Liveblogging: Charlotte Johnson and William Harroff : End of Books

Charlotte Johnson from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and William Harroff from McKendree College discuss (r)evolutionary (e)book (Presentation here).

Haroff’s art is here. The presentation is worth browsing through because it links to several multimedia books. Truthfully I’ll browse more through them later. I’m just too dang tired.

They talk more about form factors and artbooks–not a talk about technology but aesthetics. We browsed quickly over lots of sites, and I’ll have to revisit them later.

End of Books: Wow! Look at those photos!

John Leinhardt comments:

Mr. Blackcross came very close on so much. He had I-pods, TVs, and books on CDs, but he missed the idea of radio signals or digital recordings. His worst error, however, was much larger and more subtle. He assumed that new technologies replace old ones.

They don’t. New technologies replace certain functions, while old technologies go on doing what they do best. Radio or TV gets news to us more quickly. But newspapers are better able to tell the full story. Movies and TV supply images; books allow us to create our own. Old and new technologies are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they reinforce one another.

Unfortunately many of the book systems depend on proprietary technologies, and one has to wonder how long they can last. But half the battle in the arts is finding the right tool. These books (often in CD version or sometimes flash) are more visually oriented, more about point and clicking, discovering and nonlinear exploration.

I once attended a hypertext conference where we showcased such books (and saw the amazing hypertext the Unknown (a work I cannot plug enough times). They are all thought-provoking, although sometimes the interactivity seemed more trouble than it was worth. Also, for a storyteller who has no talent (not one iota) in art or design, it is daunting to see the expectation of what a book ought to be raised to that level.

I’ve found that the most creative multimedia books are in children’s books. Nowadays books have flipup pictures, popups, mirrors and audio push buttons. (I think that’s what Leapfrog does). Fascinating, but I can’t image how much that ought to cost to produce.

Many of these artists don’t create books per se; they create artistic experiences (or environments) where the book is the dominant metaphor for navigation and narration. They involve some degree of play and events. Combined with noise, they can create lots of interesting effects (for example, an audio button can be used to withhold dramatically interesting information from the reader until they press the button at a certain moment in the text flow.

Gita Hashemi, an Iranian artist. Here’s her portfolio website.

10 Top Art Ebooks

That said, the browser can be limited, and even flash stuff can constrict people’s imagination. Anyway, many of these books need to exist as physical objects; colors can be bold and size can be dramatic (whereas in a browser, the window is almost always the same size).

Witty intellectual flash animation by Y0UNG-HAE CHANG. 5-8 minutes. Lots of flashing lights, some sound. Other works by the same artist. Here’s another interactive text experiment called Bemboo’s Zoo. Other works here. I’ll discuss them later.