The launch of artist Paul Chan’s publishing company, Badlands Unlimited, in 2010 could have been mistaken for a career non sequitur. His foray into book publishing felt at once completely futile and deliciously subversive—anachronistic in form, and yet prescient in its embrace of technology as a means of interrogating (and thereby furthering) that form. Given the perilous economic prospects for artists and publishers alike, why not simply take matters into one’s own hands? As an online distribution platform for works written by Chan and others, Badlands Unlimited does just that.
In profiling the outfit for a recent issue of Frieze magazine (Off the Page, May, 2010) I realized that I had been watching this seemingly new venture develop for many years: Chan’s personal website, National Philistine, has served as the digital analog to his practice for well over a decade, a fact that many aren’t aware of by his estimation. (“Sometimes I even forget that I have a website,” he said, when asked about the longevity of his domain, which has been active since 1999.) The following conversation attempts to articulate some of that history, while indulging in a few detours along the way, as a means of suggesting iterative possibilities for publishing on the web—and beyond...
James Bridle, a publisher based in London, is a member of a rising class of digital futurists that fuse multiple professional experiences—for him, a university degree in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence with an organic interest in literature—to form a dynamic public-facing practice. “Essentially, when any new technology comes along, I try to force literature into it in some way,” he wrote during our recent email exchange.
The Iraq War: A History of Wikipedia Changelogs (2010)
Bridle runs the conference gamut from book fairs and South by Southwest to the UNESCO World Forum on Cultural Industries in Lombardia, Italy, where he lectured just weeks ago. His presentations are documented on another website devoted to technology and so-called book futurism, http://booktwo.org/, where he posts a series of essays and updates on his myriad projects. The Frankfurt School is an obvious inspirational go-to, given the titles of his posts and projects: Walter Benjamin's Aura: Open Bookmarks and the form of the eBook (2010), The Author of Everything (2011), and Robot Flâneur (2011). Bridle’s better-known efforts include The Iraq War: A History of Wikipedia Changelogs (2010) a twelve-volume set that chronicles, in print, every change made to the Wikipedia article on the Iraq War; Bookkake (2008) is a digital and print-on-demand publishing system for erotic literature, while bkkeepr (2008) and Open Bookmarks (2010) help users track and share their reading experiences through Twitter and social bookmarking.
Artists' eBooks Screenshot
The Iraq War: A History of Wikipedia Changelogs segues elegantly from the digital to the object worlds; the books qualify the data, physically. I see a different, yet equally compelling set of relational possibilities in the project I chose to focus on for our interview—one that I now know Bridle considers a failure (his words; not mine!): Artists' eBooks is, as its title suggests, a digital imprint designed to provide an experimental publishing platform for writers and artists. In the conversation that follows, we discussed the shifting nature of the reading experience from print to screen, and its implications for the book-as-medium...
United States of America
Reporting to the Head of Digital Media, the Manager of Digital Technologies is responsible for technological development and support of the Museum’s website, whitney.org, bulk e-mail, multimedia projects, mobile applications, and web-based promotions and campaigns as requested.
Responsibilities: Recommends and implements standards, evaluates functional design, and tests usability and compliance; translates visual and interaction design into a dynamic user experience; provides technical support to systems supporting the public website, mobile apps, in-museum guides, fundraising, membership, mailing lists, online retail, online ticketing, museum collections, digital asset management, and event management; manages software systems to achieve desired performance and reliability results; works collaboratively with outside vendors as well as develops projects internally; consults on systems integration projects as they relate to public-facing products such as the website and mobile apps.
General Requirements: B.A., 3+ years experience maintaining and developing websites; experience developing mobile applications preferred. Creative thinker with a keen eye for clean user interface design and implementation and deep knowledge of web design best practices. Maintains data standards, including writing of documentation, procedures, and definitions; good organizational skills, attention to detail, and strong QA skills. Interest in contemporary visual art preferred. Excellent verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills required, including the ability to relay technical concepts to non-technical audiences.
United States of America
Reporting to the Head of Digital Media, the Digital Content Manager will help develop and maintain content for whitney.org, third-party websites, and other digital media initiatives—including the Museum’s online magazine, Whitney Stories, applications (apps), and other digital projects—in order to deepen connections with current Whitney audiences and to increase visitors online and onsite by building institutional visibility.
This position is both managerial and editorial in nature; the successful candidate will have the desire and ability to successfully manage projects while maintaining a strong interest in their creative and editorial development.
General project management for all digital initiatives using our web-based project management system; establishing, initiating, and maintaining project management procedures around the website and all digital media efforts.
General management of all website content, including production, via the Museum’s proprietary content management system; manage timely, accurate content updates on the website in collaboration with various departments, including the Museum’s online calendar, exhibition-specific initiatives, and marketing/communications efforts.
Editorial and Creative Responsibilities:
Collaborate with various departments (Education, Curatorial, Marketing) in order to develop compelling ways to articulate the Whitney’s programming in the digital space.
Assist with general editorial oversight of whitney.org, including the Museum’s online magazine, Whitney Stories. Generate editorial ideas, write, and edit copy, in collaboration with departmental stakeholders.
Other special projects and additional responsibilities as assigned.
B.A. degree; minimum of three years professional web production/ digital content management experience (five years preferred); familiarity with a variety of commercial and proprietary content management platforms desired. Candidates must have a strong background in planning and execution of digital media initiatives, an interest and/or participation in online publishing initiatives (blogging, social media platforms, etc.) is desired; excellent organization and communication skills, and ability to ‘troubleshoot’ and work under strict deadlines. Please provide links to all relevant websites/social media profiles.
Website and Computer Skills:
Basic knowledge of HTML/CSS, video production, database structures desired; familiarity with a variety of third-party websites and tools, including Google Analytics, Clicky, Flickr, Blip.tv, Basecamp, and major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) desired; experience with Raiser’s Edge and The Museum System (TMS) useful, but not necessary.