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…
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!
Yesterday I wrote about Storybird and how it enables a form of shared making through an online interface using email to notify authors when it is their turn. This reminded me of a very definitely non-technological example of the shared making of books..
Making the Oxford English Dictionary
From when the gargantuan project of compiling the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857 it would take 71 years until the first edition was published. The third editor, James Murray, worked on the project for 36 years but died before he saw it completed. As part of his tasks Murray oversaw hundreds of volunteer readers and contributors who would painstakingly search out early examples of the use of words and send them to Murray by post. As a result of this mail-enabled shared making method, the first Oxford English Dictionary contained 414,825 words, and 1,827,306 illustrative quotations.
Contributors were not all academics and linguists. J.R.R. Tolkein was a volunteer while one of the most notorious, and prolific, contributors was Dr W. C. Minor, a murderer and certified inmate of Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Confined at Broadmoor with his collection of rare books, Minor happened upon Murray’s call for ‘men of letters’ to become Oxford English Dictionary volunteers in the early 1880s and began scouring his collection for the first or best uses of words.
If the project took place today it would almost certainly be termed a ‘crowd-sourcing’ project and would be built as a wiki (see en.wiktionary.org/wiki/). What does this non-digital shared making project suggest? That times change, technologies move on but ideas remain the same, or perhaps that we shouldn’t let technology get in the way of carrying out a good idea..?