Bookleteering with the Vanuatu Cultural Centre

March 14, 2016 by · 4 Comments 

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Over the past 2 weeks I have been in Port Vila, Vanuatu in the South Pacific with James Leach and Lissant Bolton (Keeper of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, British Museum) working with the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta (Bislama for Vanuatu Cultural Centre). Lissant organised and led a special workshop with a group of women fieldworkers on the theme of current changes to kinship systems (supported by the Christensen Fund). The fieldworkers are ni-Vanuatu (local) people representing some of the many different vernacular language groups from across the many islands who do voluntary work to record and preserve traditional culture and knowledge. The fieldworker programme has been established and overseen by the Cultural Centre (VKS) for over 35 years and is a unique initiative where local people gather “cultural knowledges about all the aspects of the customary art of living of Vanuatu”. Each year the fieldworkers gather together to share their research with each other and contribute to the documentation held at the VKS.

Lissant had invited James and I to visit Vanuatu with her and introduce the TKRN toolkit and techniques to the fieldworkers participating in the kinship workshop, as well as to meet with others working on different projects at the VKS. The low cost and ease of use of the TKRN booklets – both for collecting documentation in rural settings as well as digitising and archiving (both online and as hard copies) – made it an obvious tool to share. Prior to leaving London, Lissant and I had made some initial examples of Bislama (the local pidgin) notebooks for Vanuatu similar to those created in Tok Pisin for Papua New Guinea. These would be tested with the women fieldworkers during the workshop and we planned to adapt them with their assistance, as we have done in PNG with local people from Reite village.

In Port Vila James and I were also were introduced to Paula Aruhuri of the Vanuatu Indigenous Land Defence Desk, an organisation that promotes awareness of indigenous custom and land rights across Vanuatu and campaigns to stop land alienation from traditional owners. With Paula we co-designed a simple reporting notebook for the fieldworkers who deliver awareness events to local communities that will assist the land desk in documenting local people’s concerns and how they might be able to help them. And we met with Edson Willie of the VKS Akioloji Unit (Heritage Unit), with whom we co-designed a notebook for fieldworkers to record heritage sites.

The women fieldworkers experimented with one of the notebook formats and helped us re-design the front cover and write up a more appropriate ethics statement that reflected their different concerns about sharing traditional knowledge. In this case they chose not to share their books online (as we did in Reite), but to have them scanned, re-printed and stored in the ‘Tabu Rum’ of the VKS, the audio-visual archives. Local concerns about rights to aspects of traditional knowledge in Melanesia are a major theme and extremely important to design for. Developing tactics and a strategy to enable clear documentation and permission for sharing has been at the heart of the TKRN co-design process. Lissant has written about this issue in the context of Vanuatu and it also reflects on James’ work with Porer Nombo from Reite on their book Reite Plants in this essay.

We are planning to return to Vanuatu later in the year with some Reite people to participate in a knowledge exchange around the TKRN toolkit and techniques with men and women fieldworkers of the VKS. In this way we hope to develop a model of adoption whereby communities learn from each other how to use and adapt the toolkit for their own purposes, with our role being more one of facilitation than education or training. As a toolkit designed from the grassroots up, I hope to continue expanding on the concept of ‘public authoring’ that has driven the development of bookleteer and the ‘shareables’ it enables people to make and share.

In late April James and I will return to Papua New Guinea to work with Reite villagers to introduce the TKRN toolkit to a couple of other villages in Madang Province – this should provide an good indication of the possibilities and limitations of how a model of community knowledge transfer and adaptation can work.

Reite Village Online Library

September 21, 2015 by · 4 Comments 

This website has been created as an online library of TKRN notebooks made by the villagers of Reite and its neighbours in Papua New Guinea’s Madang Province. These books were created during a field trip in March 2015 and we hope to add many more in the future. We aim to transfer management of the site to the villagers themselves in due course, so that they can continue growing the library for future generations. As 4G mobile internet service penetrates into the jungle where they live and more local people own smartphones and connected devices, this is an increasingly likely possibility.

Mixing the physical and digital in this way means that traditional knowledge and customs may be preserved and transmitted forwards by embracing some of the changes that industrialisation and urbanisation bring to traditional rural communities. By working alongside the existing relationships of knowledge exchange it offers new opportunities for inter-generational collaboration on self-documentation of stories, experiences, history and practical knowledge of working with and sustaining the local ecology and environment.

The site itself is extremely simple and uses only free services: a free WordPress.com blog as the primary interface for organising and sharing the books; and a free Dropbox account as the primary repository of the PDF files of the scanned books. It is a key component in our TKRN Toolkit, and closes the loop in our use of hybrid digital and physical tools and techniques.

The villagers themselves developed their own categories and taxonomies for cataloguing the books, which have all been tagged accordingly. The books are thus searcheable by title, author and subject(s). Many of the books include an author photo on the cover page; a thumbnail image of the scanned book was included in each post, and a blog theme chosen that presents the main page as a mosaic of images from the posts. For communities with highly varied literacies, it also enables visual recognition both of the author’s faces, and in many cases their handwriting or drawing style.

Magna Carta 800 Set

May 26, 2015 by · 6 Comments 

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June 2015 is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta – considered by many to be the keystone to Britain’s constitutional and democracy. Over the past six months I have been publishing a series of books – 6 in all – to celebrate the Magna Carta. Each book contains several texts from across the centuries that have been inspired by the Magna Carta: from the English Civil War era, to the French and American Bills of Rights in the late 1700s, the Chartists of the 1830s though to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Charter88 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 2000. The final book in series contains Henry I’s Charter of Liberties (1100) on which the Magna Carta itself is based, the original 1215 Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forests of 1217.

