User:Simon/Trim4/Project proposal third draft

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What do you want to make?

My project will involve two main areas of activity; the implementation and development of various "library situations", and material transformations of texts in a process that I consider analogous to translation. Already, I have initiated a "bootleg library", which exists in digital and physical form in the locality of the Piet Zwart Instituut at Wijnhaven 61. The bootleg library is bootstrapped, providing an emerging public sphere within which I can investigate representation through strategies of transformation, publication and distribution.

The bootleg library hosts a collection of texts that are shared over a local network. Through a browser, users are able to upload, download, and also write and edit metadata. The collection represents the interests of a diverse range of people who access a local network, through the books they choose to upload, download, borrow, read and annotate. The library will be a fertile testing ground for examining the culture that develops around a collection of texts, and materially translated books in reflection. Legal concerns that jeopardise the survival of the library offer an opportunity to devise different strategies of subterfuge, adjusting how public it is, and how texts are distributed. Of particular interest is the social and cultural effects of annotation -- from a broad sense (e.g. metadata) through to notes written as accompaniments to texts.

All of the texts currently within the library have been "bootlegged" -- according to the simple definition of a "bootleg" as a fairly faithful unauthorised recording, published in a gesture of homage. Bootlegging involves reproduction of source files to create copies, although no two copies are the same by nature. Through bootlegging I create a multiplicity of form and reading experiences, and a diversity of interpretations of texts through their materiality.

As a parallel process, I have been reformatting, re-designing and uploading texts. I make them accessible for a variety of reading purposes (onscreen and offscreen), both in digital and analog format. Users may upload digital texts on the conditions that they are familiar with the texts, feel that they represent them, and that they also write the metadata. The collection of printed books I have reprinted are available to be borrowed on the condition that they are used and returned. Borrowers are invited to annotate the books in any way they like, as long as they return them. The accumulated traces left on the texts (metadata, annotations) then become para-texts, which document the public that accesses the collection.

How do you plan to make it?

The collection of the bootleg library is made with peers -- collectively and in reflection on what type of culture evolves from the use of this library. The library will be a repository for not only texts that we have read and wish to share with each other, but also a testing ground for tools that can be used to "translate" these texts into other material forms. I plan to develop scripts that can be used to translate the material form of existing texts and typefaces.

Reading and writing will be fundamental parts of my project, both in reflection on the texts housed in the collection, and also in the culture that develops around this library as texts are read and annotated. Instead of a universal vision on the library, I intend to explore a variety of library situations to discover what drives their use, what produces sociability in their use, and what tasks are involved in maintaining their survival.

Alongside human reading and writing, I will also explore machine-based reading and writing in the material translation of publications. Beginning with William S. Burrough's concept of the written word as a virus that propagates the spoken word, I will develop a series of bootlegged material translations of texts. This is a strategy of deliberately seeding the library with a multiplicity of form, that points to difference and links readers to texts and, by subjective association, each other.

What is your timetable?

  • September-December: Collect texts, hold user group sessions on how to use the library, create and modify scripts for materially translating texts and typefaces, expand the collection in both print and digital formats.
  • December-March: Develop the library interface and distribution capabilities.
  • April-June: Finish practical project, prepare final presentation.

Why do you want to make it?

In my experience as a teacher of ESL (English as a Second Language), I have taught in both multi- and mono-cultural environments. English functions as a "common language", and many learners study it with the intention of being brought into a global traffic of meaning. Despite this, it is often paradoxically presented as a monolingual enterprise (Pennycook, 2008), and as a result much of a learner's identity is lost and flattened. I'm interested in this subjectification of those who communicate through a common language, and how activist strategies can be devised to express difference and expand semiodiversity (while maintaining mutual intelligibility) through processes of translation.

As a graphic designer I have designed graphic identities, typefaces and publications. My interest in typography and the visual representation of language in printed form developed alongside my experience of learning Japanese, which employs pictographic and ideographic characters borrowed from Chinese, as well as two native scripts, and the roman alphabet. Through this experience I became aware of typographic "voice", which is expressed through the particular shared characteristics of letterforms that represent small, processable units of language. Characters are diverse in form but with a common resemblance that renders them as kin, a family. The material practice of "turning language into objects" through typography has been a driving influence on my work.

