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weblog archives
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Monday, August 08, 2005
Project Gutenberg is a remarkable resource, yet one that feels strangely detached from the web's other key data sources. Part of Gutenberg's attraction is the added perception of depth and history it gives to information found online, much of which is missed in general searches that favour newness and 'news'. In recent months this 'digital skimming' has started to get us down, as if the internet is a thick crust of largely superficial information that is increasingly hard to penetrate.

New tools don't help us dig any deeper. It's a question of resolution more than anything, the way analogue tends to slip unsatisfactorily into the digital realm, the sharp edges pixellated, compression remnants that obscure, not enhance. Google Earth might give us the world on a desktop, but it's often a grainy, blurry world that casts a veil of uncertainty, not enlightenment, on the area you're looking at. In the same way, Yahoo's new audio search (see also their video search) just throws up results from Napster, rather than hunting through the millions and millions of audio files that must lurk there, somewhere. You're better off learning to search like this, using Google like a master filliter of other people's card files.

Today useless UK retailer Dixons announced they will be ending 35mm camera sales (apparently digital cameras outsell film by 15 to 1). Even just a couple of years ago, this ratio would have been hard to predict. Amazon's Look Inside and search inside services will inevitably become a substitute for 'real' books, just as our perceptions of how we index, retrieve and store photography and music have changed substantially over the course of a decade.

So analogue is on the way out, yet the analogue world remains - and will perhaps always remain - richer than the digital realm. If you want a digitised text, you have to hunt high and low for it. Our recent finds include Naomi Klein's No Logo, very useful for reference, discovered amongst this collection of Sozialistische Klassiker (see also the online works by George Orwell ('Shooting an Elephant' is a sad tale) and Karl Marx, amongst many others (the text of Thomas Moore's Utopia, for example.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we were hugely alarmed to see someone reading Henry Ford's The International Jew on the train last week. And it wasn't a carefully packaged edition for academic study, either, but a glaringly cheap, ultra anti-semitic edition, with 'Jew' in giant red letters and an unpleasant caricature below it (in fact, it was exactly this edition, which comes pre-packaged with another infamous screed). Without the racist prop the reader would have been just like anyone else on the train, yet with it he suddenly appeared to be an archetypal thickset English thug. No-one else seemed to notice, or else they did a good job of ignoring him. Presumably if you tried to pull a stunt like that in New York, say, you'd draw some well-deserved opprobrium.

*

Other things. Old but still entertaining, Starship Dimensions, a visual comparison of the science fiction universe's best-known space craft. And to scale ('each pixel equals two kilometers to a side') / unfortunate children's books, a flickr set via Boing Boing / Triplement is a real estate weblog, only without the snark of Curbed. In fact, there's so little snark it's rather too enthusiastic, especially given the bland banality of so many of the featured projects. Can there be a happy medium? We'd like an architecture weblog that isn't so steeped in cynicism and irony that it can no longer offer up simple criticism and praise.

Mullets. White jeans. Architecture?, the BBC comes round to architectural revivalism. In a completely superficial way / Horticultural, a gardening blog by Jane Perrone / high quality movie scans / Anarchitect takes a novel approach to the newsblog/weblog format, splurging post-it note style all over your screen. We like it. It points to a new edition of This is not a magazine / Placement 'examines choice in culture.'

Quartzsite 'is a town of 5,000 in the summer that swells into an instant city every winter with the influx of more than a million RV dwellers', via AUDC, the Architecture Urbanism Design Collaborative / best guacomole recipes / Coldplugs, US sports car racing in the fifties and sixties / the FIFA World Cup 2002 Stadiums, a photographic series by Edmund Sumner.

I'm honoured and delighted to be joining the morning news as a contributing writer.