it was an experiment, the contents were not our own, however we had let everybody know before, all the 300 authors and everyone. I want to make question about that: how did you collect the stream of tweets? Did someone actually copy them and put into the ebook or did you develop a software to first organize them, then gather them and finally put them into the book? At that time the software had not been created yet. I made everything by hand also taking the stream and the most relevant contents according to the topics we had fixed in advance for being the final chapters. After that we noticed that this was such a powerful tool, that could self distribute by itself, we were just launching it, telling to two or three people, that if they were happy to be in it, they would themselves tell someone else. So the way to spread it has been the same as the process that you first used to


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 29

gather the content and create the book. Exactly. So we started to think about the second step, it was February, so we didn’t want to do another one, we had called it Tweetbook because it is based only on Twitter. So we asked ourselves, “How can we continue?” we have made the first one but we can’t just go on like that, we don’t believe the future to be simply doing Tweetbooks, but maybe it is creating the tools to make them. So we developed a web application, which is currently in an alpha step, a private alpha, open to just about 100 users, that enables people to work on Twitter in a way to screen the contents, organize them and finally export in a PDF or ePub or HTML format what you believe to be a collection of relevant tweets about a certain topic. And how can you access this tool? At the moment there is the web site which is called twitter-book.it but you will not find the app because it is in another ghost URL. You can find a button which tells you to tweet to U10 and we will activate you for the access, so the app is actually working, the management of the access for the users is still very handmade, the next step will be making the public beta with the login and all the rest. The application is now working but it doesn’t have the “dignity” to become a public beta yet, so for now it remains an alpha and soon there will be also the beta. However, because of this we started to interact with many subjects who needed to have something and someone to give a shape to what they were writing on Twitter. so, for instance editorial projects that make experiments with narrative issues, etc. The first two subjects we have started to interact with, were the project called


INTERVIEW WITH MICHELE AQUILA AND VALERIA DI ROSA - N°4

Grimm Remix promoted by the Goethe Institute, which asked us to write the Brothers Grimm’s tales, and the Cesare Pavese foundation, who have launched a project to rewrite the novel by Pavese “La Luna e i Falò” on Twitter. So, while the Brothers Grimm write their tales, they rewrite the book with the aim to write all the 32 chapters in 32 tweets. Continues as a text interview: Institute of Network Cultures: I can see two different possibilities in the whole project that are in a certain way opposite to each other: the project is both a tool to create content by collecting the tweet stream, and it is also a way to come up with a more conventional and linear format of storytelling, born to be in a book and presented again in the Twitter format. U10: Yes, it works like that. The software that we are developing together with Martina Facco e Manuele Sarfatti, really helps us a lot in both ways, but it still can’t process the whole system, sometimes we need to work with our own hands – this is because we are still in a very experimental phase and each different project can help us to better understand how to proceed. We are now working on a project in collaboration with the Italian cultural association doppiozero to write some tales inspired by the “Italian Folktales” by Italo Calvino on Twitter. This time it won’t be a collaborative writing project, Marco Belpoliti will rewrite the tales and we’ll do the entire editorial project, and then the publishing, both online and in a book. Tiziano Bonini, who has already been the consultant for the Brothers Grimm’s project, created the container, a sort of television program. So let’s say that we are working on a kind of broadcasting of some content on Twitter that follows a settled programming. So there will be the opening theme, the daily tale and finally the closure, according to the programming, as it was on television. It won’t be only a Twitter book. Since the beginning it has been thought as an entertainment format on purpose for being on Twitter: 100 tales will be released in 100 days until the end of March. After that it will become an editorial product too. For now the idea that we have is that we will come out with a product which contains what has been written for the Twitter broadcasting,


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 31

but we still don’t know whether it will be a container only for the tales or also for the eventual appendices, for instance, all the discussions generated. INC: I think there are two main issues with the Tweetbooks and the tools to create them, and both are very interesting, concerning a possible new concept for the book: one are all the experiments you are doing on the tools to collect the content on Twitter, so basically the software and the application; on the other hand there is the issue about the output for that content and how it comes to be visualized. So we can start talking about the medium, the book, whether a paper book or a digital one, in a PDF format or in an ePUB one, etc. I’m just wondering, are you also doing some experiments concerning how this content could be depicted for reading and, in general, represented on the medium? How will the whole work come to be visualized? U10: We’ll show you all the different outputs that have been tested up to now. [Video] [End of Video] INC: During my research I had the opportunity to see many experimental projects on the book as a medium and how the content is represented. One thing I noticed and which I like to focus on, is observing how Twitter triggers a process of indexing: for example, using the hashtags in order to settle down the topics and the stream of tweets. This could be another challenging aspect to work on, still looking at the medium as an output system that can affect the content too. What do you think about Twitter as a system for indexing? U10: Concerning this, we have noticed that there is another field to explore in which this tool could become a very useful process: the possibility to follow and note down what happens and what is told during a conference in real time, capitalizing on the fact that writing a tweet is something like taking a note. The ones that organize conferences or take part in them really appreciate this kind of service because they can have a complete report of the meet-


INTERVIEW WITH MICHELE AQUILA AND VALERIA DI ROSA - N°4

ing just 5 minutes since its ending and, in an almost automatic way, make an instant ebook of everything that has been said. INC: In the making of a digital editorial product there are many different professionals who take part in the process. Which are the ones you interact the most with? U10: We are structured in this way: U10 is a studio of 2 people, we first created this format and then the software and the application because we started to feel the need for them. We collaborate with graphic designers and developers who we also work with on other projects, mainly web projects, that we make for private institutions or for professionals as a design studio. We decided to start this project together as we had already worked with these people and we knew that we would have get on work with each other in the making of this. Furthermore, sometimes we need to present the project in a more concrete way, according to each situation. We first presented it at the last Salone del Mobile in Milan, after that we have been at the initiative “Pane web e salame 3” in Brescia and then at the Architecture Biennale in Venice. Every time we had to make a real performance as we were on stage. In those cases we used to collaborate also with several designer to give a proper shape to the whole project. Usually we print the Tweetbooks real-time on rolls of paper, almost in a hand-crafted way. However, what I think is still needed is the business plan. For now we are at the experimental phase of the project, but sooner or later it has to become a real product and just stand by itself. INC: Let’s talk about the editorial market, how do you think this service will work out inside of the market realm? U10: At the beginning we imagined a basic product, the Freemium format, for basic users that wouldn’t have to pay, then there would have been also some pro users that would pay to have more services, after them the gold users, the partner users and so on. But in April, since we actually started to think from


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 33

this market perspective, we understood that it will never work like that: we realized that making a Tweetbook it’s a much more demanding job, as you have to select the content and organize it etc. Actually the most people don’t have enough time to do it by themselves, and so frequently they ask us. So we are now coming up with the idea that, besides the application, probably we will have to provide as well something like an editorial service, an advisory for the making of this kind of publication, and in the future this will be the main job. So yes, in a certain way we will be publishers, as we will provide that kind of service for those who will ask for it, while there will be also several users that will do the Tweetbooks by themselves on their own personal topics without the necessity of our help. INC: So the users will be the ones that will ask you to realize the Tweetbook, just like it has always been for any publishing project in the curatorial practice, and the ones that will make it by themselves using the software that you are now developing. Will it be open source? U10: I really would like it to be completely open, but we are now realizing that we are becoming experts in this, and we still have to understand how to deal with both sides, in the making of the Tweetbooks and in the delivery of the software, because there are so many different possibilities that we still haven’t taken into account. INC: Who did you get in touch with during the different stages of the projects? Did someone interested in the project contact you, and did you get any special request? Did you already get to understand what kind of different users there would be for this service? U10: We always tackle every possible situation or idea through the people we get in touch with, so if there isn’t anybody who is interested in a particular thing we have first contemplated, that means that it simply won’t work. For example, another feature that we have noticed because of the people we got in touch with is the likely relation with the educational practice for schools and universities.


INTERVIEW WITH MICHELE AQUILA AND VALERIA DI ROSA - N°4

The first has been the lecturer of the Harvard Extension School – Introduction to Instructional Design class – who wrote by email that she was already using Twitter in her class both as a tool for studying and as a tool for producing content, and she was starting to feel the need for something to collect what her students had done. Secondly, we received another email from a teacher of a middle school of Chieti wondering the same thing, if it was possible to use our application in his class to write something on Twitter and then collect it. The last mail was from IED Istituto Europeo di Design’s Centre for Research who was interested in doing some workshops using Twitter and the Tweetbook into a participatory design process, starting from the brainstorming until the final stages of the project. Thanks to other relations, we have also realized that if we manage to provide an object too, a concrete thing that one can carry in his pocket or bag – could be a Kindle but also a little roll of paper – people are happier, because they have a physical object that is not only a web page and that could also become a present. So when we tell the whole project, we say that its operating mode is like the Storify one, but with something more. INC: In the making of a book choosing to make it digital is always seen as the cheapest way, is it true? Is an ebook cheaper in terms of production than a paper book? U10: That one is a very common belief, but it is not true. I think that actually the making of a digital book can rather be more expensive, because there is a lot of work to do in the backstage. We had never been involved in the publishing industries before, but according to those who used to live on paper books, it always turns out that making ebooks nowadays lies in the setting up of some new codes to make people understand each other, because suddenly there are many different kinds of professionals who work on it. Furthermore, ebooks are now designed with the same kind of software that has always been used for the paper book, and that’s completely crazy! It’s like using inDesign and force it to do a quite different kind of job.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 35

INC: So do you think that new design softwares to make ebooks are now needed more than ever? U10: Yes, of course! Our software now provides two ways to make an ebook: one is to use the app and following the usual process, one is to upload handwritten code, and this is like “entering the back door” of the app. For now we delivered only one default template, designed by our graphic designer Martina Facco, but there could be other 10, 100 or 1000, just like the Instagram’s filters. The content of the ebook is then created with a code, that works like it was a big Excel worksheet whose paragraphs set a certain behavior. So you just upload the content onto it and then automatically the book is created. The graphic designer first made the template and then the developer found a way to get the content inserted by the users and displayed in the preset layout. That had completely changed our job, because we can now “enter the back door” of the application and make it layout the page, whose design we don’t have to deal with any more. INC: Maybe we just have to take a small step forward in the idea that we have always had of the book: it’s been a long time since we first started making paper books digitally, although they have always been conceived as something that had to be printed at one step of the process, while all the programming should remain absolutely hidden, as it was something like a taboo. First we might all start to give a different value to the digital way to process a book’s content and see the many possibilities in it. But let’s now imagine making a big jump forward, which one of the paper book’s features will remain in the future? U10: I do buy paper book, I really like them. Actually I buy both paper book and Kindle’s, according to how I feel. INC: And what will the paper books look like? Will they look like the ones that we now like to buy, read, handle, because they are just relaxing in their simplicity and affordability? Will the paper book go through some


INTERVIEW WITH MICHELE AQUILA AND VALERIA DI ROSA - N°4

changing too? How will it be after the digital? U10: I think that Amazon has really flipped the behaviors in the distribution of the book, and so in the way you get to buy it. Maybe this will be the aspect that will be much more extreme in the future … or could it be that the book will look like a little roll of paper, we’ll see!


UTRECHT, 21ST NOVEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 5 - PAGE N° 39

Interview with Yolande van der Heide - Casco PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you tell me about Publishing Class? Yolande: Publishing class is a MFA program for the Dutch Art Institute designed by us from Casco, it’s one of the projects that we do in collaboration with students, it’s a two-year master course. This year’s is the third edition that we are doing and it’s called “How to live together”. The curricula of Dutch Art Institute are set in a way that there is not a fixed internal teaching activity, instead, they collaborate with different artists and institutions. In this case there are three institutions and this mixes up their curricula, which are Casco The Publishing Class and …(missing names) INC: Is it a course to teach how to make an artists’ book? Y: It is more about how to problematise it. What we do during the whole course quite conventionally it always ends up in a publication, but most of all we are looking at the concept of dissemination in publishing and with allal what does publishing mean in the broadest sense of the word. Publishing Class of last year had also an element of digitalization and this year as well, we are developing a blog too, in addition to all the publications. For example, during the first edition all the students together made a book,


INTERVIEW WITH YOLANDE VAN DER HEIDE - N°5

called “Spencer’s Island”, which was the result of a sort of narrow-casting done on a small island in Canada from which the publication takes its name. It’s a project they created themselves, they narrow-casted in this small island, having communicated with the island’s inhabitants, they then made a second package to send to them, it was almost like a game. That was the final project of the first year of 2010-2011 edition. In the second year all the 13 students all ended up making an individual book. The idea was to always try to make something that goes beyond the close scope of the classroom so to avoid the self reflexivity that we often have in DIY practice, which is not exclusive in DIY practice but it can lead towards it. On the contrary a narrative-based activity can be different. Whether it’s a real and more conventional narrative or something more experimental, that can be great in a way, we always try to focus on how to produce theory. That’s the direction we are moving towards strongly in the 2012-2013 edition, the third one, structuring the course in a different way. So, most of the final publications have been done by the students keeping themselves separated from their respective practices, trying to summarize the time they had in order to make a book, having a strict budget too. They worked, and are still working, in collaboration with the Werkplaats Typografie, which is also a MFA, and also in collaboration with artists. I manage the editorial content together with Binna in collaboration with the Werkplaats team as well. So, how would I characterize this class? Maybe narrative-based because it’s mostly about telling stories. Each month there are some invited guests and I would rather call them the real teachers in the class. Last year the first year students of the program had (names missing). The invited guests, of course, are not chosen randomly, but in line with Casco’s particular interests, which basically concern social and political engaged works and also conscious works. That’s why before when I mentioned the feature of being very narrative, it also means being separated from one’s own respective practice.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 41

INC: So the point is not only how to make a book, but how to tell something with the book medium, am I right? Y: That’s not completely correct. I wouldn’t restrict the meaning of Publishing Class to the book medium, because the emphasis in this year’s program was, in a broader sense, on thinking about dissemination. However, the character of each year is extremely different: this edition is called “How to live together” and is based on a Barthes’ seminar lecture he made in 1977 where he dealt with this question about how one can create or even protect a space of individual creativity while living in a community, and a “space-time” place against the principle that in a community, people could practice richer than individually and they can come together for friendship but that wasn’t obligatory, (I’m not sure about this, can you explain it better?) it’s about finding a medium for both these entities, community and individuals, and being sure there is a point of cohesion in how you solve it. This is what we want to investigate when making a unique book all together. We now have 9 students that house all their respective singular stories and their respective practices, as well as one narrative that we are all building together, informed again every month – since, according to the DAI’s structure, they meet for one week per month. During our time together there is a rotation of guests that come and help to inform the collective narrative with some face-to-face time with the teacher too. Ourselves we mostly contribute to the editing of texts based on the main question on how to live together and then, afterwards, we see this collective narrative feed into each personal narrative. INC: Have you ever think about how digital technologies could be included in the whole structure in the course? Y: Of course we did. Part of Publishing Class third edition is thinking about why we publish in the age of mass dissemination where we can use social media, whether Facebook or Twitter, and we try to think about what it means to structure and share information. This is another area we propose to the student to think about and actually part of the coursework is to col-


INTERVIEW WITH YOLANDE VAN DER HEIDE - N°5

lect and generate information through different platforms, blogs and social media. INC: Can you tell me more about this? What do you think about the so-called media convergence in publishing? So you can have the paper book, but you can also have the spread of its content through other media, through the Internet, with blogs, social media, etc. And maybe we can also have others ... Y: Yes, these types of media all work simultaneously but the point is thinking about what it means. That brings us back to the first question, why publishing? It is certain that all activities undertaken during the course will result in one book, but primarily we want to ask ourselves the question why do we publish? With which we are not saying do not publish, but think why you publish. The interest here is to try to create something that can be useful outside the classroom. So for example the question on how to live together is something I think everybody can be concerned with. It has also been informed by “The Gran Domestic Revolution” project that we did as Casco. This was a two year residency project combined with an exhibition. We rented an apartment, made it public and invited different artists to think about what it means to publicize a domestic space. This idea came in particular from the slogan “the personal is political”, informed by the ‘90 century feminism movement. So over the course of the two years we had projects about how to negotiate private space for yourself in a public realm and you can see this now returning within the Publishing Class main research question. INC: Would you define both the work that you make with Publishing Class and Casco’s publications, so in the filed of publishing as well, as artists’ books? Because I think this one is such an ambiguous term … Y: Publishing is never like a catalogue or simply just for reflection. So, for example, the Casco issue, which is a biannual magazine, is never just a reflection on the program we do at Casco, it’s rather another space to problematize and come up with questions about life or about a project itself.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 43

This is the same for every publication that we make, they are never catalogues in the strict sense of the word, they are other ways of thinking about the space of exhibiting, but not in a three dimensional space. INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What do you think about the digital shift in publishing? Y: I can give you my personal opinion, for example, about the copyright issue, which is related to the digital shift. There is now the idea that e-books are going in the direction of being liberated from copyright infringements. I think this is wonderful and all this kind of mass dissemination could be something great, but personally I’m old school about the tactility of books. I’m a little of a lazy reader and I need to scribble things on the side, I understand that we can do it technically with e-books, but I still need some kind of tactile element. I’m also thinking about arranging things physically in space, so for example rearranging a room especially, or how do you rearrange a book shop, for instance. INC: Has the traditional book changed? Can we talk about a sort of “paper reaction” to the digital shift in publishing, especially in visual arts? What do you think about the increase of self-publishing, both on paper and digitally? Y: This is also quite an interesting thing to take in account. Publishing and printed matter are definitely in a crisis, but at the same time if you look for example at the last NY Book Fair it was one of the biggest events in the field of publishing that I have ever seen. So, I don’t know what to call it and whether it’s the death of print or maybe a movement of print. We should approach the idea of publishing just being another mode of examining a question. Well, I’m sure there are people who really are facing this moment of crisis, but if we think publishing as a way to conduct research, the book still makes sense, so I think there is still a market for it. INC: Or at least there is still a space for it, because it is a space as you said before ...


