Volume 3: The Future of Reading

The Future of Reading
Page

May 12-14, 2014

As digital technology continues to disrupt and transform reading, writing and publishing, what is the future of the book – and perhaps more importantly, the future of the reader? Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination will bring together a diverse group of authors, editors, publishers, scholars and artists for a “book sprint” at the Center for the Study of the Novel to write, edit, assemble and publish a book that explores the future of reading in just 72 hours. Topics will include the future of digital reading communities and collectives, technologies for interactive and social reading, personalized and interactive books, the complex relationships between authors and readers, and the future of reading beyond the book as it converges with other media. The book will also feature video interviews and real-time responses solicited from participants around the globe. Throughout the book sprint, members of the public will be invited to read the work-in-progress, provide feedback and contribute their own thoughts about the future of reading for inclusion in the book through this website.

Themes

Reading in the Network Era

Our vastly expanded access to people and ideas through digital networks has transformed the way we read, write, learn, research, and share knowledge with one another. How are digital platforms, collaboration, and annotation tools changing our engagement with books? In an era of Goodreads, LibraryThing and Twitter (not to mention Rap Genius), is the age of the solitary reader coming to an end? And how is this network logic transforming books as artifacts? Will digital texts develop palimpsest layers like a well-used library book or presentation copy? Is the book becoming a distributed network of information and media rather than a bounded, unitary object?

The Future of Book Design

Digital bookmaking provides a universe of possibilities for authors and designers. Yet the vast majority of e-books are merely “books under glass” – meager imitations of their printed counterparts. How can we create digital texts that rival the material sophistication of the codex? How can experiments with typography, rich media, adaptive displays, and other technologies change the fundamental nature of reading? Will digital books become as personalized as our social media feeds? Will they one day bear the traces and scars of their material histories like physical texts?

Reading as a Technology

We define ourselves as human beings by the things we read, and the things we know. Books are systems for ordering, synthesizing, presenting, and sharing knowledge. Equally importantly, they are cultural artifacts and powerful devices for cultivating and shaping a particular cultural, affective, and intellectual self. If we change the definition of reading in the face of technological upheaval, are we changing the definition of the self? The humanities? Knowledge itself?

[Edit: Reading as Technology combined into The Future of Book Design 5/12/14]

Read, Play, Perform

Literary production and consumption are sophisticated cultural games, playful and sometimes deadly serious contests over meaning, value, logic, and truth. These games involve a diverse cast of players: readers, writers, editors, publishers, booksellers, critics, educators, archivists…. Will digital tools enable us to enact the cultural games of literary production and consumption in new ways? Will collaborative texts, non-linear narratives and game mechanics change the balance of agency and control between readers, writers, publishers, and critics?

The Ecosystem of Reception

Digital publishing, criticism, book discovery, and shopping are complicating the ecosystem of literary reception. Meanwhile, in the textual arena, hyperlinking, rich media, and experiments with bricolage, pastiche, and homage require intensely intertextual forms of reading and interpretation. How are transformations in the production, composition, and underlying technical structure of literature changing the way that books are interpreted? How do critics (professional and amateur), readers, scholars, teachers and others make meaning with books in an era of accelerating disruption?

The Demise of Close Reading?

The rise of “distant reading” and the digital humanities methods in literary analysis can be seen as a reaction to the massive expansion in the accessibility, availability, and grassroots production of cultural texts of all kinds. Between the long tail and self-publishing, we are drowning in text, and we’re looking for new methods to make sense of it all, to give it greater meaning – a story, a theme, a zeitgeist. In this increasingly data-driven cultural moment, are we witnessing the demise of close reading? Or is careful, focused interpretation still a vital part of the analyst’s toolkit?

Fragmentation, Celebrity, and Literary Culture

An increasingly crowded marketplace for media of all kinds, the ubiquitous availability of literature from other eras, and a flood of self-published content have produced a moment of fragmentation and dispersion in the literary field. Authors well-known in one genre, or among one demographic or cultural niche, are completely unrecognizable to others. How will the mechanics of literary celebrity work in the future? What kinds of books and authors will rise to the level of cultural visibility? Are Hollywood films and young adult series the last remaining avenues to literary fame? How do we teach, research, and discuss literature with one another if nobody has read the same books?

[Edit: Theme re-written based on conversation on 5/12/14.]

Fragmentation, Reputation, Celebrity, and Literary Culture

An increasingly crowded marketplace for media of all kinds, the ubiquitous availability of literature from other eras, and a flood of self-published content have produced a moment of fragmentation and dispersion in the literary field. Authors well-known in one genre, or among one demographic or cultural niche, are completely unrecognizable to others. How will the mechanics of tools like branding, social platforms and digital publishing change the games of reputation and celebrity? What kinds of books and authors will rise to the level of cultural visibility? Do the rules vary by genre, and will Hollywood films and young adult series be the last remaining avenues to literary fame? How do we teach, research, and discuss literature with one another if nobody has read the same books? And how are readers establishing their own forms of public attention and authority? What is the future of public literary community, of book signings, public readings and presentation copies of texts?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *