Five Things

August 24, 2010


This Five Things thing. Various people have been doing it. So here goes. Five things I’m thinking about:

The future of the book

That may seem a little obvious. And vague: let’s talk about novels. The novel is a historical accident, it’s different to everything else, and it’s not dead yet. It’s only been around for a very short while: its roots lie in medieval and early modern epics and romances, but it only really gained its present form in the 18th Century. It has, crucially, always been enabled by technological and social development. And with that in mind the idea that it will continue in the same form is hopeful at best; and yet it endures. The long-form, mechanically reproduced narrative, this sustained and individual encounter with ideas and stories (and both those qualities are significant), has not merely been enabled by, but has enabled the last two hundred years of our culture. People keep attacking the novel and proposing its development, and yet, and yet. That.

How to (re)Publish

There are new paradigms emerging. I’m thinking about operations like Odyssey Editions and (my own) Artists’ eBooks, and people like Seth Godin, the latest (well-known) person to declare they won’t go down the traditional publishing route again. But more particularly, I’m thinking about how we can publish really good, old books into this scene – authors like Jocelyn Brooke, Ronald Firbank, and Denton Welch (yeah, there’s not much on the latter two at the moment). There are too many new books published, too many “forgotten classics”, and while these will always remain a niche interest, they’re the ones I care about. In a world of print-on-demand and rights-squatting and a million books in your pocket, what’s the future for small and personal presses?

The art of listening

I’ve been really enjoying playing with audio recently – particularly in the form of Mattins and Speechification. It’s now a very easy medium to work with, and it’s very versatile, and portable, while allowing you to remain in the world, in a way that a lot of screen-based futures don’t. People are playing with radio in clever, new, and exciting ways, and talking about it. Papa Sangre is going to be awesome, RIG’s SAP is beautiful vapourware, and nothing compares to my favourite artwork ever. I’ve got some ideas and I am working on them. Slowly.

Something about History, the Web, and Storytelling

I’m doing a few things at the moment that are trying to stitch together bits of the internet into a coherent narrative. As in, can it represent my thought processes as I discover and learn? Can I look back over my browsing/research history and automatically create new ideas out of that? Like when you’ve been for a walk and you draw a trace on a map at the end of the day and you go “Oh right, that’s what I was doing”. And can we do that on a cultural level, a species level? We’re building all these tools that have more memory and storage than we can possibly conceive of, but we’re still skating on the surface. More on this at dConstruct, possibly.


I haven’t done any serious travelling in a while. There’s a milestone birthday coming up. A lot of my friends are emigrating, or at least going away for a bit. I’m consciously doing a couple of things to dig myself into London, to rediscover and rework it, but I’m wondering a little bit. Perhaps I’ll wander a bit.


Or, failing that, I’ll just settle into middle age and do letterpress. Which would be fine.

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