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readme.cc - Presentation

Walter Grond / Beat Mazenauer
February 2011

A Mulitlingual platform
The literary marketplace is currently facing significant challenges. In a global era, the organization and structure of this sector still basically functions in a national context. At a time of great change in the media world, the literary sector has a hostile attitude towards new technology. The attitude can be generally described as conservative. But literature is based on language and Europe's cultural identity must be founded within a linguistic dimension. What counts is not a single language, but a productive multiplicity of different languages. Europe is a vibrant and diverse entity - as our experiences with readme.cc have shown. Europe offers an incentive for debate on a literary and intellectual level.


In 2004, an author, a literary critic and a media producer joined forces to discuss an artistic experiment. Our idea was to set up a communicative platform combining literary expertise with an Internet democracy based on our vision of a new online community of individuals who interact as part of an online book culture. Our discussion resulted in the creation of readme.cc - the platform for European literature.

From the start, the goal of readme.cc was to form a network bringing together readers on the one side and authors on the other. We work together to build a virtual library, organized like a real library, and comprising an archive of readers' book tips. ‘Show me what you are reading!' - This invitation was sent out to readers. The idea was that every book with a single enthusiastic reader is part of a global canon of literature and knowledge.

readme.cc initially received funding from the European Commission in 2005. From 2006-2009, our project was part of the "Culture 2000" programme.

This financial support helped us turn this pioneering experiment into a multilingual European platform for literature. The platform was developed as an advanced Web 2.0 application in 12 different countries. Today, this platform is available in ten languages (including Hebrew and Arabic).
readme.cc currently has a database providing many thousands of high quality and exceptional book reviews and numerous author portraits. The platform uses the latest technologies that facilitate further expansion of readme.cc and its potential provision in all European languages.

In the light of transformations in the media world, readme.cc is an innovative way of communicating literature at a cross-border, European level. The platform incorporates diverse functions and is

  • an information and discussion forum about books
  • a literary ‘collective memory' of modernism (document archive)
  • an agency that encourages literary translations
  • an integrated platform for literature that not only provides information, but can also serve as an ideal interface for new, future forms of book distribution - as a cultural alternative to corporate online platforms.

readme.cc is exclusively dedicated to books, literary output and authors and, without reservation, this project has an artistic, non-commercial purpose. It is also a multilingual literature platform in the European spirit.

This fascinating core of our project demands the greatest efforts, since Europe's multilingual identity is an immensely challenging literary project. Literature is language and this presents fundamental translation problems. But literature is also rooted in national approaches and ways of thinking. Precisely for this reason, it is vital to discuss literature beyond linguistic borders. This cross-border dimension is at the heart of the readme.cc vision. The objective is to work towards establishing what may be called a European public for literature.

European Literature Days
readme.cc is basically a communicative project. We discuss literature. The Internet offers the best opportunities to do so, but the virtual world is not enough. Communication also depends on live meetings. From the beginning, we were careful to ensure that readme.cc provides an interface for activities both virtually and in reality.

The platform depends on online cross-border communication and people who actually meet in a geographical location. To this end, in 2009 we organized the first European Literature Days. This event was held for one year in the Austrian region of Styria. Since 2010, the event is held annually in the UNESCO World Heritage region of Wachau, Austria. Wachau's beautiful natural setting was the venue in 2010 for authors from 17 different countries to meet, give readings of their works, exchange views and make friends.

The European Literature Days have three basic objectives:

  • 1. To present literary works in their original languages.
  • 2. To discuss current themes relating to European identities, the European literary marketplace, translation problems and new forms of electronic publication.
  • 3. To facilitate meetings and exchanges of ideas among authors, translators and critics in the spirit of a single European literary marketplace.

Current fundamental changes in the book and literary sector require new forms of international cooperation. readme.cc attempts to create and promote these on the basis of our experience to date, and thanks to its technical and editorial possibilities as well as growing community of authors and readers.

Partnerships
readme.cc is starting to become established as an Internet platform and interface for the literary marketplace as it currently stands. In Austria and Switzerland other projects have also been set up to mirror the work of readme.cc.
These include:

  • incentives for new Austrian literature promoted by the Literaturhaus, Vienna, and the translators' community
  • documentation of Swiss literature, which emerged from readme.cc, and will be established as an integrative literature portal from 2011 to 2015, and with close links to readme.cc

The advantage of readme.cc is that

  • the database can be maintained at relatively low cost
  • the website's modular structure means it can be expanded indefinitely
  • the project is open to cooperation with partners from different countries. Partners will obtain national funding.

Currently, the latter point seems the most sensible approach for establishing long-term partnerships.

Based on the experience of readme.cc and the European Literature Days, organizations join forces and form interest communities such as translators and authors interacting on a new level. Translation is the key theme involved in the communication of European literature. What other factors play a role?
It is important not only to seek partners, but also to ensure that their respective views are really debated and exchanged. Culture also implies a ‘way of life'.
It should always be remembered that the virtual and real spheres ideally complement each other: the real aspect represents personal meetings, whereas the virtual aspect is a facility for the documentation and communication of these meetings across borders. Reality is all about seizing the right moment, whereas virtual reality can offer an archive facility to record this moment.

link readme.cc
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