Hi, I’m Radhika, the Marketing Assistant at Proboscis. You’ll see me pop up weekly, as I’ll be writing posts on ideas and suggestions for using Bookleteer in new and inventive ways. Take a look at my first idea…
Going away this summer?? It’s a great feeling, once you’ve booked that holiday and start counting down the weeks to a get-a-way, somewhere beautiful, adventurous or even laid-back and relaxing.
Exploring the craziness of New York’s Time Square, the hustle and bustle of Abu Dhabi’s Souks, the calmness of Maldives serene beaches, the list goes on…
Coming back with all those memories and stories that you can’t wait to tell everybody! The only problem I have is remembering the name of that fantastic coffee shop I went to, or that busy vibrant market where I got my dazzling shawls from or even the restaurant where I tasted the delicious local food. So if someone asked me to recommend places to go and see or where to eat, sure I could get their mouth watering describing the succulent chicken and thirst quenching cocktails, but I couldn’t actually tell them the names of these places… because I had forgotten!
I’m always in need for a scrap piece of paper to jot things down. Having a book that can easily fit into a pocket or a handbag would be most ideal. Creating a book on Bookleteer gives me this exact opportunity, to easily print and assemble and take with me.
It’s also useful to jot down other little things you come across on holiday such as the local language. Maybe how to say ‘hello’ in Mandarin or ‘thank you’ in Greek.
Have a look at the mock up book I made, to give you an idea of what can be done…
A handy book that can easily fit into your back pocket or your handbag and taken with you everywhere on your holiday! Now you don’t have to struggle to remember everywhere you went, just scribble it down in your own Bookleteer book!
Just before Christmas we implemented a major new feature on bookleteer – an API (application programming interface) enabling eBooks and StoryCubes to be generated by users direct from their own web applications and stored in or downloaded from their bookleteer accounts.
Realising Tangible Souvenirs
This has been a long-cherished ambition for us – harking back to plans we made for linking the earlier Diffusion Generator to our Urban Tapestries public authoring and mapping platform in 2004 – where we imagined people being able to select or collate material on Urban Tapestries by theme or around a geographic place and outputting it in different paper formats (Diffusion eBooks, postcards and posters). This was the origin of our concept for creating tangible souvenirs from digital experiences – bridging different media (online/offline, digital/analogue) with the different capabilities that people have. Our experiences of working with local communities in social housing and other contexts showed us how important it is not just to be able to share things in many ways, but to tailor a range of modes of interaction to the capabilities and capacities of the people who had the knowledge and experience to share, but not necessarily the familiarity with web and mobile technologies to be engaged by the opportunities we saw them offering.
We’ve continued to develop our tangible souvenir concept through other projects – such as the Sensory Threads prototype – but the bookleteer API now represents a crucial milestone for us in building the links between our earlier work on public authoring and media scavenging and the current ecosystem of web technologies and public/open data initiatives. We hope to see lots of exciting ideas building on the first experiments – bookcubes – we commissioned from James Bridle last spring. Look out too for some forthcoming experiments by Simon Pope & Gordon Joly.
Accessing the API
Access to the API is limited for the time being to Alpha Club members and guest testers whilst we put it through its paces and explore how it can be used (our resources are rather limited for supporting it). We’re hoping to organise some events in 2011 where people can come along and explore what they might do with the API. In the meantime, if you’re taking part in Culture Hack Day this weekend (January 15th & 16th) then you can ask to test it out using the special account we’ve created for participants (ask the organisers for access details on the day).
If you do have an exciting idea for mashing up the bookleteer API with your own web service or public data please do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you and see how we can help.
Reflecting back on the 5 City As Material events of last Autumn, we’re really pleased both with the reception of the events themselves by participants and that of the resulting publications with friends and colleagues. Over the next few weeks we’ll be publishing the personal contributions of the guests (Tim Wright, Ben Eastop and Simon Pope – Alex Deschamps-Sonsino’s is already available) and an overview eBook of our own. And we will print a special limited slipcase edition of all 10 eBooks using bookleteer’s PPOD service and launch them in the Spring.
Future Plans in 2011
This year we hope to take our Pitch in & Publish series of City As Material events outside of London to other towns and cities in the UK (or abroad). We’d love to hear from people or organisations interested in commissioning us to devise and run a one-day (or possibly longer) collaborative urban exploration and publishing event in their own town or city.
