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RIT Future of Reading Conference

One of the The only Rochester summer event that I’m really excited about is the Future of Reading Conference which is taking place at the Rochester Institute of Technology from June 9th through the 12th.

It promises to be a pretty awesome conference (here’s a link to the official press release) and the line-up of speakers is pretty stellar, with Chris Anderson, Molly Barton, Jane Friedman, Margaret Atwood (to talk about the LongPen? Well . . .), Johanna Drucker, N. Katherine Hayles, and Amit Ray all presenting.

You can find more info about the program by clicking here, and if you’re interested in attending (and you should! I promise booze & good times to any and all Three Percent readers who attend) you can register by clicking here.

Here’s a summary of the three themes they plan on exploring at the conference:

Theme 1: Reading & Writing

Often in its history, reading has undergone major shifts in technology, culture and cognition, with profound consequences for society. The advent of printing with movable type brought a many-fold increase in the supply of books, while rising numbers of people with time and money to spend on reading were associated with increasing commerce, improved transportation, accelerated urbanization, and challenges to ecclesiastical and civil authority. Stabilization and promulgation of vernaculars through print contributed to the rise of national literatures as well as nationalism and nation-states.

Currently, modern society is experiencing a radical shift in reading technology and literate behavior, which may likewise have deep social, cultural and political repercussions. Compared to the first era of print, today’s media universe is more varied in form and content. Rich media environments saturate the life-worlds of consumers in post-industrial and developing societies alike. Reading has become a variegated activity, occurring in environments previously unlikely to be devoted to text, and in contexts where technologically mediated social interaction has unprecedented breadth and scope.

Theme 2: Media & Technology

Digital technology is transforming reading. From the network-distribution model of the web to the proliferation of dedicated reading devices, new texts today are increasingly distributed and consumed in digital form. The convenience of near-instantaneous access to text and image on-line is confronted by the overwhelming volume of information available in cyber-space. Older, familiar spatial relationships between reader and text are compromised, or enhanced, by new environments in which little effort is needed to feed the reading experience. The speakers in this theme will address multi-platform publishing to different devices, reading efficiencies, text parsing for custom audiences, the transformation of information from static marks on tangible substrates to dynamic, multimedia hypertexts in cyberspace, the importance (or irrelevance) of variable carriers for texts, the relationship between reader and device, and the philosophies of representing the human experience in a society evolving toward a fully networked meta-universe.

Theme 3: Science & Art of Literacy

From imposing inscriptions in the Roman forum, to dazzling illuminated manuscripts of the middle ages, to masterpieces of Renaissance printing, to myriad variations of modern typography in print and on computer screens, the creation of letter forms and their arrangement into text is a subtle art with a practical goal—the transmission of knowledge. Calligraphers, typographers, type designers, graphic designers, and book artists have long known the aesthetic principles that make texts pleasurable as well as legible, but only in recent years have scientists begun to understand how abstract graphical letter shapes are processed by our eyes and brain into linguistic messages, while linguists have analyzed the structures of writing systems and the literary texts arising from writing. The future of reading will draw from these three parallel streams of knowledge, the scientific, the artistic, and the linguistic, to shape the visual texts of tomorrow.

Should be really interesting, especially since it’s about the future of reading without being solely based in the technical. I’m so, so, so sick of all these digital conferences about new iPad apps and shit. Much more interested in hearing people discuss how all of these changes/advances are changing/advancing us as readers and creators. And it sounds like this conference will be more along those lines and less about what kind of programs one can create and how all things digital will somehow save the publishing industry from itself. Anyway. I’ll be covering all of these events for Three Percent and writing something longer and more theoretical and interesting for another publication as well. And hopefully interviewing a few of the speakers . . . I don’t want to make fun of Rochester, but since the jazz fest is only so-so (and by so-so, I mean so incredibly mainstream), this really might be the coolest thing that will happen in Rochester this summer . . .



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