THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Digital scholarship blog

41 posts categorized "Literature"

23 August 2018

BL Labs Symposium (2018): Book your place for Mon 12-Nov-2018

Add comment

The BL Labs team are pleased to announce that the sixth annual British Library Labs Symposium will be held on Monday 12 November 2018, from 9:30 - 17:30 in the British Library Knowledge Centre, St Pancras. The event is free, and you must book a ticket in advance. Last year's event was a sell out, so don't miss out!

The Symposium showcases innovative and inspiring projects which use the British Library’s digital content, providing a platform for development, networking and debate in the Digital Scholarship field as well as being a focus on the creative reuse of digital collections and data in the cultural heritage sector.

We are very proud to announce that this year's keynote will be delivered by Daniel Pett, Head of Digital and IT at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge.

Daniel Pett
Daniel Pett will be giving the keynote at this year's BL Labs Symposium. Photograph Copyright Chiara Bonacchi (University of Stirling).

  Dan read archaeology at UCL and Cambridge (but played too much rugby) and then worked in IT on the trading floor of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson. Until February this year, he was Digital Humanities lead at the British Museum, where he designed and implemented digital practises connecting humanities research, museum practice, and the creative industries. He is an advocate of open access, open source and reproducible research. He designed and built the award-winning Portable Antiquities Scheme database (which holds records of over 1.3 million objects) and enabled collaboration through projects working on linked and open data (LOD) with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (New York University) (ISAWNYU) and the American Numismatic Society. He has worked with crowdsourcing and crowdfunding (MicroPasts), and developed the British Museum's 3D capture reputation. He holds Honorary posts at UCL Institute of Archaeology and the Centre for Digital Humanities and publishes regularly in the fields of museum studies, archaeology and digital humanities.

Dan's keynote will reflect on his years of experience in assessing the value, impact and importance of experimenting with, re-imagining and re-mixing cultural heritage digital collections in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. Dan will follow in the footsteps of previous prestigious BL Labs keynote speakers: Josie Fraser (2017); Melissa Terras (2016); David De Roure and George Oates (2015); Tim Hitchcock (2014); and Bill Thompson and Andrew Prescott in 2013.

Stella Wisdom (Digital Curator for Contemporary British Collections at the British Library) will give an update on some exciting and innovative projects she and other colleagues have been working on within Digital Scholarship. Mia Ridge (Digital Curator for Western Heritage Collections at the British Library) will talk about a major and ambitious data science/digital humanities project 'Living with Machines' the British Library is about to embark upon, in collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute for data science and artificial intelligence.Throughout the day, there will be several announcements and presentations from nominated and winning projects for the BL Labs Awards 2018, which recognise work that have used the British Library’s digital content in four areas: Research, Artistic, Commercial, and Educational. The closing date for the BL Labs Awards is 11 October, 2018, so it's not too late to nominate someone/a team, or enter your own project! There will also be a chance to find out who has been nominated and recognised for the British Library Staff Award 2018 which showcases the work of an outstanding individual (or team) at the British Library who has worked creatively and originally with the British Library's digital collections and data (nominations close 12 October 2018).

Adam Farquhar (Head of Digital Scholarship at the British Library) will give an update about the future of BL Labs and report on a special event held in September 2018 for invited attendees from National, State, University and Public Libraries and Institutions around the world, where they were able to share best practices in building 'labs style environmentsfor their institutions' digital collections and data.

There will be a 'sneak peek' of an art exhibition in development entitled 'Imaginary Cities' by the visual artist and researcher Michael Takeo Magruder. His practice  draws upon working with information systems such as live and algorithmically generated data, 3D printing and virtual reality and combining modern / traditional techniques such as gold / silver gilding and etching. Michael's exhibition will build on the work he has been doing with BL Labs over the last few years using digitised 18th and 19th century urban maps bringing analog and digital outputs together. The exhibition will be staged in the British Library's entrance hall in April and May 2019 and will be free to visit.

