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Unbinding the TACK publication (a digital publishing platform)


Helen Thomas

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June 21, 2023

This presentation will be held on 21 June 2023 at the TACK Conference, ETH Zürich (Auditorium HPV G5), 13:15 – 14:15 (CEST).

The TACK digital publishing platform is a response to a simple question: how can a large and complex organism like the TACK network – a group of over 40 individuals scattered across 10 academic partners, 3 cultural institutions and 9 architecture practices, living, growing, and producing individually and together over a period of three years – contain the sum of its parts in a single codex publication? During the course of this talk, presented in three parts, I will explain the process of making the collectively produced answer.

The term ‘unbinding’ that occurs in the title belongs to a retrospective theoretical framework – a seeking of terms and a testing out of what have been largely responsive moves based on practical experience and tacit, rather than explicit and formalised, knowledge. Using this opportunity to reflect on issues of authorship, the challenge of visual dominance and the acknowledgement of other senses, for example, the book as a performative, interconnected and relational process will be considered in terms of the publishing apparatus that we have assembled. This apparatus includes the technical architecture of the digital platform, but also its content elements and their conceptual frameworks. These embrace the classification and naming systems, and the connections, routes, and associations between the different parts. The possibility to make bespoke collections, or albums, of individual elements inspires the active participation of the reader and listener into an act of co-production. Framing this process within our discipline, we could even argue that the logic of the digital world finds a starting point in the work of an architectural theorist. When Christopher Alexander says, in the ‘Introduction’ to A Pattern Language, that “each pattern describes a problem which occurs over and over in our environment” he explains a way of thinking and designing that became a basis for coding, but also the modular, associational networks that underlie the publishing platform.

The process of making the digital platform will be briefly illuminated – from the moment precedents in my own work initiated my commissioning by TACK, through the communal consultations, workshops and conversations that miraculously resulted in consensus within this large group. Detailed conversations held with and between Lizzie Malcolm, the digital architect, Korinna Zinovia Weber, the editor, and the TACK editorial and executive boards signing-off at various stages are balanced by feedback loops, refinements, and intimate negotiations. Finally, we will visit the publishing platform together, carrying these narratives with us as we leap into the world of TACK to seek our own understandings of the mysterious concept of tacit knowledge.

Helen Thomas is an architect, writer, and publisher. Founder and editor of Women Writing Architecture.