Story of Books has been publishing “5 Minutes With…” interviews since July 2011, a series of short conversations on the evolution of books, as a follow up to “Whatever is to become of books?” event at London Design Festival 2011. It is a collection of thoughts by those who are involved in books production and content creations; from academics, editors, technology innovators and authors, to designers, photographers and illustrators.
Design & Craft
By Salina Christmas
REPORT: “Whatever is to become of books?” at London Design Festival 2011. Ebook generates 15% of the revenues for some publishers, with the romance genre having a huge slice in the market share, says Angus Phillips, Director, Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies at Oxford Brookes University.
Although digitality has turned the publishing world upside down, Phillips stressed that it is “an exciting time for everyone” as the ebook offer so many opportunities in terms of innovations. The talk, delivered at the London Design Festival event, “Whatever is to become of books?”, at University College London on 17 September 2011, also introduced us to the new classifications in books: ebook, pbook, vanilla book, mook, byook and so on.
In this video, Phillips presented the byook – a format of ebook which is deployed on the smartphone – to the audience.
The event was supported by UCL Anthropology and co-organised by MSc Digital Anthropology students of UCL.
To find out more about the event and to get involved with the 2012 book project by Sojournposse Purpose, visit the Story of Books, the official website, at www.storyofbooks.com.
By Salina Christmas
SWXX, a hyperlocal visual blog on Fulham and its surrounding SW districts, is a personal project of our Creative Director, Zarina Holmes. She asked me what ethnography is and how it that could be done with photographs. I said if it’s ethnography, it’s documentary, and it’s not necessarily portraiture. Was she thinking of portraiture, or was she thinking of documenting?
In that aspect, Bob Gumpert is a good lead to follow. He did a good job with his series of prison photographs and audio recordings, “Take a picture, tell a story”, but he told us frankly that it was not ethnography. It was certainly not anthropology. He was simply appalled by the condition in the prison and felt compelled to do something about it with his photography.
After seeing several photographs that Holmes did on the butchers and the pie makers in Fulham, I suggested that she provides visibility to the labour workforce in the area using her photographs, with the blog SWXX to mediate these images, and by proxy, their social presence.
Fulham: not posh, just provincial
It is generally assumed that Fulham is an upper middle-class area sandwiched between Chelsea and Putney full of bankers, lawyers and Sloans. It is also generally assumed that everyone living here is rich. Not quite. Londoners have a habit of construing the ‘provincial’ and the ‘conservative’ as ‘posh’. Leave London, go to Yr Wyddgrug, for example, and observe the way the village folks live, eat, play golf, rugby and cricket over the weekend, row boats, work on allotments, ride horses and wear that maroon wooly jumper, and you will realise that the habitus Londoners identify as ‘posh’ is actually simply ‘country’ or just a typical British way of living to many people outside London. The aggregate (1) of ‘country’ and ‘folksy’ change to ‘posh’ only in London where overpaid and overworked professionals aspire for a quiet life away from the city madness, and use lavish countryside escapades such as skiiing, horse-riding, rowing (2) and golfing as a status symbol.
There is a sizeable working- and middle-class people in Fulham, and definitely a significant number of traders. Historically, Sands End and South Fulham were the area where the Arts and Crafts movement thrived: De Morgan Road, where we used to live, close to the Thames, was named after the potter and tile designer whoused to work for William Morris two centuries ago. Morris, who lived up the road in Hammersmith, had some of his tiles made from the clay off the Sands End riverside bank. There are still furniture and interior design shops lining the streets of Fulham and Chelsea, close to Wandsworth Bridge.
It is this heritage that SWXX aims to preserve.
Unintentional muting and othering
The nature of anthropology that I do is of the culture of concealment. Often, due to lack of representation in the media, mainstream or otherwise, we inadvertently ‘mute’ a segment of society (Ardener, 1975). Chomsky raved about the muting of the ‘working class’ by the US mainstream media. I think the tradesmen of Fulham somehow got muted, too, not by some kind Othering (Heryanto & Mandal, 2005) built to create a favourable description of the dominant ‘Self’ – the Self implied here being the dominant class or ethnic group – but simply because we assume this area is purely residential and upper middle-class. In assuming that, we overlook the labourers.
