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The 'Future Book' Is Here, but It's Not What We Expected | WIRED
"THE FUTURE BOOK was meant to be interactive, moving, alive. Its pages were supposed to be lush with whirling doodads, responsive, hands-on. The old paperback Zork choose-your-own-adventures were just the start. The Future Book would change depending on where you were, how you were feeling. It would incorporate your very environment into its story—the name of the coffee shop you were sitting at, your best friend’s birthday. It would be sly, maybe a little creepy. Definitely programmable. Ulysses would extend indefinitely in any direction you wanted to explore; just tap and some unique, mega-mind-blowing sui generis path of Joycean machine-learned words would wend itself out before your very eyes.

Prognostications about how technology would affect the form of paper books have been with us for centuries. Each new medium was poised to deform or murder the book: newspapers, photography, radio, movies, television, videogames, the internet.

Some viewed the intersection of books and technology more positively: In 1945, Vannevar Bush wrote in The Atlantic: “Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.”

Researcher Alan Kay created a cardboard prototype of a tablet-like device in 1968. He called it the "Dynabook," saying, “We created a new kind of medium for boosting human thought, for amplifying human intellectual endeavor. We thought it could be as significant as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press 500 years ago.”

In the 1990s, Future Bookism hit a kind of beautiful fever pitch. We were so close. Brown University professor Robert Coover, in a 1992 New York Times op-ed titled “The End of Books,” wrote of the future of writing: “Fluidity, contingency, indeterminacy, plurality, discontinuity are the hypertext buzzwords of the day, and they seem to be fast becoming principles, in the same way that relativity not so long ago displaced the falling apple.” And then, more broadly: “The print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries.”

Normal books? Bo-ring. Future Books? Awesome—indeterminate—and we were almost there! The Voyager Company built its "expanded books" platform on Hypercard, launching with three titles at MacWorld 1992. Microsoft launched Encarta on CD-ROM.

But … by the mid-2000s, there still were no real digital books. The Rocket eBook was too little, too early. Sony launched the eink-based Librie platform in 2004 to little uptake. Interactive CD-ROMs had dropped off the map. We had Wikipedia, blogs, and the internet, but the mythological Future Book—some electric slab that would somehow both be like and not like the quartos of yore—had yet to materialize. Peter Meirs, head of technology at Time, hedged his bets perfectly, proclaiming: “Ultimately, there will be some sort of device!”

And then there was. Several devices, actually. The iPhone launched in June 2007, the Kindle that November. Then, in 2010, the iPad arrived. High-resolution screens were suddenly in everyone’s hands and bags. And for a brief moment during the early 2010s, it seemed like it might finally be here: the glorious Future Book."



"Yet here’s the surprise: We were looking for the Future Book in the wrong place. It’s not the form, necessarily, that needed to evolve—I think we can agree that, in an age of infinite distraction, one of the strongest assets of a “book” as a book is its singular, sustained, distraction-free, blissfully immutable voice. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. Funding, printing, fulfillment, community-building—everything leading up to and supporting a book has shifted meaningfully, even if the containers haven’t. Perhaps the form and interactivity of what we consider a “standard book” will change in the future, as screens become as cheap and durable as paper. But the books made today, held in our hands, digital or print, are Future Books, unfuturistic and inert may they seem."

[sections on self-publishing, crowdfunding, email newsletters, social media, audiobooks and podcasts, etc.]



"It turns out smartphones aren’t the best digital book reading devices (too many seductions, real-time travesties, notifications just behind the words), but they make excellent audiobook players, stowed away in pockets while commuting. Top-tier podcasts like Serial, S-Town, and Homecoming have normalized listening to audio or (nonfiction) booklike productions on smartphones."



"Last August, a box arrived on my doorstep that seemed to embody the apotheosis of contemporary publishing. The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition was published via a crowdfunding campaign. The edition includes a book of images, three records, and a small poster packaged in an exquisite box set with supplementary online material. When I held it, I didn’t think about how futuristic it felt, nor did I lament the lack of digital paper or interactivity. I thought: What a strange miracle to be able to publish an object like this today. Something independently produced, complex and beautiful, with foil stamping and thick pages, full-color, in multiple volumes, made into a box set, with an accompanying record and other shimmering artifacts, for a weirdly niche audience, funded by geeks like me who are turned on by the romance of space.