A typical event…
We’ll work with the local hosts to devise a topic, plan the exploration route and design customised notebooks. At the end of each walk we’ll need a space (with WiFi access and ideally a printer) to sit down with the participants as a group and work on planning/drafting the collaborative eBook that will be the record of the day. As before we’ll be using a range of online and social media to post up photos, audio, video etc taken during each event by all taking part – and we’ll be encouraging all the participants to sign up with bookleteer to create their own personal eBooks (and/or StoryCubes).
How to book an event
Please get in touch with us to plan an event in your town or city. Our basic fee for each event (payable by the host) will be £600 + VAT and travel expenses (and accommodation where needed). This fee covers pre-planning, facilitation by 2 members of Proboscis on the day and post-event coordination of the collaborative eBook (+ publication on diffusion.org.uk), as well as printing of a limited edition run (50 copies) of the eBook.
Local hosts will be responsible for recruiting the participants to each event. Proboscis will also help promote each event across our own networks to engage as broad a group of participants as possible.
When I heard I was going to be working on creative projects that combine art and publishing with year 5 and 6’s in a primary school is Soho, I was definitely excited about working with children on a project that sounded different, creative, and fun (both for the kids and adults involved!) However, hearing that I’d be working in a school in Soho, I thought I may have mis-heard – I had no idea that there were any primary schools in Soho! The school itself is small Church of England primary school tucked away on a narrow street just a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Circus. Going into the school I was greeted warmly by staff and noticed how colourful the corridors were – adorned with bright paintings by the children and proud reminders of previous work. Soho Parish definitely had a welcoming ‘family feel’ about it. Walking around the school and peeking into the small classrooms, it was obvious that Soho Parish had a positive learning atmosphere.
After I was introduced to some of the teachers, a class of year 5 children quietly walked into the classroom where Giles would talk to them about how bookleteer and eBooks worked, and also how this would tie into their current project, a project based on Antarctica and the effects global warming. The children were curious about who we were and what we had to say, and as Giles began to explain that we were going to help publish their school project by turning them into eBooks, some of the children shouted ‘yay!’ and everyone seemed to became even more interested. After Giles demonstrated how eBooks were made, the children were more than ready to get going and make their own.
We then began to upload the children’s work onto bookleteer, with the children standing close-by, often asking us about how bookleteer worked and what they thought about their Antarctica project. After a few near glitches with the schools computers, we began to finish uploading and naming the year 5 eBooks. Almost immediately after we waved the children goodbye, year 6’s entered the classroom with the same amount of wonder as to why me and Giles were standing at the front of the classroom. This time around, however, uploading the children’s eBooks was much faster and easier to do after having uploaded year 5’s eBooks moments before. Then came the task of printing off and making up the children’s eBooks – (a skill that Giles was clearly much faster than me at!) After proudly handing all 32 eBooks to the children’s teachers, Claudia and Matt, our work at Soho Parish was done for the day.
Following our work with with the children (and lots of help from the staff!) Giles and I had lunch with the head teacher, Rachel Earnshaw, discussing possible projects and ideas for the new term ahead. After how promising my first day was at the school, I can confidently say that I am looking forward to going back to the school after the Christmas holiday and collaborating on other creative projects with the children – and also exploring bookleteer in a school setting.
Last Friday we held our second Pitch In & Publish: City As Material event on the topic of River. We met at Hermitage Moorings in Wapping (where one of the participants is a founder member) and spent a short time introducing ourselves and our interests in the topic. Taking part were Anne Lydiat, Aleaxandra McGlynn, Aurelia McGlynn-Richon, Ben Eastop, Martin Fidler, Fred Garnett and myself. I had prepared a map with a possible route for us to take from our point of origin back to Proboscis’ studio and this served as a useful conversation point about the nature of the river as a channel for transportation, habitation, pleasure, boundary, margin and about the city’s push/pull relationship with it.
Whilst sitting in the Hermitage Pier House, then on Anne’s boat in the river the conversation flowed across these issues of liminality and tension – about how the city has slowly encroached on the river, fixing artificial banks where it previously had a wide flood plain, such that we are now concerned about that flood plain being at risk with rising sea levels. Ben, who also lives on the river, spoke of how his home is different every day, changing position with the tide and weather; he also talked of the enormous variation that the sky, light and weather has on the character of the water and its constantly changing surface.
