SHARON HELGASON GALLAGHER | DATE 11/1/2012
On Friday, October 26, ARTBOOK | D.A.P. publisher and president Sharon Helgason Gallagher spoke at the Van Alen Institute's Publishing Summit. Her notes on the transition from print to digital publishing are below.Note: I was fortunate to participate in the excellent discussion at the Architecture Publishing Summit organized by Jeff Byles at the Van Alen Institute in conjunction with the Designers and Books events. Here's a revision of some of the points I made during my presentation that I wrote up after the keynote at FIT.
DESIGNING THE DIGITAL BOOK AND THE CONTENT ECONOMY
Seven Questions at the Transition from Print to Digital Publishing
1) At what speed do we want to create, design, and enjoy in the digital world? What kind of friction can we find in the digital space to slow us down when we need time to think? Can we design virtual frictions other than the surfeit of information and incessant distraction that currently characterize digital life? Let's get over our crush on the hyperlink and think beyond Massimo Vignelli's little "blue words." What would a "hypolink" be?
2) As we make this transition, what are we leaving behind as exemplars of the printed book? We make a new past each time we make a new future: designers need to expand their practices to include the design of new pasts for the future. What objects do we want the word "book" to denote in the year 2112? Irma Boom spoke of wanting to "build the last book". Shouldn't other designers?
3) How does our design "language game" change when we switch from dealing with "solids" like books and words and pictures to handling something slippery now called "content" that appears to behave more like a fluid or, perhaps, even a gas? Can we come up with a richer -- and more pleasing -- metaphor than "chunking" content?
4) What features of our human makeup should inform the design of virtual reading objects? As I suggested in an earlier post, the book, like the bicycle, has endured as a design object because is it so perfectly suited to the human form. The bicycle: a simple but ingenious design harmoniously suited to the bipedal structure of the human body. The book: a simple but ingenious design of bound pages harmoniously suited to the bilateral structure of the human brain. How can a better understanding of our own human form as digital denizens move us from the app to the apt?
5) If printed media formed a "Fourth Estate" designed to critique a world in which power was articulated in primarily political terms, can new digital forms be designed to function as a "4.1 Estate" in a world in which power is reproduced increasingly as the economic?
6) How can we be proactive in accounting for market externalities as we design new virtual economic objects? Don't we have enough experience now with unintended consequences to think first rather than leaving future generations to clean up our messes? How sure, for example, are we that we won't regret fifty years hence our quick acceptance of advertising as the key monetization model for digital content? Do we really want to expose kids' brains to the amount of advertising they are forced to experience simply to do their homework research on the web? Are we listening for the Rachel Carsons of the digital?
7) Can the publishing industry be taught design thinking? And if you don't believe it can be, what is your design for an alternative sustainable ecosphere that values both culture workers and culture consumers without pitting the two against each other? Can we design an industry and its objects to allow a more dynamic chorus of active and passive voices? Surely, we can do better than the false empowerment of the "Like" button and "fan" culture. Does the invention of the digital make possible a new renaissance of classical forms? Can technologies enabling interactive and collaborative authoring and reading revive the "middle voice" of ancient languages? What are the acoustics of virtual space?