INTERVIEW WITH YOLANDE VAN DER HEIDE - N°5

Y: One of the things that we try to do with Casco, which is also the starting point of Publishing Class, is to create readerly texts in a broad sense, so readily(?) versus closing(?) - I didn’t get the right words, can you please complete the sentence? Readily test will be more open texts that will invite people to interpret content and generate something else in addition to it.


AMSTERDAM, 23RD NOVEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 6 - PAGE N° 47

Interview with Delphine Bedel - Hard Copy PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: When did you first develop an interest in publishing? Describe your work. Delphine: My interest in publishing started when I was a kid. For part of my life I had been living above a publisher of photography, so I had the chance to look at all his work and really I got into the publishing practice. I think I did my first home made book at the age of 6. However, I have always been interested in publishing as a medium for artists, so from this point of view, it’s something that I’ve always followed and I have been publishing artists’ books for at least 10 years. INC: How do you develop an editorial project? How do you interact with artists and designers? D: I work with artists and designers in many different ways. I can take as an example one of my recent projects which is called “Hard Copy” that I first developed in the frame of the Master of Visual Arts in Geneva University of Art and Design. This project was done in collaboration with a group of artists: every artist curated the publishing of one book, which was also made in collaboration with emerging designers form Switzerland. We have released 22 books thus far.


INTERVIEW WITH DELPHINE BEDEL - N° 6

Furthermore, I have always been interested in the process of contextualizing this practice through lectures, series, exhibitions, events, and so on. What I think is particularly interesting in the field of visual arts is that the space of the book, so the page, is a display, and you could say that an exhibition is a display as well, it always starts with this element and even if you digitalize a book it’s always about the display concept in it. Exploring the space of the page in a book is a starting point, but in the frame of the project we also develop conceptual proposition for that specific book; for instance, choosing a designer, choosing what we want to bring forward as the concept of the project, different print techniques, choices about typography and many aspects like these, but also the whole economy of the book and the distribution too. Basically it’s a relationship between a designer and an artist and the point is to find an interesting balance between what each one of them can bring to the entire project. So every book I’ve made so far is designed every time by a different designer – over 60 designers by now – and this can also provide a panorama of the different design practices at the moment. For example, some of them would emphasize the work through typography, others through elaborating layouts and so on, but it’s always about trying to find an interesting collaboration of two visual languages, the artist’s one and the designer’s one. So every project is very specific and therefore very different because the design practice places the rules in defining the object; what an artist would have made on his own would have definitely been different. INC: Are you interested in digital shift in publishing and what is your position? D: I’m very interest in digital shifts in publishing, I’m actually starting research on the future of publishing of artists’ books, investigating and mapping what are the current practices and what are the technologies that have been developed so far. One of the aims of the project is that we develop one new technology ourselves.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 49

What strikes me looking at all the publishing that I have done – as I told you I have published over 60 books by now – is that most of them would not function digitally. I mean, we could always make a PDF or an e-book out of it, but its strong point, its strong proposing and the experience of what it is as an artists’ book would not properly translate digitally. We would have to make custom designs for each of these projects and here stands out the attitude to experiment with the attend to explore what could be an artists’ book in a digital format at large. INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What about other digital editorial products (iPad applications, digital magazines, devices for reading in the web etc.)? What about calling them all “reading experiences”? D: I think it goes beyond the reading experience. What is interesting about the digitalisation of books is that, if you consider that the first project emerged only 4 years ago – the project from Michael Hart called Project Gutenberg, in which thousands and thousands of books have been digitalized – then you wonder what has happened in the last 4 years? Why, as opposed to the music industry or cinema, has digitalization not occurred yet in publishing? So there are lots of projects that have been done but for most of the artists’ books, which is the focus of my research, when will the digitalisation start? Most of these projects have already been designed on Adobe, can be printed digitally or on-demand or can go online etc. So, for me an interesting question is also about what form of control we have over the tools we use to publish INC: What an digital artists’ book could look like? D: We have already several examples we could look at. There is a strong digital shift occurring now because the digitalisation of the book comes first form the software industries, all of them. If you take for example Apple, Steve Jobs was a software designer, if you take Jeff Bezos from Amazon, he was a software designer too. So it’s a different culture that is now implemented


INTERVIEW WITH DELPHINE BEDEL - N° 6

within the publishing culture, which is on the other hand very ancient and it has hardly changed for hundred years. Now we have a very interesting moment of transition and we are inside that transition, therefore there is not a model, and we don’t know either if there will be one that will take over in the future. At the moment we have a multiplicity of formats and possibilities and, to combine the previous question, we do read differently on digital devices and indeed in the reading of an e-book we manipulate it differently. However we have a lot of PDF but not so many interesting digital projects yet that I can tell as artists’ book. I think it’s about to happen, but you have to consider that we’ll have to destructure basically every aspect of the book: for example, focusing on the way we write, focusing on the obsolescence of design with the code, could be also about all the modes of distribution, free cultures, open sources, the copyright of certain elements, using certain software, etc. There are countless issues you cannot track when you go from the printed material to online publishing. INC: In which ways has the traditional book changed? Can we talk about a sort of “paper reaction” to the digital shift in publishing and visual arts? What do you think about the increase of self-publishing projects, especially in the field of visual arts? D: What we have seen happening in the last 4-5 years in the field of visual art is the absolute re-emergence of the artists’ book. This has some common trends with what happened in the 60s and 70s with the re-appropriation of the production tools as a form of criticism to the art institutions and to the new economy of the art work at large, but it has also a fundamental difference, which is that now the tools to publish are made extremely accessible to artists, since anyone can easily use the computer and can make his own book or her own book immediately even with very few means. We can compare this process to the one that we saw years ago with the home


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 51

studio in the field of video making. The same is now happening in the field of publishing: anyone can publish, anyone is a publisher, and we are just at the beginning of this. So, on one hand you will have the disappearance of the traditional publishing and of the usual economic strain – that now from the printer to the user, through paper companies, book shops and all the classic profiles of the entire chain of production – but on the other hand you have at this stage, a niche publishing or self publishing, whether it’s in art, in fiction or non-fiction, and for me it’s a very interesting moment to observe. INC: Do you think is there a difference between self-publishing and print ondemand services? D: They are often the same: many artists that self publish do their publishing as prints on-demand, and usually they make of it a very important aspect of their work and sometimes even the conceptualisation of their work, such as The Artists’ Book Cooperative, which is a collective of 25 photographers who mostly now publish with print on-demand services. So usually these two things overlap but not always and, again, if you look to all the different formats of print on-demand, you can see very different kinds of processes and services like for example The Espresso Machine, Blurb, Lulu, etc. But also in self publishing there is an extreme diversity of formats, economic models and, overall many ways of understanding what an artists’ book is, because it’s not only in the visual arts but is also in the field of performance art, design, film etc. INC: Do you think the digital can offer more opportunities to self publishing and collective projects? D: Yes, I think it can offer a lot, but what I offer, depends on what publishing will offer, because the print is an object and it has its own artistic experience and tradition and also its own modes of distribution, production, circulation, etc. What the online or digital artists’ book – which for me doesn’t fully exist yet – provides at the moment it’s only a scenario of anticipation that we can picture. There will be many advantages of ubiquity, for instance, or of being accessi-


INTERVIEW WITH DELPHINE BEDEL - N° 6

ble everywhere, but also, I guess, obsolescence because, how long each format can be valid? Some digital formats from 3 or 5 years ago you simply can’t read them anymore, while you can still read books that are 600 years ago. All these questions will resolve themselves, but will it have to be the industries that define all the new formats? Or is there still a possibility for designers, artists and programmers to define or invent new formats, open source or not? INC: So, what do you think about open source culture? D: At this stage again we have different experiments on open source in the field of artists’ books. We have experiments with typefaces, design, or modes of distribution. Usually the open source concept comes with the idea of free culture, so that books should be accessible for free. But if you compare this to the economic models of freedom proposed by Amazon, I think that here there is a very strong culture clash. Some of the actors of the industries have the capacity to take over the open source techniques and technologies and to make them proprietary techniques. So I think that it’s fantastic that designers, artists, programmers are investing in open source culture but I think that this is something which is still invaluable. The economy of the book and of the e-book is also a very important question: is it free as it gets frequently proposed by most of the artists? In the Internet we can easily find books that are PDF that you can download for free, but which model will we take over? So, is it custom design for apps? Is it other technologies that we don’t know yet? INC: Can art practice inspire and give a contribution to the research on digital publishing, and how? D: I think definitely that visual art can give a lot, with groups of designers, artists, and programmers collaborating … well, at the moment we are not so many but we are a few, all trying to figure out what these new models could


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 53

be. From all my experiments in the last years around publishing – I didn’t only publish artists’ books, I organized several lectures and exhibitions around publishing too, and I have also organized the first Amsterdam Book Fair, which was a chance for all these practices to be visible to a large audience – I have many questions about the economic pressure on the digitalisation of culture. What will the future of publishing be? This is really the focus of my research at the moment, so in order to address this question I’m working together with many designers and programmers, and also in partnership with other institutions. I think essentially that, as artists, we should think about how we use these technologies and what we can invent for ourselves. I think we should also rethink the economic models beside those proposed by the majors in art and publishing. So it’s a very interesting moment because it is the biggest revolution in publishing since Gutenberg, it’s a completely drastic change in absolutely every parameter of publishing. What we can develop and what we can access in the age of technology projects are all very interesting questions too; for instance, the proprietary model of most of the readers doesn’t give access to the hardware of the machines. So there are still a lot of things to explore, but as artists of course we don’t have the same capacity as researchers, developers and the industries, and so the question is how to find relevance in the propositions we make. INC: Maybe one thing that is becoming really important is to create contacts with people that are involved in the same discourse but also have different skills. So the designer, the artist and the researcher should collaborate with people that work with the code and the ones that know the economical models, and I guess it’s so important to keep that network ... D: We address a different medium than print, we talk about code. There is interesting research by … (name?) on the argument whether we should all


INTERVIEW WITH DELPHINE BEDEL - N° 6

understand and learn coding, as it is a culture and it’s taking over our daily life, this is also an important aspect. Nowadays, in the field of publishing, the design is actually mimicking the printed book, we have software that is specialized in turning pages on the iPad, we haven’t yet seen things freed from the imitation of the previous technologies. I think I have seen many interesting projects, but the funny thing is that the bests that I have seen are not on digital books, but actually on the printed book, just conceived in a different way … D: Well, many projects deal with the digital culture, but are still moving backwards and forwards: some of the books are adaptations of blogs and online material, or some are collaborative practices translated into printed material, and now we are just at the beginning of exploring how to carry out this shift from one to the other, like the act of turning pages, into something different.


AMSTERDAM, 27TH NOVEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 7 - PAGE N° 57

Interview with Lars Böhm - Uncovered Magazine PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you make a small presentation about yourself? What kind of projects have you done during your work experience and during your studies? In which ways are you involved in publishing and how did you first develop an interest in it? Lars: In my most recent project, ‘The Future of Publishing’, myself and a team of other people, at the MediaLAB of HvA Amsterdam, developed a digital magazine called ‘Uncovered’. Uncovered was designed to enable journalism masters students at the University of Amsterdam to publish long form journalistic articles on tablet computers. Prior to this, I completed a 6 month internship at Filosofie Magazine, where I managed the magazine’s digital platform, social media, website etc. whilst also researching and writing short articles for the print magazine. However, most of my previous projects involved designing and creating applications. During my degree, I focused specifically on designing applications for mobile devices and producing prototypes but MediaLAB finally gave me the opportunity to turn my ideas into a working product. I’ve always loved books and magazines, but I didn’t come in contact with the publishing industry until my internship at Filosofie Magazine. Before that, I took a minor in Practical Philosophy because I wanted to explore this subject


INTERVIEW WITH LARS BÖHM - N°7

in more depth. During my time at Filosofie Magazine I became intrigued by how rapidly the publishing industry was changing The company was struggling with the question of how to keep up with digital ways of publishing. So naturally I spent a lot of time thinking about that question: what is the role of a publisher in the new and expanding digital environment? INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What about other digital editorial products? What about calling them all “reading experiences”? L: Although I mainly specialize in digital magazines, I can talk a bit about books and e-books. I think mostly that the reading experience between print books and e-books is very different, but it also depends a lot on the medium we use to read the e-book. E-books can be read with e-readers, tablet computers, smartphones and even regular computers. The reading experience on an e-reader is more similar to that of a print book, whereas other digital reading options alter the reading experience drastically: for example, tablet computers offer more distractions; and smartphones make reading an e-book less comfortable because of the size of the screen. Reading an e-book on a regular computer or laptop however, changes the user experience most of all, not only do they offer multiple distractions, they also change the reading environment. Furthermore, I think there are many other differences between books and e-books: from my experience in digital magazines, I can say that the biggest change from print to digital is the space you have in the book, because if you are laying out a magazine or a book onto paper, you have to take into account the length of texts, and the amount of images, and obviously you can’t put the interactivity of a video in it, while with the digital you can. There is also another main difference, which causes some threads too: with the digital, people usually overload the information. For instance, putting too much text into an editorial product – because you can and also because


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 59

you are not constrained to editing anything out – or too many videos, too many applications and too much interactivity in general can distract and confuse the reader. But that’s not really the case with e-books in this current stage, because they are now mostly a facsimile interpretation of the traditional printed releases of books. At the end, with e-books I think the reading experience obviously changes, but I don’t think it changes so much, it just makes it easier for you to carry many books at the same time, but if you look at the stage of e-readers now, they just mimic the paper in a very realistic way. Otherwise, I think the main disadvantage of e-books is that you can’t share them with friends for free. If you say to a friend “This one it’s a good book, you have to read it”, you can’t simply hand it to him, he has to buy it himself. I read a lot of books and what I like is that I have a big book case at home and frequently I go over all my books, pick one of them out randomly and I browse through it. The feeling I have with e-books is that you store all of them on the device and you never look back on them because you don’t encounter them in daily life, at least, not in the same way as you are surrounded by print books. INC: What are the parameters, limits and rules in the design (or programming) process for the digital book? How do they differ from the ones of the paper book? Can you make some examples? L: When publishing an e-book you have to take into account the compatibility with as many different types of devices as possible. It would be a terrible user experience if a customer were to purchase an e-book and then wouldn’t be able to open it, it’s the equivalent of buying a book in a language you don’t know. When creating a custom application for a digital book the cost is very high and the book is usually only available on a single platform (e.g. the iPad’s iOS or Google’s Android.)


