In my last post I looked at how handmade zines could be made in ways that were impossible to recreate digitally, which led me to discover a handful of comics that exist in three dimensions.
Warren Craghead’s “A sort of Autobiography” is a comic spanning ten StoryCubes, each detailing a decade of his life, and possible future life. Its interesting that this was reviewed as a comic in its own right by Warren Peace, despite being hosted online by Diffusion, rather then distributed in print.
“Pandora’s Box” by Ken Wong, retells the Greek Myth on a cube which readers must open to continue the story.
Contending with the rise in popularity of web comics, and the theory of the “infinite canvas” (i.e the size of a digital comics page is theoretically infinite, allowing an artist to display a complete comics story of indefinite length on a single page), these works make use of space, a concept that can be imitated, but not recreated, on a computer screen. Whilst web comics allow readers to digitally interact, readers can physically interact with and manipulate three-dimensional comics; an entirely different reading experience.
In 2008 Alec Finlay made a series of two Story Cubes. Alec is an artist, poet and publisher currently working in Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The Story Cubes he made were titled ‘After Ludwig Wittgenstein‘ and ‘score/fold‘ and could be made up into two cube poems. Each side of the two cubes features a single word and poems are created by the juxtaposition of the cubes, revealing and hiding words.
These poems can be viewed – or made – in the context of Alec’s other poetic forms; the mesostic name poem; circle poems and the related windmill turbine text designs and wordrawings; and the grid poem and sliding puzzle poem objects derived from these.
A windmill turbine poem by Alec Finlay from his artists residency at Kielder
A few months after finishing the Story Cube poems Alec recreated two wooden box versions of the cubes to be exhibited as part of Thoughts Within Thoughts at Arc Projects Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria.
The transformation of the work from paper to wood makes me wonder when is a Story Cube not a Story Cube? Alec’s wooden cubes give the impression of greater importance and permanance than the paper cubes – yet they are essentially the same content. Is it the paper material, the ability to make, undo, and remake the cube, the potential for sharing the cubes as digital files or the cube form that give Story Cubes their character? Or some combination of these that might vary from project to project? These two sets of Story Cube poems seem to me to be an illustration of the questions I was exploring in earlier posts about how the choice of materials for eBooks and Story Cubes affect the reader’s perception of the finished object.
Although the new digital age has made making a zine incredibly easy, especially with tools such as bookleteer, I thought I would take a look at the other end of the spectrum; handmade zines. Many still continue to design and assemble their zines by hand, some eschewing a computer entirely, simply photocopying pages, or even reproducing every copy by hand, often resulting in some amazingly intricate and unique creations. This opposition to the digital format seems to inspire a much more elaborate aesthetic, and many zines would be impossible to recreate digitally, save for the new wave of pop-up e-Books and iPhone apps, recently featured by Karen.
… and pretty much everything else in the handmade section on Book By Its Cover. Beautiful.
Obviously, the only way to distribute these is by hand or post, and therefore swapping zines with other makers is a staple of the scene. Knowing firsthand the amount of care and skill that has been lavished on these, surely adds another level of appreciation for the work, something I doubt sending an eBook zine could match, sadly. I’ll be writing about the impact the digital format has had on the zine aesthetic, and how they are shared, soon.
Andy demonstrating Tales of Things at Be2Camp Brum 2010; via Meshed Media
Today’s post is another presentation I heard at Be2camp Brum 2010 last week. (It was truly an inspiring and thought-provoking day!) Tales of Things was presented by Andy Hudson-Smith from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, UCL. Tales of Things explores social memory and asks what happens if we can tag objects in our everyday environment and track these objects – even after we’ve passed them on to someone else.
Entering details of an object into the Tales of Things website allows you to generate a unique QR code for that item which can be printed out and attached to the object. When the QR code is ‘read’ by a camera the web page for that object is triggered. Because Be2Camp Brum was loosely focused around the theme of libraries Andy used tagging books as an example, suggesting that tagged books would be able to use Twitter to keep previous owners up to date with the book’s current location and status.
The Tales of Things website suggests that:
“The project will offer a new way for people to place more value on their own objects in an increasingly disposable economy. As more importance is placed on the objects that are already parts of people’s lives it is hoped that family or friends may find new uses for old objects and encourage people to think twice before throwing something away.”
