Anything But Boring
Rich Gold modestly takes the podium at BookTech West. His keynote task is challenging. The mission? To talk about reading. With this crowd of book publishers and manufacturers, it may have seemed a little like preaching to the converted. Gold is the director of the artists-in-residence program, RED (Research in Experimental Docu-ments) for Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), and three years ago, he was asked to choose a research project topic and enact a technological revolution around it. Gold chose reading.
Rich in meaning
Gold recalls that when he unveiled his chosen quest, his colleagues were a little underwhelmed. A few sarcastically asked, 'Could you choose a more boring topic than reading?" It turns out, the future of reading is more profound and exciting than one might think.
Gold set out to compile a leading group of scientists, designers, engineers and artists to explore the expanses of "reading" as a definition. "We read about 1,000 times more than we write," Gold points out. "Reading surrounds us, labels us and defines us."
Reading is anything but static; since it's conception, reading has—and will continue—to evolve. In its early days, "Reading was done standing up, out loud, and in public places, usually by monks," Gold quips. "And what they read was from highly illustrated texts. But reading has changed."
Reading can be either voluntary or involuntary, according to Gold. It can be permanent or ephemeral and synchronous or asynchronous. There are two parts to a document intended to be read: the content and the media. We know that content has meaning, Gold points out, but can the media have meaning, as well? Certainly. "The medium carries a message of its own. The
message, 'You're fired,' means something very different if I choose to send it by e-mail, post it on the Web, send an e-mail or PowerPoint file, as a Hallmark card, or if I call the employee up on the phone," Gold added.