Designing Culture :: The Technological Imagination at Work

unnamedMy most recent book, Designing Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work (Duke UP, 2011), also started as a research project–in 1996. The manuscript was completed in 2008, the book was published in 2011. The 15-year span between the beginning of the project and the arrival of the book on a shelf must seem absolutely ridiculous in the era of just-in-time publishing.

But in fact from the beginning this print-book was part of an ambitious transmedia project that involved the production of several other works of digital scholarship. The print book and projects were literally authored/designed simultaneously. While the digital and exhibition projects launched in a more timely fashion, the print book took longer to complete. The purpose of the print book is to express, record, and disseminate the historical and theoretical analyses of those other projects–a process that, for me, takes its own time.

The dynamic is similar though as with the first book: the cultural activities and technologies discussed in each chapter continued to evolve and, in some cases, devolve literally into bits, 404 error messages, and a heap of waste materials. In this latter sense, when it finally shows up on Amazon.com the book will no longer be simply a work of cultural history, but rather the only archival record of creative biographies, moments of expression, as well as technological devices.

Ever the optimist, I have another transmedia book project in the works–an edited collection tentatively titled “Ways of the Hand: Tinkering in a Digital Age.” I hope that it appears before the singularity takes root.