Radical Publishing Merges Art And Technology to Create a New Kind of Book
Steve Woodall, director of the Radical Publishing Project, describes himself as someone outside of the publishing mainstream. His intersection with the industry is through his academic role overseeing the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago. "We are involved in the world of the book as an art object—the 'artist's book'." From this perch, he foresees profound changes in publishing involving the comingling of books, art, and technology. "I'm very excited to watch what will happen in the next three to four years."
To explore the convergence of art and tech in a disciplined manner, the School of Media Arts at Columbia College founded Radical Publishing Project. The project aims to bring together creative and editorial practices with entrepreneurship and emerging technology. Woodall hopes this initiative will foster cooperation between authors, "book artists," publishers, and new media producers to advance the digital book form. The project comprises a series of webinars, online discussions, and publications, all designed to further collaboration and innovation around emerging digital publishing platforms.
One aspect of the project is the Expanded Artist's Books, which aims to build a new publishing platform that takes inspiration from physical books while capitalizing on the rich capabilities of tablets to imagine new forms that a book might take. "The artist's book is a hybrid form. It's the book form considered as a work of art, just as a painting or a sculpture would be," explains Woodall. Book artists, says Woodall, "combine words, images, and the structure and material of the book itself as a unified medium of expression."
It was in 1999 during an artist's residency at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) that Woodall began thinking about using digital tools for making physical books. "I managed a very tiny aspect of PARC's research project and exhibition, XFR: Experiments in the Future of Reading." Since then, he has worked with a range of digital publishing experts and last year was a featured presenter at the annual Books in Browsers Conference, along with Clifton Meador, interim chair of the Interdisciplinary Arts Department at Columbia College. Their message, that an industry preoccupied with shaping the future of digital books has much to learn from those who are crafting physical artist's books, fell on receptive ears at the tech conference.