The public library stands as one of the last sites that manifest social democratic values. Amid the increasing privatisation of formerly public spaces and institutions, and the reduction of access to knowledge, the definition of what a library is has expanded to include collections of texts (including text-based media, such as software) that are available through a variety of means. Libraries store knowledge, but also produce sociability. I'm interested in the conditions that promote the survival of libraries across many different of sharing knowledge which can be described in binary terms; online/offline, physical/digital, amateur/expert, public/private, legal/pirate etc. These binaries however, simplify not only the function of these libraries, but also limit these to oppositional models. I'm interested in what could come of exploring a variety of library situations and their survival, and what tasks are necessary for these contingencies of survival to develop and take root.

Who can help you and how?

  • Steve Rushton, with his knowledge of cybernetics, and the medium of language can help me to establish my project within a solid theoretical framework.
  • Michael Murtaugh, with his experience in working with active archives that expose and question notions of bias, can help me to develop an ontology that is built on sound technical, political, and social principles.
  • Andre Castro, with his technical know-how in creating software for local area libraries such as bibliotecha and digital to print workflows can assist me in developing the bootleg library infrastructure, and methods for material transformations of digital texts.
  • Clara Balaguer, with her experience working as a publisher, and expertise in social artistic practices can assist in establishing strategies for involving others in my libraries.
  • Florian Cramer can help in giving theoretical guidance in exploring the reflexive relationship between language and code.
  • The student cohort and staff at XPUB/LB, by contributing digital books, writing metadata, borrowing bootlegged books (in print), reading them, annotating them and in doing so developing a culture around the bootleg library that I will augment.
  • Administrators of extra-legal libraries such as Memory of The World's Marcell Mars and Dubravka Sekulic, Monoskop's Dusan Barok, and Sean Dockray (formerly of aaaaarg.fail) can help in giving much-needed guidance in the precarious practice of running a pirate library.
  • Pierre Huyghebaert, who teaches at La Cambre in Brussels, where there has been a digital pirate library in a hard drive, hidden behind a statue can help me by giving me a histroical account of how it has been used, and can also connect me with the people who administered the library.
  • Martino Morandi and Anita Burato have developed software that interfaces with the library of the Rietveld Academy and the Sandberg Institute in a project called Infrastructural Manœuvres in the Library. They can help me to devise ways in which the bootleg library collection can be catalogued, and to devise strategies for interfacing with the academic institution. http://catalogue.rietveldacademie.nl/about.html
  • Eva Olthof is an artist that has developed projects in and around public libraries. A current project she is working on is a proposal for a space in the Bibliotheek Rotterdam, in which library members may organise a collection, and use the space of the public library to explore what membership of a public library can mean in a democratic, bottom-up system. She can help me to discover ways of initiating library projects within the space of public libraries, such as the Bibliotheek Rotterdam.

Relation to previous practice

Previously I have worked on projects that explore collections of texts, and the cultures that develop around them.

"From The Books" (2016) is a collaborative research project with graphic designer Masaki Miwa that explores marks of use in books from a specific section of the State Library of Victoria. Research into the provenance of both rare books kept in stacks, and those freely available to the public on library shelves revealed a bias in what should be archived, and what should be destroyed - and that this practice of discarding or preserving forms and reinforces a cultural narrative. The current infrastructural shift in the administration of public libraries is evident in the increasing digitisation of texts, creating space for support groups, small classes and other social events. This means a reduction of the physical collection, raising concern for a weakened argument for public access to knowledge. This gesture, worrying as it is, recognises what libraries produce; sociability. Libraries are places where people read, meet, spend time, and leave traces of their presence and interaction with knowledge. http://simonbrowne.biz/projects/from-the-books-slv-rbrr-000-099/

"Marginal Conversations" (2019) is a workshop that explores what happens when we annotate together, and perform our annotations. As part of The Library is Open, together with Artemis and Paloma and workshop participants we read a text, annotated together, and then activated the text by performing annotations. This was part of a process of materially translating the text to create something new and public. We extended this by recording the performances and playing them from speakers in the space of Leeszaal. The recordings went through a further translation into typographic form which referred to a film script; another translation of the text into something entirely different. Taking the text and putting it through various translations empowers readers and liberates texts from proprietorial interests that divide a public into those who have access, and those who don't. http://pzwiki.wdka.nl/mediadesign/Marginal_conversations

"All Conference" is an organising network of artist-run initiatives in Australia. I designed a website for their announcements and a digital archive of publications that document the Australian arts ecology over the past 40 years. Establishing a web presence and an archive documenting the history of artist-run initiatives allows All Conference members to collectively argue for the legitimacy of alternative Australian art institutions, and therefore power to advocate for the growth of the arts industry. https://allconference.org.au/

