2010: The Booktwo/STML Yearnotes

December 31, 2010

Yes, it’s that time again. Another year, another review. Can I just starting by saying, it’s been completely awesome. (And yes, I do mean that in the fullest sense.)

The year started with London, maps and newspapers—common themes, you might notice. My London 2010 project, to map and reshoot Patrick Keiller’s London has been bubbling under for most of the year. Unfortunately, I missed a couple of key shooting dates, so it won’t be completed in a single year, but for a taste of what I’ve been up to, there’s the blog, a record of progress in photographs, and the short film I made for Katie Bonham’s exhibition in June.

In January and February I printed and sold 100 limited editions of Immanent in the Manifold City, a newspaper about Walking Stewart and Nineteenth Century time travel, and made A Wide Arm of Sea, a single-sheet walking map for Newspaper Club and the Design Museum. I’m not sure if it’s still there. I should do something about that. Long Snake City, a scaled-up Snakes and Ladders for Gamecamp in May, also ticks the city/map/newspaper box.

The year has been dominated by conferences, one way or another, and special mention should go to Matt Locke’s The Story in February. Nothing else has quite come close to it all year. Here’s my write-up, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

My first talkie bit was at SxSW. Well, that was brilliant. Hanging out in Austin with the smartest people I know, eating tacos. Lots of tacos. I made the fieldnotes, which everyone seemed to like. And there was a panel: Maps, Books, Spimes, Paper: Post-Digital Media Design (links to slides, audio, other people and so on).

As well as being generally overwhelmed by SxSW (and contributing to the Newspaper Club Austin paper), it felt like the fieldnotes were the first proper example of the books for thinking with, which pretty much kick-started my current obsession with time, media and temporal objects. So that was good.

After Austin I went to Mexico City and walked around a lot of bookshops and galleries. That was pretty good too.

In my various publishing ventures, Artists’ Ebooks continued with new titles from Niven Govinden and Kenji Siratori, and these were also made available, along with all the Bookkake titles, on Apple’s iBooks and Kindle in September. There will be more Artists’ eBooks coming next year, including a new story from Tony White, and a follow-up to Bookkake: some new old books, and a new approach. Stay tuned.

It’s worth noting that some of the most interesting work in publishing this year has been some of the stuff I can’t talk about, which is a shame. Big companies, doing very interesting things. Will talk about them when I can. I have been lucky enough to be involved in projects like Fiction Uncovered though, which I can talk about, as well as all the independents I’ve talked to and written about; people like Four Corners, or-bits, Cassava Republic and Bookworks.

Publishing’s an odd one. I love the industry, but I don’t always feel a part of it any more. I’m still definitely a publisher though—I’m still doing what I’ve always done: printing out things I think are interesting and trying to get people to read them. Ah well. Onwards!

Summer was lovely, wasn’t it? I went on a boat on the river. That was a good day. I went to Port Eliot and took MENACE along. And I went to Scotland and read a lot of Benjamin and Montaigne, who were to prove pretty formative. And I swam, pretty much everywhere: in the Thames, below Tower Bridge and at Marlowe, in the Tamar Estuary, in the Serpentine and Hampstead Ponds, in Lulworth Cove, the lochs and rivers of the Western Highlands, on Brighton Beach—and Bronte. Yes.

The second half of the year brought a lot of thinking about archives, bookmarks and destruction, which led pretty straight in to my talk at dConstruct: On Wikipedia, Cultural Patrimony, and Historiography, in which I introduced the Iraq War Historiography. (Pictures, audio and so on.)

The Historiography book(s) have become a bit of a touchstone. I’m pleased people like them, and I’m pleased to have managed to pull so many interests—(the idea of) books, history, the web, politics and technology—into a single object. I talked about them a lot more over the next few months, as people who’d heard about the dConstruct talk asked me to do some more, not least Web Directions in Australia.

Before that though, there was Tools of Change in Frankfurt. It seems to me that the biggest thing happening in books at the moment—and I’ll be talking more about this in the New Year—is their increasing ephemeralisation. They’re subliming, aspiring to that condition of music we’ve heard so much about. So, after all that talk about bookmarks and Walter Benjamin, it was time to put my money where my mouth is and launch Open Bookmarks, a genuine effort to move the discussion around electronic reading another step forward, get a bit of agreement going between ebook readers, and attempt to reconcile that old aura than Benjamin was on about. 2011 is going to be very interesting indeed, and if you’re interested, do join in.

Half my family is Australian, so it was amazing to go to Sydney for the first time. Dan gave me this awesome map, and I spent most of the time when I wasn’t conferencing wandering around. I mean, have you seen the Harbour Bridge? For real? It is MASSIVE. Anyway.

I was so jetlagged in Sydney that I abandoned my prepared talk and just talked about the things that were obsessing me right then: wikiracing, William Gibson, liveblogging and volcanoes. In the process I came up with “Network Realism” which may or may not have legs, but I think it does and I like it. What it was, of course, was what I’d actually been talking about all year: time, and how it’s just as broken right now as our business models—broken by the network—but what’s interesting is how we’re coming to terms with it, artistically, culturally, and technologically, and what that might mean in the future. 2011 is going to be all about time.

I went to India in November with my Mum. It was ace. We drank whisky on trains and saw in Diwali with fireworks and ate so much food I thought I was going to die, but in a good way. I wrote a bit, but not nearly enough, about the strange stirrings within Indian literature and the imminent ebook future, but mostly I just want to go back and live there for a bit and see what happens. Can anyone help me with that?

And then there’s been a bunch of little pieces of work too, that I’ve enjoyed learning from, like the Noticings Layar (I’m still playing, by the way) – and the Urban Farm (ha!). There were Maps for Birds, and of course the Bookcube souvenirs, which have actually been pretty significant. And Romance has lived too long upon this River, a small thing that I’m glad people like. Screens—them too next year. Not least in the form of Bus-Tops, which I have some responsibility towards. And Chromaroma, which I really hope to do some more work for.

And I haven’t mentioned walking in Brittany with my Dad, or Hay, or Stockholm, or Dorset, or the the Do Lectures or Norfolk or any number of other things that have made this year the best year ever, even though I turned 30 and that totally freaked me out. I even started running. That’s how scared I was.

And all this time I’ve just been talking about me, rather than all the incredible things my friends and colleagues are doing. The BRIG is my superpower, and I can’t thank Russell, Tom and Ben enough for their kindness, generosity and piss-taking/advice throughout the year. And Phil and Matt and Chris and Alex and everyone at BERG and you know who you are. Honoured to know you.

In the next few months, I’m off to New York, Snape, Milan, New York again and a number of other places. I am very lucky. Do say hello if you’re passing, and, as ever, if you think it might be interesting to do some work together, there’s my CV, portfolio, and you know how to reach me…

So, Happy New Year. It’s quite exciting right now, isn’t it? There’s wikileaks and Anonymous and real, serious protest in the streets, and Stuxnet and financial meltdown and governments and writers meeting technology head on and it’s snowing outside and the future is wide open and filled with awesome possibilities. God, it’s going to be fun.


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