INTERVIEW WITH LARS BÖHM - N°7

Sticking to an easily readable file format drastically alters the design process: there is relatively little left to customize, that is my experience of digital magazines. My thesis researches the usability of digital magazines in tablet computers. One of the disadvantages of digital magazines is that, in their current state, they are too experimental – publishers are obsessed with interactivity and making e-books stand out from print instead of trying to find a middle way between print magazines and web sites. So what you get is an overload of distractions. They try to put all these new features that the medium-tablet offers and this has the only effect of confusing the reader, because people still interpret the application as a print magazine and if you mix it up like a web site, the reader is going to loose focus, for example, too many hyperlinks can pull the reader away from the article. So I think we need now to refresh digital magazines, now the concept is no longer new, we need to find a balance between the interactivity of the digital and the original structure of the print magazine. A further downside with digital magazines is that, the digital publishing industry is heavily linked with media monopolies (media giants) – a digital magazine designed for the iPad for example, would limit options, scope and accessibility of the new digital media environment and audience rather than creating new ones. One of the main publishing tools now is Woodwing [http://woodwing.com/] If you download some digital magazines from an application store then you can easily point out which ones are made with Woodwing, so it gives digital magazines a unique aspect, but it is also creating a standard, which I think is a good thing at present. INC: So, how does the proliferation of different formats (ePub, PDF, iPad etc.) can affect the design of an editorial product? How can we deal with this problem of different formats? Can you make some examples?


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 61

L: ePub offers maximum compatibility, it’s easily readable and compatible with many devices but it offers very few options for customization or interactivity. PDF formats are usually static pages, they are compatible with a large number of devices, but the reading experience is sub-optimal. Alternatively, iPad books take a lot of time and money to create, they offer a larger range of possibilities in terms of customization and interactivity but they are limited to the iPad, and cannot be accessed throughe-readers and other devices. The current demand for the iPad could be because it is the main tablet in the market right now. A further problem with the development of Android devices is that although Apple is the sole producer of iPads, Androids are made by many different companies and the screen sizes are very different. So when you develop something with a static layout it becomes very difficult to transfer the same application to the various models available. These difficulties are largely a concern for starter publishers as bigger publishers can afford to develop a custom iPad application. Even for bigger publishers, however, customised iPad magazines or books remain very expensive and it is doubtful whether the profits can outweigh the initial investment. At present there isn’t an ideal solution to the cost of iPad applications for starter publishers. INC: The relationship between text and image has always been one of the core matters in visual communication. How has it changed in the digital environment? L: As I have already stated, in my opinion the main difference between digital and print is space: when publishing on a digital medium the available space is practically limitless. Printed books become more expensive to produce once more content is


INTERVIEW WITH LARS BÖHM - N°7

introduced, especially when dealing with images. So in the print publishing process hard choices have to be made in the editing of the final product, what to keep and what not to keep. In digital publishing an author can implement as many images as he wants. But this presents the added danger of less relevant content being published. In my experience, the amount of images in e-books is still very limited, while the amount of images in digital magazines has increased a lot. In digital magazines there are ‘image galleries’ providing access to multiple images, whereas in an original print version there would have been only a single image. The overuse of image galleries may obscure the actual text if it distracts the reader from the page. INC: What about the relationship between content and structure in the laying out of an editorial product (indexes, hyperlinks, different ways of visualization etc.)? L: Digital books and magazines become easier to navigate when users can open the table of contents onto the same page they are reading at any moment. It also becomes much easier for the user to find a single line of text throughout the book for citing quotations or specific research. Hyperlinks provide a valuable context for the text that the user is reading, but also are also a potential distraction from the main text. Whether hyperlinks can or cannot be used depends on the nature of the text. However, it is important to be cautious when using these elements to reshape the relationship between content and structure because they can alter the linearity of a magazine or a book, since you can skip through articles like you would on websites. Overall, I think that in the design of books or magazines there shouldn’t be too many changes in the structure when compared to a printed version because this usually confuses the user.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 63

INC: Can you make some examples? What do you think are the main examples of digital magazines and which do you like the most? L: I subscribe to Wired. As an example of digital magazines, I like Wired a lot. Most of the people we interviewed as tablet users for The Future of Publishing project had a subscription on Wired and they were all really positive about it, so I think is one of the main examples in tablet publishing. The one downside with Wired however, is that it tasks the user with too much interactivity: I don’t think I have ever finished reading a single magazine. It has too much content on every page and there are too many options between switching to the next article and flip through; it’s no longer linearand you have a lot of trouble reaching the articles at the end. INC: Demonstration: Can you tell me about Uncovered magazine? L: Uncovered started out as one of The Future of Publishing projects at the MediaLAB. For 6 months we researched, designed and created a digital publishing platform with the purpose of publishing a custom magazine for tablet computers. The platform is currently compatible with the iPad and it also is very compatibile with certain Android devices. But the functionality on Android has been later disabled because it may not run well on other Android devices and that could be damaging for the user experience. We designed Uncovered as a publishing platform for long-form journalism. We decided to choose a very minimal interface style and also to limit the interactivity in the publishing progress. After a lot of time spent on desk research and user testing, we found that interactivity shouldbe used sparsely, so as not to distract the user from the main text. In our team we didn’t really have specific roles, but given my background I mainly focused on interaction design and user testing, although my favourite part of the project was the research.


INTERVIEW WITH LARS BÖHM - N°7

INC: Now it comes to some questions I would like you to ask about education in publishing, looking at your personal experiences. What could be the meaning of a publishing class in the age of self publishing and DIY practices? L: To learn how to introduce an expert opinion on the content of a text, but also on the selection process. A publisher has to be skilled in how to ensure that what is published is of quality and without errors in fact. INC: What do you think could be the main principles and guidelines for teaching in the publishing field? I would say the most valuable skills for a publisher are to have the ability to find and recognize valuable content and also the ability to work together with authors and make the final product a better one. So this could be a good basic principle to take into account when teaching a publishing class. INC: What is the state of the art in the publishing education filed? How can teaching practice move with the times changing so fast in terms of new media, new technologies and new behaviours? I think teachers should look at how students are educating themselves. The web is full of interesting distractions for any person who wants to learn. In the classroom being distracted by media is seen as a bad thing. Instead, students should be encouraged to use media to do related research and develop their own ideas.


AMSTERDAM, 7TH DECEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 8 - PAGE N° 67

Interview with Raoul Boers - Lecturer HvA PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you introduce yourself and your work as a researcher and as a teacher? When did you first develop an interest in publishing? Raoul: My name is Raoul Boers and I’m a lecturer in Content Management and Digital Culture. Seven years ago I was asked to develop a Minor in ePublishing and Content Management. At that time there was a strong link between content management and ePublishing: I think that if you want to do effective e-Publishing, you should above all, think about the content you are publishing and how the content changes according to the format you use. From a publisher’s point of view the best way, is to publish content in a format that reaches the right audience, this for me, is the point where both content management and e-Publishing really converge. My background is basically in Internet Technology. I gained an interest in the specific field of book publishing only after all these innovations had started happening, so when books became available electronically, first in text versions or PDF versions, and then also gradually in other ways, when more and more formats started coming out and were being available for different kinds of e-readers. Recently we have seen an absolute proliferation of different for-


INTERVIEW WITH RAOUL BOERS - N°8

mats, apps and other things like that, because the whole mobile industry has literally boomed since the iPhone and iPad have been created. So, basically my interest originally came form the perspective of IT and from my studies in arts and sciences. Now I realize that this kind of knowledge, the one that comes from the arts and science perspective, helps me a lot to identify all the possible needs: which is the right form of technology to find and place in the market; or what could be the right format for a book for a certain audience. It’s a nice synergy. In my research I often applied some principles that I have learned during my studies – the principles of social construction of technology, and I believe that one of the main reasons why the e-Ink screens of e-readers have had a relatively bad start is because it is very much, a topdown and forced technology: it’s actually very hard to convince the readership to move to new technologies when the old one, the paper book, is still pretty much alive and functioning. As a matter of fact the use of these technologies has proven t very hard to justify. INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What about other digital editorial products (iPad applications, digital magazines, devices for reading in the web etc.)? What about calling them all “reading experiences”? R: At this point in time what we see is that a lot of digital formats are trying to emulate the traditional reading experience. One of the most common examples is the e-Ink screen that tries to give the same level of comfort in reading as a printed book, running up against a huge difference in resolution. We can all state that these e-Ink screens are only a very basic solution for that resolution difference. Looking back at when I started working in the research field in the 90s and even before, when the computer was making its way to offices and homes, there was a very strong ideal of the paperless office. But later, it turned out to be an absolutely miscalculated idea, because we have been using paper more that ever since the computer have arrived.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 69

So, the point is that the traditional book is a very hard sell, something that really works, if the ink … don’t fix it?, so why should we use electronic devices instead of paper devices? That’s a good question and I think it’s also one of the main reasons for me to observe and study these new electronic books. I don’t like to refer only to the mass electronic books and I even don’t like the word “book” because it implies something completely different. In the early stages of electronic publishing what we did was try to emulate an accomplished experience, but now it’s becoming clear that we have to take off the covers and create new experiences and new structures. INC: And I think that using the word “e-book” it’s also a bit confusing because we immediately think of the book … R: Yes, and as a matter of fact it also limits the imagination of publishers a lot. The formats,especially the design formats, that these publishers use are basically the same as the paper books, and then if you are lucky they can simply be enhanced by some kind of source options that can be embedded in the device: for instance, the Kindle has a very good source system and also very efficient dictionary options, but beyond that, there is little enhancement or experimentation on the medium. Gradually, it is improving, but the problem is that from a business perspective it’s absolutely understandable that publishers are not very keen on experimentation: if it works and it sells, and it’s good, then why change it? As I mentioned before, from the social construction of technology point of view, I believe that the best working technologies are those that get affirmed by a logical …? and actually enhanced by …? , and indeed I think that the best ideas come from grass-roots movement. To get back to the question, what is the main difference between a book and an e-book, I think there is a huge difference. In the sense that I want to look beyond the e-book, I want to look at how you can generate information, or knowledge, or content for a certain format.


INTERVIEW WITH RAOUL BOERS - N°8

What I consider to be a very good use of digital possibilities is the chance to update a book whenever you want to, or the fact that you can do social reading, as you can, a text and comment it in-line on the book, or try and implement in social media some resources. It’s the interaction that can make the real difference. INC: Do you think interactivity and media convergence can affect the design of a book? What about the proliferation of different formats (ePub, PDF, iPad etc.)? What about collaborative practices? How does it change with the digital? What about it in digital publishing? R: Last year my students did research for a large textbook publisher in higher education. One of the things that they found out was that at that time the publisher was only taking the paper book and then, since these books were of course digitally laid out, turning them into digital books simply as they were. They had the digital source files and they simply put those source files online as reading books. So their e-books were basically the same as their books, except from the fact that they were moving slowly but surely towards a more digital way, trying to enhance their products by only adding a film or a video, or by using realtime statistics depending on the themes of the books. This is nothing more than a little additional technology and it’s not much of an experience. What the students concluded, I think very rightly, was that to really enhance the experience of the textbook, the publisher would had gone beyond the format of the paper book, of course taking the same content elements of the paper book, but remixing them and thinking about the whole learning experience and the learning path of the students: there could have been, for example, more use of realtime experiences, following the students from when they started the course, getting content and updates from the lectures, or getting suggestions from other users, or having something like social book-markings, so that they could actually get extra-knowledge through extra-data. These acknowledgments gathered by others could indeed be used internally by the publisher himself in the making of the digital release of the book.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 71

So, whatever it is, we don’t have to just simply transfer the paper to a digital format, but we need to go beyond and embrace the full possibilities of the digital realm. “Reading experiences”, as you have called them, are such when you add to the paper experience all the possible means and levels of interaction. INC: For now, as you said, is just adding some tech to the book ... R: Yes, and that is so limited. INC: The relationship between text and image has always been one of the core matters in visual communication. How has it changed in the digital environment? What about the relationship between content and structure in the laying out of a book (indexes, hyperlinks, different ways of visualization etc.)? Do you think these relationships could become something different in digital publishing, and how? R: I think that now all these elements get completely unravelled and remixed. New media are by nature almost unlimited and of course there are many aspects in visual design that are different moving from print to digital, but I think that basically the main one is this: if you get any content into a print book of course it has to printed and then it’s there, it’s solid and static; but if you have it in a digital format you can remix everything at will, or at least you can play with certain elements. We are not talking about layouts only, but also about what you can do with storytelling, revealing or hiding content, or changing the levels of reading, for instance, making content available for advanced readers. You can also prepare different kinds of source files for people with different abilities or disabilities, for example add a voice-over for people that have visual disabilities. These are just services, but there are much deeper features and possibilities that we haven’t even discovered yet that should be looked for because they could really enhance the whole reading experience. INC: Do you think we are risking an overload of information in publishing,


INTERVIEW WITH RAOUL BOERS - N°8

especially in online and digital publishing? R: Yes, but I do think that with any experimentation you have to be ready to take some risks, otherwise people wouldn’t call them experiments Experimenting is always firstly about taking risks and then assessing them with insight, especially in the field of publishing: after you have got to know which things have worked and which things didn’t, then you can develop a clear strategy for a publisher to commercially exploit new ideas, but of course first you have to create these ideas. So yes, we constantly risk overload and we can see that because of the many innovative ways in which social reading has failed. A good case in point was an experimental project about social writing – from quite a different angle – done at the JVA Academie, post-graduate art school in Maastricht: there was a group of artists, each of them writing about the same theme on a Wiki they had previously created, they started using it to create a book, compiling all the different paragraphs and chapters from that format. That was an interesting experiment. We had this group as guest lecturers at the beginning of the very first session of a Minor about digital culture. We asked them the question: “Did it succeed? Is it something that you can now use commercially?” And their answer was: “Of course not, it was an experiment and it failed in several ways but it was also very insightful.” So, to answer your question, do we risk information overload? Well, we’ll have to see. These are things that certainly we have to evaluate when experimenting. We shouldn’t just launch any kind of concept before we really have investigated and researched whether that different format could really work for an audience made of real users. However, I have no doubt that we already are overloaded with information. I don’t know if you have read the book by Nicholas Carr, about what the Internet is doing to our brain. Actually, I had a very interesting conversation few days ago with a lecturer in Educational Neuroscience: he was very critical of social media and he cited this book saying that what Nicholas Carr has been writing about is that we


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 73

have a very short attention span and we can only read texts if they are no longer than a blog post because otherwise our minds would switch off. Yet it’s a very compelling argument to say that we simply have to ban these various fragmented forms of communication and try to get back at least in school and in educational settings to a more coherent and serialized text format where you simply read a book, understand the course and get the focus back. I can understand this assessment but I don’t agree with it, you can’t completely turn back time. This is a huge movement, it’s a monstrous change in the way we communicate and in the way we use media. You can’t just turn back those clocks. You might do it in a micro space, where you can say: “Put your mobiles in your bag and don’t use them.” In a micro setting you might be able to direct attention in the way you want, but in a large context you cannot change culture. INC: And the market as well is affected to this revolution, because it’s of course a huge market, although it is also very fragmented, so you can see many different forms of dissemination in it. So, what is the best thing to do to be competitive on the market? Is it better to make a lot of different things and products or a few but well assessed? That is a huge issue. Concerning this I can tell that for example the strategy that I propose at CMD, School for Communication and Multimedia Design, where I take a course of Media Strategy, is to use various channels to disseminate the course content. So for instance, we have the traditional Internet page where we put the lectures, but we also tweet the fact that there are these lectures, and we also have a Facebook page where we embed them. Furthermore, for the really motivated and interested students we offer another level of experience: different linda? courses where they can actually do extra work, or resources that we found online that we see as very useful to take a step further. So again, there isn’t one message and there isn’t one story that you are telling, rather you are telling stories on multiple levels.


