Below are a few excerpts from Bob Stein’s opinion piece and thoughts on the links between book development and society.

In 2005, Bob formed The Institute for the Future of the Book. “With a group of young people, just out of university and coming of age in the era of the social web, we carried out a number of experiments under the rubric of “networked books.”
This was the moment of the blog and we wondered what would happen if we applied the concept of “reader comments” to essays and books. Our first attempt, McKenzie Wark’s Gamer Theory, turned out to be a remarkably lucky choice. The book’s structure — numbered paragraphs rather than numbered pages — required my colleagues to come up with an innovative design allowing readers to make comments at the level of the paragraph rather than the page. Their solution to what at the time seemed like a simple graphical UI problem, was to put the comments to the right of each of Wark’s paragraphs rather than follow the standard practice of placing them underneath the author’s text.”

CK: A question of placement and re-ordering existing text; a side-by-side.

“We started to talk about “a book as a place” where people congregate to hash out their thoughts and ideas.”

“Follow the Gamers! And lest, you think this shift applies only to non-fiction, please consider huge multi-player games such as World of Warcraft as a strand of future-fiction where the author describes a world and the players/readers write the narrative as they play the game.”

CK: When considering the future of books very often the focus also is on public engagement, education and development in learning and gaming. They seem interconnected.

“Following McLuhan and his mentor Harold Innis, a persuasive case can be made that print played the key role in the rise of the nation state and capitalism, and also in the development of our notions of privacy and the primary focus on the individual over the collective. Social reading experiments and massive multi-player games are baby steps in the shift to a networked culture. Over the course of the next two or three centuries new modes of communication will usher in new ways of organizing society, completely changing our understanding of what it means to be human.

Consider the book as place
Consider placement and arrangement
Consider the gameing, learning and public engagement as strongly tied to dynamic publishing
Consider the nation state and capitalism

Christina Kral


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