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information, design, architecture; information design + architecture

Reading machines

Lee Gomes’ Portal column “Why We’re Powerless To Resist Grazing On Endless Web Data” has gone and crystalised some thoughts I had following Matt Webb’s comment here, that “RSS turns us into machines for reading”.

Thoughts that that was wrong. RSS makes more explicit, and more conventionally mechanical, Deleuze and Guattari’s insight that “[a] book itself is a little machine”; that it’s an inert mechanical assemblage that we plug in to, and through us is plugged in to other books, or spaces, or recollections, or artworks. This is, of course, the exact opposite of clarifying how it is that we might show this lines except through their traditional forms of discursive scholarship.

The citation is a shitty hyperlink, the index a shitty full-content search, and pagination a physically-contingent and essentially imprecise form of conveying the where of the explanation of a thought. The machines that are other people’s thoughts are now being opened up, and what I and others have been calling “desire paths” are what Matt Jones in a recent interview has said people a calling “information wakes” (although I’m unclear where; would love to know!).

Peter Merholz is right that extending programs that capture this data beyond the computer is inevitable, but Nike+ isn’t beyond the computer; it just extends the extant cable from the computer to the pocket. Is it possible to bridge the physical and digital information areas? The emphasis is that discussion is on building a personal data-set, and from all manner of miscellaneous procedures. It’s tools will be handy, but desire paths are specific and intentional. Libraries are a object-centered social spaces, but their social objects aren’t books; they’re the links between books.

Getting closer to that practical advice, Nate…

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