There is a piece about the Institute on the book/literary blog the millions, by Buzz Poole, a writer who came down to visit us for a long afternoon late last summer. Buzz takes solid a crack at describing what we do and why. He starts out by briefly sketching out the increasingly unstable ground that defines contemporary publishing, and nails one of the major problems we often lament here:
In the realm of publishing, however, especially mainstream publishing, the concerns and campaigns are geared to getting better at selling books, not to how the very nature of books is, and has been, changing for years.
Poole then describes the Institute and the intellectual and material history that we come out of, namely Voyager and similar interactive multimedia development. But then he says something that I think is really on point about us and our work:
The most influential people behind the Institute are not so much about the technology; rather they are about intellectual economies where theory and practice are equally valued. The Institute wants to do more than democratize information; it wants to reappraise the exchange of information and how it is valued.
The next section is all about our projects, our forays into the intellectual economies and our attempts to participate in the wide world of the web. (You can get a sense of our projects on our site). Poole closes with a discussion of what his text would be like if the Institute conceived of the format: how it would include reading lists and links (and probably full texts, if we really could have our way), examples of media, drafts/versioning, and the ability to interact with the author. What he doesn’t say is that this piece was originally being pitched as a magazine article, which fortuitously landed on a blog instead. We like being written up in paper, but even the most common digital form allows for a much wider range of instantaneous interaction and investigation. The fact that this piece is on a blog—and not an expanded (expandable?) format—is a testament to how much further the tools and practices of writing still need to advance before we begin to approach our vision of ‘networked book’.