What the series shows is a lineage stretching back to Saxon times of the struggle to assert and protect the inherent rights and dignities of ordinary people against the attempts by the wealthy and powerful to control and corral resources, assets and power for themselves, at the expense of everyone else.

These books have all been distributed as part of bookleteer‘s monthly subscription service, the Periodical, with the final book being distributed in June 2015. I have saved 40 copies of each which have been bound together with red satin ribbon in a special edition, which are now available to pre-order from our online store.

Each set costs £15 plus postage and packing: buy your’s here.

View the whole collection here – free to read online or download, print out and make up yourself.

Soho Memoirs Set

May 21, 2015 by · 13 Comments 

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Last year we collaborated with The Museum of Soho to publish three memoirs by Soho residents from their archives. Each is a poignant recollection of Soho’s yesteryear, of lives lived and worked there. The books were originally distributed as part of bookleteer‘s monthly subscription service, the Periodical, and at a special MoSoho event host by the House of St Barnabas. We’ve put a small number aside and created a special edition of 32, each set wrapped in traditional brown paper reminiscent of a naughtier age, when Soho was a byword for difference and danger.

The sets cost £12 each plus postage & packing. Visit our online store and buy your’s here.

Spring Update: what we are up to

May 20, 2014 by · 4 Comments 

Over the past six months or so we have been developing some new partnerships and working on several collaborative projects:

Alice is collaborating with Dr Katrina Jungnickel of Goldsmiths College’s Department of Sociology (and a former Proboscis associate from earlier days) on the Bikes and Bloomers project. She has been creating a series of illustrations – inspired by Katrina’s research into early women’s cycling clothes and the “rational dress” movement – which are being digitally printed on fabrics as part of recreations of some of the early designs for freedom of movement in clothing.

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Alice has also received an Artist in Residence award to collaborate with the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham on their Aestheticodes project, embedding smart codes for visual recognition into drawings and exploring the properties of working with printed fabrics for physical and digital storytelling.

Giles has been continuing to select works from bookleteer for our monthly subscription service, the Periodical – ranging this year from a tactile history of an ancient Scottish kingdom, to works of new poetry and fiction, memoirs of growing up in Soho in the 1920 and 30s, to a republication of John Milton’s 1644 call for unlicensed printing (and a free press), Areopagitica. He is also running a series of Pop Up Publishing workshops in May for the LibraryPress project, introducing new people to bookleteer and self-publishing in public libraries in Hounslow, Islington & Wembley.

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Giles has recently been collaborating with the Movement Science Group at Oxford Brookes University who are leading on the development of a Rehabilitation Tool for survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI), which is being funded by the EU as part of the CENTER-TBI project.

Giles has also been developing a new collaboration with the ExCiteS (Extreme Citizen Science) research group at UCL to bring together the work he has been doing with Professor James Leach and the community of Reite in Papua New Guinea on Traditional Environmental and Cultural Knowledge (TEK), with ExCiteS work with forest-dwelling communities in Congo and elsewhere. We aim to develop a prototype for indigenous people to be able to digitally record and share knowledge using a combination of machine learning software, mobile devices and their own traditional craft and cultural practices. This is being developed alongside our planning for further field work in PNG to expand upon our pilot TEK toolkit experiments using hybrid digital/physical notebooks formats.

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To Papua New Guinea

October 23, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

Tomorrow I start my journey to Papua New Guinea where I’m taking part in the Saem Majnep Memorial Symposium on Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK), hosted by the University of Goroka (Eastern Highlands Province) and supported by the Christensen Fund. The title and abstract of my talk at the symposium is:

Digital and Physical : simple solutions for documenting and sharing community knowledge
My work is about engaging with people to identify things which they value – for instance knowledge, experiences, skills – and how they can share them with others in ways that are safe, appropriate and inspiring. As an artist and designer I have helped devise simple tools and techniques that can be adopted and adapted by people on their own terms – such as uses of everyday paper, cameras and printers alongside digital technologies such as the internet, archives and databases. I will demonstrate some examples of how these simple physical and digital tools can be used to share community knowledge in freely and easily accessible ways, so that they can also be re-worked and circulated in both paper and digital formats. I hope to offer some examples of how TEK in PNG might be widely documented and circulated as part of commonly available resources.

I wrote a piece about my initial thoughts on what I’ll be presenting and doing whilst I’m there on the bookleteer blog last month. My invitation to this event has been through James Leach, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen who will be there presenting his collaborative publication, Reite Plants, with Porer Nombo in whose village James has been doing fieldwork for 20 years. I first met Porer three years ago when he visited the UK to assist the British Museum’s Melanesia Project in identifying artefacts from the region where he lives in the Ethnographic Collection. At the time James had asked me to help him devise some new ways to document this kind of Traditional Knowledge Exchange that would capture something of the experience of all sharing knowledge that more institutional methods might miss. Consequently we used some Diffusion eNotebooks to capture and record our interactions as much as the stories and information that Porer and Pinbin shared about the artefacts. Alice and I also had the privilege of spending time with Porer and his fellow villager, Pinbin Sisau, inviting them to our home for an evening with James and his family and sharing with them some of the simple delights of central London life that people who don’t live here wouldn’t experience.

