Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Put it on Paper

Two recent internet encounters have captured my attention. Both of these highlight the interplay of print and digital – or perhaps better said as the interplay of paper and internet (and both explore our emotional connections to print and internet.) Both are quirky and clever – which is a great way to catch my attention. And both have something to say about how we conceive of thingness and the thing’s preservation – at least tangentially.

The first one, which I came across via Gary Frost’s blog is a video of a talk by James Bridle titled “So what does the future of the book look like in a world gone digital?” It is one of the brightest responses to that question that I’ve seen by a man who thinks deeply about the book. He brings a very nuanced, personal, and playful approach to exploring our understandings of the book. It’s a 20 minute video that is really worth your time to watch.

The second one is Printing Out the Internet “A crowdsourced project to literally print out the entire internet.” It is an art project of Kenneth Goldsmith, LABOR, and UbuWeb inviting people to print out as much, or as little of the internet as they want and ship it to a space in Mexico City. You can find more details of their proposal. The project is begin done in memory of Aaron Swartz, the recently deceased internet activist.

Both Bridle’s various experiments, and this art project involve taking native digital content and embodying it on paper, and in Bridle’s case, bound volumes. In both cases, I think these projects uncover some interesting emotional reactions. We are jarred and disoriented. A bound volume of tweets seems curiously wrong. Proposing that you are going to “literally print out the entire internet” also seems wrong. For the entire internet to exist on the internet is okay, but the idea that it could exist on paper causes one’s head to hurt.

I think both projects do a good job of helping us explore and gain a better understanding of what are these digital objects – and what are these print objects – and how we relate to them both intellectually, and emotionally.

And hey, they are both playful explorations which are some of the most wonderful human activities.