John Haltiwanger: Free Your Objects (And Let The Subject Follow)


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A post by Mathijs Weijers

John Haltiwanger was the third speaker of session 2, which focused on publishing workflows, tools and platforms.

His talk aimed to give the audience a better understanding of the recent work of Gilbert Simondon on cybernetics theory. Simonodon’s work shines a new perspective on Norbert Wiener’s theory of cybernetics, originally published in 1948, but it is often hard to grasp by readers. Hence, Haltiwanger wanted to offer the audience a clear analysis of the essential terms of Simondon’s vocabulary on cybernetics.

Haltiwanger warned that he is not an academic, and that he became interested in the topic when doing his master’s thesis in New Media and Digital Culture at University of Amsterdam: “I had to make a decision about the format the thesis should be published in: PDF, HTML or .doc?”. Choosing the right format seems to be very easy but actually can be problematic, as each has its own specificity. PDF might have a clean interface but it’s hard to archive and be read by machines – HTML would do that job better. Word Documents are, in his opinion, standard formats that are required in the academic environment but have little benefits and reduced usability. There is furthermore the issue of proprietary formats. While he used the open-source Libre software to write his thesis, when exporting to PDF it crashed. These inconsistencies are harmful as “knowledge is too important to be locked in proprietary tools”. Thus, the thesis topic soon revolved around the very format that academic publications can take, Haltiwanger joked. Yet, this is why he believes that understanding the vocabulary for discussing the cybernetics theory of Simondon is important, as users are forced to simplify or even weaken the content of what they are working on in order to get a desired format. Whilst there are so many format options, Haltiwanger argued, “we are constrained by liberty”.John Haltiwinger photo

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Joost Kircz: Going Electronic


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A post by Mathijs Weijers

Joost Kircz was the first speaker of the 2-day conference “Off the Press – Electronic Publishing in the Arts”, organized by the Institute of Network Cultures. From 2006 till 2013, Kircz was a part-time lecturer on electronic publishing within the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam), and currently he is involved with the Digital Publishing Toolkit research project. He regularly publishes his findings on his personal website, www.kra.nl.

Joost

Kircz’s presentation was about the various technical requirements and design standards that different types of electronic books need. “Electronic book publishing in the Arts is a multifarious adventure. On the one hand, electronic publishing is already an unclear notion and on the other hand the notion ‘Arts’ is something nobody agrees on anyway”, Kircz mused. He then introduced The Digital Publishing Toolkit, a project initiated by the Institute of Network Cultures in partnership with Knowledge Center Creating 010 of the Hogeschool van Rotterdam, and a number of publishers: “with this toolkit we want to be able to refrain from deep philosophical preoccupations and – as this conference will prove – are able to develop methods and techniques that help publishers, editors and authors to use electronic means to recreate old works and to create novel ones”. He argued that we must see Electronic Publishing as complimentary to print publishing and not just a change from paper-to-screen. What publishers need, and what the toolkit aims to provide, is easy to use, open source software (more about the Digital Publishing Toolkit, which is due to be release by the end of this year, can be read here). Continue reading

Angie Keefer: The difference between the two


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Angie Keefer is a writer, artist, and co-founder of The Serving Library, along with David Reinfurt and Stuart Bailey of Dexter Sinister.

The Serving Library, as described by Keefer, is a cooperatively-built archive that assembles itself by publishing. It releases e-publications of the artworks and texts under PDF format, for free, for a period of six months, after which the latter are printed and sold.

However, Keefer’s presentation specifically focused on the house font of The Serving Library – Meta the Difference Between the Two Font – which is based on Tex a typesetting language – and how it’s digital origin relates to possibilities in design. She allowed the audience to delve into the video titled “Letter & Spirit”. The 18-minute production presents both a history and a philosophy of fonts by simultaneously playing with the animated typing it uses to convey the message.

You can find a PDF of her original presentation here: Presentation Angie Keefer.

 

Dušan Barok: Communing Texts


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Dusan Barok picPublishing in the humanities holds many unrealized potentials online, argues Dušan Barok, the artist, writer and cultural activist who founded Monoskop (a wiki for art, culture and media technology).