Finally, we have an inspiring talk lined up to round the day off (more information about this will be announced soon), and - as is our tradition - the symposium will conclude with a reception at which delegates and staff can mingle and network over a drink and nibbles.

So book your place for the Symposium today and we look forward to seeing new faces and meeting old friends again!

For any further information, please contact labs@bl.uk

Posted by Mahendra Mahey and Eleanor Cooper (BL Labs Team)

13 August 2018

The Parts of a Playbill

Add comment

Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott is a PhD researcher at the University of Portsmouth studying the presentation of nineteenth-century magicians in biographies, literature, and the popular press. She is currently a research placement student on the British Library’s In the Spotlight project, cleaning and contextualising the crowdsourced playbills data. She can be found on Twitter at @beeashlell and you can help out with In the Spotlight at playbills.libcrowds.com.

In the Spotlight is a brilliant tool for spotting variations between playbills across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The site provides participants with access to thousands of digitised playbills, and the sheets of the playbills in the site’s collections often have lists of the cast, scenes, and any innovative ‘machinery’ involved in the production. Whilst the most famous actors obviously needed to be emphasised and drew more crowds (e.g., any playbills featuring Mr Kean tend to have his name in huge letters), from the playbills in In the Spotlight’s volumes that doesn’t always seem to be the case with playwrights. Sometimes they’re mentioned by name, but in many cases famous playwrights aren't named on the playbill. I’ve speculated previously that this is because these playwrights were so famous that perhaps audiences would hear by word of mouth or press that a new play was out by them, so it was assumed that there was no point in adding the name as audiences would already know?

What can you expect to see on a playbill?

The basics of a playbill are: the main title of the performance, a subtitle, often the current date, future or past dates of performances, the cast and characters, scenery, short or long summaries of the scenes to be acted, whether the performance is to benefit anyone, and where tickets can be bought from. There are definitely surprises though: the In the Spotlight team have also come across apologies from theatre managers for actors who were scheduled to perform not turning up, or performing drunk! The project forum has a thread for interesting things 'spotted on In the Spotlight', and we always welcome posts from others.

Crowds would often react negatively if the scheduled performers weren’t on stage. Gilli Bush-Bailey also notes in The Performing Century (2007) that crowds would be used to seeing the same minor actors reappear across several parts of the performance and playbills, stating that ‘playbills show that only the lesser actors and actresses in the company appear in both the main piece and the following farce or afterpiece’ (p. 185), with bigger names at theatres royal committing only to either a tragic or comic performance.

From our late 18th century playbills on the site, users can see quite a standard format in structure and font.

Vdc_100022589157.0x000013
In this 1797 playbill from the Margate volume, the font is uniform, with variations in size to emphasise names and performance titles.

How did playbills change over time?

In the 19th century, all kinds of new and exciting fonts are introduced, as well as more experimentation in the structuring of playbills. The type of performance also influences the layout of the playbill, for instance, a circus playbill be often be divided into a grid-like structure to describe each act and feature illustrations, and early magician playbills often change orientation half-way down the playbill to give more space to describe their tricks and stage.

Vdc_100022589063.0x00001f
1834 Birmingham playbill

This 1834 Birmingham playbill is much lengthier than the previous example, showing a variety of fonts and featuring more densely packed text. Although this may look more like an information overload, the mix of fonts and variations in size still make the main points of the playbill eye-catching to passersby. 

James Gregory’s ‘Parody Playbills’ article, stimulated by the In the Spotlight project, contains a lot of great examples and further insights into the deeper meaning of playbills and their structure.

Works Cited

Davies, T. C. and P. Holland. (2007). The Performing Century: Nineteenth-Century Theatre History. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gregory, J. (2018) ‘Parody Playbills: The Politics of the Playbill in Britain in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’ in eBLJ.

