Bubbles in space

January 18, 2007

Kim White over at the Institute for the Future of the Book has a great post about the sea change coming to books. Alongside screen technology (e-ink, &c.) and the breakdown of the traditional author/reader divide (the networked book, &c.), White identifies another key factor in the evolution of the book: 3D visualisation.

As we’ve said many times over, Book 2.0 only needs to look enough like Book 1.0 to kill it, then it could look like anything. This is why we’re interested in technologies like Second Life that – once you get past the smut and avvie bling – offer us new ways to interact with information. Literature itself has been breaking non-linear ground for some time, so to eschew the possibilities of more dimensions that new technology offers seems needlessly restrictive – but then all new technologies need to be introduced slowly.

One of my favourite books, Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, describes an alien language with thirty-six letters, in which it is possible to speak in emotional aggregates – “one word, one sound, represents a whole complex of ideas and associations and feelings.” If English words are circles on a piece of paper, then the metalanguage consists of bubbles floating in space. Written language evolved as a way of recording information, but the technology (sharp rock/flat rock, and their ongoing equivalents) was limited. With limitless technology, will not only literature, but the very language evolve?

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