Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly

1000 Journals Written By Us

1000 Journals is the antithesis of mass-market publishing. In 2000 Someguy (that’s his name) designed a series of beautiful covers to glue onto blank journal books. He sent these empty but tempting books out into the world for others to fill up with their own original and personal art, hoping a few books would make their way back to him. You could sign up on his website to be the next person to receive a book, and in that way the book’s travels could be monitored. Sort of.

Someguy also asked his designer friends and design heroes to create covers for blank journals and soon he sent out a total of 1000 stunning hand-crafted journals into the wilds (at his own expense). Only one book has returned completed, even though online you can follow the path of many others on their way. 

1000J Book Main

I first wrote about the 1000 Journals Project in 2002 in the Whole Earth Review. Because of that article I was invited to write the forward for an anthology which collected some hundreds of pages reproduced from dozens of the 1000 journals whose whereabouts were known. This energetic  tome, “1000 Journals Project”, was recently published by Chronicle Books, and is almost a work of art itself, with occasional pages sewn with stitches, or glued-in artwork.

In the intro to this anthology celebrating the 1000 journals I said in part:

Some folks worry that the digitization of our daily lives will make us disembodied ghosts. They fear that we’ll become fat lumps of tissue plugged into some giant machine and that our souls and minds will migrate to cyberspace, where our egos will drift as mere whiffs of electrons. We’ll work, play, shop and live online, and the real world – the physical world and all its pleasures – will rot.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact technology is steadily moving us toward a future in which the intangible bits of digital information are more and more embedded into our very physical world, and the physical world pervaded with ubiquitous digital bits. The world of atoms (of bodies) and the world of bits (minds) are converging. Ahead: every object made will have a tiny bit of mind in it, and our intellectual lives will intersect with almost everything made.

A prime example of this confluence of mind and body is Someguy’s  1000 Journals project.

The 1000 Journals project takes three vast networks and weaves them together. It begins with the oldest peer-to-peer network we have – face to face exchanges, and then adds the second oldest network — the postal system — which is cheap, truly global, and able to move tangible, very physical artifacts like books to anywhere in the world. Someguy leaves blank journals in random places, or else mails them to strangers, with the instructions to create personal pages inside them and pass them on to yet other strangers. That’s a great recipe for wonderful serendipity. But on top on these two robust networks of one thousand moving journals, Someguy added the new global network of the web, which is able to track, schedule, and enliven the digital ghosts of the traveling books.

These hand-crafted works of art now have both a body and mind. They are deeply rooted in the sensual materials used to create them: paper, ink, found objects. But they also live the life of a mind as they are queued, monitored, and set loose into the collective conscious.

In a very real way, these books are written and drawn by “us” – no individual, but rather the hive mind. No individual artist chooses who works on a book; rather the choice emerges out of the crowd. But unlike previous collective art projects, with this new web network, we can watch the hive mind at work. We can watch the collective think out loud and assemble the sequence within a book and among books. We can watch it remember and watch it forget, as it abandons thoughts and books and then later recalls them.

I was later filmed for the 1000 Journal documentary. I don’ t know if I made the cut because I have not seen it yet, and it is not on DVD. But the doc will be shown at the San Francisco Film Festival this week. Here is a trailer for the documentary, which is billed like this:

1000 blank journals are passed from hand to hand throughout the world, collecting stories, pictures, collages — slices of the lives they touch. One came back, filled. Where are the other 999? 1000 Journals investigates their worldwide journeys, and chronicles the self-governed collaboration of thousands of random people who added to this global “message in a bottle.

Because of the demand to participate in this intensely physical network, and the rarity of actually getting near one of the original books, Someguy started 1001 Journals, which is a web mechanism that allows anyone to start a crowd-sourced journal or find one to join.  There are now an additional 1300 journals traveling the world looking for passionate and creative contributions.


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