16 July 2018

Crowdsourcing comedy: date and genre results from In the Spotlight

Add comment

Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott is a PhD researcher at the University of Portsmouth studying the presentation of nineteenth-century magicians in biographies, literature, and the popular press. She is currently a research placement student on the British Library’s In the Spotlight project, cleaning and contextualising the crowdsourced playbills data. She can be found on Twitter at @beeashlell and you can join the In the Spotlight project at playbills.libcrowds.com.

In this blog post I discuss the data created so far by In the Spotlight volunteers via crowdsourcing – which has already thrown out quite a few surprises along the way! All of the data which I discuss was cleaned using Open Refine, with some manual intervention by me to group categories such as genre. My first post below highlights the most notable results to come out of the date and genre tasks so far, and a second post will present similar findings for play titles and playwrights.

Dates

I started off by analysing the dates generated by the projects as, to be honest, it seemed easiest! One of the problems we’ve encountered with the date tasks, however, is that a number of the playbills do not show a full date.  This is notable in itself but unsurprising – why would a playbill in the eighteenth or nineteenth century need a full date when they weren’t expected to last two hundred years into the future? With that in mind, this is by no means an exhaustive data set.

After creating a simple graph of the most popular dates, it became clear that we had a huge spike in the number of performances in 1825. Was something relevant to theatre history happening during this year, or were the sources of the playbill collections just unusually pro-active in 1825 after taking some time off? Was the paper stock quality better, so more playbills have lasted? The outside influence of the original collector or owner of these playbills is also something to consider, for instance, maybe he was more interested in one type of performance than others, had more time to collect playbills in certain years or in certain places, and so on. A final potential factor is that this data also only comes from the volumes added to the site projects so far, and so isn’t indicative of the Library’s playbills as a whole.

Aside from source or collector influence, some other possible explanations do present themselves. Britain in general was growing exponentially, with London in particular becoming one of the biggest cities in the world, and this era also saw the birth of railways and the extravagant influence of figures such as George IV. As this is coming off the back of what seems to be a very slow year in 1824, however, perhaps it is best just to chalk this up to the activity of the collectors. We also have another noticeable spike in 1829, but by no means as dramatic as that of 1825. I’ve spent a bit of time comparing the number of performances seen in the volumes with other online performance date tools, such as UMass's Adelphi calendar and Godwin’s Diary to compare numbers, but would love to hear any further insights into this!

alt="Graph of most popular dates"
A graph showing the most popular performance dates

Genre

The main issue I faced in working with the genre data was the wide variety of descriptors used on the playbills themselves. For instance, I encountered burlesque, burletta and burlesque burletta – which of the first two categories would the last one go under? When I went back to the playbills themselves, it was also clear that many of the ‘genres’ generated were more like comments from theatre managers or just descriptions e.g. ‘an amusing sketch’. With this in mind, genre was the dataset which I ‘interfered’ with the most from a cleaning point of view.

Some of the calls I made were to group anything cited as ‘dramatic ___’ with drama more widely, unless it had a notable second qualifier, such as pantomime, Romance or sketch. I also grouped anything mentioning ‘historical’ together, as from a research point of view this is probably the most prominent aspect, grouped harlequinades with pantomimes (although I know this might be controversial!) and grouped anything which involved a large organisation, such as military, Masonic or national performances, under ‘organisational’. Some were difficult to separate – I did wonder about grouping variety and vaudeville together, but as there were so few of each it seemed better to leave them be.

With these qualifications in mind, by far the most popular genre in the collections was farce, which I kept distinct from comedy, clocking up 537 performances from the projects. This was closely followed by comedy more generally with 527 performances, with the drama (197), melodrama (150) and tragedy (135) trailing afterwards. Once again, it could purely be that the original collectors of these volumes had more of a taste for comedy than drama, but there is such a wide gap in popularity from the volumes so far that it seems fair to conclude that the regional theatre-going public of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries preferred to be cheered rather than saddened by their entertainment.

alt="Graph of the most popular genres"
A graph showing the most popular genres in records transcribed to date

You can contribute to this research

The more contributions we receive, the more accurate the titles, genre and dates results will be, so whether you’re looking out for your local theatre or interested in the more unusual performances which crop up, get involved with the project today at playbills.libcrowds.com. In the Spotlight is well on the way to hitting 100,000 contributions – make sure that you’re one of them!

