[-empyre-] HYBRID BOOKWORK, Week Three - At the Digital Publishing Crossroads: Design, Documentation and Art Practice

Silvio Lorusso silviolorusso at gmail.com
Thu Feb 20 08:15:21 EST 2014

Hello everyone and thanks to Michael for the invitation.

I'd take this opportunity to tell a bit more about P--DPA and some possible
relationships with the previous discussion. The Post-Digital Publishing
Archive is a project that I started around one year ago as part of a
research at the Iuav University of Venice. Simply put, the goal of P--DPA is
to draw a map of the experiments that deal with publishing and digital
technologies in the fields of art and design. Its online appearance
consists mainly of two spaces:

- http://p-dpa.net/ (recently launched): the platform I use to collect,
juxtapose and categorise the works.

- http://p-dpa.tumblr.com/ : the more or less daily log in which I collect
quotes, works, memes etc. that are in a way or another related to the

Hopefully, p-dpa.net will provide a manyfold, fluid and maybe overlooked
perspective on the current publishing ecosystem. I believe that
experimental artworks are able to shed light on publishing, because they
often embed, highlight and take even advantage of its ambiguities and
paradoxes. In this sense, I try to privilege works that question the
current state of publishing, through the engagement with its modes of
production, dissemination, validation, etc. One aspect that I consider
crucial is to preserve the socio-technical context in which the works exist
and, as a starting point in this direction, I chose to categorise the works
not only by their media, but also by the technologies and platforms (e.g.
Wikipedia, Google) employed or exploited (here an overview:
http://p-dpa.net/index/ ). Of course the distinction among those is often
fuzzy and therefore problematic (and here I think of the previous
discussions on the digital as medium and/or agent), so suggestions are more
than welcome. As categorisation and inclusion become themselves the tools
to critically approach the works, an evolving vocabulary is needed.
Currently, each work contains metadata that can be extracted by querying
the database, the structure of which should be transparent.

I'd like to spend some words on my naive -and somehow utilitarian- adoption
of the term "post-digital". The choice derived from a clear sense of
dissatisfaction toward the polarisation of the general debate around
(digital) publishing and its practice in art/design schools. This unease is
brilliantly expressed by Frédéric Kaplan, who says that <<most debates
follow the same pattern. One will say that with a single digital reading
device he can take a whole library with him. The other will challenge him
to read an ebook on the beach, taking a bath, arguing for the versatility
and simplicity of use of the paperback option. [...] At this point, the
debate turns bad. It is time to leave the room...>>.

I believe dualisms are not bad *a priori*, in fact we saw on this list very
different, thought-provoking ones during the last days.  What I'm
specifically talking about is a generic old-vs-new approach. As a result of
it, this vague "new", in order to be really new, must show off its maximum
potential. This is often done by highlighting isolated functionalities
embedded in mobile devices and by employing an "additive" design process
(<<now you can take notes, listen to audio extra contents, share passages
with friends, etc.>>) In a previous mail, Adam Hyde seems to confirm this
issue, by asking <<why is it assumed that digital media must use as much as
possible of its 'digitalness' (or at least its non-analog-ness) in order to
cross some threshold of 'being digital'?>>

In this respect, as far as I know, rarely there are courses in schools on
the humble EPUB, while there are plenty on enhanced books for iPad. My
personal sensation, expressed elsewhere, is that the iPad is becoming the
new white cube for digital content, though a very apparent, non-neutral,
opaque one. To me, the term "post-digital" was an escape door from the
baroqueness and gloss of the "enhanced book", allowing me to consider
low-tech solutions such as ASCII texts or even stapled zines.

In fact, e-books' functionalities are frequently consciously limited for
the sake of 'enhanced' dissemination. I think for instance of badly
scanned, non-OCRed PDF on Monoskop. So, I feel that in order to grasp the
"messy and paradoxical condition of art and media after digital technology
revolutions" it's useful to look away from the object-oriented
functionalities, toward a systemic approach. This is the reason why I use
the term "publishing" rather than "book" or "bookwork".