From Hermitage we then walked west along the Thames Path via St Katherine Dock, the Tower of London, Customs House, Old Billingsgate to Queenhithe, where we turned north and cut through the City, St Pauls, St Barts and Smithfield to arrive at the studio.
We talked about how the city so often seems to turn its back on the river, to build buildings that look inward to the city, and how its is only recently, with the shift in the Port of London to Tilbury that Londoners have at last begun to reclaim access to the river from what were previously commercial wharves and stairs. As it was low tide at 12.30pm we were able to include some beachcombing/ mudlarking with our walk – finding the ubiquitous clay pipe stems and pottery shards from earlier centuries, as well as the ever present animal bones, tiles and chalk. we shared stories and bits of knowledge about these stairs, their uses, the hidden rivers flowing out into the Thames.
Arriving back at the studio we began collating the drawings, objects, ideas, writings and photographs that had been created along the way and started to sketch out the structure of the collaborative publication – Ebb and Flow – which is now available. There is also a City As Material group on Flickr, and a Twitter hashtags – #cityasmaterial – to continue the discussions.
September was a busy month here at Proboscis and on bookleteer: we sent seven books to be printed via the PPOD service as well as 10 different StoryCubes. The range of publications was very broad, from books about exhibitions and art projects to a book in Arabic about a major archaeological excavation in Sudan and a special notebook for a symposium on digital engagement and another full of QR codes. The StoryCubes included an 8 cube ‘cube of cubes’ set by artists Joyce Majiski and Alice Angus on their Topographies & Tales project, a promotional cube about bookleteer itself and a cube by artist Melissa Bliss to promote her installation, Bird Song, at the b-side media festival in the Isle of Portland.
The photo above shows the various StoryCube and printed eBooks :
James Leach is an anthropologist at the University of Aberdeen who has conducted field-work in Papua New Guinea for approximately 17 years. I recently spoke to him by Skype to talk about a project which also involved two of his friends, Porer and Pinbin from the village of Reite, who had travelled to the UK in August 2009. Part of their visit to London included participating in the British Museum’s Melanesia Project. This project was designed to gain insight into the BM’s ‘largely unstudied’ Melanesian collections. Although I won’t get into to too much of the project’s overall aims and process (see both James’ work and the BM link for more details), part of the project involved inviting people from different areas of Melanesia to provide context about the objects in the collection by explaining how these objects are made, are used, and what their significance is. The exchange also represented an opportunity for the BM to build new relationships with the populations from where these objects originated.
Sample project: Melanesia Project
According to James, both Porer and Pinbin knew a lot about materials and the ways in which some of these objects were made which meant that the exchange could lead to some fascinating insights. Having worked with James in the past, they were also familiar with how to work with anthropologists.
As part of the exchange, James invited Giles Lane to drop by and demonstrate how to use the eBooks to record the event. Giles showed them all how to put the eBooks together and also brought a small portable Polaroid printer that could quickly and easily print digital pictures in a small format that could then be glued onto the eBook pages.
This was certainly a case of using the eBooks to capture information (see here for previous post where I introduce what I mean in by this) – in this case James described using the eBooks asa way to produce a realtime record that involved “capturing the moment of what we were doing and what we were seeing”. Representatives of the BM were also recording the exchange but using the eBooks served as a complimentary archive of what had happened. While the exchange was taking place, James would write down some of what Porer and Pinbin were saying in both English and Tok Pisin next to the images glued down in the eBooks. The addition of the eBooks to the process was partly challenging for James because it involved an additional set of tasks in an already hectic and brief exchange. Nevertheless, James felt that it proved to be a positive addition to the session because it provided a better record of the process of the exchange itself. He felt that although other methods for collecting and presenting information were better suited to the documentation of the knowledge being imparted of the objects by his two friends, the way in which the eBooks were used provided a simple, quick and accessible way of sharing what had taken place during the meeting.
Later on, the eBooks were re-scanned and subsequently reprinted into the professionally printed and bound version of the eBooks. James then distributed copies of the new books in Reite as well as at the local University in Papua New Guinea, and other regional institutions who were interested in what they had been doing. The eBooks were useful for giving people a feel for what had taken place, particularly for people who were unfamiliar with anthropology as a discipline.