13 July 2018

Get Involved in the Gothic Novel Jam

Add comment

On the previous Friday the 13th in April, I blogged about the Gaming the Gothic conference, at the University of Sheffield and also shared news that the British Library’s Digital Scholarship team is collaborating on a Gothic Novel Jam with online reading group Read Watch Play during July. Well we are now almost two weeks into the jam and it is great to see people working on their entries by following #GothNovJam and checking the itch.io submission feed.

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-07-13/c3723787-b3d1-4b29-a7f3-2d6a4921def8.png
tweet by @CinereusDarrow

If you would like to make an entry for the jam, you still have 19 days left to create something amazing! As the deadline for uploading submissions to the site is the end of 31st July 2018.

As a reminder, it’s an online creative challenge with a gothic novel theme and it’s open to anyone around the world to participate in. Participants are encouraged to create a whole variety of works on their own or as part of a team. Even though the theme is the gothic novel, you don’t have to limit yourselves to a written submission. Writers, musicians, game makers, artists, crafters, makers of all ages and abilities have signed up from around the world and we are anticipating contributions in all of these areas. Furthermore, submissions don’t have to be limited to these forms. Let your imagination go wild. If you want to bake a cake that looks like a Hound of the Baskerville – go for it! Or you want to make an origami Frankenstein – go for it! Or maybe even a knitted map of Transylvania – go for it! Contribute in whatever way you want to. All we ask is that you have something that you can upload to the official host page at itch.io. Digital works can be uploaded and for physical objects, such as a cake, you could take a photo or video and upload this to the site instead. You’ll retain the copyright of anything you upload. If you haven’t signed up yet, don’t worry you can sign up until the last day.

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-07-13/73f53336-f1db-417d-8e50-f776104cb6ca.png
Tweet by @HazelRaah about an entry made with twine

As we mentioned, the main theme is the gothic novel, but there is also a sub-theme “The monster within”, which was selected from a shortlist of themes suggested and voted on by the jam participants.

We would love participants to use images from the British Library Flickr account as inspiration for submissions. They’re freely available for anyone to use and the following albums may be particularly inspiring:

Ghosts and Ghoulish scenes

Architecture

Castles

Children's Book illustrations

However, don't feel limited to using just those images, the full list of albums can be found here. There are also the Off the Map Gothic Collections of images on Wikimedia Commons and sounds on SoundCloud, which you are free to use. If you want to learn more about the gothic genre and it's authors, check out this hugely informative section of the Discovering Literature website.

If all this talk of jams has whetted your appetite for writing interactive fiction, then you may be interested in attending the Infinite Journeys: Interactive Fiction Summer School booking details are here.  It runs for five days, beginning Monday 23 July and ending on Friday 27 July. 

Also later in the year, on 10-11 November, we are delighted to be hosting the popular Narrative Games Convention AdventureX for International Games Week in Libraries. They currently have a call, which invites people to apply to speak, demo their narrative games, or volunteer. So if you have made an epic #GothNovJam narrative game, then do consider applying to showcase it at AdventureX. Good luck!

This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom (@miss_wisdom) and Gary Green (@ggnewed) from Surrey Libraries.

01 June 2018

Interactive Fiction Summer School and Settle Stories

Add comment

As a PhD student, I’m privileged to spend three years of my life investigating a subject I find fascinating, but one of the absolute highlights of the first year of my study was the week I spent attending the Interactive Fiction Summer School at the British Library last July. My research explores how mobile phones are changing storytelling, so interactive fiction was a subject I was keen to find out more about – and how better to do so than by learning from the experts how to write my own?