Promoting the sharing and exchange of objects in this way is obviously interesting in the context of bookleteer and I did actually tag a couple of eBooks with QR codes generated by Tales of Things for Pitch Up & Publish 10: Augmented Reading a few weeks back. Perhaps it’s time for me to go back and revisit that and see where it might lead..
If you want to read more about the project see here, or if you just want to get on and tag your stuff then look here..
Even though the eBook Treasure Hunt took place in 2009 I hadn’t come across it until I was looking for projects for my talk at Be2camp Brum 2010 last week. I used this project to help me explain the idea that eBooks facilitate shared making. I thought it was really great and I wanted to share it with you here too.
The eBook Treasure Hunt was designed and implemented by Kevin Harris of Local Level with Manningham Library in Bradford. The library was undergoing refurbishment and the Treasure Hunt was part of a public event to engage people with the refurbishment project and open up a period of consultation.
Treasure Hunt participants followed clues that sent them to specific spots around the library that would be affected by the refurbishment. The first clue was printed in the eBook and asked “Where are the books about Bradford?” Answers to the questions were written into the eBook and supplementary questions were designed to solicit ideas for the new building. The supplementary question for the first clue read “How else might the new library be used to celebrate Bradford and Manningham?” When they found the place in the library that held the answer participants were handed a sticky label with the next clue on. This was stuck onto a new page in the eBook.
In this post on diffusion.org.uk Kevin writes that the eBook Treasure Hunt worked well and no-one had difficulty following the clues or the instructions about where to place the sticky labels. He goes onto say that, in part, the success was because the activity took place in an ongoing mix of engagement activities and processes. Library staff were on hand at the event to hand out clues, give hints and generally smooth the process. He also wrote this post on his own blog about how the eBooks and questions were designed. I think this is such a thoughtful well-considered approach to engagement and consultation I encourage you to read the rest of the post.
As far as shared making goes I think this is a great example of how different types of making can come together in an eBook. Kevin designed the eBook and entered the content into bookleteer, librarians at Manningham then printed out the A4 eBook sheets and made them up into the A6 eBooks. Finally, the treasure hunt participants took these eNotebooks and made them unique and personal with their answers and ideas. Three types of making, one eBook!
The Manningham Library Treasure Hunt eBook is available for download here.
Last week I began to draft a post about digital artist Dave McKean’s illustrations. I was planning to return to the half-written post when I got an email from Giles saying did I know that Dave McKean illustrated a piece of writing for COIL (the Journal of the Moving Image which Giles founded and edited) in the late 1990’s? Well, no, I didn’t. But now I do, this makes a perfect focus for writing about his work. All images below are from The Entrapment from COIL 7 | 1998. Thanks for the tip Giles!
Since 1994 Dave McKean’s been producing extensively layered images using computers and digital manipulation. In his collaborations with writers, illustrations and text appear to be intertwined so that the paper becomes part of the content and I was interested to find out how he achieves this effect. In an interview on Apple’s website he describes how his approach has changed with the increasing sophistication of digital technologies.
“The major things that have changed … are the tools and materials I’ve been able to use. When I started on ‘The Sandman,’ I was aiming toward a translucent collage, a layered look, an insubstantial feeling where you’ve just got an atmosphere. I tried to do that with things like double exposures and different printing techniques. To a degree, this approach is always pretty limited by the fact that the illustration has to be a physical object and, if I have to photograph it, limited by gravity.”
The illustrations for COIL were made in 1998 (COIL 7) for a supposedly ‘anonymous’ piece actually written by legendary indie producer Keith Griffiths (of Koninck fame) about a film he produced by Iain Sinclair & Chris Petit called the Falconer – itself about another ‘legendary’ 60s filmmaker called Peter Whitehead. Its a many-layered piece about becoming trapped in the layers of legend and hype spun around Whitehead and the narrator’s (“Darke”) attempt to unravel the story. Darke is a thinly veiled characterisation of the Falconer’s script writer (and 90s film critic) Chris Darke. The techniques of double exposure and layering that Dave McKean mentions in the interview with Apple are clearly visible in the collages of text and images he produced for this.
