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PAPERNET: Some Incoherent Thoughts - Warren Ellis [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Warren Ellis

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PAPERNET: Some Incoherent Thoughts [Jan. 29th, 2009|04:55 pm]
Warren Ellis

I just want to get these down in some kind of order for later consideration. See previously: Papernet: Papercamp announcement: Papercamp 1.0.

As noted previously, my interest in this revolves around making printers spit out sheets of paper with interesting things to look at and read on them. This all stems from Aaron Cope’s 2007 talk on the Papernet, and Schulze & Webb’s 2006 "social letterbox."

It occurs to me that the social letterbox isn’t a device, not in the first instance. Because there isn’t a social letterbox device and software bundle, and wishing ain’t going to make it so. In the first instance, the social letterbox is a dedicated email address and a printer you never uncouple from the computer (because you’ve got a USB hub, or, like me, you’re too lazy).

The social letterbox may just be as simple, in the first instance, as a dedicated Gmail account, where I can just press Print without opening the attached document. In kicking this around within a Secret Society, my friend Alasdair Watson knocked together a proof-of-concept in an hour — email comes in, paper comes out. Automagically, like a podcast that spits out paper.

I wouldn’t want the word "papercast" to get out in the wild, you understand. It’s horrible, and it would hang around my neck like a burning tyre until I die. Alasdair notes:

I love the idea of being able to get up in the morning and have the overnight reading ready for me to hop on the bus with. Hell, even if I don’t ever make the mailbox public, all I have to do is lash it to some RSS-to-email functionality, and presto – a custom POD newspaper every morning.

How is that a bad idea? It’s not like a fax machine, where some bastard buys your number and there’s a sheaf of junk hanging out of the thing in the morning. It’s roll-your-own one-sheet POD. And it’s also subscription-based POD, if you know someone who semi-regularly does interesting things with a sheet of paper and decides to share. They’re either sending directly to your letterbox-email, or you’re on an announcement-only mailing list (or Google Group). Or, as I say, as simple as me pressing Print so they’re spat out for me to take to the pub, or on a train journey. And if they’re not especially personal, I can just leave the buggers on the table or the seat when I’m done with them, too.

I remember, years ago, the artist Laurenn McCubbin saying to me, "I can design the shit out of a piece of paper. But designing websites and stuff? Forget it." And you know she’s not going to be the only one. But this papernet thing can in fact be about designing the shit out of a piece of paper.

This is getting tl;dr, but this is starting to tie up in my head with the emerging notion that this might be the Year Of POD, that not everyone wants nothing but plaintext in their lives, not everyone has a mobile device that does everything they want, and that, sometimes, paper is better.

I shut up now.

(Automatically crossposted from warrenellis.com. Feel free to comment here or at my message board Whitechapel. If anything in this post looks weird, it's because LJ is run on steampipes and rubber bands -- please click through to the main site.)
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: fenmere
2009-01-29 05:01 pm (UTC)
I've been having thoughts along this line before you started blogging about it. Maybe I got it from somewhere altogether different. I'm all for it, either way.

I've been thinking about binding techniques, myself. Anything that's fancier looking than just stapling, but just as easy. Haven't figured out or found anything that I like, though.
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[User Picture]From: warren_ellis
2009-01-29 05:10 pm (UTC)
I'm all about the one-sheets. Fold 'em and go.
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[User Picture]From: fenmere
2009-01-29 05:15 pm (UTC)
Yeah!

I did something like that a couple times. Still required a full duplex printer (or running the same page through the printer twice).

But it looks like a dedicated reader might be able to get a duplex printer for about $100.
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[User Picture]From: fenmere
2009-01-29 10:34 pm (UTC)
If you do two sheets together, folded in half to create eight 8.5" x 5.5" pages (loose, but stays together still), you could call it:

Signature Comics

or

SigCast for blogs
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[User Picture]From: balamuthia
2009-01-29 05:12 pm (UTC)

Papercast.

It's so damned catchy though.
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[User Picture]From: the_gentleman
2009-01-29 05:21 pm (UTC)
It's also fantastic for those of us who don't have the physical capability to listen to a fucking podcast, not because of a lack of i-pod but because our bloody ears don't work.
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From: phrawzty
2009-01-29 05:23 pm (UTC)
Replacing perfectly good technology with... paper ?

You've clearly gone off the Steampunk deep-end, Mr. Ellis. :)
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[User Picture]From: fenmere
2009-01-29 05:26 pm (UTC)
At least he's not talking about owning a slave that reads all his email for him and shits out cuneiform tablets that he then bakes in the toaster oven before heading to the pub.

Because that's what I want!
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[User Picture]From: oedipamaas49
2009-01-29 06:37 pm (UTC)
See, if I wanted messages encoded in excrement, I'd just get a pet. Instead, I'll settle for hooking up a plotter to chalk onto a slate.
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[User Picture]From: fenmere
2009-01-29 06:59 pm (UTC)
The thing about baked excrement is that you can use it for fuel for your fire when you're done reading it! It's for literature that really warms your hearth.
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[User Picture]From: darthparadox
2009-01-29 05:39 pm (UTC)
An artist put together a significant part of the required capabilities in an art installation a couple years ago.

I definitely agree that paper is better for certain things. I find myself feeling like a bit of a luddite when I look around and notice that a majority of my local coworkers have Kindles, but I refuse to give up my bound books. I tried reading some short stories on my iPod Touch once, out of necessity, and while I was able to finish them, I didn't exactly enjoy the experience.
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[User Picture]From: fr0w
2009-01-29 06:17 pm (UTC)
Just when you thought computers make things less wasteful you come along and proclaim "En Garde environment! HAVE AT YOU!"
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[User Picture]From: bluebear2
2009-01-29 06:30 pm (UTC)
Well, you do know that in a 100 years if they're stored right printouts on paper might be the only record we have of the past 10 years as hard drives and CDs fail.
What I'd like to see is a machine or a service, where you put in a 100 foot roll of 35mm film and hook it up to your computer and it puts all your important digital pictures onto the film and then you have that developed and then you store that away somewhere safe.
This can be done now of course but I'm thinking of it being affordable and easy to do a few thousand at a time.
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[User Picture]From: lamuella
2009-01-29 08:18 pm (UTC)
you almost certainly already know about this, but...

you can already get a computerless email printer:

http://www.hammacher.com/publish/73357.asp

hook it up to a phone line and power, and it will print out email for you without access to a computer. It would probably only be a matter of spading around to get it to specifically print out only the pdf documents it got sent or that kind of thing.
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[User Picture]From: warren_ellis
2009-01-30 12:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, but who needs a second printer? It should work with the one you've already got, I think.
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