Wednesday, April 08, 2009

infinite monkeys


So how could you lay out a digital book in different ways to a physical book? What's different about a digital book than a physical book and how could you take advantage of that to present your images? Perhaps it is a series of photos, each image with a picture frame in it, with the next picture in the frame. Click. Zoom. Click. Zoom. Further down the rabbit hole. Maybe just a left to right flow that seamlessly wraps back to the start, a virtual zoetrope of photography that tells a circular story. Life, death, birth. Maybe just the flow of a book, without the arbitrary imposition of page boundaries, that force the images on facing pages to relate to each other more than those over the page in either direction. A physical book as that 2:2:2:2 rhythm that is hard to get away from - not so in a digital book. The default might well be to switch to a 1:1:1:1 beat in a digital book, showing each image in isolation, full screen, but the flow can be very different.
Really a digital book represents a potentially infinite canvas to lay the images out upon. The screen can be a page, but it can also be a window. What happens if you open that window? Or if you break it? You could even just publish beyond a standard screen resolution, provide the highest resolution images possible and let the viewer decide how to experience your images. Zoom in. Zoom out, see details, take it all in.
Audio is a beguiling option, but perhaps it breaks the flow too much — causes an interruption that breaks the slow media aspect of absorbing all the senses that a photograph communications, through the eyes alone. Don't try to lay out your SoFoBoMo as a book, that is then poorly displayed on a screen. Instead, consider using the PDF to lay the images out optimally for an on screen display. Break the two page, odd, even print metaphor. Flow the images backwards. Use a diagonal arrangement. Up and down. Reverse direction along the way. Take a sharp right turn at an appropriate point in the story. Diagonals. Zig Zag across the canvas. Wavy lines. Choose what suits your images, let the form follow the function or the flow.
Physical books are great too — they have presence, weight, gravitas that a PDF can't reach. But it is so much simpler to get a PDF in front of a huge number of people around the world, quickly. The resolution is much higher on a page than a typical screen (5 or 6x as much) but that resolution is fixed — on a screen the resolution can be dynamic. Zooming is a feature, that can be used. Books have a huge bandwidth, but the latency is pretty bad. Digital books are the opposite. The physical size of the page is a hard limit with a particular book format. Not so for a PDF. Same way the flow is much more dictated by a real book. There is a lot of potential to design a PDF for SoFoBoMo that is a first class representation of your work, rather than just a stop-gap or a shadow of the real printed book you are going to make. It might be a horrible design decision, but then exploring new ideas is part of what SoFoBoMo is all about.


Paul said...

Gordon: I'm rather looking forward to seeing what you come up with for SoFoBoMo. You've put in quite a bit of time and thought about PDF vs. "real" books.

I think that I'll continue to model standard type books. They just feel right, but it will be interesting to see what you come up with.

Billie said...

Reading your post today made me think about "Structure of the Visual Book" by Keith A. Smith. Although he is writing about physical books some of the questions he asks challenge the concept of a traditional book. You might find the book full of ideas that can be used in a PDF book.

Gordon said...

Paul, it's what my brain does when I can't think of what the actual content should be :)

Billie - I haven't read that book - quite a few people found it useful last year I think. I'll try to pick up a copy.

doonster said...

One of the things that gets in the way is the "compliant" pdf reader. While the pdf standard (ISO 32000-1, if you're interested) has lots of options for direction of flow, multi-media etc, readers are still predicated on the basis if a front to back, left fold traditional book (or the reverse for R-L languages). It's currently my frustration, getting over the display limitations for what can be very rich content.

Ted said...

This is a fascinating topic. Gordon. How long has it been since Guttenberg? No.. no... how long has it been since the medieval monks were illuminating manuscripts? No... no... how long since papyrus or the Phonecians or... or...

I wonder if over say 10K years of some sort of image making within frames if we haven't discovered some aesthetic devices that trump the media?

In fact monitors are rectangles... So too are the panes in our web browsers. I've gotta admit that there's not much novelty left to discover re. composition within rectangle canvases.

BUT... I am also certain that we are tyrannized by symmetry. At least we older artists are. Younger artists are discovering the power of asymmetry. They've discovered that an imbalanced weighting has the same impact as an unresolved chord. It pulls the viewer off into new places.

So? I'm not certain that there's much novelty to be discovered in moving furniture about the browser's rectangle BUT if there is, it's probably to be found in experimenting with asymmetry.

Or not... wudda I know after all. Good luck Gordon, it's worth trying.