We have arrived to the once imagined Future Book in piecemeal truths.

Moving images were often espoused to be a core part of our Future Book. While rarely found inside of an iBooks or Kindle book, they are here. If you want to learn the ukulele, you don’t search Amazon for a Kindle how-to book, you go to YouTube and binge on hours of lessons, stopping when you need to, rewinding as necessary, learning at your own pace.

Vannevar Bush's “Memex” essentially described Wikipedia built into a desk.

The "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an iPhone.

In The Book of Sand, Borges wrote of an infinite book: "It was then that the stranger told me: 'Study the page well. You will never see it again.'" Describing in many ways what it feels like to browse the internet or peek at Twitter.

Our Future Book is composed of email, tweets, YouTube videos, mailing lists, crowdfunding campaigns, PDF to .mobi converters, Amazon warehouses, and a surge of hyper-affordable offset printers in places like Hong Kong.

For a “book” is just the endpoint of a latticework of complex infrastructure, made increasingly accessible. Even if the endpoint stays stubbornly the same—either as an unchanging Kindle edition or simple paperback—the universe that produces, breathes life into, and supports books is changing in positive, inclusive ways, year by year. The Future Book is here and continues to evolve. You’re holding it. It’s exciting. It’s boring. It’s more important than it has ever been.

But temper some of those flight-of-fancy expectations. In many ways, it’s still a potato."
craigmod  ebooks  reading  howweread  2018  kindle  eink  print  publishing  selfpublishing  blurb  lulu  amazon  ibooks  apple  digital  bookfuturism  hypertext  hypercard  history  vannevarbush  borges  twitter  animation  video  newsletters  email  pdf  mobi  epub  infrastructure  systems  economics  goldenrecord  voyager  audio  audiobooks  smarthphones  connectivity  ereaders  podcasts  socialmedia  kevinkelly  benthompson  robinsloan  mailchimp  timbuktulabs  elenafavilli  francescacavallo  jackcheng  funding  kickstarter  crowdfunding  blogs  blogging  wikipedia  internet  web  online  writing  howwewrite  self-publishing  youtube 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Masculinity Is Pursuing Truth And Expressing The Self | Thrive Global
"THRIVE GLOBAL: How would you define masculinity?

JACK CHENG: I associate it with adulthood; it’s the mature expression of the self. For me it means being in tune with my needs and emotions, empathetic with others, responsible for my actions and also the broader world. Pursuing truth. Acting with love instead of violence. Being authentic to who I am while acknowledging the history and culture—all the things that have influenced and are influencing me.

TG: Who in your life shaped your view of masculinity?

JC: My parents and close friends, but I think it’s really every person I’ve ever come in contact with. We’re social beings. We have models everywhere, and not necessarily all good ones. My current definition is informed much by Buddhist texts and biographies about people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Other influential books have been Robert Bly’s Iron John, Robert Moore and Douglas Gilette’s King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, and Robert A. Glover’s No More Mr. Nice Guy. If your name is Robert and you write about this kind of stuff, I’ve probably read you.

TG: Was there a particular moment when you felt you’d become a man?

JC: I’ve more had multiple moments of realization, rather than a singular event that I can point to and say there was a before and after. I remember an evening a few years ago when I was looking in the bathroom mirror without my glasses on. I was half-asleep, on the verge of falling into that dream state, and in my blurred face I saw the faces of other men—different archetypes from different cultures and times in history: a Chinese scholar, a medieval king, a caveman, a shaman, a monk. It was as though I were seeing in my own face the face of every man, from the dawn of humanity. That was a weird night.

TG: How has society’s view of men changed since you were a kid?