After the symposium James, Porer and myself will travel back to Porer’s village of Reite on the Rai Coast in Madang Province where we’ll stay for a week or so. There we’ll attempt to put some of our ideas into practice – I’ve designed some simple notebooks for us to use out in the bush, some printed on waterproof paper, others printed on standard papers. I’m very excited to have this unique opportunity to test out ideas I’ve had for using the Diffusion eBook format and bookleteer in the field for over 10 years now – harking back to conversations I had with anthropologist Genevieve Bell of Intel in 2003. I’m also very excited to have the privilege of visiting Porer and Pinbin in their home and meeting their families and community – joining the loop of one smaller circle of friendship and exchange and hopefully spiralling out into some larger ones that will continue into the future.

Ending an era, beginning a new chapter

October 20, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Its been 12 years since we published Performance Notations, the first series of Diffusion eBooks, and launched our unique publishing format on an unsuspecting world. In that time, we have commissioned and facilitated hundreds of original eBooks and StoryCubes by an incredibly diverse range of people from all kinds of disciplines and backgrounds. In that time we also began to evolve our own free and online software platform for people without professional design skills to be able to create their own eBooks and StoryCubes. Our first proof of concept prototype was made in the summer of 2003. We then spent a few years building a fully working version – the Diffusion Generator – which was online between 2006 and 2009. In September 2009 we launched bookleteer, a whole new set of ways for making and sharing eBooks and StoryCubes.

A New Place for Future eBooks & StoryCubes
This summer we made a series of technical changes to bookleteer that allow users to share their own publications directly with others via a Public Library. Each user has their own personal profile page listing all their shared publications (for instance, here’s mine) and each publication has its page listing both the downloadable PDFs and the bookreader online version (for example, see Material Conditions: Epilogue). We have further exciting developments in the pipeline too.

To continue our long tradition of commissioning and publishing new work, we have created a new Curated by Proboscis library which will, from now on, be where all new commissions and featured eBooks and StoryCubes will be listed. Our long-serving Diffusion Library website will remain online indefinitely as an archive of more than 12 years of pushing the boundaries of what we think of as publishing and creative practice.


As part of these changes we are also launching a new monthly publication – the Periodical – which will select, print and send out to subscribers some of the most exciting, experimental, imaginative and insipring eBooks created and shared on bookleteer. Anyone can take part – just sign up, make and share something on bookleteer. Each month we’ll pick one eBook to print and send out. We are also devising special projects, like Field Work, that will enable people to participate in other ways. And we are developing partnerships and collaborations to commission new series that will also be distributed as part of the Periodical’s monthly issues.

Subscribe to the Periodical and get bookleteering!

Field Work and the Periodical

September 26, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Publishing remains at the heart of Proboscis. We began 18 years ago with COIL journal of the moving image and followed this with many series of Diffusion eBooks. Since 1994, we have commissioned and published works by hundreds of different people in many formats.

Our latest publishing venture, the Periodical, aims to re-imagine publishing as public authoring – a phrase we’ve been using for over 10 years to describe the process by which people actively make and share what they value – knowledge, skills, experiences, observations – those things we characterise as Public Goods. Based on bookleteer, the Periodical is a way for people to participate in publishing as well as reading – in addition to receiving a printed eBook (sometimes more than just one) by post each month subscribers are encouraged to use bookleteer to make and share their own publications, which may then be chosen to be printed and posted out for a future issue.

Our first project being developed as part of this venture is Field Work : subscribers will be sent a custom eNotebook to use as a sketch and note book for a project of their own. Once they’ve filled it in they can return it to us to be digitised and shared on bookleteer. Several times a year we will select and print someone’s Field Work eNotebook to be sent out as part of a monthly issue of the Periodical.

Why are we doing this? We’ve long used the Diffusion eBook format to make custom notebooks for our projects and digitised them as part of our shareables concept. We think that such new possibilities of sharing our creative and research processes with others is a key strength of what these hybrid digital/physical technologies offer. Creating a vehicle, via the Periodical, for others to take part in an emergent and evolving conversation about how and why we do what we do seems like a natural step forward. If you’d like to take part, subscribe here.

bookleteer – a fresh look and new features

August 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Last week we quietly updated bookleteer to give it a fresh look and to introduce the sharing features we announced previously. We’ve been tweaking and bug-fixing over the last week or so and are now very excited to let everyone know about it.

New Look Home & About Pages
We’ve refreshed both home and about pages to make it clearer what bookleteer is and what it can do.

Public Library Page
The new Library Page allows anyone browsing bookleteer to see what eBooks and StoryCubes have been created and shared by members.

Individual Publication Pages
Each publication that is shared publicly has a unique page created for it which can be linked to and shared via popular social media services (Twitter, Facebook etc). eBooks have an embedded version of the bookreader in the page for previewing as well as download links for the PDFs. StoryCubes also have preview images and download link.

Member Public Profile Page
A new public profile page has been created to list all the shared publications by each member, also displaying a short bio and links to personal blog, website, twitter and facebook pages. These can be added in the member’s account page.

These are just the first in a series of updates and improvements to bookleteer that we’re adding over the next few months – stay tuned for further announcements!

We Are All Food Critics – The Reviews

July 6, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

One of the most fun things we’ve done this year has to be the little project we ran as part of the Soho Food Feast : helping some of the children of Soho Parish Primary School produce their own reviews of the amazing foods on offer in specially designed eNotebooks. The children would choose something from one of the many stalls, bring it to be photographed and a Polaroid PoGo photo sticker printed out an stuck into one of the eNotebooks, then they’d write about what the dish looked, smelt, felt, sounded and tasted like. This idea of doing the reviews through the 5 senses, along with the great introduction, was contributed by Fay Maschler, the restaurant critic of the London Evening Standard and one of the Food Feast committee members.