INTERVIEW WITH RAOUL BOERS - N°8

To me this is a challenge both to traditional readers but also to digital writers, because they are no longer communicating on one level as the serially written word on the paper was, but they are using many layers of narrative. INC: Can art and design practices give a contribution, with a different point of view form Corporates’one, to the development of proper structures, models and devices for digital publishing, and how? In which direction would you like the research on digital book to be developed? What do you think is really necessary to explore? R: The project that I mentioned made in JVA that was basically from an art and design perspective, but it also touched on many levels various concepts coming from information science: What is information? How is information understood? That is actually how artists account to problems. So, in this specific case, the question was: we want to make a book with the Wiki but Is it a book that we are actually making or is it something else? What is the book? Artists and designers always expand borders not just with books, but with everything that is design, and I think that their approach can also call into question the more technologically-inclined publishing experts. From my point of view what I think is very exciting in HTML5 and in CCS3 is that they are really transforming and almost erasing the borders between what is a website and what is a book or a reading experience. I’m also very excited about new ways of delivering high resolution texts in the browser. Those things were not originally stored by technologists, they were demanded by designers and that is to me the most interesting innovation, designers are driving a change and technologists are backing it up. The WWW3 has then embraced these demands and come up with the idea that new solutions have to be developed, for instance new forms of rendering texts in a browser that are much easier and less tiring for the eyes. As well as this, there could be new ways – on one hand very complex but on the other


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 75

hand very easy – to create compelling reading experiences on any browser and make them compatible across many platforms. Thus, the whole idea of tablet reading is embracing the concept of HTML5: now the technology is much more democratized, we all can use HTML5, you simply have to learn how to use it but it’s very easy and there are many templates available for free. INC: It’s another language that now probably everybody should know. There are a lot of kinds of applications that everybody should try to use in the future, everything will be much more client orientated, and creating the export options will be improved, you’ll simply have to be able to put out a nicely laid out text, and so the limit will be basically what you will be able to do. INC: What could be the meaning of a publishing class in the age of selfpublishing and DIY practices? What is your approach in the teaching of your field? Can you tell which are the steps of the process and which areas do you cover, specifics to your field? R: Let me first sketch what we do in the Minor. The Minor is structured in such a way that we first awaken the sense of self empowerment in publishing, so we awaken this self publishing aspect that you are talking about. First we want that people get into the technology side, because many are very easily scared of technology. We have people coming here who have very different expertise, most of them come from a technological background, but many come from a more managerial one and they usually ask me when the apply for the minor if it’s going be a very technical, and I always answer that it’s going be very technical, but the technique will remain in the back. We are going to use the technique in the sense that we apply the technology, and so we need to have some grasps of its concept. But it’s the same when you learn to ride a bicycle: you move the pedals and then the chain drives the wheels. With technology it’s the same, you have to know what it does and


INTERVIEW WITH RAOUL BOERS - N°8

then you have to learn how to use it. To lower the fear we say that it’s ok, it’s going to be fun. Next, we ask them a very important question: What is a book? Exactly the one that you asked me at the beginning of this interview. And they always come up with the concept that a book is a set of paper sheets which are pre-selected and compiled by authors and editors, then you put these sheets between covers and get an ISBN number for the whole thing. After that we show several examples of different kinds of digital formats and we ask whether it’s a book or not. And so on, they gradually expand their horizons, detecting the fact that there isn’t a very solid idea of what a book is. The next step is asking: “What is this object then, if we have passed that horizon? Is it an experience? But, does the book have an experience?”. The conclusion is always that basically the book has an experience, so it’s good to say that it’s a medium. So, step one is to inspire their imagination. In the second half of the Minor we start to really focus on the business case, which is I think very important. Usually we show the students how these new technologies can be really disruptive to the market. On one hand we have the traditional publishing market that is now really slowing down the developments. They already have a very important share and they want to make profits. The traditional process is also very clear, books get printed, stacks of books are stored and in this way it’s quite clear to see how many books are sold. It works, so why change it? Publishers are usually not very keen on trying different things. On the other hand we see that the market is changing and there are very innovative publishers who have digitally born products, and that are not selling a book physically or digitally as two different products, they are rather selling different experiences. In addition, some printing companies are really innovative in the sense that they are slowly changing into content ag-


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 77

gregators and embracing new concepts of on-demand publishing. Considering that the focus is slowly shifting into the digital market, where does the traditional printing company feed? How can printing companies survive? Each year we have some case studies. This year we will have a textbook publisher but also an electronic magazine publisher, to observe how does the electronic magazine differ from the print magazine and how it’s story can be expanded. That’s basically the path of the course. Thinking again, more about the technological aspect, one of the things that we say is that before you publish anything you have to get all your content in a good order and to do that you need to manage software and they are available and free to some extent. Of course there are also very high value systems that are quite expensive, but there are also very good free systems like Wordpress, which was originally a blogging software, but now it can be used very effectively with all the plugins, themes and extensions created by all the open source minded communities, so that you can build a very appealing design. To summarize, in the age of self publishing and DIY practices I think that one of the things that we really stress is that yes, there are self publishing practices and indeed the role of the author in self publishing is argued often, because there could be various authors collaborating in an editorial product, or everyone could make a living by publishing himself, but what does it all really mean? The idea of what an author is simply gets expanded. Self publishers also do a lot of events and they become like rockstars, but that is not the point. We do have a very professional publishing market, and it will be interesting to see how these publishers will embrace that idea of self publishing and use it professionally. INC: Do you see the dialogue between two different generations (students/ teachers) as a starting point for the research on how to make a book today? What do you think is the most interesting and insightful aspect of this dialogue? How can this dialogue affect the design process? R: That’s an interesting question. There is this very strong concept of the dig-


INTERVIEW WITH RAOUL BOERS - N°8

ital divide, and it can be framed in various settings, such as different classes in society, for example. One of these could also be the entire arrangement of education, where we have very well structured organizations but that are not very innovative. Educational institutions are very consistent in the way that they have to be, because they have various programs for accreditation and they have to apply certain laws, ideas and principles, and so they have to be very strict. However, there is also a big development happening right now: we see students demanding certain ways of interaction, we see students that are asking if they can have digital readers, or we see young teachers that are now employing different kinds of self publishing media, for instance making students create their own portfolios in a Wordpress platform. Besides, in all the grass roots movements there are various ways of publishing that are springing up and slowly growing in that idea of using the Web 2.0 tools to actually do the things that we have very expensive software for, but maybe those software are also not very well implemented, because you can’t personalize them, and I think personalization is now the key word, because we all want to personalize our information. This certainly creates a contrast between students and institutions, because one has to apply certain principles, they have to insure quality and how to insure quality in the situation where self publishing is very much a norm? In this particular case, in our school we have various stereos communities? where as teachers we frequently discuss the tools that we have and how we employ them. We try to develop something like a tool kit to have a certain pedagogical flexibility: you think of the goal, what you want your students to do and what you want to achieve, and then you can pick from the tool kit what you need, choosing from its various options. I think this is much more useful than using the traditional model, the one where we buy a certain package from Microsoft and then we all have to use that. In this case, we now have a system for marking papers conveniently and we have a great system for the planning of lessons. For me, as a teacher, to flex-


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 79

ibly reach the goals for my class I need to have such a flexibility and it’s also true that, since we don’t want to overload the students with the tools that we have, we say that these tools are proved to work only if you use them in conscious ways, so you can have some kind of consistency. And that itself could also be the meaning for the entire concept of teaching in this field: learning not to start from the tools, because it’s always the target that comes first. Some colleagues of mine, they did a very interesting lecture at the EDUCA of Berlin concerning exactly this. The title of their presentation was “Target not a Tool” and it was something like a formula: they had the technology, they had the target or what they actually wanted to achieve and then they had the content with which they achieved their goals. There is also a very nice theory called T-pack, which states something very similar, that it’s the technology that has to be pedagogical and students have to be able to learn some content. In a very nice online composing model you can have these three different areas combined with each other and if you find a good combination that works, that is when you get the best teaching effect. INC: What is the state of the art in the publishing education filed? How can teaching practice move with the times changing so fast in terms of new media, new technologies and new behaviours? R: I think there is still a lot to do, there are too few design studies that are actually in this area, studying both traditional and digital publishing methods, and I think they are still too separated from each other by their own perspective. Further, in the media we still focus too much on channels, so for instance, in this media school we focus on making television, making radio, making Internet, etc. But what we are really doing is making content, specifically tailored to certain channels of course, but in the end, whether we are publishing or making something else, we are trying to make cross media content. I think that this idea, which has been slowly disseminating into classrooms, is not definitely expanding.


INTERVIEW WITH RAOUL BOERS - N°8

Basically, design schools and media schools can’t be separated, because they are both working in the technological field of possibility. If you are a good designer you know how to find the limits of technology and go beyond them, and only by going beyond them you can get out of the paradigm of design and expand it, by incorporating new elements and ideas or simply completely disrupting the traditional ones. Web 2.0 was a very disruptive technology, created by a couple of designers and technologies in a think-thank: the designers were thinking on how they could get that idea of interaction, and the developers came up with a very technological solution for that, and when that solution was completely available to designers, they designed such great interfaces and innovative ways of dealing with content. The same happened with the development of the Style Sheets Standard, some tools were created to set the code completely crazy and develop the most insane beautifully animated stuff, built with simple tools, completely without scripting. The open source community in which these designer usually are, can really invent exciting new ways of expanding our ideas of what publishing and user experience are. So yes, technology and design are really two sides of the same coin and they should operate together. The very first book I read about this that really opened my mind was prior to Web 2.0, written by Joshua Davis, a visual designer that creates animated visual artworks for djs and famous bands. He was originally a painter but at one point in time he decided he should have learnt program language and so he learned Action Script for Flash. He started experimenting with automatically generated patterns, he used some source files of artworks representing flowers or something like that and he generated different patterns that followed the music rhythm. He said that as an artist he had several interesting possibilities using different technologies, but at first he was quite scared of learning programs. But if an artist overcomes that fear and shares thoughts with technologies as he later did, these tools will help him in finding new ways of better expressing himself.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N째 81

Basically, technology and art for me are domains that are not so separated, I think they are, rather, very much interconnected: to be a good developer you have to be very creative, as well as to be a good painter you have to be very creative. Maybe the goals are different but you can experience the same level of joy in expression both when you develop a good program and when you create a stunning artwork.


SKYPE INTERVIEW, 11TH DECEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 9 - PAGE N° 83

Interview with Monika Parrinder - Limited Language PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you introduce yourself and your work? Can you tell me something about “Limited Language”? Monika: I’m Monika Parrinder; I’m a writer and lecturer in design history, theory and visual communication. In 2004, Colin Davies and I co-founded a collaborative writing project called Limited Language. Limited Language is a platform for generating discussion and writing about design and visual communication, we are interested in capturing the processes of design culture and using them to inform the way that we write about design. So a key part of what we do is writing across hybrid media platforms and in collaboration with others – which allows for instant feedback between users practices. We call this writing in a feedback culture. This process informed our 2010 book, “Limited Language: Rewriting Design – Responding to a Feedback Culture”. The idea there was to look at how a book could provide a feedback loop between different media cultures and platforms. If I was to summarize our driving interest, it is in ‘process’, technology as a creative catalyst and the role of community. INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What about other digital editorial products (iPad applications, digital


INTERVIEW WITH MONIKA PARRINDER - N°9

magazines, devices for reading on the web etc.)? Would you call all these products “reading experiences”? M: For us the main difference between a book and an e-book is that the traditional book is a ‘bounded’ object and, whilst the e-book, and other digital/ editorial products, are ‘unbound’. What I mean by that is that the e-book is part of a networked environment – with an ecology of readers, texts and other authors. In this sense the e-book is a process – a work in progress. The writer Annamaria Carusi refers to all these formats as having opened up new “reading spaces” – which includes thinking about the different reading experiences people have when engaging with each. It’s something that Limited Language try to explore in our work, but also in terms of different “writing spaces” and experiences. INC: Can we consider a blog something like a book? Texting or writing for blogs, unlike the traditional book, is a temporal process. It’s a space where ideas can gain momentum, often in encounters with other readers: this is something very different to the traditional book. Most blogs, of course, are used as means of personal record, and so on, and do not necessarily constitute a paradigm shift. But, in the sense that they are ‘relational’ – in dialogue with other readers, texts and technologies – they always have the potential to become something other… Using the language of technology, the book is a one-way medium of mass communication, so we can say that it’s one-to-many, whereas the blog is part of the Web 2.0 many-to-many revolution. INC: Once we had books, then we had blogs, now we have e-books, which add some tactility to the digital, and we still have and use all of them. Do you see digital books as a way to mediate between blogs and paper? Could they be something different? What could e-books add to the reading experience and what could they take away from it?


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 85

M: Both e-book readers and the new gesture interfaces certainly add some kind of tactility to the digital realm. One way to think about this could be that the iPad, the smartphone and the e-book make a physical connection between the digital world and the ‘real’ world that simple blogging didn’t really do. Computers have been taken off the desktop and released into various environments, so we now engage with these things when we are queuing, when we are traveling and in the lunch break. But you ask if they are creating a new reading experience? I think both yes and no. The e-reader – Kindle, iPad etc. – are simple physical transcriptions of the traditional book. On these devices the reading experience often changes very little. However, some influence on the cultural practices of reading. I don’t know if it’s the same in Holland but, in Britain, E. L. James’ novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a good example of what I mean here, where distribution started via the Kindle, but then became a publishing phenomenon in the physical book as well. The consumption of porn and sex books has increased because of the anonymity of e-books, which have no cover and no semiotic trace. I should say that what we find really interesting is that e-books have opened up new metaphors for what a book could be – as mentioned earlier, as an experience or as a process. Maybe with a more intuitive interface – eye tracking or gesture, which so far involves swiping, pinching, tapping and so on – we could be on the edge of a new reading experience; one that is immersive both physically and psychologically. INC: So are you positive with this? Yes – as we are interested in technology as a creative catalyst, we enjoy seeing what people actually do with things. The use of something might well be very different from what companies intend their products for. In our writing, we’ve referred to this as “a practice of possibilities”. INC: What is the state of digital publishing at the moment? Why do we still


INTERVIEW WITH MONIKA PARRINDER - N°9

prefer reading on paper? What would transferring the content of a blog on paper imply? M: Digital publishing is interesting because its being pushed forward on all fronts. But, of course, most experiments are simply that – experiential journeys, not total re-imaginings. But, the mixture of new metaphors and cognitive experiences are a huge leap forward. In terms of why some prefer paper… If I look at how I use things, I often download and print out text files in order to reflect on the content. People talk a lot about tactile materiality and also about the mobility of the traditional book, but as a reading space, it really represents a breathing space – this is how we see it. Limited Language are interested in how we might move between the connected and immersive digital world and the bound world of paper, which still seems like the proper space for reflection and longevity: which is something it seems important not to lose. INC: Do you think we are risking an overload of information in publishing, especially in online and digital publishing? M: Certainly information is ever-changing and very fragmented. But the first blogs that came out were an attempt to navigate and make sense of the links on the Internet. The digital theorist Lev Manovich talks about the Internet being ‘anti-narrative’. We aren’t interested in repeating the cut and paste culture of the Internet, but in trying to understand how we can weave it back into a framework for thinking. I would say that this is about situating information and revealing its assumptions, and it’s also about situating ourselves in the world of information. This is really important in countering the overload – it is about how we engage, holistically, as human beings. INC: In your work you have been talking about texts and images on the Internet. Are we moving towards an environment dominated more by images or more by texts? M: At the moment the dominant narrative is that we are in a culture of


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 87

images but actually there is a surprising amount of writing – the word is everywhere. For us, it’s the balance that is interesting: images obviously are more ‘sexy’ – they are moving, sometimes speaking and they play better on the high-res screen. Words tend to be reduced to the sound-byte to compete – think of scrolling news and so on… But recently there is renewed interest in how to engage with long-form writing in the digital context. This is the realm that Limited Language operate in, I guess. We’re not interested in competing with the culture of images, but in thinking about how writing might provide this breathing space I’ve been talking about. Something that works with image culture, but something that might linger, soak in – for reflection. INC: The relationship between text and image has always been one of the core matters in visual communication. How has this changed in the digital environment? Do you think this relationship could become something different in digital publishing, and how? M: In terms of writing we now have to think about the ‘word-image’, the ‘word-environment’, the ‘word-event’ and also things like ‘type-animation’, ‘type- sculpture’, and all the things these new hybrid forms openup. I think that, within them, there is a huge potential for different kinds of engagement. INC: What about the relationship between content and structure in the laying out of a book (indexes, hyperlinks, different ways of data visualization etc.)? How does it change with the digital? What about it in digital publishing? M: The index and hyperlinks … if you think of the Encyclopedia, all of these concepts have been around in the traditional book form for hundreds of years, but they have been of secondary importance: so we have the content pages at the front of the book, while the index is at the back. In digital culture these become primary, because it’s the linking between texts and the searchability of texts that becomes dominant. One of the main problems is that content can get lost, when you’re always fo-