JC: In terms of what’s considered masculine, it’s more multitudinous than the ideals I grew up with. In very much the way that the word “American” used to mean “white colonial” (and still does for some), for many others it’s come to encompass a much broader range of persons, backgrounds, and temperaments. I think the same goes for the term “masculine.” It’s less one kind of person or set of traits, but many.

At the same time, so much of that definition is informed by my own growth and experiences. In many ways, our broader society’s view of masculinity is that it is increasingly toxic. I think the problem comes from the way we tend to define the masculine in opposition to the feminine. If you adhere to this oppositional definition, then as we as a society collectively wake up to women’s rights and women’s issues, then masculinity is increasingly crowded out—“If they have more rights, we have fewer.”

To me, that’s no way to live. Any definition of masculinity that is oppositional in nature, that is threatened by feminism, that fails to incorporate queer and trans people is going to fail (or rather, continue failing) both men and women.

TG: Does masculinity influence your work? If so, how?

JC: Absolutely. I write children’s novels, and part of what I try to do is help equip boys with the tools for living that I wish I had growing up. My recent book, See You in the Cosmos, is about an eleven-year-old trying to understand his long-dead father. It’s about how he, with the help of people he meets on an epic road trip in the Southwest, starts moving into adolescence, and about how his 23-year-old brother becomes a man.

TG: What do you think children should be taught about masculinity?

JC: That it doesn’t have to be oppositional, as mentioned before. That it can be much broader and varied. And for boys, specifically: that each one of them has their own expression of masculinity, and maturity, and that growing up is, in a way, figuring out what that expression is."
masculinity  2017  jackcheng  men  violence  truth  emotions  love  martinlutherkingjr  robertbly  robertmoore  douglasgilette  robertglover  manhood  mlk 
august 2017 by robertogreco
#183: On independence, part 3
"Last week I wrote about the myth of the independent artist—about how even going solo comes with its own systems and processes. I focused largely on the side of the myth that involves operation, and dissemination. This week I want to talk more from the other side—from the side of creative freedom.

One part of the myth involves how art is made in the first place—that it’s a matter of having an idea, and putting atoms to it, making it materialize out of thin air. Or not even thin air, but the thinnest air—in a vacuum. If the creator has complete freedom (or control), the myth goes, then that vision will be realized.

If you’ve been getting my letters for a while, you can probably already guess: it doesn’t work like this in practice. The making of art is less an explosion in a vacuum than it is the growth of a tree in the forest. We share a common soil and air; we respond to the shade of other trees; we look for gaps into which to grow. We exist in the world, in the culture, and the art we make is reflective of our personal, psychological, social, physical, cultural ecosystems. The practice is the daily exchange we make between ourselves and our community; we inhale the world and exhale it, too—a photosynthesis, a conversion, conversation. The work is that conversation captured, distilled.

There is no such thing as total independence. When we talk about independence what we are really talking about is the authority to decide who and what to serve. Real independence is getting to pick your masters. It’s willing obedience to people and systems. It’s the acknowledgement of interdependence, the awareness that no one is entirely free from outside influence.

The creative environment most supportive of real independence—an established system or new and alternative systems—depends on the individual artist. The authority is an internal authority, yet it’s external, too—subject to its own influence. It’s circular in the way that all important things are.

I’m not sure if that makes sense. But I seem to have ended up where I usually end up, and that is: Don’t sweat the labels. Listen to the work. Listen to the world around you, and the world inside. They will, like they always do, tell you everything you need to know."
jackcheng  2017  independence  listening  choice  systems  process  art  interdependence 
january 2017 by robertogreco
#53 I don't need a car
"I'm shopping for a used car—a Prius—and at any given time there is a small pool of well-maintained second-generations Priuses with less than 125K miles available for under $8000 within a hundred-mile radius of zip code 11211 whose owners can meet at a mutually convenient time to get the car inspected by an independent mechanic. But while I'm browsing, "any given time" feels more like "all given times," and I notice myself looking outside my price and distance and growing more accepting of suspicious vehicle histories, because, like, what if I don't find anything before my rental car is up.

