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I Read Where I Am. Exploring New Information Cultures


We are street readers. Look at us, info junk dealers, as we zip through the telephone, scan a newspaper we’ve just read, leaf through a magazine. We are the new generation of readers. Not dumber, just faster. We whiz through three lives at once. Let’s be honest: reading has become a different experience. Reading has become looking and vice versa. Information has become tactile. You don’t have to remember anything, you just look it up. Could it be that the average person (still) doesn’t like reading? Can you call what people do on Facebook and Twitter reading? Absorbing books and newspapers was something from which you traditionally became wiser, because unusual opinions, special thoughts, new developments, and fantasies were revealed. But there have always been good and bad books. Quality and pulp have always existed.

We are info junkies. People don’t know where to draw the line and, in today’s consumer society, are constantly fighting for control. Information, following food and the environment, may be next in line for an analysis on sustainable development. Information has become a consumer product because it is linked to the form in which it appears. New platforms and formats are appearing with greater frequency on the market. Text, video, sound, and graphics intermingle. Everybody is busy answering, uploading.

We all know the main lines of info evolution, from the printing press to the iPhone. By now the information is drifting through space and there are new tools for reading and writing, which each time combine the multimedia mix in a different way. Each change is in itself large and has consequences for the economy, politics, and the social status of our existence.

In I Read Where I Am the Graphic Design Museum , together with the Institute for Network Cultures, investigates recent developments in the field of information design. The book is produced under the Infodecodata programme, an exhibition about information design that was launched in 2010 in the Graphic Design Museum . Infodecodata presents new developments on the cusp of text and image.

Much discussion took place in the twentieth century about the relationship between art and science, but it often did not go further than good intentions. Engineers do not want to involve artists in crucial stages of the research and artists in turn are all too determined to remain ‘autonomous’. But now we see them actually coming closer together. This has not happened because good intentions have all at once been turned into deeds. It is the technology itself that develops form and content simultaneously and considers it to be a whole. Different types of content and readers ask for different forms and experiences. The question remains: which form will it assume and what experience do you want?

In I Read Where I Am, 82 invited authors, artists, critics, and designers present a wide range of observations, inspirations, and critical notes about how we daily consume and produce our information. We intended to leave the justified nostalgia for what it is and asked the expert-amateurs to look further than the current hype around the iPads and Kindles. This publication does not only reflect the current state of affairs but also speculates about the significance and importance of new forms of image-text in the future. Let us together place them in the world and not wait for ready-made products from Silicon Valley . The reflections presented here are explicitly intended to be read as a guideline for the following generations of ‘reading machines’. All that remains is for us to design them – without losing our attention.

Mieke Gerritzen is designer and director of the GraphicDesignMuseum.

Geert Lovink is media theorist, net critic and director of the Amsterdam-based Institute of Network Cultures .

Essays by:

Arie Altena

Henk Blanken

Erwin Blom

James Bridle

Max Bruinsma

Anne Burdick

Vito Campanelli


Florian Cramer

Sean Dockray

Paulien Dresscher

Dunne amp; Raby

Sven Ehmann

Martin Ferro-Thomsen

Jeff Gomez

Denise Gonzales Crisp

Alexander Griekspoor

Hendrik-Jan Grievink

Ger Groot

Gary Hall

John Haltiwanger

N. Katherine Hayles

Toon Horsten

Minke Kampman

Lynn Kaplanian-Buller

Kevin Kelly

Joost Kircz

Matthew Kirschenbaum

Tanja Koning

Steffen Konrath

Erin La Cour

Rudi Laermans

Warren Lee

Jannah Loontjens

Alessandro Ludovico

Peter Lunenfeld

Ellen Lupton

Anne Mangen

Lev Manovich

Luna Maurer

Geert Mul

Arjen Mulder

Caroline Nevejan

David B. Nieborg

Kali Nikitas

Henk Oosterling

David Ottina

Peter Pontiac

Ine Poppe

Emilie Randoe

Bernhard Rieder

Paul Rutten

Johan Sanctorum

Louise Sandhau

Niels Schrader

Ray Siemens

Karin Spaink

Erik Spiekermann

Matthew Stadler

F. Starik

Bob Stein

Michael Stephens amp; Jan Klerk

Carolyn Strauss

Dick Tuinder

Lian van de Wiel

Bregtje van der Haak

Els van der Plas

Rick van der Ploeg

Daniel van der Velden

Adriaan van der Weel

Erwin van der Zande

René van Engelenburg

Francisco van Jole

Peter van Lindonk

Koert van Mensvoort

Tjebbe van Tijen

Dirk van Weelden

Jack van Wijk

Astrid Vorstermans

McKenzie Wark

Simon Worthington

1. Gathering Up Characters – Arie Altena

Reading behaviour changes, also because of the influence of technology. Empirical research has shown that a screen-based reading behaviour has arisen because we are online so much and read from the screen. A characteristic of this reading behaviour is that more time is spent on browsing, scanning, and identifying key words. Reading is selective, things are not read more than once, and it is generally non-linear. It is said to be at the expense of concentrated and in-depth reading.

That’s probably right. Readers in the richer countries read more and more from the screen. The developments of the past twenty-five years have been just as radical as those following the invention of book printing. With the transition from printed material to digital text, there was, to a certain degree, a shift from ‘owning text’ to ‘accessing text’; from a book or magazine that you hold in your hand, to access to text in the ‘cloud’ – the internet – via an appliance. (I write ‘to a certain degree’ because in the past the ‘access’ to text was primarily for professional readers: you had to be in the library.)

How, then, will we read in the future? No different than in the past – at least as long as it’s about converting word images into something with linguistic meaning. That people are reading more from the screen doesn’t, of course, mean that concentrated reading is a thing of the past, or that nobody ever reads out loud. When reading selectively, scanning, the word image is converted into meaning. After seventeen to eighteen years of screen reading, the question of how you ensure a concentrated reading experience in the current – and future – media ecology still fascinates me.

I am still not really impressed by the e-readers (the format misery is still a long way from being solved) and the tablets (you can’t read from a reflective screen in the sun). The e-readers have a problem with access, the tablets one with ergonomics. It is getting better – but slowly.

I hope that in fifty years we are using reading appliances and accounts in the ‘cloud’ that individuals are completely in charge of, and that there are no organizations that check and log what bytes you download, analyze it in real time, sell on the data, and save it. Or at least, should that happen – and it will happen; that it will benefit to the customer – and that alternatives will also exist. I hope that use will be made of simple data formats and of simple software. I hope that a free circulation of knowledge takes place.