The hypertext “electronic book” project was initiated by Bernd Wingert and his team at the Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe [Karlsruhe Nuclear Research Center] (KFZK), today part of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany. Though completed in 1991, the hypertext “electronic book” is in many ways more sophisticated than the forms of digital publishing which are common today.
Intended to exploit the nascent participatory potential of the new technological form of publication, the hypertext was designed to replicate and extrapolate salient aspects of the experience of being at one of Vilém Flusser’s lectures. Revolutionary for their time were features such as hyperlinked in-depth elucidations of Flusser’s terminology as well as the possibility to share one’s own comments with others and to ask the professor (or other participants) a question. Another rare treasure for Flusser scholars is the rich set of bibliographic resources hyperlinked to the text.
The text elaborated in the “Flusser Hypertext” comes from a lecture Flusser delivered at the KFZK on March 2, 1989, titled “Schreiben für Publizieren” [Writing for Publishing]. It describes some of the essential virtues and challenges in electronic publishing toward the production of negentropic “new information.” For instance, in digital publishing, by transcoding writing, there is the potential, through the technical interruption of the relation between the writer and the “general realm of dialog,” to produce a communication which is far better able to convey contemporarily pertinent information than is conventional text alone.
Flusser set specific priorities for the development of the hypertext, including that it should avoid redundant information, that it should flow discursively, but also that it should permit disagreement. The “Flusser Hypertext” thus consciously elaborates the potential released in the digital transformation of a lecture. It is a prototype for a digital form of philosophical endeavor.
In 2014, in preparation for the Exhibition “BODENLOS: Vilém Flusser and the Arts”, Baruch Gottlieb directed the restoration efforts, with technical lead Philipp Tögel who was able to restore corrupted files and make an emulation which could be experienced by visitors of the exhibition. In 2020, thanks to some DAAD funding for the Flusser Centennial, this visionary project could be made available by the Flusser Club e.V. in a new emulation to the public at large.
See also Bernd Wingert, Flusser hören – lesen – studieren. Der "Flusser-Hypertext" – von der Nachgeschichte zur Vorgeschichte, Flusser Studies 24 - Archiving Flusser, December 2017
On March 2, 1989, Vilém Flusser gave a lecture at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis. At the time, the Institute was part of the former Research Centre Karlsruhe, located in Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, and today it is part of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology—KIT. The topic of the lecture was “Writing for Publishing” and fitted well into the research project under study at that time: Electronic Publishing. In a subsequent project on Electronic Books, we took this lecture as the basis of a hypertext offering users three modes of getting acquainted with Flusser’s ideas: Listening to his recorded speech, reading the transcript, and studying in detail his arguments by following the links into an extended system of explanations, ordered in three layers “beneath” the text. There is a publication (in German) that describes this hypertext and two other prototypes (Böhle et al. 1997). The author goes back to the old files and tries to unfold the obvious and hidden rational of this prototype. At the end, he dares to dream of a science fiction in which Vilém Flusser is a member of the research project, therefore exploring (and suffering) with colleagues, new writing and reading technologies. What kind of Flusserian philosophy would have emerged then?