Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The ministry of reshelving

I found this one on oishii. As its home page says, oishii is based on, the social bookmarking service. It polls the front page every 5 minutes, and returns all sites bookmarked by at least 30 people. Click the oishii link above to see how it works. I just checked for other sources that refer to the "the ministry of reshelving" and found an article on the Boston Globe on the project. You can read it for background information on what follows. When you've done reading the following post, go over to flickr where there is a ministry-of-reshelving group with discussion as well as photos. If you scroll down below the following post, you'll find one part of this discussion.

Here, in full, is the posting I found in oishii:
the ministry of reshelving

8/14/05 - Our uniform
Originally uploaded by Avant Game.

This week, we launched the Ministry of Reshelving project. My partners in crime as founding members of the ministry: George, Kiyash, and Monica.

This weekend we relocated 19 copies of George Orwell's 1984 in four different bookstores in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Berkeley. It was high stealth adventure.

You are invited to join our efforts.

How to Serve the Ministry of Reshelving

1. Select a local bookstore to carry out your reshelving activities.

2. Download and print "This book has been relocated by the Ministry of Reshelving" bookmarks and "All copies of 1984 have been relocated" notecards to take with you to the bookstore. Or make your own. We recommend bringing a notecard and 5-10 bookmarks to each store.

3. Go to the bookstore and locate its copies of George Orwell's 1984. Unless the Ministry of Reshelving has already visited this bookstore, it is probably currently incorrectly classified as "Fiction" or "Literature."

4. Discreetly move all copies of 1984 to a more suitable section, such as "Current Events", "Politics", "History", "True Crime", or "New Non-Fiction."

5. Insert a Ministry of Reshelving bookmark into each copy of any book you have moved. Leave a notecard in the empty space the books once occupied.

6. If you spot other incorrectly classified books, feel free to relocate them.

7. Please report all reshelving efforts to the Ministry. Email your store name, location, # of 1984 copies reshelved, and any other reshelving activities conducted, to reshelving @ Photos of your mission can be uploaded to Flickr, tagged as "reshelving", and submitted to the Ministry of Reshelving group.

Our goal is to relocate one thousand nine hundred and eighty-four copies, and to complete successful reshelving of 1984 in all 50 United States. Global contributions are welcome.

Note: this project is not a critique of bookstore culture, the state of the shelving industry, or even of pervasive government surveillance. It is merely an observation that 2 + 2 = 5, and 5 is no longer fiction.


Many thanks to everyone for their feedback on this project.

We at the Ministry of Reshelving support all efforts to properly classify fiction and nonfiction texts. So here are some alternative (or complementary) tactics.

*Ask to speak to a bookstore manager, perhaps a time when the bookstore is not busy. Introduce yourself as a representative of the Ministry and simply suggest the relocation. Do not relocate any books. Simply have a friendly conversation. Perhaps have a card referring the manager to the Ministry of Reshelving Flickr group.

*Mod the current Ministry bookmarks to SUGGEST relocation of the books. Insert these in all copies. Do not actually relocate the books.

*Stage a photo of the relocation, and then return the books to their original location. This might not be revolution, but it is a rehearsal for the revolution.

*Create a notecard to leave at the bookstore in the section you think 1984 should be properly shelved. The notecard could say "Sorry! There are no more copies of George Orwell's 1984 in the __________ section. Additional copies are located in the fiction and literature section."

*Before you conduct your 1984 reshelving, look around the store for a few books left out by other customers and put them back where they belong. Do a bit of 'traditional' reshelving on behalf of the employees. Then do your 1984 reshelving.

These mods are designed to address people's concerns with the impact of the project on customers and bookstore employees and owners. I'm 100% committed to making these kinds of experiments as sociable as possible, while still confronting the issues of: Where is it appropriate for the public to play, to intervene, to suggest alternatives, to tag, to reclassify, to be expressive? It is clear to me that many people do not feel that bookstores are a proper location for such play and intervention. I very much disagree, but I am learning much from their comments and reactions.

If you would like to understand the motivations of this project better, why not read a minor statement on avant gaming?

Final update: Comments have been suspended on this blog in accordance with Godwin's law. The Ministry of Reshelving, however, continues its work.

Here is a sample contribution from the ministry-of-reshelving group on Flickr:
Greeting from the Canadian Branch.

This afternoon during the lunchhour myself and another student went to our campus bookstore at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. We found and documented evidence of 1984 being improperly shelved in Fiction.

We reshelved 19 copies with bookmarks in Current Affairs and replaced the empty space with a notecard.

We were continually on the lookout for staff, and had to pretend we were customers on more than one occasion. We exited the premises without incident.

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