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..


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


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


The Collages of Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

I expect you have seen The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle before. It is the children’s book where a tiny caterpillar spends one week eating his way through a variety of foods before making a cocoon and finally emerging as a beautiful butterfly. As a kid I loved the holes in the pages which showed where the caterpillar had been. But it was only recently that I found out how Eric Carle makes the fabulous coloured illustrations for this book and the many others he has written.

The technique uses a combination of paint, tissue paper and cut out. First he paints onto sheets of tissue paper building up layers of colour and patterns. There is a slideshow on the Eric Carle website showing how this is done. The outline of the caterpillar (or whatever the collage is to show) is then drawn onto tracing paper and this is used as a guide for cutting out the tissue paper shapes and arranging these onto the final page. Another slideshow on the Eric Carle website shows this process.

What I love about this technique is the depth of colour that it’s possible to get. For me, the subtle variations in tone on a simple shape of a pear, for example, give the cut-out shape the quality of a drawn illustration. And as a person who is not good at drawing, I’m delighted that it’s an eye for colour rather than the ability to control a line that is needed when trying to imitate this approach. I’m planning on using this technique to create the illustrations for my pop-up eBook. Of course, I’ll show you the results (good or bad!) here…


Pop-up Progress

My pop-up pig picture inserted into an eBook

As you can see from these pictures I’ve started playing around with fitting my individual pop-up pictures into the more linear procedure of a book. I’ve used the quite unimaginative title of A Walk in the Country to provide a narrative to the pictures.

Butterfly and Tree pop-up pictures in the eBook

The photos above are of my original pop-ups pictures from here glued into a blank eBook as I experimented with size, position and story. The photographs below show my first attempts to convert this into a shareable eBook that you will be able to download and make-up for yourselves. In fact, two or maybe even three eBooks will be needed to make one pop-up eBook.

The first eBook has the bases of the pop-ups printed directly onto the pages – you can see this below. The second eBook will contain the pop-up figures. These will need to be cut-out and stuck to the pop-up bases. Instructions on how to do this will either be in the eBook with the pop-up figures, or possibly in a separate eBook  depending on how many instructions are required. Currently I’m trying to think of how to make this whole process as straightforward as possible.

Base for the Butterfly pop-up and Birdhouse pop-up printed as an eBook with cut-out butterfly and bird figures

I’m also mulling over how much narrative to add to the eBook. Leaving the pages without text would allow you to write your own story around the pop-up pictures and I like this idea very much. Another option is to colour the pop-ups and the eBook pages then scan these pages in so people can download and make-up a complete ready illustrated pop-up eBook. Or maybe I’ll offer both options..

inspiration publishing on demand

MeBooks and Pocketfolios

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.


Paste and cut

The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat is another short story by Saki, and another eBook handmade by Carmen. For this book, like these examples, Carmen printed the paper twice, first with the background image and then with the eBook PDF. However, in this case the background image is a collage of scraps of paper Carmen collected. This was then scanned in and printed over with the text. You can still see the crumpled wrinkles from where the paper has been screwed up to be thrown away.

The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat by Saki: On a background of paper bags, phone directories and receipts.

As I’m not great at drawing I think that collage could be a good way for me to give eBooks and StoryCubes a hand-made feel. I’m wondering how the choice of collage materials affects readers experience of the book.

Carmen has chosen throwaway types of papers and put them together in a haphazard manner that reminds me of rubbish you might see lying on the street. For me this is an interesting contrast to the story, especially at the beginning which describes Jocantha Bessbury’s self-satisfaction at her well-furnished home and complacent life. I wonder how the experience of the story would be altered if the collage had been more figurative illustrating aspects of her home, or made from tea shop menus or books on Hindostan which feature later in the story.