The Reading Machine
At one point in the distant future, long after our sun has faded and its planets have passed, Pantography will produce the text, “in a village in la mancha, the name of which i cannot quite recalk”. One hour later, right on schedule, it will come out with a line that is indistinguishable from the opening words of the Penguin edition . If, upon seeing it, you were to hurry off to...
Pantography tweets a message every hour. Each one is consecutive: the first was ‘0’ and the last will consist of 140 zeds. Between these two extremes, these two book-ends, every possible message will have been tweeted: a description of every feeling you’ve ever had, anything you’ve ever overheard or will overhear, any headline that has ever caught, or...
Being and Larping
On Writers and their Professions The compulsion to write is a mysterious one. There’s something suspect, something unattractive and childish about wanting to impose your words on others, lashing your every passing sensation to the alphabet. The invitation to read one’s particular arrangement of words, therefore, always comes circumscribed, with excessively humble titles and self-lacerating...
Copyleft and Right
When a public gallery announces that it has been bequeathed the works of a recently deceased artist, the tone is always one of gratitude and praise for the artist’s generosity. Museums and universities accept the papers of retired statesmen and writers with gratitude. Such donations, I’m sure, are transacted across several meetings and much legal negotiation. But surely these organisations must...
Packing My Library
I am packing my library. Tomorrow morning, these books will be packed inside ten cardboard boxes, loaded onto a van, and shipped to another country. Were it not for these several hundred books, the question of moving would be trivial: a couple of suitcases would carry all my clothes, and everything else I possess would happily fit into a large box. The rest—all the other things that are...
“I will come back and I will be millions”
Already in 1936 Walter Benjamin could write that even the existence of Letters to the Editor had changed the whole game. Things have certainly become more pronounced since then and now almost everyone in a developed country, and many in not-so-developed ones have access to the means of production of publication in the strongest sense. True, not everyone has access to the big budgets that...
The Reading Machine Revisited
It’s easy to fixate on the cognitive events that constitute the act of reading, the silent process happening inside our head as our eyes scan the words and our mind makes sense of them—or whatever it is that it does—but there’s another way of looking at this phenomenon. It can be observed from the outside, as a behavioural phenomenon—a theory of reading without a theory of mind
This does not exist only for books, it exists for any reproducible work. We can say this not only of “book” but also of “film”, “record” and so on. In this sense, Benjamin’s famous assertion that reproduced work differs from our older notions of art in that it has no aura can be turned on its head: reproduced work leads us to suspect the existence of an ideal...
Trained on my library of articles on Instapaper, the Amamnuensis will select articles from my Twitter feed and my Feedly feed. These are in turn saved to Instapaper. Depending on level of confidence, some are marked as favourites . Even more assortative links are shared on Twitter. The Amanuensis highlights interesting passages. The Amanuensis is trained on the books I’ve read. The Amanuensis...
The literal and the literary
The transforming quality of literature has been amply documented. Indeed, the modern Western canon begins with the cautionary tale of Don Quixote, a perfectly ordinary man turned into an idealistic clown by the augmented reality of Romance novels. Through the gauze of his library, milkmaids became grand ladies and windmills became giants. A couple of centuries later, Emma Bovary desperately...