Archive for June, 2010

Book as experience? Or book as storage/retrieval mechanism?

June 24th, 2010

Here’s a research question for historians of the book (and maybe book futurists, too):

What’s the key aspect of the book?

  1. the cognitive experience
  2. information storage and retrieval enabled (e.g. book features such as ToC & indexes within a book itself; reproducibility of ‘exact’ copies, wider distribution and ownership of books, ability to have multiple books on the shelf, etc.)?

That arises from Steven Berlin Johnson:

[W]as the intellectual revolution post-Gutenberg driven by the mental experience of long-form reading? Or was it driven by the ability to share information asynchronously, and transmit that information easily around the globe? I think it is a mix of the two, but Nick, taking his cues from McLuhan, places almost all of his emphasis on the cognitive effects of deep focus reading. There’s no real way to prove it, but I think there’s a very strong case to be made that the information storage-and-retrieval advances made possible by the book were more important to the Enlightenment and the modern age than the contemplative mode of the literary mind. And if that’s true, then the Web should be seen as a continuation of the Gutenberg galaxy, not a betrayal of it.”

from a post where Steven Berlin Johnson summarizes his own New York Times essay Yes, People Still Read, but Now It’s Social responding to Nick Carr’s book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. I assume Carr’s current position to be well-represented by his 2008 article in The Altantic, Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

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Locative texts

June 13th, 2010

A post at HLit got me thinking about locative hypertexts, which are meant to be read in a particular place.

Monday, Liza Daly shared an epub demo which pulls in the reader’s location, and makes decisions about the character’s actions based on movement. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure novel crossed with a geo-aware travel guide. It’s a brief proof-of-concept, and the most exciting part is that the code is free for the taking under the very permissive (GPL + commercial-compatible) MIT License. Thanks, Liza and Threepress for lowering barriers to experimentation with ebooks!

‘Locative hypertexts’ also bring to mind GPS-based guidebooks as envisioned in the 2007 Editus video ‘Possible ou probable…?’1:

Tim McCormick summarizes:

In the 9-minute video, we get mouth-watering, partly tongue-in-cheek scenes of continental Europe’s quality-of-life — fantastic trains & pedestrian streetscapes,independent bookstores, delicious food, world-class museums, weekend getaway to Bruges, etc.– as the movie follows a couple through a riotous few days of E-book high living.

On their fabulously svelte, Kindle 2-like devices, they

  • read and purchase novels
  • enjoy reading on the beach
  • get multimedia museum guides
  • navigate foreign cities with ease
  • stay in multimedia contact with friends and family
  • collaborate with colleagues on shared virtual desktops while at sidewalk cafes
  • see many hi-resolution Breughel paintings online and off that I’m dying to see myself


Multimedia guidebooks2 are approaching this vision. Combine them with (also-existing) turn-by-turn directions, and connectivity and privacy will be the largest remaining obstacles.

So then what about location-based storytelling? I got to thinking about the iPhone apps I’ve already encountered, which are intended for use in particular places:

  • Walking Cinema: Murder on Beacon Hill – a murder mystery/travel series based in Boston (available as an iPhone app and podcast).
  • Museum of the Phantom City: Other Futures – a multimedia map/alternate history of NYC architecture, described as a way to “see the city that could have been”. It maps never-built structures envisioned by Buckminster Fuller, Gaudi, and others – ideally while you’re “standing on the projects’ intended sites”.
  • Museum of London: Streetmuseum, true history of London in photos, meant for use on the streets
  • Historic Earth, has historical maps which could be interesting settings for historical locative storytelling
  1. Editus’ copy of the video []
  2. e.g. the Lonely Planet city guide series for iPhone []

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World Cup 2010

June 11th, 2010

While soccer is rarely televised in the U.S., the rest of the world seems to love their football.1 A few years ago I saw part of one World Cup game at the neighborhood Irish bar; this year, I’ll have my pick of pubs, along with eager colleagues closely following the games.

With so many games to keep track of, this World Cup chart from Spanish sports daily Marca is a one-stop shop for schedule info. (Thanks Nathan)! World Cup info from Marca

Twitter has made some auto-searches for the occasion, guaranteed to attract spam, along with some actual news and opinions. There’s an overall page along with a page for each game (e.g. South Africa vs. Mexico. Pages for each country (e.g. Mexico) give dates and times of upcoming matches. (Thanks Ranti and Richard for the tip.) world cup on twitter

  1. I’m amused that some Canadians apparently switch between ‘soccer’ and ‘football’ to describe the game. []

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