It was an excellent course, as we learned not only about the mechanics of writing stories where the reader plays a part in deciding what happens – how to make your reader’s choices both engaging and manageable, for instance – but also about storytelling more generally: how to generate momentum and make your ending both surprising and inevitable. Over the course of the week, we each wrote our own interactive stories, drawing on what we learned from our tutors and getting to grips with the mechanics of the form: my own story ended up unexpectedly drawing upon my experiences teaching in Japan.

One of the week’s many highpoints was a session on the use of conflict in interactive fiction, run by Rob Sherman, who shared a thought-provoking work he’d created for the housing and homelessness charity Shelter, about a woman struggling to keep her family safe and happy in a world of rising costs, lowering wages, and disappearing support. This year, Rob is leading the British Library's summer school, curating sessions from a range of experts including the poet and interactive writer Abigail Parry (last year’s excellent course leader), Gavin Inglis, and Hannah Powell-Smith.

The summer school had other benefits too: including spending time with fascinating and creative people interested in the storytelling possibilities of interactive fiction, sharing ideas, and collaborating: I remember one particularly memorable session working with two of my fellow students on a story about a performance artist who decides to enact that old myth about frogs in boiling water herself, and ends up in boiled to death in an underground swimming pool as part of an installation about the damage we’re doing to the environment.

The summer school attracted a wide range of people, from young would-be writers, to academics and storytelling professionals. One of my fellow students was Sita Brand, director of Settle Stories, whose annual festival of storytelling takes place in the picturesque Yorkshire market town of Settle. Sita invited me to speak at this year’s Festival, and so I found myself this April talking to an audience about my research into how mobile phones are influencing storytelling and being interviewed by Dave Driver for Dry Stone Radio. (You can hear the interview here – from 1:34 on.)

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-06-01/645a4fba-905f-48c7-8d65-f1513df86a52.png
Telephone box at Settle Stories, where attendees pick up the phone handset and dial for a story

If I've whetted your appetite and you are interested in attending this summer's Interactive Fiction Summer School at the British Library, which is on the theme of Infinite Journeys, booking details are here.  It runs for five days, beginning Monday 23 July and ending on Friday 27 July. Also, if you are interested in my research on fiction being written for smartphones, then I'm giving a Feed the Mind talk on Mobile Stories: New Kinds of Fiction? on Monday 11 June, 12:30-13:30, booking details here.

This a guest post is by Alastair Horne, you can follow him on twitter as @pressfuturist, and also on Instagram.

13 April 2018

Gaming the Gothic on Friday the 13th

Add comment

“The bats have left the bell tower, the victims have been bled”  - Happy Friday the 13th to those of you with gothic sensibilities! I’ve been enjoying singing along to the wonderful CHVRCHES cover of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” originally by Bauhaus, while preparing for the Gaming the Gothic conference, which takes place at the University of Sheffield today, and where @GamingTheGothic have promised both cake and badges!

I am giving a paper on the Off the Map videogame design competition, which accompanied the British Library’s exhibition ‘Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination’, which in 2014 celebrated 250 years of gothic literature and culture, starting from the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto.

The Off The Map competition challenged higher education students based in the UK to create videogames inspired by the British Library’s collections and in 2014 three students from University of South Wales created a winning underwater game where the player rebuilds Fonthill Abbey, the once-stunning Gothic revival country house in Wiltshire home to author William Beckford, which was demolished in 1846 after the collapse of its spectacular 300-foot tower twenty years earlier.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/98739f1160a9458db215cec49fb033ee/2018-04-13/dc3b621871af410592efdfd3652390af.png
Image from 2014 Off the Map winning game Nix

 

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/98739f1160a9458db215cec49fb033ee/2018-04-13/ce6820f7a60b4cdd9bfe2bbaa5ef57a6.png
Image taken from "Delineations of Fonthill and its Abbey", by John Rutter; published by the author, 1823 (BL 191.e.6-81)

The winning team used images, maps of the estate and sounds held in the British Library’s collections to create Nix; a game for the first generation Oculus Rift, a revolutionary virtual reality headset for 3D gaming. Tim Pye, curator of the British Library’s exhibition Terror and Wonder, said this about their entry:

“What is so impressive about the Nix game is the way in which it takes the stunning architecture of the Abbey, combines it with elements from its troubled history and infuses it all with a very ghostly air. The game succeeds in transforming William Beckford’s stupendously Gothic building into a magical, mysterious place reminiscent of the best Gothic novels.”

