Here’s the scenario. You’re a writer that likes to sit in your room alone and create stories, but you know the world is changing. You keep hearing about the threat to traditional books, you notice more people with ipads, Kindles, reading on their phones. You decide to get with the program, publish your own work, maybe even (hushed whisper) buy your own Kindle. But you still think there is a whole world of possibilities out there that you have no idea about. So what do you do?
You go to the MIX Conference of course.
This three day event run by The Writing Platform and Bath Spa University was held this week (15th-17th July) at Corsham Court. There was a packed schedule of presentations and practical workshops that showcased the possibilities of combining the written word with digital technology, including app development, interactive and transmedia storytelling, social media, self-publishing… honestly, the list goes on. There was so much to see and do that I hardly know where to start, but I’ll try to give you a taster of some of the projects that stood out for me.
First up is Jillian Abbott who has published an iBook called Air Quality, about her father’s struggle to give up smoking when he was diagnosed with emphysema. Jill sought out digital experts to help her create a multi-media experience that weaves video and audio (music, spoken word and sound effects) into the story. An unexpected by-product has been interest from health educationalists as the book gives a visceral and personal account of the long term effects of smoking. A fascinating and important project. You can read an interview about the process here.
Emma Pooka comes second with her blog fiction, Bad Influences, a dystopian scenario where a flu epidemic has destroyed society. The only structure that has been saved is the internet (think about it, would you be able to live without YouTube?), and you can follow the experience of various characters by reading regular posts. As in real life this blog is interactive so you can create your own character and leave comments, or if you don’t want to go for the full immersive experience you can leave comments for Emma herself. Compelling and rather clever.
And last, but by no means least, I spent one coffee break talking to Dr Tom Abba about his artfully constructed book These Pages Fall Like Ash, composed with Duncan Speakman with additional input from Neil Gaiman and Nick Harkaway. The book is designed to work in conjunction with a digital text accessible on mobile phones, and was part of an event held in April 2013 in Bristol. Participants went out to experience ‘a semi-fictional portrait of our world embedded into the fabric of the city’. Unfortunately this picture from the project’s website doesn’t do justice to the ingenious beauty of the book itself. The original run is sold out but they are planning on bringing out a new version at the end of the year, and you can get on the mailing list at email@example.com. Believe me, it is an object worth having, and I’m hoping they repeat the event too so I can take part.
So, what do you do when the conference is over? You go and lie down in a darkened room for a day as your mind deals with information and possibility overload. Then you start writing in the second person for no apparent reason while you research and investigate, and then you wait for the ideas to settle and connect with your own work so that eventually, after many days, or many weeks, or many months, you will know which digital path you want to take yourself.
More on this next week, when I’ll tell you about the fascinating workshop on the final day where we created a five minute audio story inspired by just a candle and a compass…