Massey University, Wellington
Anna Brown is a Design Lecturer at the School of Design, Massey University. Her practice as a book designer is complemented by her teaching and research interests in the book as a re-presentation device and as a cultural artefact. She recently completed her Masters in Design exploring the non-linear book as an embodied object.
When is a Book Not a Book? Exploring the Possibilities of the Material Book in a Digital World. With Patricia Thomas
The book, like the Bakelite telephone, the vinyl record and shoelaces before it, has at times been victim of the assumption that new technologies will eventually subsume the old. (Duguid, 1996). The development of everything digital has prompted many questions about the death, relevance or future of the book, many of which fail to take account of the conceptual nature of the book. Michel Foucault (1980: 95-96) notes that the unity of a book is variable and relative. He suggests that books are ‘caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences’; they are statements constructed of the ‘interplays of distances, differences, substitutions [and] transformations’. Ignoring this unity also neglects the symbolic value of materiality. More than the narrative it encloses, the material book has the capacity to at once animate, enhance and subvert it. This paper uses the study of The Endless Book to explore ways in which the material book embodies signifying systems that prompt ways of thinking about the book itself (Eco, 1994). The central argument is not a defence of the survival of the material book but one that bears witness to its evolving forms and functions.
Artists’ Books; Histories and Futures.
‘It became evident that a history with books and the engagement with the prospect of a digital future is something we all share. Most opinions were typically neither for or against new technologies, but often expressed an awkward middle ground where new wasn’t always clear.’ (student, 2012)
Such is the future of the book?
The ‘Future of the Book’ is a studio-based assignment offered to 400 level design students to encourage exploration of all that a ‘book’ could be or might be in a so-called post-print era. This does not assume the death of print nor does it imagine an inevitably digital text-world, but asks students to transgress the traditional borders of what print is and to imagine its potential role in this world. Students are required to speculate on what the particularised visual, haptic medium of print can do to create experiences through the interactive relationship between materiality, narrative, modality and the ‘reader’ in its widest sense. The course asks students to intervene in the relationship to imagine, conceptualise and realise their future of the book.
This paper presents a selection of the results of this course in the presence of the objects themselves and suggests that they, collectively and individually, may represent not only futures for the book, but many of the futures of print.