We’ve now published a compilation of the best reviews which is available via the Diffusion Library as downloadable eBooks and in the bookreader format. We’re also printing a short run edition which will go the children themselves (and a few for the school to sell to raise funds – get one while you can!). Thanks to everyone who took part in this project – the children of Soho Parish and Soho Youth, members of the Food Feast Committee (Anita Coppins, Wendy Cope, Clare Lynch), Rachel Earnshaw (Head Teacher) and the team here : Mandy Tang, Haz Tagiuri & Stefan Kueppers.

Neighbourhood knowledge in Pallion

July 2, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Last Thursday I visited members of the Pallion Ideas Exchange (PAGPIE) at Pallion Action Group to bring them the latest elements of the toolkit we’ve been co-designing with them. Since our last trip and series of workshops with them we’ve refined some of the thinking tools and adapted others to better suit the needs and capabilities of local people.

Pallion Ideas Exchange Notebooks & Workbooks by proboscis, on Flickr

Using bookleteer‘s Short Run printing service we printed up a batch of specially designed notebooks for people to use to help them collect notes in meetings and at events; manage their way through a problem with the help of other PAGPIE members; work out how to share ideas and solutions online in a safe and open way; and a simple notebook for keeping a list of important things to do, when they need done by, and what to do next once they’ve been completed.

We designed a series of large wall posters, or thinksheets,  for the community to use in different ways : one as a simple and open way to collect notes and ideas during public meetings and events; another to enable people to anonymously post problems for others to suggests potential solutions and other comments; another for collaborative problem solving and one for flagging up opportunities, who they’re for, what they offer and how to publicise them.

These posters emerged from our last workshop – we had designed several others as part of process of engaging with the people who came along to the earlier meetings and workshops, and they liked the open and collaborative way that the poster format engaged people in working through issues. We all agreed that a special set for use by the members of PAGPIE would be a highly useful addition to their ways of capturing and sharing knowledge and ideas, as well as really simple to photograph and blog about or share online in different ways.

Last time I was up we had helped a couple of the members set up a group email address, a twitter account and a generic blog site – they’ve not yet been used as people have been away and the full core group haven’t quite got to grips with how they’ve going to use the online tools and spaces. My next trip up in a few weeks will be to help them map out who will take on what roles, what tools they’re actually going to start using and how. I’ll also be hoping I won’t get caught out by flash floods and storms again!

We are also finishing up the designs of the last few thinksheets – a beautiful visualisation of the journey from starting the PAGPIE network and how its various activities feed into the broader aspirations of the community (which Mandy will be blogging about soon); a visual matrix indicating where different online service lie on the read/write:public/private axes; as well as a couple of earlier posters designed to help people map out their home economies and budgets (income and expenditure).

Our next task will be to create a set of StoryCubes which can be used playfully to explore how a community or a neighbourhood group could set up their own Ideas Exchange. It’ll be a set of 27 StoryCubes, with three different sets of 9 cubes each – mirroring to some degree Mandy’s Outside the Box set for children. We’re planning to release a full Neighbourhood Ideas Exchange package later this summer/autumn which will contain generic versions of all the tools we’ve designed for PAGPIE as well as the complete set of StoryCubes.

Professor Starling’s Thetford-London-Oxford Expedition

June 1, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

We’ve just published our latest entry in the City As Material series: ‘Professor Starling’s Thetford-London-Oxford Expedition’ – three books documenting the investigative excursions of Professor William Starling and his research team (Lisa Hirmer and Andrew Hunter of DodoLab, Josephine Mills of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Lethbridge artist Leila Armstrong, and Giles Lane and Hazem Tagiuri of Proboscis) during his trip to the United Kingdom in Feburary, where he sought to examine the rapid disappearance of the European Starling in contrast to the continued expansion of its North American cousin.

The first volume, Perquisitions, contains descriptions of the various participants’ thoughts on the expedition and its rationale. Congeries showcases selected items and ideas collected during their travels, and the final volumeSpeculations, offers reflections and fantastical musings on the material gathered and testimonies heard.

Purchase a limited edition copy complete with specially printed ribbon here.

(Read the accounts of ThetfordLondon and Oxford on the blog)

Bookleteer Animation Prep

April 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Props to be used for upcoming Bookleteer animation.

A snapshot of my cluttered desk, here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been busying away with; these are props I am creating for an upcoming cut paper animation illustrating how to use Bookleteer.

City As Material 2 with Professor Starling of DodoLab

February 28, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

Once again we have been collaborating with our esteemed colleagues Andrew Hunter and Lisa Hirmer at DodoLab on a discursive exploration of place and knowledge as part of our ongoing investigations and collaborative publishing project, City As Material. This time we have been undertaking a research expedition with Professor William Starling into the decline of the European Starling in Britain, seeking stories and evidence to explain their rapid disappearance in three towns : Thetford (in Norfolk), London and Oxford. Alongside Proboscis and DodoLab, we were accompanied by expedition members Dr Josie Mills, Curator of the Art Gallery at the University of Lethbridge, Canada and artist Leila Armstrong.

Haz has posted reports for each of the journeys and visitations which we undertook in Thetford, London and Oxford over on our bookleteer blog and we are now collaborating to produce a series of eBooks charting the expedition’s activities and findings – blending together questions, observations, musings, photos, drawings, rubbings and other things collected. As before, we’ll print up a limited edition of the books as well as placing downloadable PDFs in the online Diffusion Library for handmade versions and enabling bookreader versions for reading online.

