I Read Where I Am

Exploring New Information Cultures

We are street readers. Look at us, info junk dealers, as we zip through the telephone, scan a newspaper we’ve just read, leaf through a magazine. We are the new generation of readers. Not dumber, just faster. We whiz through three lives at once. Let’s be honest: reading has become a different experience. Reading has become looking and vice versa. Information has become tactile. You don’t have to remember anything, you just look it up. Could it be that the average person (still) doesn’t like reading? Can you call what people do on Facebook and Twitter reading? Absorbing books and newspapers was something from which you traditionally became wiser, because unusual opinions, special thoughts, new developments, and fantasies were revealed. But there have always been good and bad books. Quality and pulp have always existed.

We are info junkies. People don’t know where to draw the line and, in today’s consumer society, are constantly fighting for control. Information, following food and the environment, may be next in line for an analysis on sustainable development. Information has become a consumer product because it is linked to the form in which it appears. New platforms and formats are appearing with greater frequency on the market. Text, video, sound, and graphics intermingle. Everybody is busy answering, uploading.

We all know the main lines of info evolution, from the printing press to the iPhone. By now the information is drifting through space and there are new tools for reading and writing, which each time combine the multimedia mix in a different way. Each change is in itself large and has consequences for the economy, politics, and the social status of our existence.

In I Read Where I Am the Graphic Design Museum, together with the Institute for Network Cultures, investigates recent developments in the field of information design. The book is produced under the Infodecodata programme, an exhibition about information design that was launched in 2010 in the Graphic Design Museum. Infodecodata presents new developments on the cusp of text and image.

Much discussion took place in the twentieth century about the relationship between art and science, but it often did not go further than good intentions. Engineers do not want to involve artists in crucial stages of the research and artists in turn are all too determined to remain ‘autonomous’. But now we see them actually coming closer together. This has not happened because good intentions have all at once been turned into deeds. It is the technology itself that develops form and content simultaneously and considers it to be a whole. Different types of content and readers ask for different forms and experiences. The question remains: which form will it assume and what experience do you want?

In I Read Where I Am, 82 invited authors, artists, critics, and designers present a wide range of observations, inspirations, and critical notes about how we daily consume and produce our information. We intended to leave the justified nostalgia for what it is and asked the expert-amateurs to look further than the current hype around the iPads and Kindles. This publication does not only reflect the current state of affairs but also speculates about the significance and importance of new forms of image-text in the future. Let us together place them in the world and not wait for ready-made products from Silicon Valley. The reflections presented here are explicitly intended to be read as a guideline for the following generations of ‘reading machines’. All that remains is for us to design them - without losing our attention.

'Florian Cramer having received about 30 work-related e-mail messages while writing this text.'

  • Andrew Feenberg, [1991] 2002 Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (p. 3)
  • This text was originally written for the catalogue of the Biennale Internationale Design 2010 Saint-Étienne.

  • Next Nature, Actar, summer 2011, 450 pp.

  • The Liquid Newsroom is an open innovation project. It is currently under development and updates will be published on Konrath’s blog at www.nextlevelofnews.com.

This text is adapted from The Secret War Between Downloading and Uploading: Tales of the Computer as Culture Machine, MIT Press, 2011.

  • 'Wie wäre es, gebildet zu sein?', Festrede by Prof. Dr. Peter Bieri, 2005.

  • Stofvorm (philosophical online magazine) Ferrari, G. R. F., 'Aristotle’s Literary Aesthetics' in: Phronesis XLIV/3, 1999, pp. 181-198.

  • Marshall McLuhan, Counterblast, Rapp & Whiting Limited, Londen 1970.

© F. Starik, 2003

  • ‘The Netbook and its Library’ was carried out by Daniel van der Velden (Metahaven), Nina Støttrup Larsen, Femke Herregraven, Henrik van Leeuwen, Rozemarijn Koopmans, and Kees de Klein as part of the project 'The Architecture of Knowledge', initiated by the Netherlands Architecture Institute and the Dutch Library Association, in Rotterdam, 2009.