Pop-up eBook update..

I’m only at Proboscis one day a week and what with blog posts and organising the Pitch Up & Publish on Augmented Reading my own eBook-and-Story-Cube-as-object experiments have taken a bit of a back seat. This week though I found time to work on my pop-up eBook and have now completed the two eBooks that contain the pop-up bases and the pop-up figures.

All of the pop-ups I’m using are downloads from Robert Sabuda’s website. To put them into the eBook I had to cut all of the pop-up base images in half because they will span two eBook pages. These split images then had to be aligned vertically and horizontally so that they were at the correct spacing for the pop-up figures. This is the point I’ve now reached.

The cut-out butterfly figure ready to be attached to the butterfly page in the pop-up base eBook

The idea is that you will download both eBooks and cut out the pop-up figures and fold and stick them onto the right page of the pop-up base eBook. I’m also going to be putting together an eBook of instructions for you to follow. But that’s something for next week..


Nicholas Jones: Book Carver

My last few posts have been quite technological – but I wouldn’t want to suggest that reading can only be augmented by electronics.

(Image from

Nicholas Jones is a Melbourne based artist who has been described as a book artist, book dissector and book carver. He takes discarded books and cuts and sews them to form beautiful book objects. It might be called augmented non-reading as I don’t believe it would be possible to read the books once Nicholas has finished with them.

(Image from

On Nicholas’s website, the book objects are named by the title of the book from which they were made. It’s strange but I do find that knowing the title of the book adds to the experience of looking at the object as I’m able to imagine some of the words and the style of language folded up into those complex shapes. Somehow I have a different relationship to these objects than I would to other folded paper sculptures. I wonder why this should be…

(Image from

events inspiration

Too late for Papercamp

Yesterday I wrote about the upcomimg Pitch Up & Publish which is on the topic of augmented reading, then, researching similar and related work I came across Papercamp which was first held in London in January 2009 with a second event happening in New York in February the same year.

My first thought was that I wish I had been there! From this write-up of the London Papercamp by Jeremy Keith it seems the day was a mix of presentations of inspirational projects and making things.

(Photo from this blogpost describing the genesis of Papercamp:

My next thought was what an amazing array of topics they covered. So many of the projects presented at Papercamp fall into my definition of Augmented Reading – which sets me asking – what do I hope to add to the ongoing discussion around paper and technologies with the Augmented Reading Pitch Up & Publish workshop?

For me, I guess, it is the focus on reading rather than paper, or even books. Reading implies a relationship, or perhaps a number of relationships. There is the relationship between author and reader where the author hopes the reader will understand the meaning they are trying to convey in their particular combination of words.. or of words and pictures.. or words and 3-D paper forms.. or words and multimedia files triggered by QR codes..

Then there is also the relationship between the reader and the book-as-object. This can include the sensory quality of the book – have you ever bought a book because it was printed on beautiful paper, or because of its smell when you first opened it? Talking about paper and technologies doesn’t have to address these issues.. talking about reading does..


PU&P 10 Augmented Reading: Thursday 1 July

Date: Thursday 1 July 2010
Time: 2pm – 5pm
Location: Proboscis Studio, 4th Floor, 101 Turnmill Street, London EC1M 5QP
Map :
Cost: Free!

Our next Pitch Up & Publish – No. 10 – will focus on the challenges and opportunities of using for making and sharing books that go beyond text to call on form, movement and interaction to add to the reader’s experience. Designers, paper artists, augmented reality researchers, architects and others are invited to take part in a hands-on exchange of knowledge, ideas and techniques of how the eBook format (and other forms of online sharing) can enrich or subvert the experience of augmented reading.

What do we mean by augmented reading?

Over the last month I’ve explored the world of books as objects and I’ve begun to realise that these projects share the common theme of seeking to augment the experience of reading. Whether the augmentation is through the interplay of graphics and text as in Carmen’s Black on Black or Dusk or through movement as in Rainbow In Your Hand or 3-dimensional form – either in the physical sense like the pop-ups of Robert Sabuda or the digital world of the Magic Book – all of these books engage with the readers’ senses alongside their reading of the content.

Currently, these books tend to exist as one-offs or limited editions and this limits their audience to a small number of people. My experiments with the pop-up eBook began to explore how these books might be shared more widely using the Internet, and in a form where readers are actively involved in the construction of the books. How might sharing in this way alter the nature of these books which seem such precious objects due to their frailty and uniqueness? How does this change the relationship between author/maker and reader? What are the technical challenges of sharing augmented books in this way when the eBooks have such a specific form?