Challenges, recommendations and suggestions
James used a wonderful way of describing his work as an anthropologist as being comprised of “moments”. He felt that the eBooks were used at the right moment in the process of conducting this type of research. Although he was unsure as to how this type of practice could fit in other parts of his work, he could see how this process would be helpful in situations requiring the documentation of how people “respond to images or information for themselves”.
He also suggested that as objects in themselves, the professionally bound versions of the eBooks were useful as a way to disseminate general information about the exchange:
“[…] As something to give people, they’re an extremely nice thing. People are very keen. I also took some to an anthropology conference before I went [to Papua New Guinea] and would show them to people and they’d immediately say “Oh, is that for me?” People kind of like them. They’re nice little objects.”
However, since many people of Papua New Guinea don’t have access to Internet, resources like Bookleteer or the Diffusion website proved to be significantly less of an advantage for distributing this information (they obviously can’t download a copy of the eBook).
I want to come back to the way James used the idea of “moments” to describe his work and apply it to the way in which the eBook was designed and used. We could say that each project I have described to date was composed of a series of moments and that nested within these projects was the eBook component which in itself was composed of its own series of moments. In reference to my previous post on the distinction between capturing and publishing, the trajectory of how eBooks were designed and used in some of these projects was composed of both capturing and publishing moments. For example, the way in which the eBook was used on the Melanesia Project included both a capturing moment as part of the exchange with the British Museum and a publishing moment in which Giles and James printed-out scanned copies of the original eBooks and made them available online or passed hardcopies out to people who were interested in learning more about the project (or, in some cases, who just wanted to get their hands on a free neat little object).
These series of moments were significant because they each involved different challenges and successes. In James’ case, it seemed both the capturing and publishing moments proved valuable – in the case of the former as a way to capture “the moment of what we were doing and what we were seeing” during the exchange, in the case of the latter as a way to distribute printed copies of the eBooks. But both capturing and publishing in this particular case also faced challenges that suggested there were some additional key moments that made-up an eBook’s trajectory as part of a project. Here are two moments that I want to add to describe an eBook’s trajectory:
Appropriation: James had only a cursory knowledge of how the eBooks worked before the exchange took place. In other cases, (for example see Ruth Sapsed’s work with Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination) we saw how people had attended “Pitch-up and Publish” events as a way to test the eBooks and decide whether or not they could fit into the way these people executed their projects. For the Melanesia Project, James took the risk of adding the eBooks as an extra element to the project in part because he trusted Giles’ work and his abilities to adapt the eBooks to these particular circumstances. In this case, therefore, moments of appropriation and capturing took place at the same time. I will therefore use appropriation to describe how people decide the way in which eBooks relate to their pre-existing practices for capturing and publishing information.
Design and printing: It may seem that “design and printing” and “publishing” should be categorised as part of the same moment. The reason for making the distinction is that I want to highlight how the physical process of composing the eBook’s pages and physically making the eBook, whether it be printing it out or cutting and folding its pages into a notebook, are distinct from the publishing category I defined earlier. Both capturing and publishing necessarily involve designing and printing an eBook. But the way in which they are designed and printed and the way in which such a design will be evaluated as part of the project will likely be very different.
Of course, in making-up these four distinct analytical categories, I may be over-emphasising distinctions between moments that are in fact all bundled-up and confused in time and space. But the reason for making these distinctions is so that I can begin to develop a typology of how eBooks are part of all of these very different kinds of projects.
Next time, I’ll examine the Diffusion website in greater detail.
This week’s eBook case study involves the work of researcher and community education worker Gillian Cowell. Gillian first encountered the eBooks online while doing research for her masters degree. She was interested in finding online tools help her to “capture data in a more interesting way for local people.” She was also hoping to turn the results of her research into something more unique than a regular research report. Although she had initially been attracted to the StoryCubes on the Proboscis website, she eventually received a version of the eBook after ordering a few things from Proboscis.
Sample project: Greenhill Digital Storytelling Guide
I’m not sure if Choose Your Own Adventure books count as shared making or shared reading (or both?) but I would certainly claim it as an augmented reading experience. The Choose Your Own Adventure series of children’s books was published by Bantam books between 1979 and 1998, however, the format was used for several other series of books including Fighting Fantasy (which was the Choose Your Own Adventure books of choice for my brother and I when we were kids).