INTERVIEW WITH MONIKA PARRINDER - N°9

cusing on the links (moving from one text to another) and when the ‘Google search’ becomes an obsession. There’s a lot of content – but, as we know, quality is often the problem. The challenge is to supply the quality of content. INC: What about interactivity and media convergence? How do they change with the digital? What about it in digital publishing? M: Henry Jenkins talks about media convergence as a flow of content of cross multiple platforms and also about the migratory behaviour of individuals. He emphasises the slipperiness of convergence culture. Limited Language are interested in this point of convergence but, thinking in terms of a feedback culture, asking what kind of encounters you can have – between media, people and contexts, images and texts, readers and writers, etc. The most exciting thing for us is that these encounters are not necessarily pre-determined: they can have unexpected outcomes and they can engage previously unimagined communities of people. INC: How do you think all these aspects can be combined in relation to the tactility of the digital book? M: We are focused on two aspects of innovation here. One is about using these different encounters to catalyse new digital tools, cultural developments and communities of ideas. The other one is about new metaphors and cognitive experiences. If we imagine how these might come together in digital publishing projects, they will certainly create interesting opportunities for writers, designers and other practices. INC: Has the traditional book changed? Can we talk about a sort of “paper reaction” to the digital shift in publishing? What do you think about the increase of self-publishing, both on paper and digitally? M: I think that book-culture has changed. Certainly, we are re-engaging with the book as a process – perhaps an art form, but certainly as an art form-incontext. By that I mean that people are becoming much more overtly inter-


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 89

ested in its materiality and use. These aspects have always been present, but implicit – now we are engaging with them explicitly, it’s going to create a whole new set of book practices. For instance in literary studies, Thomas Keymer, a Prof. of English at the University of Toronto, is rethinking the history of the novel in relation to the materiality of the book, by looking at 17th and18th Century novels in terms of both the writing and material changes happening in book design at that time. This work will appear in an edited volume called ‘New Directions in the History of the Novel’, which will be published next year by Palgrave Macmillan. The materiality of books has never been played up in the history of literature and unimagined outcomes, through the blurring of different areas of practice and theory, will emerge in the next few years Overall, self-publishing is liberating. Although we are not so interested in selfpublishing simply being about self-promotion; but as an attempt to re-engage the public sphere. INC: What do you think about open source culture? What economic models do we have now in publishing and which do you think will take over in the future? M: Feedback culture is predicated on a many-to-many culture and, as such, it overlaps with the entire open source concept. Web 2.0 and open-source are an opportunity to open up to un-expected voices and ideas. But, as we know there is tension in the emerging interests generated by all these changes and existing economic models. Lawrence Lessig talks about a hybrid economy of art and commerce. Definately real work needs to be done here. Typography is a practice making some headway. The computer drop-down menu has made people more type-literate and exploitation of the commercial value and intellectual property of type design is nothing new. Platforms like Typeright.org are doing what I would call ‘bridge work’ – bringing together diverse sectors, to advocate for typefaces as creative works.


INTERVIEW WITH MONIKA PARRINDER - N°9

INC: In LL you have been talking about collaborative practices in creating content, openness of texts and the organic, decentralized and instantaneous nature of the web. Do you think it’s the same for digital publishing? Towards which direction are we moving? M: The big shift has been from one-way, top down models of communication and publishing to the idea that information is collaborative. But in our work, we’ve had to face up to some practical issues. For instance, in Limited Language, we realized that while collaborative practices are great for generating discussion, we decided to write the book because we wanted to reflect on how these ideas had coalesced, for the longer term. But we also realized that we needed to take a position – to ‘draw a line in the sand’ as it were – so this involved a more traditional, solitary role of writing. But we used printed hyperlinks to our blog so that this could always feedback into discussion in an on-going process. I feel I should mention Jodi Dean’s recent writing on ‘communicative capitalism’, which is a kind of wake-up call for those who are euphoric about technology – which would obviously include digital publishing. In chapters like ‘the death of blogging’, she emphasises not just feedback, but the way information – and ourselves – are ‘captured’ in circuits of repetition. But for us, technologies are only means to an end, not ends in them selves. Take App development as one example, where what could be called small explosions of creative thinking, we also can also see the materialisation of new publishing formats. INC: What do you think about the obsolescence of the digital medium? Is putting the content back onto paper the only choice that we have to overtake this obsolescence? Do you think we could find other solutions? M: There’s that famous phrase that really is suitable here: something like “the only constant is change”. What we might have build into our design/writing/ thinking practices, are long time strategies that allow for change. INC: We are living in the era of the dissemination of information. Do you


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 91

think we are lacking of concentration? Do you think that dissemination and concentration can coexist or do we have to choose between one of them? M: I’m sure every era has thought of itself as an era of dissemination of information, but in a 24 hour, always-on culture it’s much harder to stay concentrated. But we move between different forms of reading – we scanread, we deep-read, we speed-read, etc. Of course, these are things that we have always done. Katherine N. Hayles is interesting on this: she says that we need all these different forms, but we need to understand what they are good for and the skill in future will be how to move between them. It seems to be similar to what they call “trans-literacy”. For us, it’s the emphasis on sensemaking that seems to be of renewed importance. INC: Can art and design practices give a contribution, with a different point of view form the corporations’, to the development of proper structures, models and devices for digital publishing, and how? M: Much of the work on new platforms is driven by the need to monetise them rather than reenergise the reading experience, say. We can’t forget that art and design practices are often inextricable from corporations. But, as we’ve seen with Typography and copyright, and Apps more generally, it’s probably in the serendipity of creative thinking and the cross-fertislisation of ideas and practices that new structures emerge or older models are re-written. INC: LL was made in 2005. Now that a few years went by and things are changing fast, can you make a self critique of the project? Do you think that the book release of LL interprets the blog content in a suitable way? Have you ever thought about how it could become a digital book? Would it make sense, and why? M: For us, it’s less about one medium interpreting another, than seeing what each is good at – and how we might use them in a more reflective, ‘relational’ way. That’s to say where they interact in dialogue with each other. Writing on line, for us, is an attempt to provide a breathing space within image culture.


INTERVIEW WITH MONIKA PARRINDER - N°9

The book has provided a breathing space within the immersive, discursive culture of the web. In a culture of self-publishing, traditional book publishing processes are important because they emphasise the role of the editor. But now, the question of what a digital book can do, well, this will be interesting to see. In fact, at the moment we are in the process of re-launching our web-platform and we are looking at all sorts of applications. Our interest is in the blog, the book – digital and not – Apps, Twitter etc. as forms of cultural engagement. And so of course this includes all the things-as-yet un-invented.


SKYPE INTERVIEW,13TH DECEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 10 - PAGE N° 95

Interview with Anna and Britt - Visual Editions PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you introduce yourself and your work? Britt: The first thing to say is that we are not book designers, we work with many book designers but we don’t design the books ourselves, we publish them. Anna: We are Anna and Britt. We started Visual Editions about 2 years ago. All the books that we publish – which are both physical and digital – are based around this idea of visual writing, which really ties together everything we do. The core feature of visual writing is looking at writing that uses visuals as a key part of the storytelling. So everything that we make, or produce rests on this idea of great looking stories, which is our line, but also a different reading experience and way of writing, as well as a different way of making books and of telling stories. INC: Are you interested in the digital shift in publishing and what is your position? B: Yes, we are, but we are interested in it not just because it is digital, but because it’s a new opportunity. As a publishing house we like exploring different boundaries of storytelling, and we like platforms where you can really play with storytelling in the best


INTERVIEW WITH ANNA AND BRITT - N°10

possible way, sometimes that’s print and sometimes that’s digital. Digital publishing opens up books to audiences, in a way that it hasn’t been done before. A: We’ve published our first iPad app for the book in a box called “Composition n°1”.Making an iPad application was not originally in our plans, but the deeper we got into the making of the book, the more we realized that it was also perfect for the screen, as the pages can be read in any order. The iPad app actually forces the user to randomize pages, and you can actually see that there was a reason for it to live on screen and that’s really the question that we always ask ourselves when we make a book. We are just coming out with a new app called “Thump and other places” that will be launched in the new year. This will be the first time that we release a story on the screen without a physical counterpart. This book, or this app, is quite cinematic and atmospheric, incredibly interactive and very very dark. How do you develop an editorial project? What do you think are the new features in the publishing process with the digital book? How do they differ from the design of a paper book? B: There isn’t really a difference between having a print set book project and a digital book project as far as how it’s developed. I suppose we start just by having an idea that we think is exciting, both as a concept and a narrative, and then it’s really all about putting the best talented people together to guide that idea to its most suitable form. So with a digital book that might mean finding the best program to really get people involved and to make the book animated, and then we make an overall art direction to all these elements. On the other hand with a print book it’s about finding the best in printable design, pushing the boundaries of the paper and of the physical object. We always develop the stories together with the authors, so we don’t have the sense of being too far removed from the process, as we are very much involved with it. Anna and I orchestrate stuff and test stuff too. We always ask ourselves annoying things like: “Why am I doing that? Is that idea within our


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 97

scope? Will this create a better reading experience?”, etc. We always try to keep these questions in mind, to make sure that the reader is really part of the whole, but in a way that also gives space for people to go away and explore and then come back and surprise us. INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What about other digital editorial products (iPad applications, digital magazines, devices for reading in the web etc.)? What about calling them all “reading experiences”? B: I think that reading experience is a great term to use to talk about that concept, we use it a lot ourselves. It can really make a difference in the reading experience whether you are looking at something on screen or if you are holding something in your hand that is physical and printed, or if you are doing a reading in a public space, etc. For all of these different practices it’s not just a matter of copy and paste, as it could be simple to go from print to screen or from print to screen to real experience, it’s more about thinking of how to produce a particular story in the best way. Its about giving it the best possible life upon the platform that has been chosen to live. So it’s all about pushing the platform towards its special potential, not just replicating something that already exists on another one. A: The subject of technology is always really interesting to us. Especially when people talk about publishing on the screen, technology always comes out as being quite a big issue, but actually technology is really interesting in the printed book world as well. So in both cases it’s about using what is available and innovative as much as possible, and making the best of those different platforms. And that’s exactly what we get excited about across the board: making the most of our reading experience in regard to the platform. B: It’s not about using technology because you can, it’s about choosing which technology because it’s relevant and only if it makes something into a better experience. There is no point in using technology just because it’s a


INTERVIEW WITH ANNA AND BRITT - N°10

new innovation if there isn’t a particular improvement in the reading experience. INC: In which elements of the project do you think your publishing house’s identity reside? How would you manage to keep it – or even change it – in the making of digital book projects? B: We can say that our identity resides in the concept of visual writing. It’s about storytelling where the visual is just as important as a part of the story, as the writing is. A: And that, as we said, exists across the board. I’d suppose our role as publisher is mainly about interrogating that process and making sure that along the way there is nothing extraneous or just for the sake of it, and that the visual and the story are really embedded with each other. INC: The relationship between text and image has always been one of the core matters in visual communication. How has it changed in the digital environment? Do you think this relationship could become something different in digital publishing, and how? A: I think the relationship between text and image is an issue about interaction, and I also think that the same issue exists with technology. People assume that this kind of user interaction only exists on the screen, but actually it’s something that exists in physical books too. When we talk about different reading experiences it’s about pushing the limitations but also pushing the expectations of that interaction. “Composition n° 1” is a really good example of that. We worked with the digital design studio called Universal Everything which had never done a book before, but they are really amazing interaction designers. So we told them: “Look, we made a book in a box that readers really are engaging with and responding to. We want to encourage that process and make it happen on the screen as well.” INC: What about the relationship between content and structure in the layout


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 99

of a book (indexes, hyperlinks, different ways of visualization etc.)? How does it change with the digital? What about it in digital publishing? B: I guess we’ve already talked about that as the relationship between form and content: reading is about balance, it’s about making sure that the form and the content, in the same way as the visual and the writing, work together to give the best experience for the reader. It’s also about pushing that experience as far as you can, but without the visual getting in the way of the story and vice versa, or without the platform getting in the way of the whole experience, whichever platform it is. There are many things that you can actually do: in terms of screen-based experience, you can insert so many different layers, which might work sometimes, but not always. We are very careful to respect each story and what that story needs. So we are always asking: “Do I need to put another layer to enhance the story or would it actually divert my reading experience and make it worse?” At the moment there is really so much you can do, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be selective, and I guess that the exciting part is actually trying to find the boundaries of what makes reading into a better experience or what makes it, in a way, a bit painful. INC: Do you think we are risking an overload of information in publishing, especially in online and digital publishing? B: It’s not just in publishing, it’s everything. It’s general communication, it’s how we shop, it’s how we live, how we keep in touch and socialize. I don’t think any industry could ever satisfy the request on how far we can go. But people will find out in the next few years how to set the boundaries, in the sense of what they want and what they don’t want. For now we are in this crazy phase of exploration as consumers and readers, we are exploring so much by reading digital stuff that at some point we’ll forget what the base of balance in coding is. INC: Do you think interactivity and media convergence can affect the making of a book? What about the proliferation of different formats (ePub, PDF, iPad


INTERVIEW WITH ANNA AND BRITT - N°10

etc.)? B: To people that ask us: “What will be the future of the book?” we always respond with a provocative question: “What do you think will be the future of the apps?” None of us know what the future will be, everything is changing so fast, and probably the most exciting thing today is not going to be the most exciting thing in two years in time. A: I think that when you answer those kinds of questions it’s very important to think that any publisher or producer is making things for different reasons, so what we do is not prescriptive, it’s definitely not what we think everybody should be doing, it’s just what we get excited about, what is in our really narrow ambitions: as we said before, everything that fulfils this idea of making great looking stories, whatever platform it is and making the most of telling stories in many different ways. B: Something that is very important for us, which can sometimes also be a downfall, is that we like to learn by doing: something will work and something will not, but that’s why we like experimenting. We don’t have the resources or the patience or the skills to look around and see what’s happening before we decide to do something ourselves, because we can’t work all sectors at once, really, however our job is pretty much research too. INC: What do you think about collaborative practices? A: Everything that we do is collaborative. It might sound dumb but we call ourselves an ecosystem and we also have an ecosystem of people we work with depending on the projects, so either animators, programmers, illustrators, or film makers. As a publishing house we are small, you know, it’s only the three of us here at the core so we try to expand and contract, depending on the kinds of projects that we are working on. It’s actually really nice bringing in fresh and new energy, and working in


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 101

different ways. I think that collaboration relates more to real life, but, you see, this word is also very overused and it doesn’t mean anything anymore. However, I believe that working with wonderfully talented people is the life and blood of our business. B: And also with the readers, we are really open and talk to them about new projects and what’s coming out, what works and what doesn’t, so that we have some feedback of what they like and what they don’t about whatever story that we are bringing out at the moment. A: You see that every project is completely different and that’s also because we bring the designer into the process before there is even a book. So the conversation usually starts between us and the writer and in most cases, especially where a new writer is involved, we also bring the designer into that conversation, in order to develop something really amazing. INC: Has the traditional book changed? Can we talk about a sort of “paper reaction” to the digital shift in publishing? What do you think about the increase of self-publishing, both on paper and digitally? B: I think self-publishing has more impact digitally than in print, and I think it’s fantastic as a platform for people that don’t work in publishing to have their work available. Any open platform for people to expose their talent, whatever their talent is, is always welcome. In terms of print, it forces people to really think why they are printing a book in a physical form, which can only be a good thing. People should print books only if they’re relevant, rather than having a stock full of books that don’t sell. Before making a print book you really have to think about what your ambition is for it and also what you can do with it, because if you want you can just have it on screen. So, self-publishing forces you to think about the making of a book from a commercial point of view, dealing with the resources that you have, as well as with more general thinking from a practical point of view. INC: What do you think about open source culture? What economic models do we have now in publishing and which do you think will take over in the future?