The Internet is not just a medium to distribute, store and manage e-books, he continues, but is in itself a medium that dictates specific means of reading and writing. As far as reading is concerned, many e-books are downloaded and bookmarked but in the end never read. Barok identifies the cause in that “they may contain something relevant but they begin at the beginning and end at the end” – in other words, their linearity is an obstacle for readers searching only for specific information. With full text search functionality available, why bother reading everything? Instead of humans, these e-books end up being read by machines. As far as writing is concerned, plain text might now be rendered to new formats like HTML, XML, wikitext or markdown, but Barok believes that coding holds an untapped potential in linking e-books to each other, much like referencing does in traditional publishing.

Thus, one of e-publishing’s most important unrealized potential is, in Barok’s opinion, contextual reading. An e-book is rarely a closed box; rather, it links to other content and authors, something that we formally know in traditional publishing as referencing. Continue reading

Marcell Mars: Free access to resources for every member of society


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The final session of the “Off the Press: Electronic Publishing in Arts” conference approached another side of the e-publishing field, namely what happens after the e-books are launched: where do we distribute, store and manage them?

In traditional publishing, perhaps the most iconic actor to play this role is the public library. However, as Mars pointed out in his talk, the public library itself is currently under a financial, social and political threat. Furthermore, there is still the question which actors can take up its role in the virtual world. Proprietary platforms like Google or Amazon have already stated their ambitions to become such global knowledge keepers, but this comes with the danger of intellectual copyrights and censorship. Mars, alongside with the other speakers of this session, discussed the existing alternatives: open, collaborative, non-proprietary platforms. How can they be designed to best fit the role of public libraries, and how should they adapt this role online?

Marcell Mars photo

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Alessandro Ludovico – Networks as agents in the clash between personal and industrial post-digital print


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Alessandro Ludovico during his talk on day 1 of Off the Press 2014

Alessandro Ludovico during his talk on day 1 of Off the Press 2014

Alessandro Ludovico, the author of Post-Digital Print, The Mutation Of Publishing Since 1894is an Italian media critic and editor in chief of Neural magazine (http://neural.it/) since 1993, for which he received an honorary mention of the Prix Ars Electronica 2004. He has published and edited several books, and has lectured worldwide. He’s one of the founders of Mag.Net (Electronic Cultural Publishers organization). He has been guest researcher at the Willem De Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and he teaches at the Academy of Art in Carrara. He is one of the authors of the Hacking Monopolism trilogy of artworks (Google WIll Eat Itself, Amazon Noir, Face to Facebook). He is currently a PhD scholar at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge (UK).

Alessandro begun his lecture by addressing the changing mediascape, shaped by two opposing forces: on one side the underground, personal agendas and, on the other side, the corporate interests of Google and the like. The post-digital print era is witnessing the booming in net-content or IT-processes based artist’s books (with a whole taxonomy of techniques and approaches), and the efforts in collective scanning of underground culture in print, shared in proper digital repositories, is revamping the production and rediscovering of critical content in a classic form. On the other side, the unveiling of Google’s major plan with the industrial scanning, the rising of the un-sustainability of newspapers’ business model, the growing role of software in literary and journalistic production, and the constant fine-tuning of commercial e-publications’ rules. Continue reading

Oliver Wise – Making .epubs easy with The People’s E-book


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Oliver Wise presenting how to use The People's E-book.

Oliver Wise presenting how to use The People’s E-book.

Oliver Wise, together with Eleanor Hanson are the co-founders of The Present Group, a creative studio creating affordable and sustainable models for funding artists. In their first three years, their subscription art project has channeled over $20,000 toward funding artist projects, stipends, and development of critical essays. In May 2010 they began a web hosting project where a portion of the fees fund prizes for contemporary artists. Hosting clients get to vote on the recipient of each grant. At Off the Press Oliver presented their latest project, in collaboration with Hol Art BooksThe People’s E-book, a free online e-book creation tool. The enterprise started on Kickstarter and raised three times the pledged goal, with 920 backers.