In case you’ve never come across them, the premise is that you – the reader – take the role of protagonist in the books and at the end of each short section of narrative you are presented with a number of options representing your next actions. For example, in The Cave of Time, the first choice you are required to make is:
If you decide to start back home, turn to page 4.
If you decide to wait, turn to page 5.
Turning to the page for your chosen option the narrative continues, eventually leading to one of multiple different endings. Like I said, my brother and I read these a lot as kids and while the narratives tend to be quite similar and the range of options can be frustrating (“But why can’t I throw my frying pan at the King of the Ants?!”) they were also truly engaging as we tried to figure out the potential consequences of our actions.
Of course, the branching structure and constrained options translate easily into computer programs and computer games might be seen as the multimedia, all-bells-and-whistles version of Choose Your Own Adventure. In my current reflection on the nature of books though I begin to wonder if the format of these books creates a different experience for maker/readers? For my brother and I these books were very definitely a collaborative experience – just as computer games can be – but they are also slower paced and with the opportunity to take a sneaky look ahead and see what happens if you choose a particular path. While I wouldn’t say that Choose Your Own Adventure books are more engaging than computer games (we gave them up around the time we got our first computer..) I think they might offer a unique type of reading – constructive, collaborative and accountable.
Over the past few weeks we’ve been imagining more uses of Diffusion eBooks and StoryCubes, partly inspired by the family and personal eBooks created by our two Future Jobs Fund placements, Karine and Shalene, and partly with the help of Niharika Hariharan, a designer from Delhi (and former intern at Proboscis) who’s been in London recently. Last year Niharika designed a series of bilingual eBooks for a schools workshop in Delhi, Articulating Futures, which Proboscis co-designed and supported.
Earlier this year, in a Pitch Up & Publish event with We Are Words + Pictures, the eBooks were used by a couple of writers to create simple portfolios of their work to show prospective clients/commissioners. Over the years Proboscis has also used both the eBook and StoryCubes formats to create publications that present our work in a similar way. We’ve now come up with two ideas for using bookleteer to create highly personal eBooks about who people are and what they do, Pocketfolios and MeBooks.
We began by thinking about how we remember work by art, design and architecture students at graduate shows (often by collecting business or postcards) and how, looking back, sometimes it can be hard recalling why we might have collected someone’s details without a connection to what caught our interest in the first place. But what if there was a way for the students to give away something like a mini portfolio of their work? What if they could use bookleteer to create simple, yet beautiful, ‘pocketfolios’ with more details about them and their work?
Niharika has designed posters which we’re sending out to colleges to invite students to test out bookleteer for creating highly personal ‘pocketfolios’ – we’re also offering a 10% discount (using the discount codes on the physical posters) for students who want their pocketfolio(s) printed via our PPOD service. We have also developed another set of posters which we’ll be sending out to studios to invite makers of all descriptions to explore bookleteer and the Diffusion eBooks as a way to create personal or product-based pocketfolios.
A couple of weeks ago I took part in a meeting at Islington Council for employers participating in the Future Jobs Fund where there was very positive feedback about the young participants gaining in skills and confidence. However the mentoring and follow-on advice being offered seemed to lack inspiration for much else beyond CV writing skills.
It occurred to me that bookleteer could offer something quite different – an adaptation of the Pocketfolio idea that could be made relevant to people from all walks of life and in different job types and sectors than the arts or design. A personal narrative about them – their story, or MeBook – that could act as a portfolio of their skills, experiences, ambitions, hobbies and interests, what they’ve achieved and what inspires them. Something that helps them describe and share what they feel is the best of themselves that a CV simply couldn’t cover.
We’ve been brainstorming how we might do this (also with input from Karen Martin, resident bookleteer and Proboscis associate) and hope to have a workshop piloted in the next few weeks. I’ve recently met with staff from Islington Council as well as Judith Hunt and her team from Get More Local to hear their feedback on how this could benefit other young people on the Future Jobs Fund and other schemes. Watch this space for further announcements!
We would love to hear from anyone else involved in similar schemes who’d like to offer the MeBook idea to their placements/interns/trainees. Please get in touch to find out more.