The blindness of mandated prophecy

Take the case of Alexander the Great. He is once again about to make a far-reaching decision, and has been told of a woman who can predict the future with total accuracy. He summons this woman, to teach him her art. She tells him that he must light a big fire and read the future in the smoke from the fire, as from a book. But she gives the warrior one warning. While reading the smoke, he must on no account think of the left eye of a crocodile. The right eye if he must, but never the left.

Alexander gave up on knowing the future. Why? Because as soon as you have been instructed not to think of something, you can think of nothing else. The prohibition becomes an obligation. It is in fact impossible not to think of that crocodile’s left eye. The beast’s eye has taken over your memory, and your mind. (This is not the End of the Book, Jean-Claude Carriére: 18)

To see the present clearly, you need a view of the now and the past that isn’t obstructed by your hopes, speculations, and dreams about the future. Seeing the now requires the beast’s left eye to be firmly in your mind.

This isn’t about the future of publishing. We haven’t set out to examine how we’ve arrived at this point, nor does we propose any grand solutions for the next few decades. It isn’t about the challenges for the industry, or the shift to digital.

This is about now.

This is a collection of provocations masquerading as arguments. Written by a pair of academics, who are now more usefully engaged in making work that explores what the book might become in a variety of media and forms. Each section is intended to be read alone, and the whole collection to be browsed, dropped in and out of and bookmarked (digitally or otherwise), commented upon and improved by time.

This site is for writers, artists, designers and programmers. It is for anyone working with books, with digital technologies, with theatre and in film. It is for transmedia specialists, experience architects and everyone else with a brilliant job title. It’s about how we make work.

It is also a manifesto in flux. It is a set of lines in the sand that will be erased by the next tide and redrawn the following morning because the world changes everything and you have to believe at least two things at once.

We thought it was useful to write it though, and have it read. Collectively or alone. Bookmarked or otherwise. Read it, distribute it, send it on and excerpt chapters or statements, quotes or ideas.

The world is in flux, and so is writing. As creators in a networked world, we can sit by the shore and wait for a defining text, watching the tide for each sighting of a sail on the horizon, or we can write, and offer ideas, and some of them will find a home.