The goal, Oliver said, was to make the People’s E-book as simple as possible to encourage and facilitate experimentation with the medium. Continue reading

Sebastian Luetgert – Precarious Publishing, Autonomous Archiving, Collaborative Collecting


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Sebastian Luetgert at the closing session of Off the Press 2014

Sebastian Luetgert at the closing session of Off the Press 2014

Sebastian Luetgert, a.k.a. Robert Luxemburg, is a theorist and media artist, copyleft advocate, programmer, writer, co-moderator of nettime, member of mikro and Bootlab. His projects include rolux.org, textz.com, project Gutenberg, and Last Tuesday, where people can “exchange mp3 files, beta-test new viruses from Asia or vote for the most stupid new dot-com brand.”. He is also the author of “2 x 5 Years of German Internet” and other texts on the contradictions of the network society. He is currently working on a fictional documentary film set in Dubai.

Sebastian addressed the issues of e-book circulation, which he finds impoverished by the current mediascape. As he went on to explicate, on the internet we can observe two dominating trends: either gigantic, difficult to manage ‘dumpsters’ of files, or personal ‘libraries’ of ebooks, like Calibre. As a proposed solution to this unfavourable status quo, Sebastian introduced his project Open Media Library, which he developed together with Jan Gerber.

Sebastian Luetgert demonstrates the Open Media Library

Sebastian Luetgert demonstrates the Open Media Library

Open Media Library is a local web application that lets you manage and sync digital media collections. This library software can be described as “something like iTunes for books, with other libraries instead of a store, running in your web browser”. What Sebastian proposes in his project is changing the mindset from peer-to-peer file sharing to archive-to-archive exchange. Open Media Library allows users to see other peers’ book collections, download them, create own read-list or wishlist, upload and explore different ways of browsing and display.

The software runs in the web browser and supports EPUBs, PDFs and any other book format for which there is javascript reader, as well as plain text. At the moment there is no stable version of the software and no standalone installer, but users willing to try out the Open Media Library can run it from Terminal(Mac) or PowerShell(Windows), following instructions on the website.

If you want to know more about the project, contact Sebastian and Jan :
openmedialibrary@openmedialibrary.com
irc.freenode.net#openmedialibrary
@opmedlib

Miriam Rasch – Hybrid Workflows for Hybrid Publishing


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Miriam Rasch

Miriam Rasch

Miriam Rasch, a co-editor (together with René König) of INC Reader #9, Society of the Query: Reflections on Web Search, presented the workflow she and her colleagues followed while working on the Reader. The Institute of Network Cultures project group involved: Joost Kircz, Silvio Lorusso, Michael Murtaugh, and Kimmy Spreeuwenberg. Miriam described their creative process following the principles of hybrid publishing – creating one publication for several different output formats. The reasoning behind it was to move the INC publications beyond the print format and facilitate the distribution on digital devices.

Miriam went on to describe INC’s efforts to disseminate their publications. All the publications are distributed under Creative Commons license and the print copies can be ordered for free. INC uses a number of platforms (for instance ISUU) and file formats to expedite the distribution of its publications. They also introduced two innovative digital formats: iPad magazine and personal EPUB. The iPad magazine, designed to target a broader audience, features a selection of 10 articles from the Reader translated into Dutch, with added pictures and video clips. Due to its multimedia nature its only available on iPad. The personal EPUB is an interactive way of choosing articles of one’s interest (up to 10) from the INC database and compiling them into an e-book, in DIY fashion. Moreover, a variety of additional materials are available online, the most notable example being materials from a range of conferences organised by INC, like Society of the Query, Money Lab or Unlike Us. The conference materials, including pictures and video clips are available on Flickr and Vimeo. More information can be found on INC’s website.

14240898741_0dd918cefb_zSociety of the Query reader was put together following a print oriented workflow. The first step was the design of the PDF file, followed by the print version and an online PDF version on Issuu. Due to its format specificity, the EPUB file was created last, autonomously from the previous three. Miriam explained how her team changed their usual ‘print’ workflow to a hybrid workflow which is more sensitive to the several possible outputs, print or digital, which makes the proces of digital publishing easier and more efficient. In this proces the contents of the book were compiled into a single Word document and then formatted using Markdown syntax, which was then converted into HTML. The use of Markdown coding allows for easy and non-invasive conversion between different output formats.

You can find a PDF of her original presentation here: Presentation Miriam Rasch

Miriam writes books reviews and guest posts for different websites and magazines. Look up her personal blog.