My first encounter as part of this research was with Ruth Sapsed in early July in Cambridge to chat about her work with the eBooks. Ruth is the director of Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination (CCI). She was trained as a psychologist and researcher. According to the CCI website, their approach is to “place the people we work with at the centre, in the role of researchers and experimenters. Artists and creative practitioners work alongside participants as facilitators – allowing them freedom in the form of materials, spaces and time.”
CCI uses the eBook in all sorts of ways with all sorts of people. You can find a number of examples of their designs as part of their Recent Publications on their website. The following is a brief outline of some of the work she is currently doing with the eBook.
Sample project: Trail of Imagination and Curiosity
One example of how CCI has used the eBooks is the project titled Trail of Imagination and Curiosity that took in the spring of 2009 in Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge.
CCI was commissioned by the Cambridge Folk Museum to explore how the people living and working around the Mill Road Cemetery, particularly the families of children attending St Matthew’s Primary School, Brunswick Nursery and ACE Nursery, could find ways to engage with the space in a more meaningful way.
The project was initially developed using the metaphor of a “trail”. The eBook was redesigned to function as a sort of scrapbook of ideas to help visitors to play in the cemetery and to provide potential visitors with traces of how others had used the site. Two creative facilitators who worked with CCI, Deb Wilenski and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs, organised a series of workshops in the Cemetery with different family groups linked to the local organisations. CCI brought the families in and played with them, listened to their stories about the area and tried to notice how they engaged with the space. This part of the project was reflected in a design by Susanne Jasilek along the top of the eBook available for download. The other half of the eBook was designed so that families who would also like to use the eBook as a part of their visit to the cemetery and trace their own play and discoveries. The key objective of the project as defined by Ruth was to provide the families with a way to begin to find their own way through the cemetery.
For Ruth, this project was a great example of how to gather and publish information as part of CCI’s activities while avoiding dull and formulaic resources such as A4 worksheets. The eBooks could easily be made available as a free, downloadable resource for the potential visitors.
One thing that Ruth would have liked to do with this project, had there been more resources available, was to find a way for families who use the eBooks to exchange their ideas and work with the eBooks over the website, to maintain a dialogue between the families.
Why the eBook?
Ruth’s first encounter with the eBooks was on the Diffusion website where she had a look at a number of Proboscis’ projects. Although she had tinkered around with the material online, she felt the only way she could determine whether or not these tools would be useful as part of her work was to attend one of the free Pitch-up-and-Publish sessions in Proboscis’ studio in London in the autumn of 2009. Although she didn’t know most of the people attending, she was able to get fairly familiar with the eBooks thanks to the presentations there.
Ruth was initially interested in finding new ways of documenting ideas and events within CCI’s workshops so as to make them visible to the participants in the workshops so that they could see the value in what they had done even after the workshop was over:
“If what you value is the process, how do you make that visible? [...] It’s a way of trying to make learning visible and special: through our eyes, but using their voices and as much as possible”
CCI now uses the eBooks and StoryCubes as a way to record what goes on in every session they run. They then offer this documentation back to the participants after the session. Ruth attributes part of CCI’s success in using the eBook as part of their workshops it being an open-ended and low-tech tool rather than something more “threatening”. She explains:
“It’s not big. You know, you can write two or three things, or some people wrote essays. Some people wrote just one word. It feels that you can come at it any way that you want to [...] It had a scope for people to respond to it in a way that they liked.”
Challenges, recommendations and suggestions
One of the resources that Ruth feels makes the eBooks particularly easy to use are the videos available online such as “How to make: Book Portrait Diffusion eBook”. CCI now provides a link to this video whenever they post one of their eBooks. This is a great resource for people who are unfamiliar with how to make the eBooks from scratch. Ruth also recommends using a bone folder for making the books.
After examining my own eBook, the eBookObserver, she cautioned me against using the sketchbook format if I was planning to use it without a flat surface to write on because in such cases, you rarely end-up using both sides of the pages.
Some of the artists she has worked with have also wondered whether it would be possible to generate an online eBook template that would enable the person printing out the eBook to choose the order of the pages before printing.