Di che cosa parliamo quando parliamo di libri (bruciati)

Rileggendo i classici, pratica sana e importante, sono incappato in questo meraviglioso passaggio di Fahrenheit 451 di Ray Bradbury:

Non sono i libri che vi mancano, ma alcune delle cose che un tempo erano nei libri. Le stesse cose potrebbero essere diffuse e proiettate da radio e televisori. Ma ciò non avviene. No, no, non sono affatto libri le cose che andate cercando. Prendetele dove ancora potete trovarle, in vecchi dischi, e nei vecchi amici; cercatele nella natura e cercatele soprattutto in voi stesso. I libri erano soltanto una specie di veicolo, di ricettacolo in cui riponevamo tutte le cose che temevamo di poter dimenticare. Non c’è nulla di magico, nei libri; la magia sta solo in ciò che essi dicono, nel modo in cui hanno cucito le pezze dell’Universo per mettere insieme così un mantello di cui rivestirci.

Qui c’è tutto quello che ho pensato più volte parlando di supremazia dell’oggetto libro, di libro vs. ebook, di rapporto fra manufatto e conoscenza. I libri sono importanti, sì, ma non sono un oggetto sacro (“non c’è nulla di magico, nei libri“); sono uno dei tanti mezzi con cui trasmettiamo noi stessi – i nostri pensieri, le nostre emozioni, la nostra cultura e conoscenza. Ma sono uno dei tanti e non l’unico (“… in vecchi dischi“). In quanto trasmettitori, sono secondari rispetto al contenuto trasmesso, vengono dopo, come avevo argomentato parlando di carta e messaggeri. E non è nemmeno detto che siano gli oggetti (i manufatti) a essere unici depositari di quella cultura: essa è presente nelle persone prima di tutto (“… nei vecchi amici“, o come vorrebbe Lankes nella comunità: “La comunità è la principale collezione della biblioteca…” eccetera).

La conoscenza, infine – tema che a me piace moltissimo – può essere implicita (“cercatele nella natura e cercatela soprattutto in voi stesso“), quindi da scoprire ogni volta e ogni volta irripetibile e incomunicabile, individuale e personale, la scintilla di connessione intima e autentica fra il soggetto e l’oggetto, e la loro fusione (Zen vs Cartesio, secondo la nota “la filosofia da bar”).

Infine mi piace pubblicare queste riflessioni dopo aver letto le belle parole, candide e ingenue, banalissime ma condivisibili, di questo pezzo di M. Mantellini: Libri di carta e di bit.

Di che cosa parliamo quando parliamo di libri (bruciati)

Un bambino nello spazio

When I was a child, the school took us to a local theatre to see a show. I don’t remember the title, but it was about two kids, brother and sister, who became friends with an alien, named Wilko, fallen down on Earth. Wilko looked like a funny rat, and came from the planet Wilkonia. The two siblings, astronomy lovers, after many adventures helped him to return home.

Afterwards, the cast from the show came to visit us in school. They conducted a kind of workshop about Wilkonia, during which we did drawings, made up stories and created giant posters, all because, they said, at the end of this preparation we were going to get on a rocket and fly to Wilkonia. We were going to meet Wilko and his people!

I could not believe my ears. As we were leaving the room, forming a line while the actors were distributing space passports to all of us, I could not contain my joy. I was all like “Can you believe it? We are going into space! This is awesome!” I was happy because I was a young kid dreaming about the stars, as many other 7 years old kids do.

So, the actors arranged the chairs in two rows, and one by one they made us climb aboard the “rocket”. They told us to hold on, because the take-off would have been rough. The captain shut an invisible door. The actors made some noise, inviting us to follow the movements of the rocket with our body. Finally, the captain announced the landing, and gave us permission to get off. We got up from our seats, and we scattered across the room where the workshop was being held.

I was puzzled. Was it a test launch, like the ones astronauts do with simulators, to train for space flight? After all, we did not wear spacesuits or helmets. I looked at my friends, but I could not find on their faces any trace of disappointment or surprise. Didn’t they realize that something wasn’t right? We walked towards the exit, forming again a quiet queue. At the door, one of the actors was stamping the passports, bidding us welcome on the planet. When my turn came, I dared to ask, “When do we actually go to Wilkonia?”. “We have just arrived!” she replied, stamping my card, showing an unusual enthusiasm for a simple space custom officer. “But I mean, *really* go” I wanted to add. The line moved on.