INTERVIEW WITH ANNA AND BRITT - N°10

A: It’s not the way that we publish and produce our books, but we think these models are all great, it’s really exciting that there are so many different conversations about how to make books and other objects in general. However, it’s not part of our business model. We believe that it’s fantastic that people can produce things that would not otherwise have been produced, also because it creates a sense of open exchange or community, rather than the limited and selective opinions of a dominant group. Open source currently offers many different options, one of them is that it allows everybody independence. INC: What do you think about the obsolescence of the digital world? Is putting the content back onto paper the only choice that we have to prevent obsolescence? Do you think we could find other solutions? B: We had a funny chat about that recently with a lovely lady, Allison from “Fantastic Magazine”. She used to do digital publishing and then she switched to print. She said that, as a book editor, the thing that she didn’t like about digital books, was that she felt that everything that she produced in the digital format was not made to last, and that she loved the printed matter because she could show all her work in a printed form in the years to come. I don’t think this a reaction against the digital format on a mass scale, I think it’s just that some people prefer to have books that they can keep and some people are happy with the content only as an experience and don’t need to have physical books on paper as proof of what they read or produce. A: Moreover, it’s not a one-size-fits-all model, some content should be archived and some content is meant to be dispersal. Different contents need different ways of living and being safeguarded too. For example, some things need to be filed for cultural or for educational purposes, but other things can happily live, from a journalistic point of view, in a short time span. INC: We are living in the era of the dissemination of information. Do you think we are lacking concentration?


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 103

Do you think that dissemination and concentration can coexist or do we have to choose between one of them? B: We need to make choices. This reminds me of something that I read from a trend forecaster who was writing about our generation, stating that all this technology and all of this overload of information and constant bombardment in a certain way for us is a novelty, and that’s why we can’t switch it off, because we are constantly faced with everything. On the other hand, younger generations, our kids generation, they will learn how to deal with this, they will understand much more easily how to switch it off and when different devices are needed for different reasons, so for example when reading a book on the sofa at night is appropriate and when reading the news paper on the iPad is. B: We both have small kids and sometimes we give them the iPad for reading stories, but they would happily decide to not to read stories on the iPad and chose a printed book. So it’s not that because they are growing surrounded by technology they have no need for printed matter, there is no one-size-fits-all, it depends on what kind of person you are.


SKYPE INTERVIEW, 14TH DECEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 11 - PAGE N° 105

Interview with David Benqué - TIAM PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you introduce yourself: your background and what you are doing now? David: I’m a designer and I work in London. I received a BA in typography and graphic design, which I studied in the Netherlands. Then when I moved to London I did an MA in design interaction at the Royal College of Art and that shifted my practice: I moved from a more traditional design to a practice where I look more at the implications of science and technology, instead of their direct application. Right now my work deals with that in kind of specular projects so I work with scientists trying to think about scenarios of how technology and science impact our society and our culture. INC: Can you tell me about TIAM? How does it work? D: TIAM – The Infinite Adventure Machine – is a computer program that tries to generate fairy tales, so it probes the user with fragments of plot elements and some images, and basically the idea here is that the user can custom improvise from those elements. For reasons that I’ll explain later on, computers are not able to generate stories, and this was the main issue of the research I was doing, so the project turned into a kind of improvisation tool. INC: So does the user have to fill in the blanks of the story to complete it?


INTERVIEW WITH DAVID BENQUÉ - N°11

D: Yes, I guess it’s important to say that there is a timer, so there is pressure and the user has to make decisions quickly. Can you better explain the whole process? Do you visualize some parts of the story, some phrases, and then verbalize them? Yeah, exactly. It’s based on a series by a russian structuralist called Vladimir Propp who came up with a sort of DNA of fairy tales, so he reduced the russian fairy tales into 31 basic functions. For him that was a tool to analyse the tales, but for me it was a prefect opportunity to reverse it and to make a generator, since it was such a tightly structured system. INC: Can you describe the process that you followed to develop the concept and then the software? D: I should first say that this project was initially commissioned as part of a bigger project, it was a collaboration between the Microsoft Research Center in Cambridge and the RCA, the name of the project was “The Future of Writing”. Five designers including myself were asked to look at the concept of authorship and go beyond the “tablets vs. paper” debate that is so frequent nowadays, and try to look at this topic in a more either tangential way or try to push this idea much further. I started off with the TIAM project, having a strong interest in narrative. As a matter of fact it always plays an important role in my work, as does fiction, especially fairy tales, which are good examples: their functions here are very identifiable, and also address the transition from childhood to adulthood, and all of the psychological aspects that come into play. So my question, when I started the collaboration, was if we could find a DNA of stories. It was a short step, once you had this DNA, to ask whether it was valid or not. But also, once you had that set of parameters, to think of what you can do with it and the potential of automated storytelling, which is such a core human activity. That was the starting point and from there I came across the work of Vladimir


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 107

Propp which was a perfect fit and I also looked at a lot of different attempts ranging from artificial intelligence experiments and how we engage with computers in general. INC: Can we call TIAM a digital book? D: I don’t know if we can call it a digital book. I think that the underlying question was more about authorship and how it operates nowadays or how it will possibly operate in the future. Another inspiration was a book by Neal Stephenson called “The Diamond Age”, a story about a nano-tech future where a sort of magical technological book educates a young girl. The book adapts to her experiences and teaches her the core values and lessons of life etc. So I was quite interested in this idea of the book being a fluid and flexible device more than a stepping stone, so I guess in that way TIAM could be called a digital book, but for me it is essentially a computer program. INC: What have been the parameters, limits and rules in the design? D: It’s a pretty simple program. The 31 functions identified by Propp are the core database of possibilities. The program runs through them and selects which ones it’s going to use and probes the user with that. There are two main rules: one is the function of linear progression, which starts at the top and ends at the end, and you can’t go back: for instance, things like “the hero leaves home” it’s a typical node in the scenario at the specific time of the beginning. The second rule is that some functions are linked to each other so if there is a particular quest there has to be a resolution for that quest. For example, if there is a quest for magical agents, that quest has to be solved – or not – and that happens later on in the structure. So if a particular function has a proper advent it certainly has a resolution that happens later on, same with the departure: if there is departure, then there has to be the return.


INTERVIEW WITH DAVID BENQUÉ - N°11

But overall it’s a pretty simple set of rules, which is another reason that I was attracted to this particular theory, Propp’s theory, as a basis for the project. INC: How are the images generated in relation to the content? What do you think about this relationship? D: The images are actually made by hand and it’s all pretty linear. I wanted the program to reflect and in certain sense criticize the way that a lot of these so-called “story generators” have been made: just taking pre-written bits of stories, shuffling them and selecting them in a random combination, which is not at all a story generator, it’s just a shuffle algorithm. I intentionally made that tool so that the images, which are in 3D, always build themselves up, so it suggest that the computer is building them. INC: Is there a particular way to deal with the content structure (for example, indexes, search options, different levels of visualization etc.)? D: There is very little interface because I wanted to maintain that sense of mystery of what’s actually going on behind the scenes. So there are slight delays and other things that suggest that the computer is working, but in terms of input from the user it’s basically only about starting and choosing the speed, there are not other options. This is intentional because I wanted the user to focus just on pressing start and then have to deal with whatever the program throws at them. INC: Is it possible to create story in a collaborative way with TIAM? Does the application interact with other media platforms (for example, a web site, social media, etc.)? D: In terms of collaboration I think the example video that is online shows it well: you see that it’s like a live panel, Matt and Tilly were actually collaborating and that became really interesting because they had to deal with each other as well as with the program. They were steering the story in a way so that they had to make some decisions, interpreting the flow of elements in a certain way while the other didn’t always agree, so there is also this kind of


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 109

challenge, on top of the normal challenge of reacting to the program in time. In terms of linking to social media there is nothing built into it at the moment and I don’t really see how that would add anything interesting, because it is really all about the live moment of the experience. Is there a way for me to talk and create the story while the software types what I’m saying? Can I have, in addition to the live experience, a sort of output and then something like a recording of the story that I have created? That’s a great question because for me it’s the next step. I’ve been thinking about putting it online as a kind of web app but I don’t want to simply put the program online as it is, because I think that the most interesting thing could be to first have exactly what you were saying, so some kind of output. The way I’m working on it now, I think it has to be done with the audio, by recording the audio of what you say and the output audio of the program at the same time, and then showing that as a sort of selection of combinations that are already known, with which the person actually knows how to react to. Could it be something like a flow of information or a flowchart? So that if I say something, the application gives me some options to choose from. So that the software follows what I’m saying and there is something like a dialogue between what I’ve created and what I’m saying and what the software proposes to me. Of course that is one way, but that’s the story of artificial intelligence and it’s about what we’ll create with intelligent computers that has not happened yet and is not likely to happen. I rather think that the dialogue should be between what computers throw at us, and how we make sense of that as humans. I’m not that interested in creating a feedback loop but more in finding a way of recording human response to this quite simple program and see which narrative comes out of that.


INTERVIEW WITH DAVID BENQUÉ - N°11

INC: You’ve already told me about that in the previous question, but maybe you could add something if you’d like. What were your main goals in the beginning and did you reach all of them? Can you do a self-critique? What works and what does not? D: As I’ve mentioned before, the project itself it’s actually a story about a computer program telling stories that make sense. So the thing about having the users fill in the blanks and the computer not being able to finish the story is a failure that is used in the project to make a point. As I told you the only part that isn’t quite clear yet is a way to build a library of these stories to possibly show them online, my idea is to open up a big catalogue of all the outcomes. INC: Did you get positive feedback from the users? Did this feedback give you further inspiration to solve some of the project’s problems? Are you still working on it? D: The project gathered a bit of attention online: it was blogged about a few times and it was shown in exhibitions as well. The feedback has been really positive and I think people really engaged with it and not just for its services, it really brought about some questions and some conversations on the topic of narrative in the digital environment so I was really happy about that. I’m still working on it and the next step will be setting up some workshops and finding a way to record these workshops and hopefully pushing the program online at some point. INC: Now I have some more general questions: Do you see a narrative potential in all the software and social networks that we use to communicate? What do you think about Twitter as a narrative tool? D: About the narrative potential I think Twitter is a good example, whereas with social media like Facebook the narratives are more like dumb info about people’s lives, like what you are doing for your holiday or what you are having for lunch, which is not necessary that interesting.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 111

With Twitter some interesting things are happening at the moment. There are numbers of accounts that are re-exploring history, making historical re-enactments, for example, there is one for World War II. I think these kinds of experiences can create an interesting dimension, combining both short bits of text and archive photos, so that you can be sitting on a bus and chatting in Twitter and it’s like: “Oh! 80 years ago today this part of London was bombed” and you’re actually sitting on a bus in London, that’s quite interesting. I’m currently thinking of another project in that space of reverted narratives and historical re-enactments: it’s about re-enacting a future fictional scenario through Twitter, but I’m just at the starting point. INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What about other digital editorial products (iPad applications, digital magazines, devices for reading in the web etc.)? What about calling them all “reading experiences”? D: I’m not sure how useful the idea of the book is, I mean, I’m not saying that books are disappearing, definitely books will be here forever in whichever form, I mean, I think they are performance as well. However I think the most interesting thing to notice here is that we are now writing and reading more than ever, and we’ll constantly be writing and reading. This is interesting because it impacts the language that we are using, which is now evolving to fit these new modes of communication. Furthermore, relating to the TIAM project, what I found interesting was that the notion of authorship in the digital environment is changing, if we look at certain things, example video games. What actually gets created is a set of rules for the people to play with in a non-linear way, as opposed to the notion of crafting a narrative which is linear, so with a beginning, a middle and an end. I think this is an interesting development and something to really observe, and maybe here is where the biggest difference in reading experience that


INTERVIEW WITH DAVID BENQUÉ - N°11

you’ve been talking about is, because we are actually creating something which is again a set, more a defined territory rather than a line. During the research I did for the project, the most interesting thing was actually thinking about this evolution. INC: What do you think about the obsolescence of the digital world? D: Digital is a very different medium, and somehow, you know that things are more fluid and are going to disappear quickly. But just because they are virtual doesn’t mean that they don’t have a presence. What I find interesting is that when you think of all the stories that have core narratives that have been around for thousands of years, whether it’s the creation of the world or all the typical archetypes of characters that come up even in Hollywood movies, I think these will stay. So yes, it’s a more ephemeral medium, but I also think that we’ve always told stories with such mediums, I mean, the voice is very virtual as well, things are over as soon as you say them, but in any case, it is the vehicle for all of these stories to travel through the centuries. I think that maybe we are actually coming back to that in a sense. From another perspective, now everything is also constantly archived, so the problem is more about limiting than about keeping and recording, or in making sense of a huge number of archives where every photo or every line of Tweets get recorded: how to make sense of all this information? That’s also why I like the idea of coming back to a kind of oral storytelling. INC: We are living in the era of the dissemination of information. Do you think we are lacking concentration? D: In many ways we are shifting into an environment in which skill isn’t about having knowledge but about finding knowledge, but I don’t see this necessarily as a bad thing. Obviously there is an ever increasing number of situations in which different things want your attention and you’re just jumping all over them, never diving into anything with any depth.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 113

There is an interesting cycle of technologies that bring us to the space where we have this overload problem. So now some people are making apps that cut off Internet access or allow you to concentrate, so in a paradoxical way these are technologies to solve all the problems that we have created for ourselves with technology itself. Probably because to get anything done in your life you have to learn to be able to shut up the Internet access sometimes. INC: Can art and design practices make a contribution to the development of proper structures, models and even technological devices for digital publishing, and if so, how? D: I’ve studied typography so I’m quite aware of the history of design enabling the publishing of books and I’m sure this will continue in the digital space. What I’m interested in, in a technical kind of enabling way, is that I think there is also a space for design to be made as a tool of exploration and critique of what we want to make of technology and the possible ways that we can use it. I’m talking about opening up to these either scenarios or ideas where design is used as a medium to talk about technology, instead of just a way to make products. I don’t know how to relate this to digital publishing but rather as a way to engage with technology in general. I think this is the role that design can have now and for me that can be such a big contribution to digital culture and knowledge.


SKYPE INTERVIEW, 14TH DECEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 12 - PAGE N° 115

Interview with Will Holder - Artist and Researcher PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you introduce yourself and your work? When did you first develop an interest in book design? Will: I was originally trained as a typographer and now I’m mainly working in publishing and publishing within the arts. I make books with artists and I also edit a journal called “F. R. David” which is preoccupied with reading and writing in the arts but mainly from the position of the distribution of literature in the arts. “F. R. David” is published by De Appel in Amsterdam, they have quite a specific distribution, a visual art audience and readership. “F. R. David” comes out from the relationship between myself and …?name who is the director of De Appel. Most of our conversation have to do with literature, we never talk about visual arts so much. That relationship with literature was initially a foundation both for “F. R. David” and then also for the other editorial works that became personal projects of mine. “F. R. David” is interested in knowledge and in the distribution of knowledge and how the new takes and finds different forms of dissemination. So it’s looking at information and knowledge that have specific and informal forms – non-academic forms – and how information is transmitted through the exchange between people in very informal ways like letter writing, conversation and all the methods that we use to communicate in a more human and


INTERVIEW WITH WILL HOLDER - N°12

less hierarchical level. Another important thing to say is that it comes also directly from my interest for the particular perspective of typography, in a sense that has to do with the production of language around art objects. My main interest is indeed the scene of the production of knowledge around art object as a way itself of designing objects: if you are talking about a sculpture to somebody then in a way you essentially are designing that sculpture, or if you write a letter to someone about that sculpture, or if you write a caption too, these are all forms of designing the content or designing the information around that sculpture. I’m looking at the position of the production of language in the arts, not as an autonomous artistic production but as a structural distribution of a meaning or a didactic production of content. So “F. R. David” deals with this, wiht the relationship between writing and objects, or writing and images, and also writing as a form of collaboration. Lot of ideas and interests of “F. R. David” feed into other books I make together with artists and I think that nowadays it’s quite clear that I don’t make catalogues, I don’t make books that simply document or catalogue the existing objects. What I find in an informal conversation with artists – I really take as much time as possible to get to know them and their work and trying to set up a structure for publishing – it doesn’t necessary have to be a book. I prefer call it a structure for publishing that somehow pulls in their thoughts or their production methods, both in the way they produce a certain thing and in the way they explain their work, or understand productions made by others. INC: How do you first conceive and then develop the concept for a book? W: I think the answer to your question it’s probably the other way round: the concept for a book comes through this long period of acquaintance with somebody’s work. I think most of the books I make are trying to get to know someone’s work and share that process of getting to know artists and their work with a public,


