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To start generally: an acre, unlike a meter or a foot, is a unit of land-area and not a unit of linear measure.
The designated area that came to be an acre, was defined during the middle ages as the amount of land that could be ploughed in one day by one man and one ox1
The Calculator Site:
How Big is an Acre? Explained. or, as the 1 area created by that effort is commonly referred to, one chain by one furlong. Usually a long narrow rectangle, since turning the plough often was complicated.2 Wikipedia:
The acre then, was first an action that after repetition came to be a standardised area. Not a lot of spaces come into existence in that way. The online space and the outer space, come in mind as other possible examples.
This recently came to mind when reading Kenneth Chang’s article3
The New York Times:
7 Earth-Size Planets Orbit Dwarf Star, NASA and European Astronomers Say about the discovery of the seven new planets orbiting a dwarf star named Trappist-1, in an effort to convey their size, he wrote:
“If placed within our solar system, all seven would lie within the orbit of Mercury, and they circle the star quickly. The innermost completes an orbit in just 1.5 days. The farthest one completes an orbit in 12.35 days. That makes the planetary system more like the moons of Jupiter than a larger planetary system like our solar system.”
59 words that describe the completely unfamiliar with the slightly less familiar, as we try to picture what it would look like to lie within the orbit of Mercury. If we succeed we are rewarded with a feeling or an understanding — always in scale — because the actual size is just unimaginable.
Having echoing characteristics in their unimaginable size and tendency to always be addressed (size-wise) in metaphors or analogies, the online terrain almost competes in how imperceptible its size actually is.
It seems that spaces of such magnitude and unmeasurable area, need to be felt out,4 Silvio Larusso helped in thinking the right verb for the action of measuring online space within the acre analogy, he suggested the Italian phrase “andare a tentoni” that literally translates in english “to grope”, to search blindly or uncertainly by feeling with the hands. But grope’s connotations seemed in part non-fitting so we went with “feel something out” as in investigate something cautiously or be aware of (a person or object) through touching or being touched. We particularly liked the possibility of online terrain touching back. like the exploration of a room in the dark, hands and actions first. and then maybe a standardized unit of linear measure, or even better of land-area can come.
The pixels, MBs and GBs, lines of code and page views that are currently used to measure out the online terrain, say very little about the online ploughable space and the people and oxen — or more appropriate bots — that scroll/crawl them into harvest.
You plough online acres by scrolling through them, at times stopping to perform a click, and rearrange your plough, for a new long narrow rectangle to be presented for cultivation by you and your mouse, or trackpad, or finger; and as acres are, the area remains the same, even if the shapes and forms vary from website to website.
Perhaps then that should come to be the unit of measure of online space. The amount of distance — or more likely area — scrollable by one person and one device in the course of one day. Would that then fall into the roam of imperceptible or unimaginable, well that remains to be seen. The repeated action needs to be payed attention first.
This space was assembled to pay attention to the action of scrolling as a potential unit of measure of online terrain. We built this acre that currently expands and moulds as you scroll through it. Where through the action, and the action’s repetition by each visitor after you, we will be able to feel out collectively how much an acre online is. We are gonna spend the time to feel out this unimaginable online space, and then we will start building bottles for texts, the first to come in December 2017.
Our interest in making bottles comes from the traditions of Virginia Wolf’s Glossary for reinventing english and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction. That follow a line of leafs, gourds, shells, nets, bags, slings, sacks, bottles, pots, boxes, of containers and if I may add of places that hold things. We are conscious that actions, tend to bring heroes and we too, are uninterested in them.
We would like to hold worlds, like books hold words. But forth most avoid copy-pasting books to the internet. To perhaps “reinvent” what a bottle means in respect to online, a holder of whatever could be considered liquid online. Yet we have no interest in reinventing a medium or an industry.5 A list of a few places that come in mind: letterpress printing, Kickstarter, Blogger, Twitter, HTML, hypertext, Kindle, epubs, Medium, and so on and so forth. We have an interest of building bottles that align with holodecks,6 This thinking of making bottles that align with holodecks was inspired by mixing, in parts the forth mentioned essay by Ursula K. Le Guin and in parts by paraphrasing, reversing and placing in other topic the fist line of Anthony Antonellis’ Internet Art in a Gallery: “Don’t copy paste internet art into a gallery. Make a holodeck.” to hold texts that can’t be held anywhere else.
We have this idea, that our bottles could belong to the reader, like books belong to a reader, to lend and give away, to write notes in their margins, and yet to maintain them online. We are interested in borrowing from publishing — as in making public by dispersing copies as Paul Soulelis writes7 Paul Soulelis explored this idea on The Download, a series of Rhizome commissions that considers the posted files,the act of downloading, and the user’s desktop as the space of exhibition, with an intent to go beyond browsing. but yet remain online, within in our ploughed online acre: a website, build as a bottle, each time for each text-based work to come.
But more on that later.
For now, an online acre to be ploughed.