I'm ignoring the wilderness of Priuses not yet on the market. And the deep wilderness beyond that—extending my rental car, using alternate forms of transportation, or returning to a living situation that doesn't necessitate a car. Not to mention the even-deeper wilderness of things I can't imagine. We're constantly at the edge of this wilderness in all areas of our lives, from our relationships (the person we'll meet tomorrow) to work (the gig we'll get emailed about next week) to writing (the experience this summer that turns into a book three years later). To be alive is to walk into the wild.

I'll find my perfect car not by stressing over whether I'm going to find the perfect car, but by waiting for the conditions of perfection to change, on their own, so that when they do align, I'll at least be there to appreciate it. A wise person told me that the best way to shop for a used car is to first tell yourself, I don't need a car.

I don't need a car,
Jack"
liminality  jackcheng  2014  betweenness  searching  wilderness  uncertainty  between  liminalspaces 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Rhizome | The Web That Can't Wait
"…college would highlight in relief just how much I hadn’t read. Each semester I took far more courses than I could legitimately handle, and reading became consumptive instead of submersive. It became good enough to quickly read each text just once; a slower savouring could come later."

"When we enthuse about print books, we talk about them like they’ll be around forever. Such is not the case; like memories & scars, they fade and warp over time. Consider the spectrum from mass-market paperbacks that very quickly become unbound and jaundiced with age, through to more expensive texts that might be printed on acid-free paper. Rarer texts get a panopoly of preservation treatments from binding and display cases through to environmental controls that limit exposure to heat and light. In their attempt to rejuvenate print, Eterna Cadencia just might be sounding the death knell, in insisting that we treat each book with the white-gloved, sacralised care we accord to museum & archival pieces."
slowreading  massmarket  paperbacks  ebooks  longform  fishapp  robinsloan  jackcheng  slowweb  slow  speed  fomo  2012  reading  publishing  rhizome  books 
september 2012 by robertogreco
Dad’s Idea – Jack Cheng
“Just my thought,” he’ll continue. He always says “just my thought” before anything he knows is a hunch, an uninformed, unscientifically-proven, unwikipediaed hypothesis. But hunch or not, the words that follow are always spoken with absolute conviction. His eyes light up & his forehead wrinkles and he leans forward, & his mouth is half open and his top teeth are showing & he has a look of sheer amazement on his face…

There have been scientific experiments conducted to discover what goes on in our brains when we experience near-death events—like getting hit by a car or falling off a ladder—as if they were happening in slow motion. The findings are in line with Dad’s hunch…

But I don’t tell Dad any of this. I don’t tell him because I don’t want to dispel its magic by inserting my own. I don’t want him to stop being excited about his idea. I don’t want him to ever stop asking me about it, because every time he asks, it’s a reminder. To make next week longer & more memorable than this…"
slow  life  experience  offline  online  routine  repetition  neuroscience  brain  learning  motion  travel  movement  attention  selfishness  selflessness  engagement  magic  excitement  relationships  hunches  2012  parents  presence  time  memories  memory  jackcheng 
september 2012 by robertogreco
The Setup / Jack Cheng
"What would be your dream setup?

I was going to say it'd be great to have access to a wider variety of spaces to work from, but I realized I should just get out more because I live in New York City, a place overflowing with such spaces. I was at the Morgan Library a few weeks ago, taken aback by Pierpont Morgan's study, with its secret vaults, couches upholstered in lush velvet, and ornately framed renaissance paintings hanging on walls clad in red damask, all enveloping a desk that was over a hundred years old. It's the kind of place where you feel like you should be sitting with a quill pen drafting a constitution. From behind that desk, I thought to myself: it'd be pretty rad to sit here and write poop jokes.

Sometimes I also daydream about tools that don't exist yet, tools that light up different parts of your brain when you use them. I want a piano that plays colors or a typewriter that clacks smells. I want a pencil that scribbles stardust, an edible notebook whose flavor profile changes based on what you write inside. I want tools that make me feel like I'm trudging through the mud, tools that require some kind of physical mastery, that feel alive when you use them, like a cowhand's steed. Why do we have to slouch here in front of these glowing screens? Why can't the work we do be a higher expression of beauty, both mentally and physically, possess the grace an olympian propelling herself backwards over a wobbling high jump bar? What if web design was a full-contact sport?

