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Ben Fry, “On the Origin of Species: The Preservation of Favoured Traces”

Looking at information displayed in the digitized version of Charles Darwin’s  “On Origin of Species” I felt that Ben Fry  was in some way critiquing the evolution of the presentation of written text.  I felt a lot like  the character of Neo in the Matix, when in the film he looks at the code and is told that there is meaning embedded in the streaming numbers  and patterns on the screen.

No matter how many times I looked at the project, it was difficult for me to really accept it as a readable text. I realized that in order for me to truly accept it, I would have to create for myself a paradigm shift about reading. Digitizing texts opens a whole new world of presentation. There are an infinite amount of ways that people can think of to interact with on line text and we  are probably just touching the surface.

I paused the running text, then sped it up and slowed it down, stopping it to see what information was at hand. I felt that trying to read it in any linear fashion made no sense, and I tried to give myself over to the randomness of stopping in different places to take in the information. My provocations are around the uses of this type of archiving.

  1. Who is a project like this for?
  2. What are its uses?
  3. Will it fundamentally change how the average person looks for or reads information?
  4. Is this a format that lends itself to literature or just scientific text, and is that the point? ( The fact that the subject is scientific, does that make it more accessible to experimentation.