This past summer, scholar and artist Christina Corfield introduced me to Edward Bellamy’s prescient book, Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (Ticknor & Co.). In his book, which was published in 1888, Bellamy describes musical telephones, disposable paper clothing, and open publishing platforms for any citizen interested in writing (and the benefit of no censorship or requirement of approval from a country’s governing body). Bellamy may have successfully predicted Internet services such as Spotify, Amazon, and a vast number of publishing platforms such as WordPress or Tumblr.
While books and publishing have significantly changed since 1887, I’m certain Bellamy would spend a countless amount of hours marveling at the mobile technology we have today. Reading and writing are, literally, at our fingertips. Within seconds, anybody with a smartphone or tablet can publish a photo, moving image, or narrative of whatever they desire for the entire world to access.
The familiar streaks of natural oils from our fingertips on a pitch-black, shiny surface serve as a visual reminder of the human body’s connection to small high-powered devices. For some people, this tethering ushers in the age of singularity when we become intertwined with technology. Yet, with the massive amount of applications to produce digital books and publications, what happens to the senses over time? What happens to the feel and touch of books? What happens to how information is consumed, and how is text-based art created? Continue reading