Keeping the gothic flames burning in 2018 and to mark the 200th year anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, the British Library’s Digital Scholarship team is pleased to be collaborating on Gothic Novel Jam with Read Watch Play; an online reading group that has monthly themes. Last year we partnered on Odyssey Jam and it was inspiring to see the end results, which I blogged about here.

To get involved in Gothic Novel Jam participants need to make something creative inspired by the gothic novel genre. Then by the 31st July upload or share it on the itch.io Gothic Novel Jam site. Entries can include stories, poetry, art, games, music, films, pictures, soundscapes, or any other type of digital media response.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/98739f1160a9458db215cec49fb033ee/2018-04-13/1d2870c4f0cb46f4917c6dd8b4393191.png
Gothic Novel Jam, #GothNovJam, promotional postcard

As part of the jam we want participants to use images from the British Library Flickr account as inspiration for submissions. They’re freely available for anyone to use and the following albums may be particularly inspiring:

However, don't feel limited to using just those images, the full list of albums can be found here. There are also the Off the Map Gothic Collections of images on Wikimedia Commons and sounds on SoundCloud, which you are free to use. If you want to learn more about the gothic genre and it's authors, check out this hugely informative section of the Discovering Literature website.

Although the gothic novel is the main jam theme, we’ll also be announcing a sub-theme on the 1st July, so please follow the #GothNovJam hashtag on social media for more news and also to see what others are creating for the jam. Good luck and have fun!

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/98739f1160a9458db215cec49fb033ee/2018-04-13/744d401b775b4859a6bbc731544c70a9.png
Button badges made for the Gaming the Gothic conference, really hope I get a #CakeAndDeath one!

This post is by resident goth, Digital Curator Stella Wisdom, on twitter as @miss_wisdom.

12 April 2018

The 2018 BL Labs Awards: enter before midnight Thursday 11th October!

Add comment

With six months to go before the submission deadline, we would like to announce the 2018 British Library Labs Awards!

The BL Labs Awards are a way of formally recognising outstanding and innovative work that has been created using the British Library’s digital collections and data.

Have you been working on a project that uses digitised material from the British Library's collections? If so, we'd like to encourage you to enter that project for an award in one of our categories.

This year, BL Labs is awarding prizes for a winner and a runner up in four key areas:

  • Research - A project or activity which shows the development of new knowledge, research methods, or tools.
  • Commercial - An activity that delivers or develops commercial value in the context of new products, tools, or services that build on, incorporate, or enhance the Library's digital content.
  • Artistic - An artistic or creative endeavour which inspires, stimulates, amazes and provokes.
  • Teaching / Learning - Quality learning experiences created for learners of any age and ability that use the Library's digital content.

BLAwards2018
BL Labs Awards 2018 Winners (Top-Left- Research Award Winner – A large-scale comparison of world music corpora with computational tools , Top-Right (Commercial Award Winner – Movable Type: The Card Game), Bottom-Left(Artistic Award Winner – Imaginary Cities) and Bottom-Right (Teaching / Learning Award Winner – Vittoria’s World of Stories)

There is also a Staff award which recognises a project completed by a staff member or team, with the winner and runner up being announced at the Symposium along with the other award winners.

The closing date for entering your work for the 2018 round of BL Labs Awards is midnight BST on Thursday 11th October (2018). Please submit your entry and/or help us spread the word to all interested and relevant parties over the next few months. This will ensure we have another year of fantastic digital-based projects highlighted by the Awards!

