With QWC’s big announcement at MWF about the new centre for excellence in digital publishing, the Australian Institute for the Future of the Book (if:book Australia), you just knew today’s post was going to be all about the digital, didn’t you?

Based in Brisbane, if: book Australia is only the third centre of excellence of its kind for digital literature established in the world, after the New York and London Institutes … if: book Australia will promote new forms of digital publishing and explore ways to boost connections between writers and audiences.

This morning, The Book Show’s Ramona Koval was in conversation with Bob Stein, Founder if:book. Generally, I am a huge fan of Ramona, but I have to say that she doesn’t do Australia proud in this interview… Perhaps if she’d been able to recall the name of the "thing that has the red light in supermarkets" (barcode scanner), we could have all seemed a bit more across the digital issues du jour. But I think the main friction stemmed from two very different timeframes of vision: Ramona seemed intent of protecting the interests of we, now, who love the book – the bound, traditional tree-book – and just what we think of those who wish to take them from us. Whereas Bob was envisioning the future, near and far.

I listened to that interview while perusing KCDC’s take on the new augmented reality apps available for the 3G iphone. My synapses had a total Gruen transfer moment: surrounded by the growing cybermall of digital technology available or relevant for storytellers, I suddenly became excited about multiplatform opportunities for creating and crafting stories for a wide-range of readers/users/communities, accessible through their preferred media. Excited like I get when I’m planning a scene for a story; dreamy and fidgeting and weirdly hyper, itching for a keyboard and a spare hour.

As a Gen-Xer, I had a childhood free of computers, and now am immersed in a career that depends on them, and a social and creative life that thrives on them. I am comfortable with the thought that in fifty to one hundred years, people are going to experience the publication and communication of ideas very differently. if:book Australia means that local cultural producers will have the chance to be instrumental in experimenting and engaging in new creative processes: cause for enthusiastic cheers, not threatened snarls.

In related digital news, today’s On Line Opinion (Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate)sees Mark Bahnisch discuss some of the myths that underpin both celebatory and catastrophic claims about social media. Mark argues that educators and organisations seeking to work in the digital media space must  review their ‘pop pschology’ assumptions about digital media and instead address crucial issues of privacy and corporate ownership from a sound basis of research.

Enter the brilliant Phoebe Connelly, who looks at the impact of corporate ownership of our digital playgrounds (AKA social media) through the lens of GeoCities’ demise. When the commercial success of a social media site is judged as wanting, the community has no control over the fate of the content they produced. Beyond corporate mercenaries, there’s also the concern of plain old link rot:

In a keynote address at a 2001 conference on preserving digital media, science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling observed, "Bits have no archival medium. We haven’t invented one yet. If you print something on acid-free paper with stable ink, and you put it in a dry, dark closet, you can read it in 200 years. We have no way to archive bits that we know will be readable in even 50 years."

He added, "Tape demagnetizes. CDs delaminate. Networks go down."

Point taken. But are authors responsible for printing books on sustainable materials? Secure digital archiving sounds more like an issue for information managers, not cultural producers. Bring on the super librarians!

All in all, a most interesting day on the intertubes, with many more to come. Have a great weekend, folks.

3 Responses to “Digital control…”

  1. littlej,

    Hoots Balloon! thanks for the links Meg. i agree about the book show interview. Ramona made me laugh out loud. i guess it just shows the common mindset of Australians when it comes to digital issues. hopefully the institute can really investigate and research these issues so that more people can enter the conversation.

  2. Gail Rehbein,

    Yes, the friction in the bookshow interview was clear but fortunately didn’t detract from the rich ideas that Bob Stein was putting forward. I found it very inspiring. if:book is an exploration into something new and it doesn’t mean that the old will be completely discarded. The ideas around the role of the author and publishers cultivating a more collaborative community process with readers is really exciting. Why? It has the power to bring people together. And hopefully in doing so, helps us all become more adept in interacting over complex, contrasting and contradictory issues. I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

  3. Meg,

    gail, little j – I’m with you guys …

    ‘The ideas around the role of the author and publishers cultivating a more collaborative community process with readers is really exciting’

    Couldn’t have put it better myself!

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