1. Working for Coney
I’m delighted to say I’m now working part-time with interactive theatremakers Coney. I’m helping to produce and project manage an ambitious NESTA Digital R&D Fund for the Arts project provisionally entitled 'Better Than Life'.
The stated mission of the project is "to develop a set of tools to give audiences at home a new way to engage with live performance - offering engagement between the performance, an audience in the space and an audience online. "
I’m very excited about this project since it is dealing with questions about interactivity and agency in performance and storytelling that I’ve been grappling with in my own work since God-knows-when (Ok since 1997 at least...).
The partners that Coney are working with are great: Showcaster, is going to be building on their existing live-streaming platform for this production, and a talented team led by Marco Gillies at Goldsmiths College are also building cool stuff, as well as leading the research element.
Coney, by the way, have lots of fascinating projects on the go. Here, for example, is the first edition of the Network of Coney magazine which has loads of interesting articles that relate to a central question of "what it means to act":
2. Stuart Nolan
Goldsmiths, magic, interaction, storytelling... perhaps not surprisingly Stuart Nolan's name has cropped up several times this week. In a weird moment where the stars align, I bumped into someone in my local park who had worked recently with Stuart on a travelling Boxing Booth that toured the fairs and country shows of the North of England last year. Stuart was also exhibtining 'The Very Strange Thing'.
I'm also glad to note that his Creative Mornings talk at Goldsmiths a few months ago was recorded for posterity and is available on Youtube. It starts with a falling hen then covers playfighting, pendulums, keys and more:
I'm going to get the pleasure of actually meeting up with Stuart at the Bees In A Tin event in Birmingham, where I'll be doing a workshop about trees and jam, and Stuart will be showing his OuijaBird - "a fortune-telling bird that can measure your Ideomotor Quotient (ImQ), analyze your personality, and tell your future."
We're also going down the pub afterwards, so if you haven't yet got a ticket for this event, you really should.
3. University Challenge & media archive research
I’m a big fan of University Challenge. Every Monday night I post a few fatuous tweets whilst watching (and lose several followers each time).
Blimey there's a lot of water drinking going on in this one #universitychallenge— Tim Wright (@moongolfer) February 3, 2014
I also like to log the programme occasionally in terms of noting down questions answered correctly, subject of question, who incurred a -5 point penalty etc. I have a folder on Google Drive with a few spreadsheets, if you’re interested in what data I’m currently capturing.
This week I have spent a little bit of time trying to work out if this kind of datalogging of quiz shows might have any point to it. (I have not come to any firm conclusions about that – not ones I’m prepared to share with you yet anyway.)
I have discovered that it is possible to go back and watch every single episode of UC since 2007 online! Or rather, you can do this if you are part of an educational establishment that is registered to BoB. BoB (Box of Broadcasts) is an amazing resource. If you are part of a media school and are looking for archive material to use in lectures, workshops, seminars or as part of research, you should definitely check this out:
Logging & tagging a huge chunk of programmes like half a dozen series of University Challenge is obviously not something I'd want to do on my own. So it's interesting to note how the World Service is using crowdsourcing to tag its archive of radio programmes. It makes me think that if 100 or so people offered to tag up and log one show each, the whole job of capturing UC data could be done quite quickly. If you're interested in helping me with this idea, let me know.
If you want some idea of what can be done with a decently organised sound archive, by the way, check out this rather glorious map of the sounds of London's waterways. Without good geotagging, labelling and dating, making this map would be an enormous labour of love. It basically is anyway.
4. Kate Pullinger & Story APIs
For quite some time now it's been obvious to anyone who knows her work that Kate Pullinger is a pioneer in the world of digital writing. She has carried out all kinds of experiments over the years, but with her new novel she is surpassing herself. Check out her article entitled 'Landing Gear Online' on The Writing Platform.
Not only is Landing Gear going to be a novel but - get this - it also has an API for sections of it that has already been used to create "a tweetbot that offers and responds to interaction around the character Yacub’s dialogue."
Kate goes on: "We plan to take the API to other hackdays in order to see what developers do with it; I’d be keen to see a public interface developed for it that will allow readers to interact directly with the text of the novel, writing their own responses and ideas into it..." Not only that, but Kate is also offering the digital assets that were created for ‘Flight Paths’ for remix and re-engineering at yet another publishing hackfest.
This is such a leap beyond what most people think of when they consider the digital book or forms of interactive storytelling. And yet, it is not some esoteric academic exercise. Hacking stories, using text as code, remixing media assets are all going to be part of mainstream media in the future. If you don't believe me, check out this post by Dan Hon about what Marvel is planning with its comic storyworlds and characters.
5. The New Media Writing Prize
It's extremely heartening to see this prize in its 4th year, and now getting hundered of entries from all over the world. For those in traditional broadcasting and publishing who think this kind of writing is still a niche or an 'academic' activity, think again. There's a thriving community here that has an extensive and compelling history and culture. And there's a lot of real talent out there that deserves to be recognised by a wider audience and - yes - *prized*.
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