Read more about the Awards (FAQs, Terms & Conditions etc), practice your application with this text version, and then submit your entry online!

The entries will be shortlisted after the submission deadline (11/10/2018) has passed, and selected shortlisted entrants will be notified via email by midnight BST on Friday 26th October 2018. 

A prize of £500 will be awarded to the winner and £100 to the runner up in each of the Awards categories at the BL Labs Symposium on 12th November 2018 at the British Library, St Pancras, London.

The talent of the BL Labs Awards winners and runners up from the last three years has resulted in a remarkable and varied collection of innovative projects. You can read about some of last year's Awards winners and runners up in our other blogs, links below:

BLAwards2018-Staff
British Library Labs Staff Award Winner – Two Centuries of Indian Print

To act as a source of inspiration for future awards entrants, all entries submitted for awards in previous years can be browsed in our online Awards archive.

For any further information about BL Labs or our Awards, please contact us at labs@bl.uk.

11 April 2018

Ambient Literature Festival

Add comment

As the final months of the Ambient Literature project approach, the research team are convening a series of final events (more on which below), but are also spending time drawing out conclusions and reflections regarding the last two years of work. Below is a guest post discussing this by Tom Abba from the Ambient Literature project and the University of the West of England, you can  follow him on twitter as @tomabba:   

When we began in May 2016, we were upfront about the challenges of the work we were going to make and address. Here’s what we said at the launch event at Hachette’s (then shiny new) headquarters in Blackfriars:

Here’s an admission at the start of a research programme:

We don’t know what Ambient Literature is.

We’ve started to map the territory, to define by identifying borders and by testing the edges. It’s important to note though, that we don’t want to reduce the idea to something tight and defined, rather our intention is to open it up, so show by doing, making and thinking. We do know that Ambient Literature asks for writing to be specific, to be for this form. That there are rules, grammars of making and thinking about readers and texts in new ways.

Twenty three months later, I think we know what this is, and we’ve made progress toward a set of rules and grammars for making work in this form. Each of our three commissions demonstrates how Ambient Literature might work, and each does so in a completely different way. Duncan Speakman’s It Must Have Been Dark By Then, James Attlee’s The Cartographer’s Confession and Kate Pullinger’s Breathe (made with Editions at Play) ask something of their audience that is particular to the decisions each writer made, how those were translated into a technologically mediated form, and the goals at the heart of each of those works. In different ways, for different reasons, we’re very proud of each of them.

Ambient lit

Ambient Literature has been an extended conversation about storytelling, situation, audience, presence and much much more. We opened that conversation up last year at our half-way Symposium, and want to take it much further now. We want to show, and to talk to you all, and celebrate everything that’s been part of this journey. If you’re interested in being part of that conversation and celebration, then our Showcase Festival takes place on 23rd April at the British Library Conference Centre. We’ll be sharing our secrets and discoveries, and letting you look behind the scenes at how each of our projects were created. The event will feature workshops with Duncan Speakman and Kate Pullinger and talks, as well as a guided tour through the London of The Cartographer’s Confession with its author James Attlee and producer Emma Whittaker. We’re aiming the event at publishing industry professionals, students and practitioners, as well as anyone interested in the future of reading and writing. We can promise at the very least you’ll come away knowing something new about digital storytelling. If you would like to attend please register here and book places on to the workshops.

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2018-04-11/b7a254e5-66bb-4ac6-9f98-6313ed72069d.png
Schedule for Ambient Literature Festival

We’re also taking the whole project to the Hay Festival in May. We’re running workshops, hosting a panel discussion (with guests including Dan Franklin and Joanna Walsh) and are making a new piece of work - Words We Never Wrote - specially for Hay. It premieres at the Festival and explores the meaning of writing, language and storytelling. We’re incredibly proud of this piece - it asks questions about linearity and form, art and suggestion that we’ve been aching to address for years. We’re delighted to be at Hay and, if you want to join us there, we can promise you a little bit of magic when you visit.