The Age of Earthquakes – A guide to the Extreme Present by Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist “imitates” McLuhan’s approach in The Medium is the Massage and was much criticized because precisely it is a book, that looks back instead of forward – David L. Ulin L.A.Times, and because it’s not serious writing. M.H. Miller goes as far as saying that the authors have no actual skills in his Artnews article called Disaster Writing: New Book By Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist Wreaks Havoc on Original Thought. This resonates with a lot of reactions to my online collaborative writing experiments started in 1999. “The results are not texts.” people said and still say.
I started working online in 1996 because I thought that by using hypertext I could come closer to showing something about what was going on in my brain than by using anything else. My brain isn’t functioning in a linear way, if I don’t constrain it to do so. I loved the concept of the network, of the simultaneously existing parts, the multiple pathways inside, the way I could simulate and imagine a thought hopping through it without controlling where it went. This was new at the time, but we quickly grew accustomed to using the internet in our daily internet lives and aren’t even aware anymore of it’s original power. But in the mean time I saw the appreciation of the lingering mind changing and this book is a voice for its complex character.
But why do I like it as a book? It historizes what otherwise would stay ephemeral – the multiple voice making a profile in the possible. And of course it remembers me of my own book from estranger to e-stranger – living in between languages, that is constructed in a similar way.
To better understand what the resulting texts of my collaborative online writing experiments “do” I started reading them aloud and using them in performances. Maybe, Martina and I, we could use The Age of Earthquakes as the basic text for one of our upcoming besides, performances.