[-empyre-] Books And pixels

christopher sullivan csulli at saic.edu
Thu Jun 10 15:35:33 EST 2010

Hello Zack, and all. The book question is interesting. I don't think we have to
act overly confused by the notion, as bookstores are filled with them, they are
a fact.
but the notion of contemporary writers engaging with time, linearity, and even
conflict, in contemporary culture, are very exciting. I am confident the notion
of what a book is are about to expand into interesting places.
    Narrative is a biological persistent factor (death, decay, entropy) but as
writers,we do have more flexibility with form than any generation before us. I
am very excited about graphic novels for instance, and graphic, and literary
serials on line. 
it brings up an interesting notion..the written word becoming temporal, like a
play, like a performance. The same can be said for film, digital media, creates
throw away motion pictures, and maybe that is not all bad. 

for me a book, is a unique experience, because it is read by a collective of
readers, but consumed in solitude for the most part. it is also interesting to
think that people will devote 20-30 hours to the reading of a novel, without
considering that as an amazing commitment to a single work. any body spend 20
hours on a single painting, or film, or intallation, recently?   
I am about to do a reading to an audience, so I am thinking of these things. 


Quoting Zac Zimmer <zac.zimmer at gmail.com>:

> Hello to all,
> I thoroughly agree with Joost that the iphone is not the communication
> technology that Hegel's Logic demands. Has anyone read a previously printed
> text that seemed to read *better* on an electronic device? (i.e. an untimely
> book that seems only now to have founds its proper medium?)
> That said, I think we should be careful about conflating "book" and
> "narrative." Joost says, "I tend to define books as that creative product
> that, in principle, has a story line that must be followed from a starting
> point to a conclusion (though as in hypertext and games, we might have more
> outcomes)."
> That definition would exclude some of the more interesting experimental
> writing produced in recent generations; John Haltiwanger mentions
> serialization and open-ended collaboration, but we could also add books that
> deliberately conceal/mask/refute starting points and conclusions (Finnegans
> Wake is an early example that comes to mind), along with other exercises in
> fiction that embrace repetition/constraint over beginning/conclusion (Oulipo
> texts, for instance). Not to mention the question of books of poetry...
> Also, in relation to the formal element of unchangability that we expect
> from a book, Chartier reminds us that a book changes by the fact that it
> does NOT change when the world changes, or when the world's mode of reading
> changes. It seems that automatically-updating electronic books would
> unsettle this concept and force us to reevaluate our understanding of books
> as archival documents.
> Best,
> zac z
> 2010/6/9 John Haltiwanger <john.haltiwanger at gmail.com>
> > On Tue, Jun 8, 2010 at 5:14 PM, Joost Kircz <j.g.kircz at hva.nl> wrote:
> > > Dear Colleagues,
> >
> > > In fact the old discussion on hypertext is back on the agenda. Now the
> > > technology is creeping into the right direction (though we still don’t
> > have
> > > bidirectional links in XML), see my (and my co-author Anita de Waard)
> at:
> > > http://elpub.scix.net/cgi-bin/works/Show?234_elpub2008
> >
> > From the paper:
> >
> > "Our work rests on two main theoretical principles: the concept of
> > modular documents, consisting of content elements that can exist and
> > be published independently and  are  linked by  meaningful  relations,
> >  and  the  use  of  semantic  data  standards  allowing  access  to
> > heterogeneous data."
> >
> > This sounds like research that would benefit the humanities
> > significantly. Has there been much cross-pollination with your
> > research into fields outside of the physics/computer science/cell
> > biology that you mention in the end of the abstract?
> >
> > > In that sense, my interest is the question”What communication demands
> > what
> > > technology”and explicitly not gee look Msword 2020 will be able to show
> > the
> > > coding just as Wordperfect does.
> >
> > I was wondering if you could follow this line of thought a bit,
> > perhaps with more details of what fits where, and how to decide?
> >
> > Have we already developed the ideal grammars of typography for dealing
> > with long-form prose (essays, books) through our experience with
> > printing ink on paper? Or does the screen offer space for new grammars
> > that we are still to encounter?
> >
> > > 3)- A nagging question “What is a book”
> > > Because we call everything between two covers a book and the whole trade
> > > organised along those lines, this doesn’t mean that it is a book in an
> > > electronic environment. A telephone directory is not any more a book, an
> > > encyclopaedia is not any more a book. But a novel or a text book is. I’m
> > > working on a discussion paper on this subject. I tend to define books as
> > > that creative product that, in principle, has a story line that must be
> > > followed from a starting point to a conclusion (though as in hypertext
> > and
> > > games, we might have more outcomes).
> >
> > Is there a time/space component to this? For example, serialization:
> > Is it a book if it hasn't finished yet? What about a (hypothetical,
> > afaik) collaborative text in which the story is intentionally
> > changing, piece by piece? In other words, does book imply a certain
> > stasis, perhaps a physical embodiment? The "two covers" could be the
> > top and bottom plastic of a game DVD, a first and last blog post, or
> > the beginning and end of a PDF file's structure. Both these imply
> > finished products, or at least a static existence. Could "unchanging"
> > be a formal attribute of what we expect in a book? (This is with the
> > understanding that books change, but with the attitude that a new
> > edition is a new incarnation--the elements of the old edition do not
> > change automatically to match the new one (yet, at least; I would
> > argue that this feature is not necessarily a good thing)).
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> >

Christopher Sullivan
Dept. of Film/Video/New Media
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
112 so michigan
Chicago Ill 60603
csulli at saic.edu

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