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 117

I always see myself as the first member of the public. I think that the conception of the book, or whatever the book needs, happens very very late in the process, although I must admit that it always rests within the idea of the book and the structure of the book. Instinctually most of my solutions are how to get the content work over the pages of the book and most of the work that I do is absolutely engaged with print and understanding how print plays a role in the exchange, in the relationship and co-production between people. I say co-production because I think that an art work, or better, of the value of an art work, is always produced by a lot of people, because it’s usually a co-production between the artist, the gallerist, someone who makes a publication, someone who writes about the work, someone who talks about the work, etc. In this process I always try to introduce the idea of printed matter and what it means in those relationships, in order to engage the audience in a way that they insert themselves in the production of the value of an art work. Most of these books are also quite self-reflexive and sometimes their structure is not what it was supposed to be at the beginning. But overall it’s a mechanism to make an audience understand that they are also co-producers as readers and as viewers, and again this idea comes from literature: the author writes a book but it’s only 50 per cent complete, it’s the reader that really finishes and completes it, and every reader obviously completes a different book. I like this idea and I’m trying to introduce it into art works and into the production that supports art works. Much of the thinking behind that comes from music theory and collective practices. The idea of co-publishing and collective productions happens much easier in music, as it gets often produced with groups of people and there is just a different form of hierarchy and a different form of exchange and negotiation. I’m very interested in this as well. INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What about other digital editorial products (iPad applications, digital magazines, devices for reading in the web etc.)? What about calling them all “reading


INTERVIEW WITH WILL HOLDER - N°12

experiences”? W: I don’t really think in terms of an end product, whether it’s a book or an ebook. I think much more in terms of all the production processes that produce occasions for publishing, so I’m much more involved in all the processes that precede that formal decision and in that sense I don’t make much a distinction between a book and an e-book. But obviously, graduating in ’94 which is the time that the Internet became public, I’ve been extremely influenced by how the Internet has changed our reading experiences, as you call them. When you are online – especially tablets and iPads brought all these experiences together – you can go from a printed page to a small piece of text, to a video, to a song, and you can also make very associative jumps between content. It’s almost like the opposite we find in a library, where books in a stuck have all the same subject and they stay physically all together, whereas on the Internet you are really browsing or going through reading experiences that are extremely associative, so within one click you can even go from a piece of literature to a piece of science. I’m really interested in these kinds of situations where different subjects influence each other and have an effect on each other. The other thing to say about the Internet is that it’s becoming an extremely democratic form of publishing and I’m also very happy about that because much of my work is actually bringing into question the authorial or the authoritarian nature of publishing, especially in print. We can all see that if something is printed in analogue people take it as an authority or an authoritarian material, but on the Internet you don’t experience that: there we have material that is constantly innovated and constantly changing and perhaps has 50 different authors, and it’s great. I’m extremely happy about what that probes in understanding information and I’m really trying to bring that way of understanding back into print. So I’m constantly working on situations which bring inflexible formats as the authoritarian format of print into a more democratic structure. Of course this happens with the digital, but the contrast with print can be so much bigger:


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 119

because it’s print and because it’s so fixed, I think it makes it easier to demonstrate that flexibility in contrast with how fix a book is. INC: The relationship between text and image has always been one of the core matters in visual communication. How has it changed in the digital environment? Do you think this relationship could become something different in digital publishing, and how? W: This is something I’m extremely interested in as well because I think that it’s also related to what I was saying earlier about design, so the production of language around the work being itself a form of design. What is happening nowadays is that uploading images online we disseminate representations, but what we also do is that we type about them, we produce additional information which situates those images in a geographically and temporally unusual relationship with a lot of other meanings made by other people. That is a form of textual production that everybody is going through and it’s something I’m really interested in because the core of my work is seeing that production of texts as a form of cataloguing and organizing information. So my book projects are absolutely engaged with that kind of production of language and quite often it’s the relationship between text and the image that makes that extremely explicit. “F. R. David” has always been about this negotiation between texts and images, and another example could be the old identity that I made for De Appel: it was not only an apple but also an “A”, which was for “Apple”. The whole idea for De Appel production was around these two elements together, so the “A” and the “Apple”, as well as the text and the image, in a kind of perpetual modulation, a machine which is constantly producing new values on the transformation of meaning that you have constantly going from the image to the text and to the image back again. That constant change in value is what I’m extremely interested in, although my main focus lies absolutely on language and typography.


INTERVIEW WITH WILL HOLDER - N°12

INC: What about the relationship between content and structure in the laying out of a book (indexes, hyperlinks, different ways of visualization etc.)? How does it change with the digital? What about it in digital publishing? W: Even though I’m interested in typography it’s always in the relationship to something else, it can be to an image, or to an object, or to a piece of music, or to a person ect. Those relationships are extremely important to me because I believe that the language is not existing in isolation. An hyperlink is also an additional piece of language – the coding of an hyperlink – that’s written onto another piece of language to bring it somewhere else. Like I was saying earlier, these associative or multiple readings – like readings going on at the same time or readings that are not linear – are all a product of a democratic development of the authorship through the Internet and again, I’m trying to bring that idea back into books, back into this very fix form that we don’t expect to have hyperlinks. The very first book I made was completely hyperlinked, it was a book of photographs. I coded every single photograph and then I threw them into a box and pulled them out one by one so they came out at random. Then that randomness was literally reproduced page by page in the book, so the first picture I pulled out was page one, the second was page two etc. And then what I did was retracing the original connection in a small piece of text which would say “If you are at page 16 you should now go to page 17, if you are on page 17 you now have to go to page 65, form page 65 you go to page 120, etc.” to find back the original order of the images that have been completely shuffled. So this one was a way of thinking through hyperlinking that made a very different pathway through a mass of material. Another recent book I made with …?name is quite similar in a way. There are several narratives running together on the same page, they are all connected so you can go from one narrative to another. After a while you will start getting lost in that narrative so you have to go back and find and retrace the initial narrative. This is an example of trying to construct narratives that are unfixed, narratives that are like hyperlinks. It’s like the way you can get lost on the Internet, one link takes you to another one, which produces a certain narrative that you weren’t aware of, or you didn’t planed to stuck with.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 121

So I’m very engaged in this idea of multiplicity in narrative, such as the Internet huge amount of narratives that can be re-created through print in print, and how people get lost and distracted. There’s another very nice example, a …?name book they made for …?name, you can read it as an image book and you can also read only the text that goes underneath the images. You notice as you are reading that you can go either one way or the other, and if you are reading the text you forget to look at the images and if you are looking at the images you forget to read the text, but it doesn’t really matter, it simply reproduces this almost random narrative that the Internet is constantly producing for us. INC: Do you think we are risking an overload of information and a lack of concentration in publishing, especially in online and digital publishing? W: I think it’s something that we haven’t learned to exploit yet. A few people I’ve worked with, they all are worried about losing concentration, whether it’s in music or in other disciplines. I mean, when you are listening to music it’s ok to lose concentration so, Why is it not ok to lose concentration in other forms of information? I was taking about the same thing with …?name. She gives lectures which are very long, where you can really get lost inside. I think there’s a quality in that, I think there’s something like a kind of abstract level of information that we produce when we lose concentration and we lose our focus and I’m quite interested in that. A lot of recent readings I’ve been given have been very very long and it was interesting to look at what happened when people lost concentration or got tired or even exhausted. I think it’s something that we’re all going towards, but at the same time I think we are all capable to deal with, I think we just have to push it to such an extent that we understand how to deal with that. But on the other hand I’m also against overproduction. That’s why “F. R. David” only reproduces existing texts and I never commission people to write


INTERVIEW WITH WILL HOLDER - N°12

something new. As I said before, it’s more about the re-distribution of work within another readership, so I think it’s definitely going against this idea of overproduction and this overload of information. Myself, although I’m online all the time, I don’t publish that much digitally but I’m constantly dealing with the effect of the digital on the reception of information. As I said before, I’ve been making books since 1994 which was the time of the development of the Internet and I can see that all of my practice goes hand in hand with digital developments. A friend of mine …?name said that it gets so simple if you think about the book in the same way as we know it happened to painting when photography came around. When photography was invented painting had to reinvent itself, but definitely painting it’s still around. The digital age is just forcing us massively into an increase and acceleration of book production, but I only think that books will get stronger and stronger because of digital and online publishing, and now because books are so much published digitally, they have their own specific form, specific ways of reading and their own time. It’s just that everything gets emphasized and the features of physical books have been even more emphasized because they are in contrast with the aspects of digital publishing. At the end I think it’s all great, I’m really happy with that and I don’t mind the overload, because I see that everyone is able to deal with that and it’s only producing much more refined ideas of information. It’s also producing just the right amount of distraction in everybody. Sometimes it seems to be extremely annoying, but I think it’s just progress and it’s something that we have to get used to. INC: Has the traditional book changed? Can we talk about a sort of “paper reaction” to the digital shift in publishing? What do you think about the increase of self-publishing, both on paper and digitally? W: Yeah, definitely. Well, like I said earlier, I think this democracy of publishing which has been produced through the Internet and also this democracy of exchange have no cons effects in print publishing, people are finding ways


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 123

of producing print and exchanging print in a similar way. Again, I think it’s just beneficial to the book and emphasize the more distinctive and intimate qualities of it which you’d receive only by reading a printed book, instead of receiving a piece of digital information, and I think it’s just great. I think this situation takes away most of the aspects that were previously extremely managed and organized by logical Companies in print publishing, it takes them out of their hands and makes it an extremely democratic and practical process. Another thing to say is that I see that institutions aren’t really realizing the potential of these smaller scale publishers. I mean, I’ve been in a Swiss book design jury for a couple of years and that was the time I saw a lot of these institutional publications and there wasn’t any change in them at all. Institutions still have this idea that everything has to be big, whereas this “moscow”? publishing effect ­– a nice word for it is peace meal?, it means that it can happen day by day, along the way – it can be much more informally responsive. I think institutions are not very responsive, they are still very stuck in a managerially way and stuck in bureaucracy, so they are not able to adapt and to respond quickly: they’d like to respond immediately, but everything has to go through so many people before the decision gets made and then that response is too late and too slow. Smaller scale publishing attempts very fast in an extremely responsive way to many situations and I hope that larger scale publishing will catch up with that. I think they might be catching up with them online and with tablets, because I think their focus will turn more into things like iPads, in order to have more flexibility and agility in short time production. INC: What do you think about the obsolescence of the digital? Is putting the content back onto paper the only choice that we have to overtake this obsolescence? Do you think we could find other solutions? W: That’s funny, I also don’t mind that. I mean, I’m also a little bit allergic to book shops and libraries. Furthermore, I’m sitting here in a room of a resi-


INTERVIEW WITH WILL HOLDER - N°12

dency at the moment and there are only few books on the shelf and I know that they are dead: they have been produced and they have been important to someone at some point of his life but most of them have died because they’ll never be looked again. That idea really upsets me because I know how much time and energy people usually put into books and a lot of them die, but they are just as obsolete as the digital realm, I don’t there is much difference. But I also think that can be empowering. I think it’s more interesting to look at all these constant transformations that are going on and woking for those transformations to be empowering for everybody and for everybody to be involved in these. But yes, on the other hand it’s like there is so much unreal out there in the web, and even there it’s all dead until someone finds that page, it’s exactly the same for books. INC: What do you think about open source culture? What economic models do we have now in publishing and which do you think will take over in the future? W: A lot of my work is a form of acknowledgment of open source, especially thinking at the relationship with the production of music, for example, which has to be collective and is dependent on more than one person, and I think here open source culture was a very natural thing to have happened. I don’t really know the answer to the second part of your question. Obviously open source is kind of an economic model but I think I can’t talk about things in general, I always start from a scratch of every publication that I made. I don’t really know what kind of economic model do we have now in publishing except in relation to what we have already said, people do publishing on Lulu and POD. Possibly it’s more a question of the economics of distribution that has changed massively. Indeed I also think that the exchange of second hand books online is itself a sort of economic model. I never buy a brand new book anymore, I always buy my books second hand and you don’t really know


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 125

where this money goes, if it goes to the author or to the publisher. I think this is a market in itself with its own economic situation. I think it’s also necessary to say that much of my work it’s about publishing within the arts and nearly everything is founded by art councils and institutions. So it’s very difficult to me to tell something, because I’m in a very privileged position. INC: Can art and design practices make a contribution to the development of proper structures, models and even technological devices for digital publishing, and if so, how? W: Wow! Yes, of course! But I think it’s a very tricky question. These practices have always been doing this but at the moment they have been exploited just a little, I think, in terms of pushing technologies and the understandings of technologies. I wouldn’t be able to say how but I know that they will do that. Yesterday I was talking with someone about El Lissitzky and his idea of the Electrolibrary. The Constructivists and other artists working in his time were so important to this kind of developments you are talking about, also disseminating this kind of understandings on a much larger public level rather than it being simply on a small scale technological-scientific-professional discussion. I think that’s happening today as well, but I just think it’s not as organized as it was back then, or at least history makes it look as it was organized. I think the answer to your question is: Yes, they absolutely can make a contribution but it’s all a bit disorganized at the moment, but that’s also the result of what we have been talking about earlier in terms of information overload and distraction that probably generate this inability for artists to organize themselves.


SKYPE INTERVIEW, 17TH DECEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 13 - PAGE N° 127

Interview with Anthon Astrom - Lines PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you introduce yourself (your background and what are you doing now)? Anthon: I’m a Swedish expatriate, based in Zürich (CH) after years of jumping around. I studied natural sciences in Sweden, conceptual arts in Amsterdam (NL) and data visualisation in Lucerne (CH). I worked as a freelance developer, teacher and digital workflow trainer for several years, before finally settling in Switzerland, and starting design studio Astrom / Zimmer together with my colleague Lukas Zimmer. In the fringes of our applied design work, we run the Café Society project – a sandbox for new ideas and projects that don’t fit in the usual tracks. Such as Lines. INC: Can you tell me about LINES? How does it work? A: Lines is a digital writing environment, based on annotation. It inherits from the idea that everything we write is a comment on something else. The initial idea was to create a space for authors to create texts in a way that reflects new reading habits online – targeted, fragmented search-and-find – and still maintain a stringency in argument. It’s free writing and reading, but with context. Picture yourself googling for information, finding an article that suits you, and reading the paragraph of that article that contains your keywords. Very often you discard the rest of the article – the before and after – and even more often you don’t go very far in trying to find out where the


INTERVIEW WITH ANTHON ASTROM - N°13

arguments presented in that article actually came from. Lines tries to rectify that, by forcing a strict developmental writing approach (annotations on annotations) and presenting that whole development to the reader. INC: Can we call LINES a digital book? A: No, but. We like to call it by its subtitle: an Interactive Idea. It wasn’t in any way born to hold specific content, or to solve a specific problem, but is put out there as an argument in a larger discussion about textual information on the screen. It’s a set of rules forcing you to create and consume content in a certain way, same as the book, but to call it a book would kind of defeat its purpose; one of our main interests is to highlight all the other formats we’ve been using over the history; the codex was preceded by the tablet and the scroll, and variations on the codex format such as glosses has provided incredibly interesting interfaces to text which don’t necessarily fit with our current idea of the “book”. Then there is the question about medium … the term “digital book” feels rather oxymoronic to me. INC: What have been the parameters, limits and rules in the design of it? A: Oh, there are many. Perhaps the most important one for us – and incidentally the one that upsets the most people – is the fact that as soon as you’ve written a comment or annotation on a piece of text in Lines, that initial piece of text becomes locked-down. You can’t change anything which has been annotated. In the beginning this can be irritating, since if you want to move forward with your text, you’re stuck with a lot of things that was once written but you might no longer stand behind. Typos and mistakes all stay until the end. But this feature is absolutely essential to the Lines framework: if you’d write an argument and someone would comment on it, you can’t be able to edit your initial argument, or the comment will be rendered irrelevant. INC: What were your main goals and did you reach all of them? Are you still working on it? A: Our initial goal was to figure out a way to “write like we read”. As soon as we came up with the structural idea for Lines, the second step was to build


