|Bob Stein: I think
it is great that John Maeda and I are on the same panel today because we
represent radically different approaches to the expressive powers of the
computer. In a way, we're working on completely different problems. I'm
trying to tackle the problem of what we can do now.
Say you want to combine
audio, video and text in a form accessible to other people. My guess is
that there aren't more than a few thousand people on the earth today who
can take such content and assemble it in a fashion that is both graphically
elegant from a computing point of view, and useful from the reader's point
of view. In effect, then, only a very small number of people are able to
express themselves on a computer. I don't find that to be acceptable from
a philosophical point of view.
I want digital culture to
be as rich from the point of view of diversity as analog culture. Until
John Maeda and the people he works with over the next N years, whether
that is twenty or two hundred, develop tools that make it easy for all
of us to start with a blank page and be creative, my project is a stop-gap
solution. I don't say that apologetically. We have different goals.
Realistically, there are not a lot of people who even understand computing
as John does, and it is going to take a long time to get from where we
are now to where everyone can go to a blank digital page and express themselves
seriously and competently.
At Night Kitchen, we created
as an interim measure; it is both a new format for electronic documents
and a tool for making them.
TK3 documents combine computing power
with the visual elegance long associated with the printed page.
To design this software,
we asked: what are the 25 things a book has to do really well to
be useful to a reader? And then we made it easy to make a book that
does those 25 things. We did constrain functionality substantially in order
to make it possible for even the casual computer user to create a variety
of documents. What we don't constrain at all is graphic design. We supply
templates to make a book. Everything about the template can be changed,
and users can decide to exclude various features or to start from a completely
I suspect that 95% of what
is produced on TK3 will be created with preexisting templates. But
publishing companies, people doing commercial work and artists are likely
to want to start from scratch and create their own custom templates.