Well done to Holmes for striving to make the SW tradesmen visible. Editors, if you want to scout for a hyperlocal visual journalist who gets what community reporting is, look no further than Ms Holmes. I am glad a sliver of insight gained from Digital Anthropology helps to contribute towards the development of this project.
1. Pauline Garvey spoke at a recent Material, Visual and Digital Culture seminar on “Democratic Design and the Ikea Flatpack” (21 November 2011) on how the aggregate of Ikea furniture as everyday, homogenising artefacts accessible by Swedish consumers become a status symbol of modernity when they’re shipped to places like the United Kingdom.
2. Coming from a country surrounded by water, I can assure you water transports and the associated sports are not necessarily considered ‘preppy’ or upper class. I don’t get what the deal is with class and rowing, other than it’s so expensive in London that only the bankers can afford to do it.
Content with curation and hybrid books: The British Library pioneers the preservation of digital knowledgeThursday, October 20th, 2011 | Author: Sojournposse Editor
By Zarina Holmes
REPORT: “Whatever is to become of books?” at London Design Festival 2011. “We are not seeing the world as flat anymore. We are seeing it virtually. The hypertext makes a big difference.” Dr Aquiles Alencar Brayner, Digital Curator of The British Library presents fresh findings on our fast-evolving book reading habit at Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, University College London.
While researching for “Whatever is to become of books?”, Sojournposse asked a collective of editors from design, anthropology, journalism and photography to examine the latest sociotechnical development affecting of the artefact.
The library was the best starting point to observe the current evolution of books and how we consume them today. We discover that librarians of today play a crucial role not only in preserving archives, but also to keep on top of the latest e-book formats.
On top of that, the librarians have to consider the mode of consumption of both digital natives and digital migrants who have different preferences in their digital formats.
“Content with curation is key,” said Dr Aquiles Alencar Brayner, Digital Curator of The British Library, who opened the event, “Whatever is to become of books?”, held University College London during the London Design Festival in September 2011.
“The electronic media is changing our reading habits. Some people think that it’s bad. Some people think that it’s good. We are becoming more democratic. There are no hierarchies anymore. There are only links.”
The sales of ebooks has increased by 318% in 2010, indicating that the ebook users spend more time reading, although in a more erratic manner. A poll conducted among 1200 ebook readers shows that 40% of respondents are reading more now than before.
The trend is pointing towards hybrid books. According to The British Library, by 2020, 20% of titles will be published only in paper format, 40% of titles will be published only in electronic format and 40% of publications in the UK will appear in both formats.
Publishers’ Digital Rights Management (DRM) poses a challenge for The British Library in archiving its collection.
DRMs are choking libraries
“We are chained to the shelves. We are chained by the publishers via DRMs,” says Dr Alencar Brayner. (See video Part 2 below).
Restrictions imposed by HarperCollins on the loan of ebooks to libraries (currently 26 loans) has shown that there is still little understanding of the user’s reading and access behaviour to online information.
Service for accessing ebooks is still tied to print publishing model while options to access digital content are still very tight and do not take into consideration the different user groups.
To remedy this, the market must offer new access models and greater flexibility in DRM.
The British Library is currently working with with Google in the digitisation of 250,000 titles published between 1700 to 1870 (40 million pages), a project which is due to start in 2012.
The videos of the British Library presentation at The London Design Festival 2011 are published in two parts. (See videos above). We hope you will find them resourceful and that they will give a clue as to where the journey of books is taking us next.
Links from The British Library talk
• The British Library 2020 Vision: http://www.bl.uk/2020vision
• JISC national e-books observatory project: http://www.jiscebooksproject.org/
Colaboration with other institutions (academic, governmental and commmercial partners) for the creation of interactive platforms:
1. Codex Sinaiticus: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/
2. Gale World Scholar: http://www.galeuk.com/trialsite/
3. Turning the Pages: http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/virtualbooks/
Other video presentations of “Whatever is to become of books?”
