While questionable ethics and serious moral lapses continue to persist on both sides of the Hudson—see the ongoing “Sleepergate” scandal documented on the Hudson Sunshine blog, for example—we’re going to defer our own up-close look at some scandalous behavior for just a bit longer. Instead, let’s have a look at Utopia.
I’m referring to the 1516 classic published by Sir Thomas More, AKA “A Man for All Seasons” and familiar to college students everywhere. More actually coined the word “utopia” and the idealized system and society he imagined in his famous book remain as elusive as ever today. The book itself, though, has never been more accessible: now we have Open Utopia on the web, wherein the book becomes a meeting place and people can gather and exchange comments (ideally, these would be about the book and the idea of utopia, rather than the current size of the Powerball lottery).
Open Utopia is the brainchild of NYU associate professor Stephen Duncombe. Faced with a year’s sabbatical, he had planned to write a book but decided to pursue something different instead. “We live in a world where people can talk back to their books,” Duncombe says. Open Utopia embodies this concept; an article detailing the genesis and development of the project is available here.
I haven’t delved deeply into the project yet, but I think the concept of book as gathering place is intriguing (though I’m not sure whether it ultimately works; I suppose that would depend on both the book and its technological implementation). If you want to explore Open Utopia, the developers recommend Chrome or Safari (though I had no issues in the introductory pages using Firefox). The idea of utopia, of course, is always worth exploring. Some may feel Thomas More is not the most reliable guide, however—see the dark, corrective portrait of More in Hilary Mantel’s gripping historical novel Wolf Hall, for example.
Now there’s a book that doesn’t require a meeting place. You’ll find it totally absorbing all on its own, regardless of whether you’re reading pages or bits.