Thursday, 21 August 2008

Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas

Like many people in town, Bibliothekia is very pleased Melbourne has been named the second City of Literature as part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network. As a result, it is exciting that the State Library of Victoria is going to establish a new Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. Hopefully it won't be long before there is more about this centre on the State Library's web site. In the meantime, there is a good article in The Age newspaper, and a press release from the State Library.

Bibliothekia also hopes this new Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas will have time to do some serious thinking about the emergence of eBooks and what this means for literature as well as literacy. Maybe the Victorian Centre should consider doing some collaborative work with the UK / USA based Institute for the Future of the Book. This Institute is a "small think-and-do tank [funded by the MacArthur Foundation] investigating the evolution of intellectual discourse as it shifts from printed pages to networked screens".

For example, one of the things the Institute for the Future of the Book looks at is visualisations. Here the Institute considers the question "of what digital technology can bring to the presentation of text. Are there new ways of perceiving text, or re-imagining text, that can only happen in the networks? Could visualization change not only how we 'read' but how we write?". Here visualisations comes under the broader interest of Gamer Theory. Bibliothekia was particularly taken by the textarc. Here you will find (and I quote) a visual representation of a text—the entire text (twice!) on a single page. A combination of an index, concordance, and summary; it uses the viewer’s eye to help uncover meaning. Presented here are the full interactive Java application and a PDF download of a “raw draft” of the Gamer Theory TextArc. In the PDF, the strand clusters beneath words point to points in the arc where those words occur. In the Web version, simply clicking a word reveals its distribution along the arc.

It is fascinating and kind of beautiful, as well challenging and unsettling, to see linear text reconfigured in this way. Go to textarc and check it out for yourself.

1 comment:

Bibliothekia said...

It is unfortunate that before she has even had a chance to commence as the inaugural Director of the Melbourne’s new “Melbourne's Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas”, Caro Llewellyn has unexpectedly resigned. According to the Age newspaper, Caro resigned due to "unexpected personal reasons”. As the former Director of the Sydney Writers' Festival (Caro doubled attendances to this festival), and the PEN World Voices Festival in New York, Caro would have made a great Director of the Victorian Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas. Let’s hope the State Library of Victoria finds a worthy replacement in a hurry as the centre is slatted to open latter in 2009.