Compiled and printed for the soft launch of print.are.na, a tool created by Mindy Seu and Are.na for Ekene Ijeoma’s Fall 2019 Black Mobility and Safety in the US course and funded in part by his lab Poetic Justice Group at MIT Media Lab.
"This proposal is about SOFT COPY." (1)
"Soft copy" was a neologism, best understood in opposition to its opposite, "hard copy." Soft copy is fluid, dynamic, mutable, carried in a digital medium and appearing on electronic screens. Hard copy is fixed, registered, permanent, found in books and printed matter. (2) These two forms are opposed, but the authors suggest that each is mediated by the interface through which it's delivered. They proposed to study the interface of a book, and from this departure point they would consider how its format might transition from paper to a digital medium, from hard to soft copy.
A book’s interface is entirely learned. The page-turning, left-to-right, front-to-back conventions of a codex book were established and implemented by repetition. Page numbers, sizes, chapters, paragraphs, paragraph breaks, and so on, all the way down to the forms of the letters on the page, all evolved slowly as standard typographic furniture. These were invented, not discovered, and reading a book requires decoding these design cues.
A file which can be viewed on a screen without printing it out is sometimes called a soft copy. The U.S. Federal Standard 1037C defines "soft copy" as "a nonpermanent display image, for example, a cathode ray tube display."
In time, images stay on the screen. And now they travel through networks. I think Muriel finally discovered was the act of communication design in the process of radical change away from creating single artifacts to creating design processes that need to have a life of their own over these networks.
In setting standards for a "style-book" we are moving not so much towards the old fashioned "house-style" idea of even adapted formats, but towards sets of variables which are regenerative and always in context with the complexities of the book system as well as with the implicit time experience.