The PU&P session will explore the many different experiences of making books that augment reading. Through conversation and hands-on making we aim to discover how digital technologies might inform the design of future reading experiences.

If you would like to take part then email us on bookleteer at and tell us a little bit about your interest in the topic. This will help us with our preparations for the workshop.


HITLabNZ: Magic Book

Writing about Rita King’s Second Life and augmented reality Story Cubes reminded me of the Magic Book project I came across a while ago.

Developed by researchers at the HITLabNZ and led by Mark Billinghurst, Magic Book enables readers to augment their reading experience with 3-D images. Viewing the pages of the Magic Book through a handheld display reveals digital content superimposed over the physical pages. Viewers can choose to fly into the digitally augmented scene and experience it as an immersive virtual environment. There is a great video of it in action on YouTube here..

From the YouTube video of Magic Book produced for the Australian Center for the Moving Image

One aspect I especially like is that the reading can be collaborative. Viewers each have their own device for seeing the digital content and if they are looking at the same page of the book they will each see the same image but adjusted so that it is viewed from the particular angle at which the viewer is held to the page. In addition, when one reader zooms into the immersive virtual experience the other readers see them as a computer-generated figure in the scene.

During the time the Magic Book project ran (2002 – 2008) the potential of augmented reality was transformed by increasingly powerful mobile phones equipped with cameras, sensors such as accelerometers and compasses, and wifi that are able to act as handheld displays for augmented content. Given this, I wonder if augmented reality could be a way for eBooks and Story Cubes to share time-based and digital content – videos, 3-D graphics, audio files and so on – as well as text and images? How great would it be to receive an eBook via email describing your friends recent trip to Peru (or your grandchild’s performance in the school play) and when you print out and make up the eBook as well as reading the text and looking at photos, you can use your phone to view a 3-D model of an ancient site, watch a video of a performance or hear the musicians. What would this add to the experience of reading?


Story Cubes Story Board

In contrast to Rita King’s technologically-minded Story Cubes project, Alice made a set of Story Cubes for Landscapes in Dialogue that only exist as physical objects. Yet for me these 72 paper cubes have an equally interesting relationship to technological processes…

The cubes were made to support a short video about a trip Alice made to Ivvavik in the Canadian Arctic. Alice used Story Cubes as a way of story boarding this film. The images on the cubes were a mixture of thumbnail images from the key bits of the footage, writing done while out there, sections of the unfinished script, quotes and drawings. Arranging the 70-plus cubes in different configurations produce unexpected juxtapositions and relationships between the images on the 6 sides of the cubes. Assuming there are 72 cubes would mean there are 432 images in this 3-dimensional story board. Although Alice was printing the images onto stickers and then sticking these onto the pre-cut cardboard Story Cubes produced by Proboscis, the final Story Cubes are conceptually identical to those made using bookleteer.

Alice describes how the Story Cubes were used in the process of making the film:

“Because there was so much material and it was hard to work out what was essential it was helpful to have to focus it down to the labels and then once they are stuck on the cubes you can only choose to show some of the sides – other sides are always hidden so I used them to work out what to keep and what to edit out of the film and more importantly what the overall shape of the film would be. Its a very immediate and physical way to try out changes looking at what happens if you associate this clip with that and so on.”

There is a conceptual relationship between these Story Cubes and the digitally produced film as the images move from the computer to the tangible world of the Story Cubes then back into the computer for their final composition into a linear film that I really like. To me, the use of Story Cubes for story boarding seems a great illustration of the non-linearity and tangibility of handmade objects that digital processes find hard to replicate. And I love that this process can be part of the production of a digitally created film.


Miguel Mora: Flat Futures

In my quest for innovative cubes I came across the disposable Paper Alarm Clock by Miguel Mora a graduate from the Design Interactions course at the Royal College of Art. This project is one of a series by Miguel called Flat Futures which investigates the future of paper in the electronic age. Miguel describes the question behind Flat Futures in this way:

“We live in a ‘paper’ culture. Our everyday life is linked to paper objects, but we have always been led towards a paperless future. What if we could ‘enhance’ paper instead of getting rid of it?”

Miguel sees a future in which electronics – processors, batteries and displays – are printed onto flat and flexible surfaces rather than contained inside them and asks how will this change our relationship to these objects.

In the Paper Alarm Clock project Miguel explores these questions by creating an alarm clock out of a sheet of paper that would be screwed up to stop it ringing. The paper could then be straightened out and the alarm clock is ready for the next day.