The process of creating these illustration begins with “endless drawings.” Out of these, one is chosen and painted onto a backboard of colour photographs and paper collages, a basic canvas already with a life to it, containing interesting textures, colours and shapes. Illustration comes next where McKean paints the characters onto the canvas. From here, the process moves onto the computer. “Sometimes I finish it [the painting] quite well and sometimes I leave it open and rough, scan it and make sense of it in the computer. The compositing is the fun bit, really, and dragging all these elements together all happens very quickly.” As McKean writes, it’s an explorative way of working, “I like the fact that I don’t really know what I’m aiming toward completely. I have an idea, but it’s also the shapes shifted and composited in the computer that allow me to find a nice blend.”
In fact, it seems that his process and approach has remained surprisingly constant as tools and materials have evolved. In this article, he suggests this goes back to his college days at Berkshire College of Art and Design, “Before drawing anything we had to have a clear idea of what we were trying to achieve. So to this day, I still write personal briefs for myself. I still need to be clear in my own mind what I’m doing.”
For me, what is so inspiring about this description of the process is that having a clear plan from the outset in no way constrains the experimental, organic nature of the final illustrations. As he writes, “Techniques may change and go in and out of fashion, but ideas are always worth exploring and re-interpreting.” I wonder if we could get him to design an eBook…
Following on from the paper versus digital notebook conversation the other day I came across this post describing how to keep a geological field notebook. What I liked was how few of the characteristics and possible uses of a geologists field notebook they list actually have to do with the content and how many are to do with the form!
“A well-kept field notebook can function not only as a recording device in the field, but as a scale for photographs, an umbrella, a signal, and most importantly, as a guidebook for the next time one is schlepping through the same area. The notebook itself should be small and easy to carry, and preferably a bright colour, making it hard to lose. It should be bound so the pages will not fall out, and have a hard cover, so that one can write in it easily. Also, because geologists work in all sorts of weather and locations, the notebook should be waterproof, with synthetic or coated paper on which pencil marks will remain legible when wet.”
A field notebook being used to show the scale of a mineralised water droplet (via www.uwec.edu);
The author then describes the type of content you might want to include in your geological notebook and formats you might want to use (and very sensible advice it seems too) Of more interest to me though is the discussion that followed on from this post where the first person asked “can one not have a digital note book ?”and was told that while you could have a digital notebook..
“your trusty notebook cannot get a virus, cannot crash or freeze, will not run out of batteries, is generally impervious to moisture (see bit in the entry about using pencil – though biro isn’t bad), does not require backups or upgrades (other than a new one once that one is full) is easily archived and retrieved, can be used as a fly swat, impromtu dinner plate, signalling device, flat plane for getting an average dip using the compass-clino, scale in photographs… oh, and it doesn’t break when put in rucksack or pockets along with rocks, hammers, tape measures, lunch etc…”
Which I think pretty much covers all of the ways in which paper notebooks can be used – though of course computer notebooks can do some of these tasks too. (And the authors did say that digital notebooks do have their advantages to geologists such as GPS and GIS.) Now I’m going to go away and think about how I can make a bookleteer eBook that can function as a signalling device, dinner place, fly swat and umbrella..
I took the photo above in the Kenrokuen gardens, Kanazawa. We were standing beside the lake at the centre of these beautiful and historic gardens when I saw these two ladies. Standing side-by-side one lady was sketching what she could see using a pencil and paper notebook, the other was using her mobile phone to photograph the same view.
I was reminded of this picture when I read this post suggesting that pen and paper are mightier than the laptop. It describes a meeting of high-powered business men in which paper notebooks outnumbered the electronic version. The blog author, David Hornik, describes what he sees as the advantages of a paper notebook.
“Notebooks have certain enviable characteristics. They are instant on — even faster than a laptop with a solid state drive. They have virtually unlimited storage — just boot a new notebook when the pages are filled. And they perform better than tape for archival storage. Direct sunlight is no problem for a bright white piece of paper. And power management is rarely a problem (although your pen may run out of ink). Notebooks don’t require any connectivity. They aren’t susceptible to viruses. And they are highly portable. 
 I realize Notebooks aren’t perfect. They perform about as well as laptops when exposed to the elements. They are a terrible collaboration tool. And I have yet to see an effective way to backup your notebooks.”
Obviously, this is a relevant topic for bookleteer which uses digital processes to produce paper notebooks and it got me thinking – what are the pluses and minuses of paper vs computer notebooks?
