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Re: <nettime> Water-shedding
Dan Wang on 27 Sep 2000 01:37:08 -0000


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Re: <nettime> Water-shedding



>From: Roberto Verzola <rverzola {AT} phil.gn.apc.org>
>To: nettime-l {AT} bbs.thing.net
>Subject: Re: <nettime> Water-shedding
>Date: Mon, Sep 25, 2000, 8:48 AM
>

>  >them, in one or another version, have been distributed. Nonetheless, a lot
>  >of people I would want to have them just haven't been interested - and I
>  >ascribe this to - no matter how much the opposite is claimed - an intrans-
>  >igent attachment to the _book_ - something I also feel. It's as if the
>  >cdrom can only be a _project,_ or _resource_ - but nothing that carries
>  >the weight or intimacy of the book - nothing, in short, that is _desirab-
>  >le,_ in terms of personal ownership. The relationships and gaps between
>
> Perhaps because you don't need anything else to read a book, except a
> knowledge of the language it is written in. A cdrom needs a cdrom
> drive, computer and software, all of which must be compatible with the
> cdrom. It also needs electricity and the technology that produces it.
> In short its usefulness requires an *entire* infrastructure which is
> itself changing rapidly. I'll go with the book.
>
> Roberto Verzola

You might not need much to read a book, but you need a whole lot of crap to
produce one. You might be chained to some unwieldy hardware to read a
cdrom, but the desktop box needed to burn 'em yourself is pretty minimal
considering you've got the means for nearly unlimited duplication,
especially when compared to the tons of crap needed for book making.

To me, this is an especially interesting thread because I use a lot of that
old book making stuff--wood and metal type, cylinder and platen
presses--and happen to be right now in the middle of printing one of Alan
Sondheim's texts that was posted to Nettime a few months ago. There will
only be a few dozen of these 'hard copies,' less than a hundred in anycase.
I also printed up a piece of his about a year ago.

So what is the point of such an exercise? To draw out and then specify the
differences in electronic and physical media. I do this by heightening the
auratic, the objecthood, the materiality of the hard copy. Make only a few
of them, just enough to distribute widely on a personal, individualized
scale. Subject their making to the idiosyncratic qualities found only in
letterpress printing (like a typo I left in, in which two letters are
inserted in reverse order, with a correctly placed letter in between: very
unlikey to happen electronically, but a typical hand-composition error of
the kind very occasionally missed by a printing house proofreader in a
previous age). Design the object unpredicatably by only using the few
typefaces available, and in odd, forced combinations printed on odd, remant
paper, with odd, leftover decades old inks.

But the source material is electronic--Alan's "writings," if you want to
call them that. I like to think of them more as ideas drawn with the
keystrokes and clicks that control the machine of his medium. By posting on
Nettime and other platforms, these texts--strings of characters of varying
readability and multiple levels of meaning to begin with--are not only
widely distributed on a mass-mailing scale, but actually begin a new
chapter in their lives as texts. Depending on what threads they start, what
responses they draw, how they might be used and manipulated by someone
else. But, being digital, the ephemerality of such existence also becomes
apparent. Deleted, trashed, unknown mailer destinations, stored away on a
drive or disk never to be opened again.

Making what I see as the hardest of hard copies is an unexpected turn for
his texts, a strange direction for them to go in, and that seemed to be the
interesting thing about it. Quite possibly it is the only source material
capable of instilling a new relevancy in letterpress printing. And if what
I make out of Alan's texts takes them to another stage in their evolution
as writing/ideas/art, and only does so because of the physically and
historically unique characteristics of letterpress printing, then that
means its use pointedly contests the definition of technological
obsolescence under capitalism.

And that is, for me, the point of using different media and different
technologies. Use them in ways that will bring out the contradictions of
capitalism, of the irrationality of conventional statuses granted any given
technology. That press, or computer, or modem, or blah, blah. . . is
obsolete, is worthless. . . oh yeah, for whom and for what is it obsolete
and worthless??? A book and computer, together, can do that.

dan s. wang

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