XPPL is a space for potential pirate librarianship. It is both an experiment and a working prototype for a distributed
network catalogue and library that you can run and install on several machines and share/synchronise with
the same bibliographical database. It starts at XPUB, but can go anywhere we want it to.
Initially developed as a in-house tool for the XPUB course, XPPL is a project aimed at people who are studying
within and outside formal education, or as we like to call them: knowledge comrades. XPPL provides a web interface
and hosts a curated catalogue of books and articles. Its distributed architecture is open to instances of
uploading and downloading, and allows for the collective editing of its content. In XPPL, librarians can add, and
modify small collections of books that are connected by threads of thought, or follow a certain thematic or study
path. We call these selections ‘stacks’. Rather than a bookshelf in a library, where books are lined up and often
forgotten, the stacks on your table/nightstand/bathroom floor consist of books prone to be opened and reopened
at any time. The stacks in XPPL are visible for others in the network to browse, annotate, update or shuffle.
Next to the stacks, XPPL exists as a distributed bibliographical database upon which various modes of reading
and writing interfaces can be created. In its current version, the XPPL search interface allows for serendipity,
while playful bots point to the invisible labour of librarianship and gaps in the collection are made visible, turning
dormancy into potential. Furthermore, collective annotations turn the digital library into a social space; and visualizations
of the collection in 3D forms allow users to sense the materiality of their books.
The XPPL is also a project of urgency. Today, the gradual loss of public libraries, the rise of corporate academia,
and the systemic use of digital rights management, make access to knowledge increasingly difficult. As a result,
and despite significant efforts from free culture supporters and open access initiatives, media piracy has became
an unspoken practice that cannot be decoupled from the acts of researching, reading and studying. However, this
practice is often fragmented, and splintered by way of legal and economic barriers. We recommend books in person,
jot down reading lists on paper, then send unsteady links via email or download already known items from
the haystack of existing repositories.
Most importantly, under these circumstances, such practice is reduced to the act of file sharing, and fails to highlight
the discursive nature of these exchanges, their ability to form new resources, to nurture collective forms of
learning and an active research culture. In response, XPPL is a platform and network that offers another way to
think about, aggregate and intervene in these processes.