Material Conditions Limited Edition Set

December 15, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

Material Conditions is a new series of eBooks created with bookleteer, asking professional creative practitioners to reflect on what the material conditions for their own practice are, especially now in relation to the climate of change and uncertainty brought about by the recession and public sector cuts.

It aims to explore what it means and takes to be a professional creative practitioner – from the personal to the social and political. How and why do people persist in pursuing such careers? How do they organise their everyday lives to support their practice? What kind of social, political, economic and cultural conditions are necessary to keep being creative? What are the bedrocks of inspiration that enable people to continue piloting their meandering courses through contemporary society and culture?

The first set of 8 commissioned eBooks, in a limited edition run of 50 copies printed via our Short Run Printing Service and bound with handmade wrappers, are as follows:

A Conversation Between Trees by Active Ingredient
The Show by Desperate Optimists
Making Do by Jane Prophet
Something More Than Just Survival by Janet Owen Driggs & Jules Rochielle
Remix Reconvex Reconvexo by Karla Brunet
He Who Sleeps Dines by London Fieldworks
Reflections on the city from a post-flaneur by Ruth Maclennan
Knowing Where You Are by Sarah Butler

Copies are available to order below.


Material Conditions 1 Set (inc P&P)




The books are also available online as bookreader versions, as well as downloadable PDFs for readers to assemble into handmade booklets themselves, hosted on our archive of publications Diffusion – view and download the series here.

Material Conditions is part of Proboscis’ Public Goods programme – seeking to create a library of responses to these urgent questions that can inspire others in the process of developing their own everyday practices of creativity; that can guide those seeking meaning for their choices; that can set out positions for action around which people can rally.

Material Conditions 1

November 29, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

On December 15th 2011 we will be launching a new series of Diffusion commissions called Material Conditions. This series asks professional creative practitioners to reflect on what the material conditions for their own practice are, especially now in relation to the climate of change and uncertainty brought about by the recession and public sector cuts.

The contributors are : Active Ingredient (Rachel Jacobs et al); Karla Brunet; Sarah Butler, Desperate Optimists (Jo Lawlor & Christine Molloy); London Fieldworks (Bruce Gilchrist & Jo Joelson); Ruth Maclennan; Jules Rochielle & Janet Owen Driggs; and Jane Prophet.

The first set of 8 contributions will be published as Diffusion eBooks (made with bookleteer) and available as downloadable PDFs for handmade books, online via bookreader versions and in a limited edition (50) of professionally printed and bound copies which will be available for sale (at £16 per set plus P&P).

Material Conditions 1 Set (inc P&P)

Material Conditions is part of Proboscis’ Public Goods programme – seeking to create a library of responses to these urgent questions that can inspire others in the process of developing their own everyday practices of creativity; that can guide those seeking meaning for their choices; that can set out positions for action around which people can rally.

Agencies of Engagement

November 17, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Agencies of Engagement is a new 4 volume publication created by Proboscis as part of a research collaboration with the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technology and the Crucible Network at the University of Cambridge. The project explored the nature of groups and group behaviours within the context of the university’s communities and the design of software platforms for collaboration.

The books are designed to act as a creative thinking and doing tool – documenting and sharing the processes, tools, methods, insights, observations and recommendations from the project. They are offered as a ‘public good’ for others to learn from, adopt and adapt.

Download, print out and make up the set for yourself on Diffusion or read the online versions.

Xmas 2011 Special Offers

November 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

This year we have 3 special offers for the festive season :

We’re clearing space in the studio for new projects, and sales will go to supporting new initiatives in our Public Goods programme.

Internship Final Impression : Elena Festa

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Four months ago, when I started working as an intern at Proboscis, I wrote how pleasantly surprised and perplexed I was in finding myself in such a stimulating and challenging environment. My disorientation sprang from my own unfamiliarity with workplaces in general, having spent most of my adult life either at University or in the company of books, and from the inherent shifting quality peculiar to Proboscis. This crossdisciplinarity allowed me to try my hand at activities I could hardly have done anywhere else: projects I was more aware of and versed in, and a project I was less skilled at.

The outcome of my months spent here at Proboscis are a series of eBooks extrapolated from the visual essay I composed on Proboscis’ wall, loosely based on their work and enriched by my own series of allusions, suggestions and relations. First it developed as a concise mind map which outlined the fundamental design underpinning Proboscis’ long journey and then evolved in different and unexpected directions, feeding on my past knowledge, fortuitous connections and new sources of inspiration. It was elaborated following different paths and along the way I published several posts about themes I found fascinating and prominent. Unfortunately, the result of the other project I followed, Pic(k)ing out London, was less fortunate and successful in terms of stimulating participation but the reflections that were stirred proved to be neat and helpful for future research. Alongside I had the chance to grow more and more familiar and feel more comfortable with Bookleteer platform (absolutely brilliant!), Flickr and posting on blogs.

I want to deeply thank Giles and Alice and everyone at Proboscis for hosting me these months. I am confident and optimistic that my experience here will mature and take shape and, even retrospectively, will prove to be valuable and irreplaceable.