It was at this point that I realized that we would have never gone to space. That Wilkonia, which might not even have been real, would have existed only in our giant posters and drawings. I thought it wasn’t nice of them to pretend that a row of chairs was a rocket ship that would take us into space, when in fact it did not even move from the room. And the stupid passport with the mouse-shaped stamp? Just a useless prop.

I still remember the disappointment of that broken promise. I was a child who had been denied Space.

But I’m not a child anymore. I’m a grown man. I’m ready to take back the promise they have stolen from me. Next month, I will embark on the Monitor Celestra.

Monitor Celestra
Monitor Celestra
Un bambino nello spazio

Ebook fest

Ebook Fest

Grazie al gentile entusiasmo di Giulio Blasi e Andrea Zanni, sono stato coinvolto per l’Ebook Fest che si terrà a San Remo il 25, 26 e 27 ottobre. Giovedì pomeriggio parteciperemo alla sezione “Narrazioni sul futuro della lettura e delle biblioteche“: l’idea sarà quella di lasciare libera la fantasia e divertirsi con l’immaginazione sul futuro dei libri e futuro dei lettori, mescolando narrazioni fantastiche e visioni personali. Spero ci siano molto dibattito e molte suggestioni.

Io penso che alla fine parlerò del Doctor Who.

Ebook fest

Carta

.book by Barbara Piancastelli (source Flickr - CC-BY-NC-SA)

This summer I was walking through the villages of the country around Bologna with a painter friend, and she was talking about her love for the materials, the physical contact with them, the manual labor and the artistic creativity that may ensue. She was studying how to recreate the materiality of things – the textures of stone, the veins of wood, the halos of paper – through painting. So I used my (little) bibliological knowledge to explain the different types of paper used throughout the history of the book, from parchment to paper rags, to the industrial paper of Gallimard paperbacks which turn yellow and crumble behind the windows of BNF. At one point, she commented with this statement: “this attention to the paper as a material becomes more and more important, because paper is something that today is being taken away from us by the new tools of digital reading“.

My life is dominated by the Spirit of the Staircase, so I have to write here what I wanted to tell her, to give a broader light to the issue.

Here’s the thing. The love we have for paper – and books, and the smell of them, and the yellow dots that form over time when you forget the sun – comes from the fact that for centuries it has been the medium on which we carried the words and thoughts that made us alive. Poems and novels, science and philosophy. They lived on the paper and tthey were passed hand by hand through paper. But paper is a messenger, not the message. We love it for what it conveys, not for its nature itself. We have added this meaning through its use, it was not part of its nature. But it would be wrong to mistake the message for the messenger.

Today, to deliver these messages, there are other messengers. There are bits, e-book readers, the web. There are books encoded in the DNA. There are new ways to create and share these messages. Is it bad? No. Is it less “physical” and material? Yes, unless you are able to tangibly understand the digital (I know, science fiction is totally turned on now). Is it something that makes us poor? No – not only because paper will never die (even though it may only live in the paintings of my friend, or in love letters or in Chinese lamps) but also because, as Feynman would say, this “does not subtract” anything. (Paraphrasing the physicist, it makes me wonder what kind of writers are those who are able to imagine the world as a large library, but can not imagine it as a huge network of digital connections?)

And most important, because what really matters is the message, not the messenger. We will learn how to love these messengers. There will be a filìa of the digital as well. There will be new Borges who will inspire building new worlds.

The Doctor in the (digital) library
PS: This post is connected laterally to a topic discussed on Virginia Gentilini’s blog.

PPS: since nothing happens by chance, last night I happened to see one of the best episodes of Doctor Who – Silence in the Library – where not only the library returns to be a metaphor of the universe, but this metaphor includes the persistence of digital memories, thoughts, souls. The episode is not new, but I think it’s the first time I find a popular representation of the digital library so effective and moving. My nerd soul and my librarian soul, thanks to the Doctor, took each other by the hand, and were moved.

Carta

Library + science = CERN internship

So many things in this 2011 which, after the first 5 days, went better and better, a progression of memorable events. One of my goals since the beginning of the master program was to have my internship at CERN. Being here was a dream come true, the proper conclusion to a beautiful year dominated by the master months in Tallinn and Parma (and Firenze and Berlin).
The original, marvelous, library science! (photo source: Cern)
The original, marvelous, library science! (photo source: Cern)

I was here for just one month, but I know that I must say something about this awesome place, I know it deserves a lot of words, and beautiful ones, and I don’t know how to do because beautiful words about this very place were written by Aubreymcfato, so it’s better to just read those, since I 100% agree.

Continue reading “Library + science = CERN internship”

Library + science = CERN internship