Poems for Excitable [Mobile] Media (P.o.E.M.M.) is a series of digital poems designed for touch interaction on mobile platforms. The various poems consist of floating letters or words that emerge or combine to form phrases when touched. Most of them don’t make sense, or only vaguely make sense, and themes of confusion and misinterpretation seem to be common. The context for both the Speak and Buzz apps (the two I’ve played with so far) incorporate this confusion into their narratives by explaining that you are dealing with a language barrier and a madman respectively.

I think these a only an intermediate step on the way to something much better. We have already celebrated the dissociation of word and meaning. We’ve recognized letters and characters as objects of art in themselves. We’ve recognized how animating them can also be playful. We’ve recognized words for their musical beauty apart from their meaning. We’ve begun generating poetry, and have started to explore co-authoring poetry with machines. Now we appreciate the act of moving letters and manipulating beautiful animations for ourselves, but we can’t stop there.

Understanding the pleasure behind dragging some letters around a screen is the key to moving forward. Sure, there are the usual suspects, fantasies of control and power, but surely there must be more to it. It’s fun to drag letters around, to create phrases, to destroy them. However, really taking advantage of the medium involves not only employing touch interface because you can or because it’s fun, but because the emotions you’re eliciting fit the message of the work or add to it in some way. Until then, creating poetry that you can move around a screen is no different than books with embedded video—superficially cool and perhaps even groundbreaking, but not quite taking full advantage of the tools at our disposal.

Kseniya Simonova is a young Ukranian artist who uses sand painting over a light box to tell stories. She was the winner of 2009’s Ukraine’s Got Talent with a moving tale of the German occupation of Ukraine.

Here we see an interesting parallel to the remix prevalent in digital culture: the meaning of an image changes with its context. Simonova’s work emphasizes the performance found in remix culture; the impact of a remix often depends largely on the viewer’s knowledge of the source material and understanding the links (or citations) to that work. In this instance, the viewer appreciates the remixed work as a stand-alone object, but also how the act of remixing itself has changed the meaning.

IF:Book’s Bob Stein predicts that the future of the book will be collaborative. Codex books will exist only as artifacts on a shelf—a point with which I agree if CDs, vinyl records, VHSs, DVDs, and obsolete console game cartridges are any indication. And as our understanding of collaborative authoring process changes, so too will our understanding of academic “truth.”

Think of going to history class as a kid, fifty years ago, fifteen years ago, it doesn’t matter. The teacher gave you a book and the first impression you were given is, Here is truth. But we’ve developed a much more sophisticated understanding of truth – it is something each one of us constructs from various perspectives. In the future we won’t be as interested in one person’s synthesis. Transparency is part of that but it is about coming at problems from different perspectives.

Melville House Publishing has issued a challenge to its online community: make the best book trailer possible for their latest anthology. Even Melville House seemed surprised, however, when The Glossary fearlessly picked up the gauntlet and created a really fabulous submission. Though many remain skeptical that book trailers sell books, it’s nice to see a really well-crafted book trailer, and especially one focused on text.

Melville House was impressed too—so impressed that they added an additional prize for “Professional Video” submissions.

What impressed us most was how The Glossary paid such close attention to the text. Every line from this video (“sauerkraut eating civilian”) is drawn directly from one of the five Duels. The video shows a true love of language, something too frequently missing from book trailers.
Well played, sirs.

The contest is ongoing, and the prize will be awarded this September.

Nothing scares a writer like a blank page. Modern Dog Design Co. created a journal that understands this idea, and uses it to incite creative thoughts. Each page features a prompt like “Take a Line for a Walk,” designed to inspire numerous types of creativity and ease the anxiety of staring at a blank page.

On a quest for interesting literary or artistic iPad apps that make interesting use of the iPad’s specific interactive affordances—a search which proved more difficult than I might have imagined—I found a wonderful article by Tom Bissell analyzing a few iPad games. He examines how adaptations of existing games measure up to their originals, the fun factor of casual games, and looks at narrative approaches of “literary games.” It’s also one of the few resources that seems to recognize that different genres of games produce a different pleasurable experience; the ludologists and narratologists can find harmony at last.