Pic(k)ing out London – How it went

October 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Last August I started planning and outlining the details of my personal project named Pic(k)ing out London. Alice and Giles helped me adjust and refine my initial blurred design, propelling questions and making objections in order to show me how intricate and elaborate planning even a simple project like this is. At first I was pretty enthusiastic about that as I thought I would have had the chance to test my ideas – how ever scattered and ephemeral they might have appeared – about urban interaction against the merciless reality. My aim was to select people from different backgrounds who have diametrically opposed points of view of London. That meant avoiding close friends or at least I meant to pick only a few and try to differentiate my recipients as much as possible. That again meant that I should run through different channels in order to recruit people who could possibly match my criteria and expectations. At first I sent emails to contacts I was provided by Giles and Alice and although the response was quite poor from the beginning I was at least pretty satisfied with the initial goal achieved: yes I had found six people willing to take part in the project (being six the minimum threshold we had set) and even if among those six there were some acquaintances or some friends of a friend they altogether formed a varied lot!

How ever promising it could be, it was not destined to last long. People disappear, they don’t get in touch or, when they do, they vainly assure me they will eventually do it. People then abandon the project along the way for various reasons and I should say I soon realized I was not in a favourable junction at all as all sort of unfortunate circumstances seemed to come together: computer crashes, camera breakdown, memory card not inserted and many other personal misfortunes.

In order to compensate for this ever weaker inflow of material Alice and Giles advised me to enlarge both the scales of time of the project and the spectrum of potential participants by adopting less-beaten methods to recruit and involve people. We cut the days people had to commit and proposed a 5-days, one-weekend or even a one-day involvement. Besides I tried to broaden my horizons by contacting associations and various community clubs, posting on different websites, boosting the group Facebook and Flickr pages, approaching strangers on the streets and handing out flyers. I should admit that I also went back to those very friends I had at first neglected and begged for help. However, as hard as I tried, it just did not work!

After the inevitable discouragement and frustration, I became aware that a reflection about the reasons why the outcome shattered my anticipation was absolutely indispensable and, all things considered, it was the only thing left to do. Giles and Alice were not of secondary importance in this process, as they always tried to make me understand that a marginal failure is unavoidable and predictable when doing projects that require the involvement of people. As long as you stick to your ‘sacred cows’, you have to be flexible and adapt your ideas to any change of circumstances which may occur.

As the project was initially designed, it was perhaps too demanding, too specific and not so straightforward as I thought it was if you consider working with people from a distance. This implies an autonomous effort from their part and if the tasks are a bit challenging they may easily get lost and lose interest in the project. Then it is mandatory to understand how people have their own concerns and duties to care. Therefore in a situation where the participants feel no obligation whatsoever, apart from being a mere act of helpfulness, and they see no reward in actually accomplishing the task, it is too tricky to trust in their complete commitment. Now I guess that having worked with a closed community would have made a great difference as people might have felt duty bound to carry out the research and might have found mutual help and support.

I have also reflected about my own attitude towards the whole project and in particular the strategies I adopted to convince people not just to say ‘yes, I’ll do it’ but to feel positive and intrigued by the principles and values of the whole plan. I therefore recognize in my own approach some flaws due not so much to a lack of faith in what theoretically underpins what I was doing, but mainly due to my own inexperience in translating some abstract concepts to a more varied audience. I feel that people outside the ‘field’ may find this sort of engagements quite silly or, at least, useless and unfruitful. So the puzzle, still unsolved, is: how to connect with people who may be, initially and on principle, suspicious and uninterested? How to make my aim and desire be understandable to a wider arena?

This enigma and my own unfamiliarity obviously made my conviction in the project be full of ups and downs and inevitably led to a poor and visible self-confidence. And that is not the ideal tack to prompt someone to complete a task! Moreover, the continuous alterations on strategies adopted, in order to make up for the scarce response, did nothing but weaken my ease. To be honest, one should take into consideration other factors to explain why it did not work as expected, such as the time of the year (it started in August when most people are on holiday) and a bare series of misfortunes which had diverted my initial idea. Anyway, I think it is essential to be critical and analytic towards both the context and one’s own faults. What I can say is that I would definitely like to put myself on the line again and test my unresolved issues if the occasion arises in the future and now I am confident that from this disastrous experience I may learn something precious. Most of all, I should learn not to take for granted what I used to and to ask myself those very questions that the project helped to bring to the surface.

Finally, I want to thank those who, despite snags, helped and supported me and those who did contribute to the project by sending me pictures and diary entries.

bridging the digital/physical divide

October 14, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

A few days ago we deployed a simple but exciting design change to bookleteer.com, namely we have added QR Codes and Short URL links to every Diffusion eBook’s back page. These link directly to the online bookreader version of the eBook – a web-based version that makes it possible to read the eBooks directly on mobile devices such as smartphones (Android, iPhone, Blackberry etc), tablets (iPad, Galaxy tab etc) or any computer.

What’s so exciting about that you may ask? Well, we have been thinking about ‘tangible souvenirs‘ for a few years now – exploring ways of capturing and sharing aspects of ‘digital experiences’ into physical forms such as the Diffusion eBooks and StoryCubes. This might be data visualisations or digital assets such as photos, tweets etc arranged to act as mementoes of ephemeral experiences which are primarily mediated through digital technologies. Conversely we have also been thinking about how to share these ‘tangible souvenirs’ digitally as well as physically. This thinking originated in a small project we helped take place between schoolchildren in a village in rural Nigeria making and sharing eBooks with schoolchildren in Watford, north London. In parts of Africa computers, printers, paper and internet access were (and remain) scarce – yet mobile phones were proliferating fast. If people who had never before had access to low cost publishing technologies through the simple tools we had created (Diffusion eBook format and bookleteer.com) could use these to publish their own knowledge and experiences how then would they share them when the means of production (computers, printers, paper etc) which we take for granted in the industrialised world, were still scarce?

