What can a book created and delivered over digital platforms and devices such as e-readers or tablets do differently to books made of printed and bound pages? This is the question students respond to for the brief A Book That Cannot be Printed. Digital books can dynamically respond and change according to real-time data, be networked, location-based, generative and more.
For this task students were asked to create a design concept and code a working prototype in response to the above brief for an existing book, in this case Steven Johnson’s Emergence (2001). Student Anna Nordon’s interest was piqued by a key example in Johnson’s book, that of slime mold. Slime mold are collectives of single organisms whose actions as a group generate emergent behaviour that is not driven by any one individual. Nordon saw a connection of this phenomenon with how we as a society connect through language over various systems of communication. She was specifically interested in web-based translation tools and how textual information was altered through these processes. Nordon undertook a number of experiments in the Processing programming language to work out how she could work with text, translation and the display of text data. Her final prototype shows the discrepancies that arise in acts of translation by translating an excerpt from Johnson’s book using Google Translate, how words changed and what words were lost.