Reading the Reader

Reading the Reader

Eugene Thacker
Riposte to: 

Eugene Thacker, who went on to help design the Alt-X e-book series, suggested some models for ebr designers to consider.

Hello all - seems like the discussion is off to a healthy start - like Mark I was immediately thinking of some net-based models that might be good to look at:

Rhizome’s “Starrynight” interface (I think this is what you were referencing Mark?) seems right in-tune w/ the ideas Lisa brought forth. As a way of creatively accessing Rhizome’s huge database, it functionalizes the constellation model to create multiple linkages between differently-categorized files (mostly text). The brightest stars are the most linked-to, I believe it can be updated automatically once the database is updated (?), and it offers branching links from each star. I think…

Plumb Design’s “Visual Thesaurus” uses Java to create a more dynamic interface which reacts to mouse positioning & also uses a branching motif. A separate frame on the bottom displays relevant information.

Third, as a means of generating more conceptual thinking about this database model, Switch, the e-journal at the CADRE Institute, recently did an issue on databases.

However, like many tech-related projects, I’m less worried about conceptualization than about technical issues. It would be wonderful to create both a back-end database structure and front-end interface that would be automated but adaptable, even one that would interact w/ the user by “reading” them, tracing their weaving thru the database. I like the weaving/threads motif & it would be great to effectively translate this into programming…

Finally, Mark’s comments are I think leading us to consider more real-time interactions, where the database is not only an archive but also a kind of dialogic facilitator. The model here would be something between a conference/panel/roundtable and a mailing list and IRC. I’m reminded of the online symposia organized over the past few years by Eyebeam, in which they invited guests to head an online forum w/ members of the discussion list for about a month on a specific topic. This wasn’t simply another list, but was tightly organized thematically, temporally, and in terms of having several online panelists as well as others participating.

So, perhaps in addition to EBR utilizing the database as an archive, one way to generate new material (aside from the usual means of sent-in essays, reviews, responses) is the real-time production of new structures within the database thru online forums, even RealTheory or something that could also point to the ways in which the medium is transforming, challenging, and mutating essay-writing and criticism.