The answer was to find another bridge between the digital and the physical – enabling people to share their Diffusion eBooks not only through the PDF files and printed formats, but also via mobile phones. In 2007 I wrote a post on diffusion.org.uk (our free library of eBooks and StoryCubes) speculating on how we might in future use visual barcodes to make sharing the eBooks simpler. At that time we didn’t have the online bookreader format, so there was still the problem of how someone with a mobile phone could print out and read the book. However, with the implementation of bookreader (a fantastic piece of open source software created by the Internet Archive) we have been able to realise this in a remarkably simple but potentially crucial way. If someone has a printed or handmade copy of a Diffusion eBook then they can share its content with anyone else simply by letting them use their mobile device to scan the QR code (there are multiple free QR readers for most types of phone or tablet device). Or they can take a photo of the back page and email it or send it via MMS to someone who can then scan it in themselves.

By placing the Short URL link alongside the QR code we have also provided a human-readable alternative to the QR code. This way anyone can simply type the URL into a web browser on any internet-connected device to begin reading the eBook. The URLs are also short enough to send via SMS, Twitter or any other social messaging system.

Over the years we have described the concept behind the hybrid digital/physical nature of Diffusion eBooks and StoryCubes as being about creating ‘Shareables‘ – things which can float between these states, which can exist in more than one place at a time as both physical and digital objects. We have collaborated with friends, colleagues and partners to explore the affordances of capturing unique handwritten and handmade books and StoryCubes and being able to share them directly with others, almost without restriction. This simple addition linking the physical PDF/printed versions to their online bookreader versions amplifies this rippling effect between the physical and the digital in ways we can only begin to imagine.

We think this could be a step change in the uses and usefulness of bookleteer.com and the Diffusion eBook format – we’d love to hear what other people think too.

Pic(k)ing out London

September 1, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

This is the new project I am undertaking as part of my internship with Proboscis.

Pic(k)ing out London’ wants to prompt reflection about the ongoing interaction with the urban environment and how this affects people’s feelings and shapes their daily life. By collecting some of these unique gazes on the city and some of its  multiple expressions I intend to compose an emotional map which will tell the story of the many moods that daily mingle and overlap in London.

Because of its variegated population, its vastness, its contradictions, London is made of contrasting voices, dissimilar  faces, peculiar places and each individual is an irreplaceable tassel which contributes to compose an outstanding mosaic.

Participants will be asked to take three pictures a day and to keep a short diary for ten days. The pictures should be about a place, a thing or a situation they encounter, anything that catches their attention, both familiar or unfamiliar, usual or unusual in their daily life, and about a place or a situation they respectively enjoy or dislike in the urban environment. The pictures do not need to be technically perfect because what I value most important is the act of taking the picture itself, of being a little more aware and awake to our own surroundings.


Looking back on Bookleteer

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

City As Material 1 Limited Edition Set

It is now a year since we launched the short run printing service for Bookleteer our online self publish and print platform. So now seemed like a good time to start a series of posts reflecting on the diverse uses people have found for it.  Fredrick Leasge has been doing a series of case studies and interviews over on the Bookleteer Blog with people who have used it. Ive been interested to read how some historical and ethnographic projects that have used this method of publishing for documentation and communication.

Julie Anderson, the Assistant Keeper of Egyptian and Sudanese Antiquities at the British Museum used Bookleteer to create 1000 books in Arabic and English about a 10 year archaeological excavation in Dangeil, Sudan to share the findings with the local community in Sudan.

Following the distribution of the book, teenagers began coming to our door in the village to ask questions about the site / archaeology / their own Sudanese history… connecting with their history as made possible through the booklet. It was astonishing. More surprising was the reaction people had upon receiving a copy. In virtually every single case, they engaged with the Book immediately and began to read it or look through it….The Book has served not only as an educational tool, but has empowered the local community and created a sense of pride and proprietary ownership of the ruins and their history.

Bookleteer was used in the Melanesia Project to record, Porer and Pinbin, indigenous people from Papua New Guinea discussing objects in the British Museum’s ethnographic collection. Bookleteer was used first to create simple notebooks that were printed out on an office printer and handmade. Anthrolologist James Leach used them to note the discussion in both English and Tok Pisin, next to glued in polaroid images, to produce a record that involved “capturing the moment of what we were doing and what we were seeing”.

Once filled in the notebooks were scanned and professionally printed to share with the local community in Papua New Guinea. (who have a subsistence lifestyle without electricity).

“[…] As something to give people, they’re an extremely nice thing. People are very keen. I also took some to an anthropology conference before I went [to Papua New Guinea] and would show them to people and they’d immediately say “Oh, is that for me?” People kind of like them. They’re nice little objects.”

Researcher and community education worker Gillian Cowell has used the books as part of a community project with Greenhill Historical Society:

“I think, for community work, it’s really important that you engage in much more unique and creative and interesting ways as a way of trying to spur some kind of interest and excitement in community work […] The books are such a lovely way for that to actually fit with that kind of notion.”

If you are interested in finding out about how you could use Bookleteer, come along to one of our day long Pitch Up & Publish Workshops or Get Bookleteering short sessions this summer.

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June 2011 Newsletter

June 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Welcome to our June 2011 newsletter. There’s been lots happening at Proboscis since our last missive.

