Extended about (March, 2017)
Current status: still. writing.
I'm consistently mid-work on a number of essays and am wrapping up (always wrapping up, wrapping up for several years now) one big novel. The novel is the biggest project I've ever taken on (in terms of scope, size, amount of learning required to get it into a readable state), and although I've been working on it for five years (on and off), I'm not sick of it. A miracle in and of itself! The goal is to sell it this year (2017), but then again, that's been the goal every year. It'll be done when it's done.
In the meantime, to keep myself from going completely insane, I occasionaly complete other (non-novelic) projects. In 2016 I was a visiting lecturer at Banff Arts Center in Canada, was an advisor to and speaker at the Google SPAN conference in Tokyo, lectured once again at the Yale Publishing Course, and I even went to an intensive summer grad school program (Iowa Writers' Workshop, fiction).
My walking + mountains + photographic collaborative book about the Kumano Kodo, "Koya Bound" — photographed and made with Dan Rubin and in partnership with Leica Cameras — was published in October, 2016. It was produced in limited edition, and there are maybe, just maybe, a few copies left. We also made a big website of the walk, which you can see here: walkkumano.com.
My collected essays on books and publishing were published in Japanese by Voyager (best known for creating the Criterion Collection) at the start of 2015. The finished object is pretty special. And has inspired some thinking about how an English analog might feel (the "design-book"). The essay collection was also published in Korean in fall 2015. Here's a shot from our Tokyo launch party:
Because these current projects are tremendous at hoovering up time, I have to preemptively apologize for not being able to meet / respond to all requests for mentorship or interviews. Thanks for understanding. I hope to have more time soon!
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I'm adopted. Fascinated by provenance. Provenance and mythologies. Especially the myths we create around ourselves and the boundaries which define 'family.'
My dear friend, John McBride — the most dedicated walking guru since Basho — incited my obsession with walking the old pilgrimage paths of Japan. One part meditation, one part historical geekery, and one part cultural unzipping — they've become touchstones of the year for me and I try to do at least one week-long walk in the spring and another in the fall.
I love the culture of startups: the optimism, the naiveté, the confusion, the chaos, the compression. I regularly mentor and consult with publishing, design, and non-profit startups and try to nurture connections where connections should be.
In 2011-2012 I worked at Flipboard as a product designer. My main focus was Flipboard for iPhone. You can read about that here.
Tokyo has been my base — in one way or another, physical or spiritual — for over a decade. My experiences there are so deeply layered that I consider the city a hometown. Much of my appreciation for simplicity and minimalism in design is inspired by my time there.
PRE/POST is a publishing umbrella I founded in 2010. It's largely dormant, now, but served its purpose well for the four or so years it was active. PRE/POST was there to help get made books that should be made, and made well. No excuses. We averaged a book a year, which felt just about right. It kicked off when we republished Art Space Tokyo via Kickstarter. In 2012, we published Japanese poet Bin Sugawara. We also helped jumpstart the Designer Founders book from The Designer Fund. And it served as the place from which I published a number of my essays as Kindle and iBooks books.
I co-founded Hi.co (a spinoff from a digital magazine I cofounded in 2007, Hitotoki) to explore how storytelling feels when it begins on the phone and out in the world.
I bounce between Tokyo, New York, and San Francisco. Sometimes, people have a hard time understanding why. They tilt their heads. To me, it's simple: stay sharp. Each time the plane lands I can hear the crisp scrape of my senses pushed across a whetstone.
Silicon Valley gets foolish dreaming and technology.
New York gets content and process.
Tokyo gets objects and procession.
Simple, right? (Also, food. The burrito, pizza, sushi trifecta.)
I strive to be a skeptical technology optimist. Skepticism for objectivity. Optimism because, well, it's a far more fun to stew in a world of optimism.
I believe technological change is like a freight train of a certain unstoppable momentum, and we have two broad choices:
- Stubbornly stand in front of the train and try to push it back
- Accept the train and be a force laying railroad ties which place it on a better course
I choose the second option, and that choice informs the way I look at how digital infrastructure is affecting books, publishing, and education. I like that we're irrationally emotional about the loss of physicality in books. We're explorers, and the first rule of the Explorer's Club is: always choose a so-called disrupted space swaddled in emotion.
I believe there is an emerging confluence of simple technologies around books, publishing, networks, and education that can be leveraged to change the way we think about learning and information accessibility. If you're working in this space, I'd love to chat.
I think of the liminal space publishing now occupies as the pre/post era of publishing. We're post- the formality, complexity, and physicality that so defined publishing following Gutenberg (and Aldus Manutius and Walter Benjamin and …). But yet we're still pre- substantive alternatives.
The old guard is crumbling. A new guard is awkwardly emerging. Together, we can affect the shape of the new guard. Isn't that exciting?
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