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Saturday, July 23, 2005

It Won't Be Long

A few years ago, just as I finished writing the first full draft of my doctoral dissertation, I decided to write something short and non-academic just to clear my head from all the research I had immersed myself in for my PhD. To move as far away as possible from writing about the internet as an alternative broadcasting medium - not to mention the economic and political issues related to all that - I wrote some conversation notes in the form of three short essays, mostly about Malta and Atlantis, under the title Sunken (Is)land/s.

A few days ago, just as I finished my first year of lecturing on creative technologies in the UK, I gave a copy of Sunken (Is)land/s to my good friend Immanuel Mifsud. I asked him to see whether this was something worth publishing in Tabellina, since he is one of its editors. Originally I had submitted the piece for publication in Connect, the quarterly journal from Arts International, which disappeared in the arts funding downturn after 9/11. The editors at Tabellina agreed to publish Sunken (Is)land/s, but edited it down to about 1000 words. Of my original three short essays, the first (about Paul the Apostle's shipwreck in Malta) has been reduced by about 80%. The other two essays remain intact, and I've even been given the opportunity to update them with a couple of minor amendments.

All in all the Tabellina version of Sunken (Is)land/s is not too different from the original version. The experience of having something so short shortened even further has raised an interesting question: how long is too long for text that appears on the internet?

In preparing Sunken (Is)land/s for Tabellina, I've had the pleasure of communicating with Sharon Spiteri again; she is one of Tabellina's editors. Sharon insisted that people "do not like reading on computer screens." She also reminded me that I should think about whether people will print out my article and "read it in peace when they have a chance" or start reading it online but give up when they get fed up of the looking at their screens. I've thought hard about the latter point and I don't know that I've made up my mind yet. However, regarding the assumption that people don't like reading from computer screens I recently read a really interesting article in CSM on how the web changes your reading habits.

Just as an example: looking at Wired Temples I can say that the daily total number of words is often far too long for me to read everything Robert posts. Then again, this may be partly because Wired Temples is produced in such a way that people can pick and choose whatever interests them, exercising selective inattention without any harm done to anyone.

To anyone who wants to read Sunken (Is)land/s: it won't be long before it appears in Tabellina. I'll be in Miami or back in New York when it appears. I'm not sure where I'll be because Tabellina doesn't seem to have a fixed da/y/te for publishing new articles, even though they've been appearing somewhat regularly every two weeks this month.

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