Books: Social Something and the Agent

I have failed at understanding what it is that twitter does or at conveying to you how I use facebook. The truth is that I do not know what these websites are good for, and truth be that I use them but I can also live happily ever after without them, like I can live happily ever after without bars. I go into bars. I meet people at bars, I talk with people at bars, and I can live without bars. It has always been this way.

I remember a discussion many years ago with a friend in Schwabing (Munich) about bars when he insisted that we go to a bar (1). For the life of me I really could not get what he found so particularly interesting about bars, I always preferred sitting in his Schwabing kitchen having a coffee, tea, or a glass of wine and some good conversation while a few rooms down the hall some music played in the background. He had a neighbour whose last name was Depp and my visits to him had this highlight of marveling at the neighbours door and wondering what it is like to wake up each morning having Depp as a name. The Depp and the bakery scents from downstairs together with lots of argumentation marked my experience of those days. I could not warm up to the idea of bars, still can not. But then, I do lots of things out of curiosity, not necessarily out of preference. The bars are now digital, they are called twitter, facebook, myspace and what have you not. I like digital objects. Actually, I love digital objects. But now I am stressed. Yesterday a friend with whom I had not conversed in a while asked if my book had been published….

I aggregate my own incidental writing and casual photography on a tumblr blog: virtually not present. In my way of thinking, virtually not present describes my existence on the web. In the reality of the web my contributions are present. I like the word virtual, and virtual is very real, it is however immaterial. The whole web is immaterial information, and that information is real. You must remember that the web, that is the “World Wide Web” is a hypertext system that operates over the Internet. The Internet is the physical infrastructure on which the Web resides. That is, the network of computers, cables and switches where the information is either stored or transits, that is the Internet. The Web is immaterial content in the form of information. However books, paper books is what is on my mind now.

I look at my desk in the studio and right now there is a pile of nine books that I have checked out from the library (2). That is besides my own private collection. Although I often consult books on the web and use google books to preview books, read table of contents, search for keywords, I still have found no replacement for the paper book when I want to evaluate a book as to its relevancy and appropriateness for the research that I am doing.

When my friend, a physicist, yesterday asked about my book, for a while there I totally forgot that I am working on a book that is not fiction. This is something that I have to laugh at now because I am so deep into the forest that I do not know that I am in the forest. The forest is all those books on my desks, the notes, the sketches, the outlines, the book proposal, the unfinished chapters, etc. Book? So instead I sent my friend in the direction of my fiction…. Clearly yesterday I had been thinking more about fiction than non-fiction. Be that as it may, what I found interesting was his asking for the book. We talked a bit more and I discovered that he actually wanted to have something in his hands, not a bunch of web addresses. Virtual media and physical media just ain’t the same! This is good. Humans are physical animals, we need the physical, even when it comes to books. Between you and I… (let’s forget for now the argument of cyber sex and real sex).

(1) My idea of heaven in Munich is still going to one of the many small bier-gardens alone (insider knowledge helps).

(2) The library is actually a collection of networked university libraries (nebis, ids); that is books catalogued and stored in a multitude of swiss libraries find themselves mingling on my desk. In addition I also make good use of the WTI library where some of my books have found a permanent residence; this is however a non-lending library which greatly adds to its value by keeping the collection in residence.