Digital Utopias

I was particularly excited to receive an invitation from NYU’s wonderful Humanities Initiative this morning. The event, which takes place next Wednesday, will celebrate the website launch for the Open Utopia Project.

Stephen Duncombe’s open-source edition of Thomas More’s Utopia is not only the perfect example of what the Digital Humanities does best, it is also the model for the kind of semester-long project I would like to undertake with a class. It is multiplatform, multilingual, collaborative, comprehensive and a-hierarchical — most vitally, it is open to all. Created from public-domain editions and translations, it includes all marginalia from the early editions (with which More was involved) and a wealth of subsequent iterations and illustrations of More’s ideas. Here’s Duncombe:

This digital edition of Utopia is open: open to read, open to copying, open to modification. On this site Utopia is presented in different formats in order to enhance this openness. If the visitor wishes to read Utopia online they can find a copy. If they want to download and copy a version, I’ve provided links to do so in different formats for different devices. In partnership with The Institute for the Future of the Book I provide an annotatable and “social” text available for visitors to comment upon what More – or I – have written, and then share their comments with others. Those who like to listen will find a reading of Utopia on audio files, and those who want to watch and look can browse the user-generated galleries of Utopia-themed art and videos. For people interested in creating their own plan of an alternative society, I’ve created Wikitopia, a wiki with which to collaborate with others in drafting a new Utopia. More versions for more platforms are likely to be introduced in the future.

Utopia was made for this: now, the text, its collaborators, and the creativity it spurs are everywhere and no place.

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