I love my laptop but I don’t carry it more than I have to because it’s heavy (well, heavier than a paperback book), it’s precious – I don’t want it stolen or lost, and it contains *everything* – I don’t want my photos, dissertation, emails, music and to-do lists destroyed by a wayward cup of tea! On the plus side it contains *everything* and I never find I’ve left something important at home. My paper notebooks, on the other hand, are lightweight and tend to be more focused – a work notebook, a sketchbook, a project notebook.. And they hold stuff too – flower petals, tickets, business cards and so on. They’re still vulnerable to a spilt cup of tea but the consequences are probably not so serious.
So perhaps it’s not so much about ‘better’ or ‘worse’ but about being the most appropriate object for the situation or person.
What do you think? Do you prefer paper or computer notebooks? Any opinions welcome..
Art Space Tokyo is an intimate guide to the Tokyo art world by Ashley Rawlings and Craig Mod and a very beautiful book describing the buildings and neighbourhoods of 12 distinctive Tokyo galleries. There are maps for each of the areas, illustrations of the galleries by Nobumasa Takahashi (the cover is a composite map of Tokyo by Craig Mod) alongside interviews and essays.
Inside pages from Art Space Tokyo
In the Preface to Art Space Tokyo Ashley and Craig write:
“We believe that art is not just an end goal, but a process involving all manner of people. Aside from the artists themselves, the art world is made up of collectors, curators, architects, businessmen, npo organizations and the patrons — those of us who gain pleasure from simply viewing and interacting with art — all taking part in some way to foster the creation and consumption process.”
Although here they were referring to the people who work in and with galleries and art they also applied this philosophy to the creation of Art Space Tokyo. Originally printed in 2008 the book was sold out by Spring 2009. In 2010 Ashley and Craig decided that they would like to update and reprint the book as well as create a free web edition for the iPad extending the original concept with videos of the spaces and interviews with local characters, sound-recordings that reveal the ambience of the neighbourhoods and rich interactive maps.
Illustration for GA Gallery, Yoyogi / Harajuku
In the spirit of shared making, it was at this point that they turned to Kickstarter as a way to raise the money necessary to achieve their goal. Kickstarter allows people to advertise their project and ask for contributions towards realising it. Requested contributions for any project range from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars – with your reward increasing alongside your contribution. For example, a pledge of $25 Art Space Tokyo would have got you a PDF of the book plus access to all project updates. At the other end of the scale for a pledge of $2500 you would have received all of the rewards of the other pledge amounts (e.g. copy of the book, original artwork) plus a 1-day tour of the art spaces of Tokyo with Craig Mod.
Is this shared making? Well, yes, I think it is.. As they write in the preface art – or making – is a process not just a product and through Kickstarter Ashley and Craig were offering the opportunity to become part of this process. And I hope the benefits were mutual – they got to reprint the book, contributors got a tangible reward (and presumably a warm fuzzy feeling from helping out two artists).
p.s. If you were thinking of contributing you’re too late… Ashley and Craig wanted $15,000. By 1 May when the pledges closed they had 265 backers and had raised $23,790!
A set of Bookcubes generated using the bookleteer API
James Bridle of booktwo.org was one of the participants at the Pitch Up and Publish: Augmented Reading a couple of weeks ago, and he talked a little about the idea of books as symbols and the related BookCube project he’d done using the bookleteer API.
Here, I’ll just give a summary of the project. James has written a post on booktwo.org describing the project which I really recommend you to read because it’s seriously interesting and covers more topics than I describe here…
James started with the idea that the lifespan of a book looks something like the drawing in the image above. There is a short period of the book-as-object acting as it’s own advertisement, then a period of time where you are reading the book and taking in the content, then during the final, and longest, amount of time the book-as-object acts as a souvenir of the reading period.
James has already begun to address the idea of digital souvenirs for eBooks with his bkkeepr project and with the bookleteer API he extended this to create automatically generated Bookcubes. These cubes display the information collected by bkkeepr and includes an image of the book cover. Over time James imagines the Bookcubes to build up on your shelf as a visible and tangible souvenir of your eBook reading. For bookleteer, this is an interesting tangent – instead of being an object to read it becomes an object that marks the fact that reading has taken place – and the content becomes separated from the form.