BOOKLETEER NEW FEATURES: BOOKREADER & USER API
This year we’ve launched two major new features of bookleteer: an online bookreader allowing eBooks to be read and shared via the web and a user API (application programming interface) providing access to making eBooks and StoryCubes to other websites and services. We have two virtual residency’ projects nearing completion that explore creative uses of the API, one by James Bridle (stml) and the other by Simon Pope & Gordon Joly. We’ll announce their projects on the blog soon.
http://bookleteer.com/blog/2011/06/new-feature-bookleteer-online-bookreader/
http://bookleteer.com/blog/2011/01/bookleteer-api/

Pitch Up & Publish
One day workshops to create and publish booklets and StoryCubes using bookleteer: guiding you from concept to publication and beyond. 12 July, 13 Sept, £50 / £40 (Early Bird) max 6 places
http://pitchupandpublish.eventbrite.com

Get Bookleteering!
Join one of our of 2 hour sessions to answer your questions about specific projects as well as introduce new users to bookleteer online self publishing tool. 28 June , 26 July, £20 / £10 (Concs) max 6 places
http://getbookleteering.eventbrite.com

JUNE SPECIAL OFFER:
20% OFF SHORT RUN PRINTING WITH BOOKLETEER
For this month only we’re offering a 20% discount on all Short Run Printing orders made with bookleteer (can’t be used with other offers/discounts). Use the discount code : BKLTR0611-20
Check out our prices on the printing price estimator:
http://bookleteer.com/blog/ppod/

FIFTIES FASHION COMMISSION
Alice has been commissioned to create a new body of work by curators Day + Gluckman for the Collyer Bristow Gallery in Bloomsbury. The work, (on show now until early September) includes drawings and fabric designs inspired by fashions of the Fifties. Alice’s work includes a collaboration with fashions designer, Mrs Jones, on a spectacular dress and apron made from her fabric designs.
http://proboscis.org.uk/projects/fabric-design/

NEW PROGRAMME: PUBLIC GOODS
We are now developing a major new creative programme, R&D Lab and training programme for young people under the conceptual framework of “Public Goods”. Through research and public projects and a new creative placements programme we will be exploring the how to make and share representations of the intangible things that we value most about the places and communities we belong to, such as stories, skills, games, songs, techniques, memories, local lore and experiential knowledge of local environment and ecology. We are actively looking for partners, collaborators, funders and supporters please get in touch to find out more.
http://proboscis.org.uk/projects/public-goods/
http://proboscis.org.uk/projects/public-goods-lab/
http://proboscis.org.uk/projects/creative-placements/

PUBLICATIONS SALE
We’re offering a massive 70% off the normal prices on a batch of our publications. The ‘Austerity Special Offer’ bundles the Social Tapestries Case of Perspectives, Endless Landscape Magnet Set, the Being In Common Catalogue of Ideas deck of cards, COIL 9/10, Mapping Perception and Pavel Buchler’s Ghost Stories all for just £29.99 (UK), £34.99 (Europe) or £39.99 (World).
http://proboscis.org.uk/store.html#offers

CITY AS MATERIAL
We have recently published a limited edition numbered and case bound set of 10 books created for our City As Material project last Autumn. The set includes work by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Tim Wright, Ben Eastop, Simon Pope and collaborative books created by the participants.
http://proboscis.org.uk/store.html#cityasmaterial1
The books are also published on Diffusion and can be downloaded, printed out and made up from here:
http://diffusion.org.uk/?cat=976

LEONARDO ELECTRONIC ALMANAC EXHIBITION: REDRAWING BOUNDARIES
Proboscis has been selected by curator Jeremy Hight for an exhibition presenting “key innovators in Locative Media, New Media and Mapping in a show that works to display not only fields and works but more of cross pollinations, progressions, the need to move beyond labels just like the importance of reconsidering borders on maps, what space is and what pragmatic tools and previous forms can do.”
http://www.leoalmanac.org/index.php/lea/exhibition/lea_new_media_exhibition/

CRITICAL TEXTS: BRONAC FERRAN, FRED GARNETT & FREDERIK LESAGE
This Spring we published 3 essays on our work and practices by ‘Critical Friends’. Each looks at a different aspect of what we do, why and how, observing our impact from their own varied perspectives:
http://proboscis.org.uk/2665/in-through-a-dark-lens-by-bronac-ferran/
http://proboscis.org.uk/2612/enabling-consequences-by-fred-garnett/
http://proboscis.org.uk/2624/telling-worlds-by-frederik-lesage/

NEW TITLES PUBLISHED ON DIFFUSION.ORG.UK
We’ve published lots of new titles on http://diffusion.org.uk, including new works by Adam Greenfield & Nurri Kim, Tim Wright, Cartoon de Salvo, Dodolab, John Hartley, Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Ben Eastop, Simon Pope and many others.

Thanks for reading. We hope to see you at some of our events or interact online.

Bookleteer’s new web bookreader

June 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

This year’s seen several major milestones achieved in developing our bookleteer platform. At the beginning of the year we launched a User API (Application Programming Interface) allowing people to create and share eBooks and StoryCubes directly from their own projects, applications and websites.

In February we unveiled a new price estimator to help people calculate the costs of printing and shipping (all over the world) eBooks and StoryCubes through our Short Run Printing Service. We combined this with new pricing structures that make both the eBooks and StoryCubes cheaper and easier to order in small quantities (from 50 copies)

This month we’ve launched what we think is our most exciting new feature : an online bookreader allowing users to read and share their eBooks via standard web browsers. We have also re-vamped the user interface for creating and editing eBooks which should make it simpler and more intuitive. Below is an example of an embedded ‘mini reader’ showing an eBook created by Caroline Maclennan as part of Alice’s As It Comes project in Lancaster:


You can also find plenty more (and growing) over on our Diffusion website.

 

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