More videos and reports from the event held at University College London on 17 September 2011 during the London Design Festival 2011 will be published soon.
By Salina Christmas
Last weekend, I got to speak on anthropology and advocacy at the Rebellious Media Conference held at the Institute of Education and Friends House on 8 and 9 October 2011. Given that the event was headlined by the likes of Prof Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and Michael Albert of ZNet, I was nervous, but I also felt very honoured.
The stream I was asked to contribute to was “Out of the Ivory Tower: Making Academic Research Relevant to Journalists and Activists”. Prof Richard Keeble of Lincoln University School of Journalism asked me to present alongside Prof Cynthia Cockburn, Visiting Professor in the Department of Sociology at City University and Prof Phil Hammond, Professor of Media & Communications and head of the Centre for Media & Culture Research at London South Bank University. The session was moderated by Marc Wadsworth, a famous journalist, activist and journalism lecturer.
They were all ‘professors’. I was the only MSc small fish there representing Sojournposse Purpose. It was scary. I felt like bailing out a few days before, but I could not. Fear aside, I had something to say:
Design and R&D can be direct action
I want to advocate design as direct action, as exemplified via our London Design Festival events as well as through the anthropological research I am doing on the sociality around digital applications.
Prof Cockburn pointed out something profound during our session: the best of theories tend to come when you are in the field, while doing research. Academics must go out there and do fieldwork if they don’t want to get cooped up in that self-referencing Ivory Tower. I agree. Creatives and technologists think through tinkering or making. The very action of crafting an object or coding a digital application generates ideas.
I repeated Peter Dormer’s ideas (1997) in my talk that we should not have this divorce between “having ideas” and “making things”. I believe Digital Anthropology can be the academic discipline that allows these two concepts to come together. It came from a branch of anthropology, Material Culture, which runs on the principle that “objects do culture”. What it tends to attract, however, are not just those who like the idea of “having ideas” about digital applications, but also those who like to make, appropriate and tinker with digital applications. Those who enjoy “making things”, who also come from a more mutualist background. It would be interesting to see how that concept – mutualism – works within the conventional academic structure of anthropology.
Of course, I was not 100% generous to anthropology in my talk. I made a few criticisms: its passivity during the London riots, the risk-averse behaviour of the academics and the researchers’ tendency to hide behind theories, which isn’t “restraint” but really is “deception” (Orlans, 1975).
You’d have to watch the video online or buy the RMC DVD if you really want to hear the whole thing.
Opportunity for activists, marketers and advertising people
If you are a marketer or an ad creative, you should check out events such as RMC and Netroots UK (“Netroots UK: US and UK activists swap knowledge, wisdom and digital tactics”, Sojournposse, 9 January 2011). The digital activists are good at mobilising and organising using Twitter, Audioboo and such, but the trade unionists, with an extensive experience in ‘organising’ (this is the term you hear a lot among these people, apart from ‘outreach’) people on via chapel meetings, events, demos, strikes and so on, are very good at carrying out the ground works.
Ok, I know trade unionists can be off-putting to corporations and bean counters. Their opposition to ‘open source platforms’ in the name of protectionism at times annoy me, I confess, but marketers, just go there with no preconceptions and observe how they work. They get things done and they follow the brief well. And they’re good at converting people to their cause.
I have always believed that marketers and activists have one thing in common: advocacy. They both use research data to inform their actions and strategies. And they’re both into ‘communities’. I love both sides. I love making money, I love to promote a good concept and I would like to make money on the back of a good cause. Given that the former is what I use my creative and digital skills for to earn a living, and the latter is what motivates me to be creative and acquire digital skills, I would like to carve a career where I can use my research to help create a better social product, promote it and then make profits out of it.
Any commercially minded do-gooders out there who agree with me? Salina[at]sojournposse[dot]com.
Inspiration for my talk: Robert Gumpert (“My photography is direct action”) and Sam Syed of Bonnier Mag+ (“If you see something that others cannot see, you have a responsibility to share it”). Thank you for the advice.