Seen in an interview with Ben Vershbow of if:book in Library Journal. Vershbow pulls together wikis, blogs, new media, discussions, aggregators, and social bookmarking into a networked writing and reading space.
Soon, books will literally have discussions inside of them, both live chats and asynchronous exchanges through comments and social annotation. You will be able to see who else out there is reading that book and be able to open up a dialog with them. You already see evidence of this in Wikipedia’s “discussion” pages and revision histories where the writers and editors negotiate the collaborative development of articles. Wikipedia is a totally new kind of book in that it is never static, always growing. It has boundaries, but these boundaries are always shifting and are highly porous. We also see social interaction in the reading and interpretation of texts-on blogs, for example, discussion forums, social bookmarking sites, Amazon reader reviews, and thousands of nonpublic venues like [discussion lists] and email. Again, this sort of interaction is not inherently new, but the Internet allows it to be recorded, aggregated, and woven together in astonishing new ways that defy geography and time.
Is blogging a good example of this?
In many respects, the blogosphere is a society of readers, all publishing their notes and reflections in real time and linking to fellow readers. In addition to what we write and say, in addition to the links we chisel into our text by hand, we bloggers have a few basic mechanical tools to help foster connections and build semantic bridges. Trackbacks, for instance, little signals that automatically tell one blog that it is being referenced by another, or tagging, where your site sends notifications to Technorati, the leading blog search engine, saying that something has been published on a particular spread of topics and enabling readers who are searching those topics to potentially find their way to your post. All of these things are just the primitive beginnings of a much richer architecture of discourse that could eventually be built into books.
The writer’s range and expertise will change – has changed. Writers will need to become deft at process, deft at discussion, at being social, at writing in multiple spaces, multiple media, multiple forms.
But I’m wondering how the new book will take the writer out of the center of attention and out of the center of meaning, how the new book will re-postion the author, the act of authorship, and the physical entity of the writer, and how it will change our understanding of the relation between language and self.
I was also wondering what people would write that would merit such attention, such discussion and aggregation. And then I realized that this blog post is an answer to that question.
One last comment from on the networked book, with a focus on structure:
At the institute, we talk about “the networked book.” This involves many of the things we’ve talked about already-the book as a place, as social software-but basically we’re talking about the book at its most essential, a structured, sustained intellectual experience, a mover of ideas-reinvented in a peer-to-peer ecology. The structure part is crucial, though. Whereas the web is a massive, diffuse array, more like a library than an individual book, a book provides some sort of shape, even if that shape is malleable and the boundaries porous, even if the edges of books overlap. A good future of the book is one that combines the best qualities of physical books with the best qualities of the network.
Time for a re-read of Writing Space.
See also: defining the networked book.
Listening to the birds in the garden.