Triple Canopy addresses the conditions of life in the digital age, not just by examining and mindfully employing digital media but by developing publishing systems that intelligently incorporate networked forms of production and circulation. To this end, we’ve spent the past eighteen months pondering, sketching, designing, and finally building a new publishing platform, with the aim of articulating and enriching the relationships between writing code and reading prose, between digital interfaces and printed pages, between social media and public space.
The launch of this platform inaugurates significant changes in the editorial and creative direction of the magazine. We will now publish issues simultaneously, rather than strictly sequentially; each issue will address specific questions or prompts and will emerge from research by editors—as well as, essentially, conversations with artists, writers, researchers, designers, technologists. Triple Canopy will collaborate with contributors not just on their own projects, but on the development of coherent (if variegated) bodies of knowledge. In the course of months, if not years, each issue will be populated by essays, e-books, print publications, exhibitions, artist editions, public programs, and sound works, many responding directly to one another.
The platform features Alongslide, a new system for authoring and presenting digital projects by artists and writers. Alongslide facilitates the production of dynamic, sophisticated, horizontally scrolling layouts, reliably reproduced on many browsers and devices. Alongslide employs customizable medium-specific templates that enable us to find a fitting form for experimental works that eschew conventional genres. (These templates will be introduced in stages in the coming weeks and months, along with additional writing about the technology and its broader context.) The creation of layouts relies on lightweight extensions to Markdown, an intuitive formatting syntax and text-to-HTML conversion tool. The numerous modules that compose Alongslide will be made available to the public in spring 2014 (meanwhile, contact us if you’re interested in implementing the system for your own publication or organization).
The platform is shaped by the use of magazine issues and series—collections of content that mark a line of inquiry, a formal or thematic concern—to organize previously published works of art and literature and to generate new ones. (Two new issues and multiple series will begin publication in the next two months.) We’ve designed the interface to elucidate fundamental connections between works that occupy multiple media, spaces, and points in time, lending conceptual coherence—and, for the reader, legibility—to what might otherwise seem to be disparate acts of publishing and their respective audiences. This is not just a matter of pointing from one thing to another, but rather an essential characteristic of polymorphic database design, in which content items are classified by type, such as digital project, event, book, podcast; each exhibits its own unique properties, but all are indexed uniformly, which means the items can be fluidly linked to one another through webs, taxonomies, or collections. In short, we’re working to meaningfully conjoin the methods by which a public is constituted and made visible within print and digital culture.
The design of the platform revolves around two modes of interaction, two formal languages: One is schematic, construes pieces of content as documents to be defined and related to one another, predominates in various indexes throughout the website (especially on the Browse All page, which supplies an archival view of the magazine); the other is expressive, visually renders information so as to represent the distinct qualities of each artwork or essay, predominates in layouts and in the image-based grids that display the freight of issues and series. The regular intersection of schematic and expressive languages, which orient the reader differently, imbues the experience of the magazine with a productive tension.
The design of the platform is such that individual works, issues, and series can develop distinct identities over time through the introduction of custom typography and graphic embellishment (such as the consistent use of a particular background color or image treatment). Upon accessing an essay or artist project created with Alongslide, the screen divides into regions that advance at different paces—for example, a video might remain in place as a reader scrolls through multiple columns of related text. The effect is to disrupt the linearity of the browser space, and to allow text to flow freely while retaining the particular visual form—and pacing—of the layout. To further focus the reader’s attention, we’ve pushed navigation tools and all contextual information to the edges (off the digital page). Generally, the layouts merge the fixed impressions that characterize print and the responsive interactions that characterize the digital interface, with the aim of facilitating a measured reading experience that preserves the integrity of media objects.
We hope you’ll continue to visit Triple Canopy as the new platform evolves in the coming months and years. In the past half century, artists and writers have responded to the transformation of culture and technology by scrutinizing contemporary media, making work specifically for the pages of magazines, for the magnetic tape of cassettes, for bulletin board systems accessed via telephone networks—mining the potential of communication technologies while attending to their shortcomings. With the latest iteration of Triple Canopy, we continue to mine this legacy, and to examine and exploit networked forms of production and circulation. But the new platform is also a framework for the relationships, conversations, and collaborations that underlie Triple Canopy—which is to say the deliberate, intimate interactions that are fundamental to culture, and cannot so easily be captured by digital tools.