Relation to a larger context

  • aaaaarg.fail is a digital library (of mostly critical theory texts) that has managed to survive through a variety of infrastructural manoeuvres. A core part of the library is its messageboard, from which users can discuss texts, request digital books, and also upload bootlegged and "improved" digital files of texts for free distribution to the community. https://aaaaarg.fail/
  • "Memory of the World" is a digital library run by amateur librarians, and organised around each librarian's collection of texts. With this particular methodology, it creates a direct link between texts and people who read, upload, annotate and distribute them. https://library.memoryoftheworld.org/#/books/
  • monoskop.org is a digital library for the arts and humanities running on a mediawiki platform. Its collection includes texts and images in an ever-growing archive that distinguishes itself by its thorough documentation, organisation and curation. https://monoskop.org/Monoskop
  • Graphic designer and artist Paul Souellis' "Library of the Printed Web" is a physical archive of web culture in printed form. Souellis invited artists to contribute to the archive, using strategies such as grabbing, hunting, scraping and performing. The project explores methodologies of experimental publishing, and at the same time questions ideas of copyright, appropriation and authorship. The archive is continually being added to, and often features as an exhibit at book fairs internationally. https://libraryoftheprintedweb.tumblr.com/
  • Artist Eva Weinmayr's "Piracy Project" is an archive of pirated books, which when displayed and discussed in comparison with their "source" explores the legal, philosophical and practical issues around piracy. https://rhizome.org/editorial/2011/oct/25/piracy-project/
  • Artist Eva Olhof's "Return to Rightful Owner" is an installation that explores how public libraries interface with the private act of reading, and includes text works on the politics of remembering, forgetting and citing. http://evaolthof.nl/index.php?/installation-wo/return-to-rightful-owner-/
  • Artist Dora Garcia's "Read with Golden Fingers (L’Innommable – Samuel Beckett)" (2010) is an artwork made from a copy of Samuel Beckett's L'Innommable (1953) that the artist read while her hands were covered with sheets of gold leaf. The gold leaf left traces of the physical act of reading on the paper, elevating the multiple object of a printed book to a rarefied position by using the material of gold. https://www.calcego.com/en/en-menu-izquierda/read-with-golden-fingers-linnommable-samuel-beckett-2/
  • "A Room of One's Own / A Thousand Libraries" is an artwork by Kasja Dahlberg made from a compilation of readers marginalia and notes on Virginia Woolf's essay "A Room of One's Own". Dahlberg collected these from copies found in Swedish library copies. These were then compiled and printed in an edition of 1000. http://www.kajsadahlberg.com/work/a-room-of-ones-own--a-thousand-libraries/

References

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Burroughs, W.S., 1970. The Electronic Revolution. Expanded Media Editions, Gottingen.

Butler, J., 2014. Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity : Tenth Anniversary Edition. Routledge, London ; New York.

Carrion, U., 1980. Second Thoughts. VOID Distributors, Amsterdam. https://monoskop.org/log/?p=14521

Cramer, F., 'Language' in Fuller, M. (Ed.), 2008. Software studies: a lexicon, Leonardo books. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Dolar, M., 2006. A voice and nothing more, Short circuits. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Flusser, V. and Ströhl, A. (2002) Writings. Electronic mediations v. 6. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Gitelman, L., 1999. Scripts, grooves, and writing machines: representing technology in the Edison era. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif.

Hall, S., 'Encoding, Decoding' in During, S. (Ed.), 1999. The cultural studies reader, 2nd ed. ed. Routledge, London ; New York.

Hayles, N.K., 2005. My mother was a computer: digital subjects and literary texts. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago ; London.

Hobart, M.E. and Schiffman, Z.S. (1998) Information ages: literacy, numeracy, and the computer revolution. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Ong, W.J. and Hartley, J. (2012) Orality and literacy: the technologizing of the word. Orality and literacy. 30th anniversary ed.; 3rd ed. London ; New York: Routledge.

Pennycook, A., 2008. English As A Language Always In Translation. European Journal of English Studies. 12. 33-47. 10.1080/13825570801900521. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233322759_English_As_A_Language_Always_In_Translation

Zuckerman, E., 2013. Digital cosmopolitans: why we think the internet connects us, why it doesn’t, and how to rewire it. W.W. Norton & Company, New York.