For what it is worth, I have a hard time imagining a world in which narrative video games no longer exist, though I can quite readily imagine a world in which that type of game experience becomes something more like the entertainment norm. If this is the way things go, storytelling video games like Red Dead Redemption will be judged — properly, I think — as stories first. Meanwhile, the gamey game will flourish, too, most likely on the iPad and devices like it. These games may or may not have a light narrative overlay, but they will be judged — once again, properly — as games first.

The article is a great resource for anyone looking for a good list of iPad games, but it also gives interesting insight into the the different affordances of new types of interaction. Tablet gaming reminds us that technical constraints do shape gameplay and narrative, an idea that hasn’t been a focus since the last couple of generations of computer and console games solidified gaming genre conventions with enough processing power left over to channel efforts into making games more and more visually stunning.

Lorie Emerson recently announced a forthcoming comprehensive guide to the theory and terminology of digital media. The John Hopkins Guide to Digital Media and Textuality, co edited by Emerson, Marie-Laure Ryan, and Benjamin Robertson seeks to present a well-rounded approach to digital literature.

The collection is scheduled for release in 2012. 

Björk has hit another important milestone in digital music distribution. Rather than releasing her new album as a typical digital download, she is introducing her Biophilia project as both an album and a “mother app” that will house interactive song apps. The Guardian reports:

One song, “Virus,” features an app that appears to ask the user to stop an attack by a virus on a biological cell. However, if the user succeeds, the song stops playing. The user learns that they must allow the virus to accomplish its purpose in order to complete the song. App creator Scott Snibbe describes it as “a kind of a love story between a virus and a cell. And of course the virus loves the cell so much that it destroys it.”


Portals to other dimensions are popping up all over the town of Arkham, MA and you must enter the portals, defeat the horrors you find there, and rescue the town before you go insane. This is the premise of Arkham Horror, the hugely successful Lovecraftian board game by Fantasy Flight Games ,who are known for deeply complex and heavily narrative themed games.

Recently I stumbled upon @ArkhamHorror on Twitter, one of the most interesting cases for emergent narrative in games. Each tweet is a microfiction retelling of solo play-throughs. Talk about remediation: fiction prose based on a game based on fiction prose.

J.C. Hutchins is a freelance storyteller and new media author whose well-written blog covers interesting developments in new media and offers interesting interviews with other transmedia writers.

Hutchins recently published an article on the possibilities of storytelling on the iPad. The usual suspects are all there—interactive touchscreen moments, use of the iPad’s internal gyroscope, the ability to link to external sources—but the examples Hutchins provides all serve as nothing more than the kinds of interactive illustrations we might see in children’s books. Sure these technologies can illustrate stories well, but we should not be so limited in our approach to new forms of storytelling.

The key opportunity that authors overlook when thinking about new narrative technologies is how these interactions will make the reader feel, and how that emotion relates to the story world. Interactivity (particularly the haptic interactivity allowed by touch screens) can create a deeper connection with the protagonist/avatar than traditional print literature. We shouldn’t be striving for a sense of wonder and marvel at the new technology itself, for that will fade as soon as this type of writing becomes the mainstream. We should instead be trying to use the new technology to access deeper emotions in the reader: frustration, accomplishment, doubt, fear, pride, loyalty, and so forth. Games are already doing this very well. Perhaps it’s time for interactive writing to take a lesson.

Blake Butler shares what he has learned from submitting writing for publication:

Early on I sent out a lot of bullshit. I mean I would send out almost anything that seemed done, whether I loved it or not. Later on I began to realize that not only did I rarely receive acceptances for things that I hadn’t put the work on in, I also realized that boy does it suck when you accidentally get something published that you don’t even like.