I followed the panel on the post-digital at Transmediale with great
interest and I'd like to mention one thing that I profoundly agree with.
The idea was not to consider post-digitality as a 'feature' embedded into
the artworks, but rather as a perspective applied to them. As an example,
"A Room of One's Own/A Thousand Libraries" by Kajsa Dahlberg (2006) is <<a
compilation of all the marginal notes made by readers in the Swedish
library copies of Virginia Woolf 's 1929 pamphlet "A Room of One's Own".>> (
Probably, the artist didn't have in mind CommentPress and the
reading/writing in a digital sense, but I believe that the work becomes
very pertinent when related to specific functions of e-readers like the
Kindle or platforms like Medium.

I think this is also connected to the quest for ideal 'hybrid' works by
Alessandro. I feel that in order to express the metabolisation of the
digital in our lives, it is not strictly necessary that the work embeds
digital processes in its production or fruition. My guess is that artworks
that are situated "on the outside" can be equally illuminating.

Thanks again and sorry for the long post.


2014-02-18 21:29 GMT+01:00 Michael Dieter <M.J.Dieter at uva.nl>:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi empyreans,
> I'm pleased to welcome three more guests this week to the discussion
> of Hybrid Bookwork: Angela Genusa, Silvio Lorusso and Benjamin
> Shaykin. Please find their bios below. I'd highly encourage you to
> check out their work documented online (and in some cases
> downloadable). I really can't say enough good things about their
> stuff, but they've all inspired me to think more seriously and in
> different ways about whatever has been happening lately to books, and
> I'm really glad that they all said yes to post this week to the list!
> Cheers,
> - M.
> Bios:
> Angela Genusa is a US-based writer and artist. She is the author of
> 'Twenty Six Wikipedia Articles' (PediaPress, 2013), 'Musée du Service
> des Objets Trouvés' (PediaPress, 2013), 'Spam Bibliography' (Troll
> Thread, 2013); 'Tender Buttons and Jane Doe' (Gauss PDF, 2013);
> 'Highlights for Ren' (Lulu, 2013),
> 'onlinedating.teenadultdating/Adult-Dating' (Lulu, 2012) and 'The
> Package Insert of Sorrows' (Lulu, 2011). Forthcoming is her book
> 'Simone's Embassy' (Truck Books, 2014), as well as 'Composition'
> (2014, publisher TBA). Information about her book work can be found at
> http://cargocollective.com/angelagenusa.
> Silvio Lorusso is an Italian artist, designer and researcher.
> Currently he investigates the intersections between publishing and
> digital technology from the perspective of art and design as PhD
> candidate in Design Sciences at Iuav University of Venice. He
> regularly collaborates with the Institute of Network Cultures in
> Amsterdam. In 2011 he graduated in Visual and Multimedia
> Communications. Subsequently, he spent a period of study at the
> Networked Media course of the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. He
> took part in exhibitions, festival and events such as Transmediale
> (Berlin, Germany), Unlike Us (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Fahrenheit39
> (Ravenna, Italy). Some of his works are included in the Rhizome
> ArtBase Selection. He has written for blogs and magazines such as
> Progetto Grafico and Doppiozero. For more information see:
> http://silviolorusso.com/; http://p-dpa.net/ and
> http://p-dpa.tumblr.com/
> Benjamin Shaykin is a Providence-based designer and educator,
> specializing in book design and other printed matter. He received his
> MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 2011, and his BA in Studio
> Art & Art History from Oberlin College in 1995. Since 2004, he has
> maintained his own freelance practice, working primarily with
> publishers, museums, and arts organizations. His work has been
> featured in the New Yorker, and recognized by the Type Director's
> Club, AIGA's Best of New England (BoNE) Show, Print's Regional Design
> Annual, Communication Arts, Readerville's Most Coveted Covers, and the
> Society of Publication Designers. He has been a full-time member of
> The Design Office since September 2011. Previously, he was a designer
> and art director at Chronicle Books and Mother Jones, and was
> cofounder and creative director of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop
> Culture. He is a critic at RISD, teaching courses in typography and
> graphic design. For more information see: http://benjaminshaykin.com/
> --
> Michael Dieter
> Lecturer
> Media Studies
> The University of Amsterdam
> Turfdraagsterpad 9
> 1012 XT Amsterdam
> http://home.medewerker.uva.nl/m.j.dieter/
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

*Silvio Lorusso*
@silvi0L0russo <https://twitter.com/silvi0L0russo>
Skype: silvio.lorusso
silviolorusso at gmail.com
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