But in reality, my ideal setup would produce a certain feeling, a feeling that arises when the space is so familiar you no longer notice it, when the tool melts into you and becomes an extension of your mind or body. There's this sense of harmony with the world, things crystalize in your wake, coming together almost impossibly, like throwing up a handful of toothpicks and having it land in the shape of the Eiffel Tower. And what I have currently-this combination pen and paper and glass and silicon, this assemblage of interchangeable tools, of well-worn routines with intermittent flux-sets up those moments beautifully."
synesthesia  senses  exploration  tools  routines  2012  thesetup  jackcheng  usesthis 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Pendulums, Tea, and Jack Cheng | One Skinnyj
"I wanted the lack of employment & stable income to motivate me to do something."

"…balance implies movement. A more appropriate instrument would be a pendulum—constantly swinging back & forth. W/ a scale, stasis is desirable, but w/ a pendulum, stasis is death."

"We have a limited supply of attention every day & thus a sweet spot for novel experiences. Too little novelty & you’re bored. Too much & you’re overwhelmed. But with the right amount, you’re learning & growing."

"The right team to me consists of a group of people who are simultaneously mentor & mentee, skilled at certain things & eager to learn about others."

"I love learning new things, & I’m continually improving myself. I feel like I’m experiencing the world closer to the way I did when I was a kid, the result of unlearning some…biases & tendencies…"

"I’m a big proponent of journaling…it builds self-awareness, which is always the first step to improvement…Honest journaling helps you face your own fear & neglect."
memberly  motivation  howwegrow  howwelearn  entrepreneurship  distrupto  employment  attention  distraction  newness  travel  yearoff  stasis  growing  growth  learning  unlearning  tendencies  biases  self-improvement  neglect  fear  self-awareness  noticing  novelty  howwework  working  groups  mentees  mentors  movement  balance  pendulums  stability  chaos  reflection  journals  journaling  2011  interviews  seepster  tea  jackcheng 
july 2012 by robertogreco
The Line Sitters – Jack Cheng
"I wrote and posted this story in the span of four hours, while waiting in line for a ramen event in the East Village. The only changes I made after the event were copy edits to fix typos, grammatical errors, and formatting issues."
constraints  writing  2012  jackcheng  storytelling  stories 
july 2012 by robertogreco
Jack Cheng waits for ramen, uses time wisely. (with images, tweets) · maxfenton · Storify
"Since I have four hours to kill, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to write a short story while I'm waiting. #ivanramen



First written draft is done. Water break, and then it's time to type! #ivanramen http://pic.twitter.com/ZM9AYyGF



Here it is! http://blog.jackcheng.com/post/27433804293/the-line-sitters Time to eat. #ivanramen



My hands are shaking from the adrenaline right now.



#ivanramen http://instagr.am/p/NMu71-xt0v/ "
constraints  classideas  howwewrite  howwework  robinsloan  writing  storytelling  stories  food  jackcheng  ramen  storify 
july 2012 by robertogreco
The Slow Web – Jack Cheng
"Timely not real-time. Rhythm not random. Moderation not excess. Knowledge not information. These are a few of the many characteristics of the Slow Web. It’s not so much a checklist as a feeling, one of being at greater ease with the web-enabled products and services in our lives.

Like Slow Food, Slow Web is concerned as much with production as it is with consumption. We as individuals can always set our own guidelines and curb the effect of the Fast Web, but as I hope I’ve illustrated, there are a number of considerations the creators of web-connected products can make to help us along. And maybe the Slow Web isn’t quite a movement yet. Maybe it’s still simmering. But I do think there is something distinctly different about the feeling that some of these products impart on their users, and that feeling manifests from the intent of their makers."
2012  thewayitshouldbedone  moderation  speed  fast  timeliness  realtime  rhythm  flow  knowledge  information  random  stockandflow  jackcheng  slow  slowweb  web 
july 2012 by robertogreco

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