Category Archives: proboscis

printable mini-books revisit eighteenth-century pamphleteers

London-based creative studio and social think-tank Proboscis has put impressive effort into thinking through the incarnations and reincarnations of written material between printed and digitized forms. Diffusion, one of Proboscis’ recent-ish ventures, is a technology that lays out short texts in a form that enables them to be printed off and turned, with a few cuts and folds, into easily-portable pamphlets.
For now, it’s still in beta, though I hear from Proboscis founder Giles Lane that they’re aiming to make this technology more widely available. Meanwhile, Proboscis is using Diffusion to produce Short Work, a series of downloadable public-domain texts selected and introduced by guests. Works so far include three essays by Samuel Johnson, selected by technology critic and journalist Bill Thompson; Common Sense by Thomas Paine, selected by Worldchanging editor Alex Steffen; and Alexander Pope’s Essay on Criticism, selected by myself.
Though the Short Work pieces are not exclusively from the same period, it’s interesting to note that all these guest selections date from the eighteenth century. It can’t be simply that these texts are most likely to be a) short, and b) in the public domain (though this no doubt has something to do with it). But the eighteenth century saw an explosion in printing, outdone only by the new textual explosion of the Web, and the political, intellectual and critical voices that emerged from that Babel of print raise many questions about the ongoing evolution of our current digital discourse.