Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Flock of Books

For my final project, I intend to explore the online network constructed by users of, and the culture of “BXing” that has arisen offline alongside it in contrast to other networking communities which seek to connect users through shared interest in literature (shelfari, whatsonmybookshelf). The project encourages users to “set the book free to travel the world and find new readers,” relying upon metanarrative of literature as enlightenment through which one can “Help make the whole world a library and share the joy of literacy”. In addition to interacting with each other on the site, users tag books to be “set free” in public places, assuming others will find, read, and further distribute the texts that have been left in public. The practice has spawned its own terminology with which to describe these circulations (BXing, BCing, the verb “To BookCross”). Through the website, these exchanges are 'tracked', the movements of text literally sketched out upon a “catch/release” map viewable up to the moment, and users are ranked according to the rate at which books they release have been circulated and tracked.

The creation of this networked community, with its emphasis on tracking and locality (of both books and users) within the real world, seems to me to intersect quite fantastically with many of the themes we've discussed over the course of the semester : notions of participation from afar, of circulation, mediation through protocol, cognitive mapping & informatic control. Accordingly, I intend to draw heavily from Jameson, Lyotard, and Galloway, as I explore the many ways in which the act of circulation is so explicitly valued by the BCing community alongside (or above?) the content of the texts themselves. For it is through this circulation that the act of reading is encouraged, becomes a worthwhile participatory activity : “Reading becomes an adventure when you BookCross!”

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