Had I been asked, I might’ve described LoR/E, a recently developed and continually in-progress project of mine, in its earliest stages as something like an online, text-based Cabinet of Curiosity for the designer.
LoR/E began and still is, much like the Cabinet of Curiosity (also known as a Wunderkammer), largely an encyclopedic collection. Only LoR/E is an indexed collection of keywords, ideas, names, places, topics, and subject matters that can be searched and/or browsed with the end goal being to discover related readings and essays. As LoR/E has begun to grow more, new ideas for the long-term have emerged, but I’m also developing, for the short-term, more refined and concrete ideas of the direction that I hope to take LoR/E as its potential is realized.
One thing that has always been apparent is that LoR/E will continue to be driven by the idea of the free sharing of knowledge and information. After all, like the definition of the word that the LoR/E acronym references, a body of knowledge on a particular subject (in the case of LoR/E, subjects mostly pertaining to certain enclaves of design, contemporary art, media, and visual culture) is inherently apt to be shared and studied. Admittedly, these subjects and their information are intended for a very niche audience. But, the fact of the matter is that much of the information that is available (and that will soon be available) within LoR/E is, otherwise, not very easy to find online. So the question has become: will LoR/E be filling a gap? Or will it only be contributing to some form of information overload?
LoR/E is not simply concerned with acquiring masses of searchable information though. One of the larger aims is that, at its height, users (especially inquisitive students of art, design, media, et al.), in having access to such an extensive index, will discover useful readings that they never knew existed or that, because the reading came from an author or publication in a discipline area different from theirs, they did not expect to discover. Of course, LoR/E can barely compare to an art/design school’s well-stocked, physical library. But, I do hope to establish a very complete, wide-ranging, and rigorously assembled repository of knowledge and information—a unique and purposeful repository which helps to expose thoughts and ideas, where certain patterns reveal themselves, as well as where relationships between varying subjects become apparent.
LoR/E allows users to view all of its entries within drop-down-menu lists where (to name just a few) searches for keywords, defining subject matters, authors, and publishers can be refined and quickly filtered (the above example shows search results for each filed reading that speaks about “authorship”)
Looking forward, in an attempt to turn LoR/E into something more than just an encyclopedic collection, I hope to convert the project into a highly functional and easily-searchable database that can exist autonomously (outside of its current home with Google Docs) on its own website. With the intent for LoR/E to become a definitive site that designers, artists, media theorists, and others can utilize as a tool for their independent or professional research, I also hope to integrate spaces that will allow for discussions to occur about the readings, authors, specific topics, etc.
Since the inception of LoR/E, I’ve also become more aware and interested in movements such as the Free Cultural Works movement. As such, I suspect that LoR/E, in its focus on the free sharing of knowledge and information, could, in addition to its function as a database, also become a site that supports and acts as a springboard for authors and independent publishers (especially in such worlds as design, contemporary art, or media) who are supportive of the Free Cultural Works mindset and who, in licensing their work under similar movements like Creative Commons or Copyleft, would like to utilize LoR/E as a means of presenting their writing by offering free PDF downloads of select texts to an audience of interested LoR/E users.
It may sound too idealist, but I hope to see LoR/E become a site that is able to accomplish a number of things. Most notably, being a site that insightfully informs those seeking specific information that cannot be found with the help of other libraries or databases (or, even with a tool like Google), that poses relevant questions to users about design, art, media, visual culture, film, et al., and that encourages any user (be they a designer, artist, writer, student) to make critical thinking and research a part of their practice.
As blogs like FormFiftyFive and Manystuff make it apparent to us almost everyday, developing formal skills seemingly demands less and less experience. Anyone who wants it can access the tools and know-how to “make something pretty.” Yet, from what I can tell, there’s not nearly enough emphasis placed on the importance of reading and personal discovery. And not just reading to be able to say that you’ve read this or that, but reading as a sincere means of building a knowledge base for oneself which will then eventually lead to one being able to more confidently create a personal ideology or a set of informed principles to work by.
Six months in, LoR/E is nearing 5,000 filed entries of keywords and defining subject matters with plans to file, at this gradual rate, thousands more.
To read more about LoR/E, the project’s impetus and primary objectives, as well as for instructions on accessing and tips for viewing LoR/E in Google Docs, visit here.