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 129

it – make it interactive. As soon as the application was running we started inviting people to use it and discuss what it did to their way of writing and reading, and then incorporate it in lectures and workshops on the nature of text in print and on the screen. And this is where we are today, and the so far the ship is sailing without much trouble. If we encounter leaks we plug them, but new features have to wait until we have the time and capacity to realise them. After all, all the Café Society projects are completely self-funded. INC: Did the feedback form users give you further inspiration to improve project? A: Sure, but mainly little things regarding the user interface. I mentioned the issue of non-editability before, and I’d say that is by far the most common point of feedback. In those cases – where the critique is aimed at the principles of Lines – we simply enjoy the argument. And many of these structural feedbacks and ideas surely find their ways into other projects. INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What about other digital editorial products (iPad applications, digital magazines, devices for reading in the web etc.)? What about calling them all “reading experiences”? A: I’d say that until now, the main difference is that one is ingenious and the other is incredibly stupid. Ok, I own a Kindle and I do quite enjoy it, but for the fact that it makes my library portable, and not because of the reading experience. The print book has undergone centuries of refinement, and throughout its lifetime it has remained very high-tech regarding its components – surface, print, binding, size etc. Then along comes digital computing and screens, and what do we do? We take an ancient, analogue approach to presenting text, and paste it into this new environment, without even bothering to translating some of its most basic features – its hapticity, its location in a room, the act of turning physical pages, the fact that the remaining stack of paper gets thinner as you approach the end, etc – all of which are extremely important cognitive clues to the mind experiencing and processing the content. In this sense eBooks are worryingly poor compared to their


INTERVIEW WITH ANTHON ASTROM - N°13

analogue counterparts. The term “reading experience” feels like a passive action – something that comes out of reading in a certain medium, using a certain interface. That medium/interface combination can then be viewed more mechanically, like a “reading machine”. The traditional book has certain functionalities that can be accessed and triggered while reading, just as a digital interface on the screen has. The “experience” is the sum of these functions plus the act of using them. INC: The relationship between text and image has always been one of the core matters in visual communication. How has it changed in the digital environment? Do you think this relationship could become something different in digital publishing, and how? A: Yes, on two levels. The act of reading (and writing) on the screen has a lot more common with image analysis than old-school paper pages, since it’s dynamic, and information can blend in and out as pixels, not having to follow the rules of linearity. This also means we have a lot more possibilities for replacing lists and linear argument with images, and have images carry a lot more of the “hard” information we traditionally had to put in writing. INC: What about the relationship between content and structure in the laying out of a book (indexes, hyperlinks, different ways of visualization etc.)? How does it change with the digital? What about it in digital publishing? A: Because digital interfaces are dynamic we can compress a lot more information on a smaller space. It started with simple hyperlinks, moving though old HTML image maps, and nowadays there seems to be no limit to how we can “hide” large amounts of information – text, more images, videos – behind parts of images or points in graphs. This makes for a super playing field for coming up with new ways of indexing stuff on the screen. And what’s perhaps even more interesting – by taking the things we learn from this digital indexing, and applying it to print publications, we can start to completely rethink the paper. Visual indexes have started to appear more and more in print books, and I’m very sure we’re still only scratching the surface of what’s possible.


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 131

INC: Do you think we are risking an overload of information in publishing, especially in online and digital publishing? A: If we were, we’ve already reached it. There’s way more stuff out there than any of us could consume in a lifetime. The new challenge lays in content curation, and here is also a much greater risk; over the last 10 years or so we’ve started to trust filtering services way too much, to the extent that our favourite online gateway – Google – has started to provide personalised search results. Theoretically this is a great service, but the impact is that our world view becomes increasingly isolated. What we need is more overview – more blur – not more reduced sharpness. INC: Has the traditional book changed? Can we talk about a sort of “paper reaction” to the digital shift in publishing? What do you think about the increase of self-publishing, both on paper and digitally? A: Good question. Even if pixels have now passed paper, book sales are still growing, and I think we can agree on that the Great Book Death hasn’t happened. The question is what happens as soon as eBooks/audiobooks become cheap enough for the price to justify the value in the mind of folks. It’s already happened in the music industry, and it’s just a matter of time until a flat-rate book subscription comes along. What happens then? There’s no telling, but even if I classify myself as a hard-core book romantic, I have a feeling we’ve over-exploited the world’s resources in covering ourselves in paper for a very long time, and perhaps a more moderate consumption is in order. It’s great to see good, fresh content finding itself out there in ways traditional publishing hierarchies wouldn’t allow, but the trick – again – is how to orient yourself in a growing excess of material of variable quality. As the walls of publishing come down, the available content becomes diluted, and for the single consumer (if I’m allowed to still use that term) it’s tricky to see what’s really out there, as long as our window is the personalised filter provided to us by the great web services. INC: What do you think about open source culture? What economic models do we have now in publishing and which do you think will take over in the


INTERVIEW WITH ANTHON ASTROM - N°13

future? A: Perhaps first a disclaimer – we’re not in the content business, but in the interface business. The framework business. Our economic model is based on 1) applied projects, where we work for clients on specific scenarios, which pays for some of our non-commercial projects, and 2) traditional research funding sources for others. When it comes to making money from content, I’m not sure where the open source culture comes in ... Advertising will most probably live on, although in a more and more covert form. And like I said before, I think things tend toward flat-rate models. One problem that we haven’t solved yet in the digital world is how to give people a chance to get attached to content before buying. In a bookstore you can leaf through books, hold them in your hand, and when you decide to buy it you get a piece of material with you. With bits this is a lot harder, which makes it more difficult to justify paying nearhardcopy value for a single download. INC: Can art and design practices make a contribution to the development of proper structures, models and even technological devices for digital publishing, and if so, how? A: What do you mean by “proper”? Better than the ones we have, or simply viable? Art and design practice definitely can, is and will contribute in great ways to the evolution of publishing, but the question is to what extent. Until now the development has been very efficiency-driven, and we keep locking ourselves into certain design patterns when it comes to interfaces – digital or physical. Much of it has to do with our striving for consensus, and our fear of being unclear. Perhaps it’s time for the artistic part of creative design practice to get a bigger role, and push for solutions – interfaces, devices – which are blurry, more open-ended. Digital devices and their interfaces are the new grammatical rules defining the way we communicate, both interand intra-personally. And we need to start treating them with the philosophical respect they deserve. That means not only treating them as a means to a productive end, but as arguments in a discussion about bigger things. And this is the domain of the arts and design.


SKYPE INTERVIEW, 18TH DECEMBER

INTERVIEW N° 14 - PAGE N° 135

Interview with Waldemar Wegrzyn - Elektrobiblioteka PUBLISHING PROFILES

RESEARCH ISSUES

Publisher Designer Artist-Author Developer Dealer Researcher User-Reader Aggregator

Print to digital Tools and softwares Collaborative practice Reading experience Publishing cycle Platforms and networks Changing roles Open source

Institute of Network Cultures: Can you introduce yourself: your background and what you are doing now? Waldemar: My name is Waldemar Węgrzyn and I’m a graphic designer from Katowice, Poland. This year I graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Katowice in the department of design. My fields of interest are book design, typography and also multimedia experiments with interfaces. Now I’m just trying to start a start-up, that may be ready to be launched in January, connected with book design and graphic design with additional experiments such as the Electrolibrary project. INC: Can you tell me about the Elektrobiblioteka? How does it work? W: The Electrolibrary is my diploma project that I completed in the Academy of Fine Arts of Katowice. It’s like a mix of the traditional paper book and a digital interface. It’s a book that can be connected to the computer by a USB cable. By turning pages, the user can navigate the project’s web site, http:// www.elektrobiblioteka.net/ While reading, the user gets access to additional information such as quotations, hyperlinks or Youtube movies - things that couldn’t be inside a traditional book.


INTERVIEW WITH WALDEMAR WEGRZYN - N°14

The title of the project is a reference to the El Lissitzky manifesto “Topography of typography”. It seems that in the 1920s El Lissitzky made predictions that electronic libraries would replace the traditional paper ones. The contents of the book are actually my diploma thesis regarding the book as a kind of interface. Unfortunately for now it’s only available in Polish but maybe I will translate it into English. INC: Can we call the Elektrobiblioteka a digital book? W: We can call it both a digital and a non-digital, or analogue, book because the project consists of two parts: a printed book (in fact it has some electronics inside, but it’s similar to traditional book) and the web site. Both parts are complete and independent publications so that you can read the book and the web site like you would normally. They are complementary, so by putting them together you create a new publication type that is different and more specific. The book is an interface for the contents that you can also be used to navigate the web site and to communicate with the computer. INC: What have been the parameters, limits and rules in its design? W: The project was a big experiment for me and it was about mixing my fields of interests, especially printed and digital design. Since the beginning it wasn’t my intention to design some new and useful solution for an interface that would be comparable to e-books, for example, although Elektrobiblioteka is often described as a DIY e-book. Instead, what was really interesting to me was to combine these two forms of media and look at the connection, which I think is meaningful in and of itself. So it was interesting for me that the book could be considered as an example of a text based interface, that you can compare to older ones and also to the newer ones, like the Lev Manovich’s http://www.manovich.net/ thoughts on media in the book “The Language Of New Media,” which was very inspiring to me. I also think that the mechanical aspect of the book – that it has spreads,


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 137

numbered pages and a spine, etc. – is very interesting in comparison to the web site interface, because you can treat the space of the book in similar ways to the space of a web site. INC: What were your main goals and did you reach all of them? Are you still working on it? W: If the goal was to connect the book to the computer, then yes, it works. But the most interesting thing is what the conclusions are to this project. I’m currently seeing if it’s possible to use such a device for children books or maybe artists’ books, so other kinds of projects more complicated than my own. Of course first I’ll have to solve some technical problems that were not very problematic for the project at that time, but that are now. For example the book has to be printable in bigger editions. There are some very strict parameters. Those elements connected to the physical making of the book, like the book dimensions, bookbindig etc. are particularly difficult. The paper book has to be flexible and it’s difficult to provide an electrical connection between the pages at the same time. INC: Did the feedback from users give you further inspiration to improve the project? W: Yes, I tried to observe the readers, especially during some exhibitions or presentations of the Electrolibrary, and of course I also spoke to them. You know, it’s not like with regular books that obviously most readers read from the cover to the end, instead they play with it like with some kind of funny new device. INC: It’s like a video game! W: Yes, in certain ways it is. I think that Sony released “The Wonder Book” some time ago with a similar concept.


INTERVIEW WITH WALDEMAR WEGRZYN - N°14

It’s very interesting for me that people very easily associate printed objects to their equivalents on the screen. For example, it’s obvious for them that if you have a square on the page and a square on the screen, it’s the same square and it’s just that you can additionally zoom in the monitor or other things like that. Overall, I think this project is worthy because it is good to know that such a double publication can be created. It was a very multidisciplinary experience. INC: What is the main difference between a book and an e-book? What about other digital editorial products (iPad applications, digital magazines, devices for reading on the web, etc.)? What about calling them all “reading experiences”? W: I think “reading experiences” is a good definition. I don’t know if the technical difference is so important, I think that the main difference is rather the amount of information available at one time to the reader. It’s obvious that it is much easier to concentrate on a book that has specific contents and only one function than on an application, for example. I think that the screen also demands shorter texts, and I see this in myself. I see that I start to have problems with reading long texts because I got used to the shorter ones that we have on the web and everywhere else. I think that another interesting idea is the trust that we have in the authors of publications, or that if we buy a book somehow we think that the author is a reliable one, and treat him as an authority. On the other hand, for text found on the internet or digital texts in most cases we don’t know the author. We can command information, or switch to another text which is totally opposite in pursuit of information, but I think we don’t treat these texts as seriously even if they have good content. INC: The relationship between text and image has always been one of the core matters in visual communication. How has it changed in the digital


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 139

environment? Do you think this relationship could become something different in digital publishing, and how? W: Of course we have new possibilities, for example putting animations or interactive elements into texts, but there are also lots of useless interactive animations and e-books. E-books for children are especially full of images that don’t necessarily emphasize the text. I think now that Google can provide so many images on any subject it’s not necessary to use the image as only a way to visually explain a concept. In other words, you don’t have to illustrate the text by representing it with connected illustrations because everybody can look at thousands of different images on the same subject on the web. Images are now used more to attract the reader’s attention and to present it, by having a book with game and video elements in it as well, which can be good but can also be bad. I think publishers somehow treat the text in books as if it was boring so they have to put a lot of different things in addition to the text. I think that especially for graphic designers this is a very new situation because you don’t have control of the special relationships between text and images anymore, because on one device it may appear smaller and on one it appears bigger, for example. It’s becoming very difficult to connect these two elements. To conclude I would say that maybe now text is only part of a big image made of web browsers or interfaces, or whatever you can have on the screen, and it is no longer the opposite as it was when images were only considered as parts of the text. INC: What about the relationship between content and structure in the laying of a book (indexes, hyperlinks, different ways of visualization, etc.)? How does it change with the digital? What about it in digital publishing? W: It’s very important for me as a designer that the process of designing a


INTERVIEW WITH WALDEMAR WEGRZYN - N°14

book is now totally different. Now you have to think about e-books or applications and even PDF files – well, maybe not PDF files as much, as they look the same on most screens. E-Books especially, though have a fluid layout and both text sizes and typefaces are variable, so the user can increase the text size, for example, and he can change it as he wants depending on the size of the screen. So you have much less control of the outcome of the project, but it’s also quite interesting that the content and all the logical connections are becoming very important. For example, you have to divide the content into headlines and paragraphs that will be treated differently, or you can provide a browser to scan all of the content. That’s why you have to design the structure very carefully, especially when you are designing a layout which is used not only for one text but which can be adapted. So you have to think about all of these elements as logical parts of the whole structure, which has to be considered not as one closed layout. In a certain way this concept is similar to the way it has always been in the laying out of a magazine. INC: Do you think we are risking an overload of information in publishing, especially in online and digital publishing? W: I think we’ve already faced it. We already have an overload of information and for sure it’s harder to judge from the ‘cover’ of digital publications because now, in terms of layout, they are similar to each other, both in a graphical or in a typographical way. Typography of e-books is still very poor in comparison to books. They often don’t have footenotes or bibliographical notes, doesn’t matter what kind of text it is, and for sure this is not a very convenient situation for the reader I think. INC: Has the traditional book changed? Can we talk about a sort of “paper reaction” to the digital shift in publishing? What do you think about the increase of self-publishing, both on paper and digitally? W: Books started to be perceived by readers and by people as a medium, so


OUT OF INK INTERVIEWS - PAGE N° 141

not only as “the thing of book” but as a container for information. That’s why it became so popular to create your own book, instead of just buying and reading books that we can find in bookstores. That’s all very interesting and it’s a very positive movement, the self publishing, and I think it’s also a response to the shift to the digital language in communication: people want not only to read but also to write and to introduce themselves to each other. So you can create websites or your Facebook account, and in a similar way you can also create a book because it’s not so expensive and not so difficult to find a printer and all the stuff that you need. I really like self publishing and I think we should treat books not only as products but also as a kind of thought sharing. INC: What do you think about open source culture? What economic models do we have now in publishing and which do you think will take over in the future? W: I’m not sure that we have open source in publishing now because it’s mostly still a few big Companies producing most of the books. But I also think that it’s impossible for them to sell as many books in the Internet era and even as many e-books, because publishing became easier and in a certain way because not only the paper but the information in general become cheaper and more accessible. So I think that the publishing industries will divide the cheaper and the more popular part of their production from the other part, which will be very exclusive. Perhaps this part will be made of, I’d not say art books, but rather well designed books, printed as objects and not only as information containers, very well designed and carefully edited by an authority opinion. INC: Can art and design practices make a contribution to the development of proper structures, models and even technological devices for digital publishing, and if so, how? W: Yes, of course. Art and design practices are creative and inspiring for any


INTERVIEW WITH WALDEMAR WEGRZYN - N°14

other industries and it’s pretty obvious that people’s new ideas can contribute to the creation of new and different things in any field. What is more important and innovative to me is that experimenting with different technologies and skills and approaches in different fields can be such an enhancement for designers, and everyone else. So I believe it’s really inspiring not only working with other specialists, which became a very popular way, but also having some self-lead projects. It’s good to start a project where you really don’t know what the outcome will be. Of course you can’t do this on every project or every day but I think that was the most important lesson I got from the Elektrobiblioteka project: trying to create something that I didn’t know what it was before I began and then seeing what it became in the end.


Out of ink - Interviews Case studies  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you