Considering Flat Futures in relation to the networked system and shareable objects of bookleteer makes these questions even more complex, interesting and relevant. Currently bookleteer allows electronic files to be shared between people who can then print out those files and transform these printed sheets of paper into tangible objects – eBooks and Story Cubes. Flat Futures allows us to imagine a future in which these shareable tangible objects contain electronic components, in which you might email an alarm clock and download a table lamp.


Rita J. King: StoryCubes in a Virtual World

Story Cubes in Second Life

As I explore Story Cubes I thought I would investigate how artists have used these objects in more successful ways than  my fabulously unsuccessful pinhole camera experiments.

Rita J. King of Dancing Ink Productions was commissioned by Giles to contribute to Transformations on Transformations asks writers, artists, performers, thinkers and makers to respond to two questions from different perspectives, why are we who we are? and, what do we want to become? In response to these questions Rita created 27 Story Cubes exploring aspects of how we construct our identity in a technological world and the role of imagination in this. The Story Cubes were only one aspect of the work which went by the title The Imagination Age. As Rita describes it The Imagination Age is a broad approach to rethinking systems through a prism of technology, held up to amplify the bright beam of the imagination.”

In the first instance, 27 Story Cubes were designed on paper. These are meant to act as a catalyst in the physical world for people to build stories in the way children build castles out of blocks. You can download these Story Cubes here..

Rita then recreated these physical cubes as virtual cubes within Second Life. The cubes could now transcend physical constraints of scale, gravity and fixed-ness and they explore the potential of the virtual world to stimulate and inspire creativity as it becomes possible to construct ideas which previously could only exist in imagination. There is a video  showing the Second Life StoryCubes on YouTube.

Finally, Rita blended the two virtual and physical worlds to create a hybrid digital/physical space. The 27th cube has an Augmented Reality marker which can be activated at using a webcam. This allows you to see the alternative reality of the 27th cube created by Rita.

In my opinion The Imagination Age takes the bookleteer concept of using digital networks to enable the sharing of handmade physical objects and extends and transforms it. As a result of Rita’s personal interests and skills the project opens up the question of what is handmade? The Second Life Imagination Age Story Cubes were crafted by Rita using digital processes, are these cubes any less handmade than the paper ones because of this? Another question concerns the different kinds of communication and social networks that let us share bookleteer objects; there are increasing numbers of these networks and how do we find out which type of sharing is most appropriate for our needs? For me, Rita has started a new way of thinking that goes beyond the content of the eBooks or Story Cubes to consider processes of production, consumption and dissemination. Thanks Rita!

Read more about the project at


StoryCube Cameras

Without seeing my post on Thomas Hudson Reeve and his paper cameras, Niharika suggested we try to turn StoryCubes into pinhole cameras. When we mentioned this to Giles we discovered that a project he had commissioned by Tina Keane for Coil Journal of the Moving Image had involved pinhole cameras and there were still a few unused ones around. So we began…

We improvised with the bathroom at Proboscis as a darkroom and a packet of sun-print paper from the Tate Gallery Shop standing in for proper photographic paper. This paper seems to be intended to be used for photograms but we thought we’d see how it worked in the pinhole camera.

Setting up the first experiment

For our first experiment we aimed the cube camera at the Clerkenwell skyline. We opened the lens, waited for five minutes then went inside to develop our picture. We were rewarded with a beautiful piece of blue paper.. NOTHING had made it onto the paper!

The second experiment and a photogram of scissors

While we tried pinhole experiment 2 turning our camera on an apple (hey, if it’s good enough for Isaac Newton..!) we also set up a photogram trial with a scrap of paper to give us an idea of exposure times. The photogram turned out pretty well, we left the camera for another 5 minutes after developing the photogram and got.. another piece of blue paper.

Our output: some keys, half a spoon, a pair of scissors and two squares of blue paper..


Paper Cameras

Pinhole photograph of the World Trade Center by Thomas Hudson Reeve

I was googling around the other day searching for interesting things people had done with cubes and I came across the website of Thomas Hudson Reeve, a New York based artist who have creates paper pinhole cameras.

What I like about these cameras is that the they are inseparable from the photographs they take. The camera is made out of a sheet of photographic paper shaped into a cube (with the photo-sensitive side on the inside of course). The cube is sealed to keep out the light and a tiny pinhole made into one side. The paper is exposed to light via this pinhole then the camera is unfolded and the paper developed to reveal the print.

Four photographs/paper cameras by Thomas Hudson Reeve

You can see the folds on the final print showing where the cube camera used to be, and the pinhole is visible too. The prints give a sense of the entirety of the scene photographed as you see images from where light fell not only directly onto the back of the cube, but fell slanted onto the sides, top and bottom.

See more on the website