Transliteracy Conference 9 February 2010
There will be presentations by Kate Pullinger and Sue Thomas followed by a series of themed panels featuring 15 minute talks developed from these abstracts and covering a
fascinatingly broad range of topics including ethnography, reading
practices, fiction, convergence, digital art, geography, music, comics,
interactive graphics, remote audiences, film adaptations, the networked
book, critical theory and interactive fiction.
Transliteracy and polyphonic narrative: a case study
This paper will look at the role of transliteracy in the creation of a series of texts relating to a long-term ethnographic study of displacement in the Sudan/Ethiopian borderlands. It will draw on a rich audiovisual archive recorded by the anthropologist, Wendy James, over a forty-year period, which is now being added to by the people themselves. The paper will illustrate ways in which this archive is being used in an ongoing collaboration between the author and Wendy James to explore the role of written texts, film-making and new media in the communication of different aspects of this ongoing ‘story’ to a range of different audiences. It will be argued that transliteracy is a highly appropriate concept through which to look at issues arising from his collaboration, as it recognises the complexities involved in working with sound, text and image across a range of media platforms and within an interdisciplinary context. The intention behind the collaboration is to recognise the centrality of the anthropologist as creator of the archive, whilst at the same time allowing the multiplicity of voices contained within it to come to the fore wherever possible. Drawing on the work of the visual anthropologist, David MacDougall, the paper will focus on the transliteracy competencies that are required for the development and reception of this work.
Judith Aston is a specialist in cross-cultural communication and digital media practice. She was a pioneer in the emergent multimedia industry in the mid-1980s, working with the BBC Interactive Television Unit, Virgin Publishing, Apple Computers and the Soros Open Society Institute. Based in Bristol, she now divides her time between teaching and practice-led research in the Creative Arts Faculty at the University of the West of England. She has a long-standing interest in Visual Anthropology and is well versed in the complexities of working across disciplinary divides. She holds a Masters degree in Social Science from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in Interaction Design from the Royal College of Art.
Disrupting preconceptions: transliteracies of reading
Actually, a computer generated text only by reading will be revealed … Reading becomes then a vital operation able to grant life to an amorphous text.
Pedro Barbosa, A Ciberliteratura
Reading is an element of culture that throughout times has changed and adapted itself to the different technological media in a slow though profound way. Each medium that has sheltered literature (voice, papyrus, heavy paperbacks, pocket or electronic books) has changed not only the way we read but also, and essentially, our own relationship with knowledge and the world. In a time when reading habits have been deeply transformed, we would like to question how the use of new technologies translates aesthetic innovations into the every day most sensitive reading experience. The reader has become the user, who (when interacts) becomes simultaneously audience and actor, consumer and producer, dictating the result both of reception (reading) and of production (writing/creation). This user has not only to think and comprehend what is reading (as it has always been), but also to interact with the object. Despite all controversies around digital literacy standards, the truth is that reading has become a complex intricate experience surrounded by more different artefacts (keyboards, remotes…), throughout simultaneous intermingled texts and genders, dealing with different subjects, from a wide range of perspectives, expressed in different languages. The wider the preparation, the wealthier and more fulfilled will the scope of the reading experience be. It is based on a dynamic attitude that reading online can be defined as a high experience of the senses where multiple literacy skills are put together at work in a context of assorted relations of mutation, adaptation, aggregation, or hybridisation. On this challenging reader engagement depends all communication between the author and the audience; and thus the consequent and craving need, not for developing new literacy skills but for conceptualizing a combination of all of them in a transliterary approach. That is why we think the concept of transliteracy draws an interesting framework to analyse the online reader.
Name: Fernanda do Rosário Farinha Bonacho
1999: Masters in Compared Literary Studies (Poe; Hoffman and Baudelaire)
1995: BA (Hon) in English Studies for Foreign Students – Portsmouth University
1994: Degree in Modern Languages and Literature, English and German Studies – Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas/Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
Since October 1998: Adjunt Professor in Escola Superior de Comunicação Social – Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa (School of Communication and Media Studies – Lisbon Polytechnic Institute) – Portugal
From 1995 to 1998: Assistant Professor in Escola Superior de Educação da Guarda /IPG.
Research activities: PHD research student in the area of Languages and Communication in Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa (College of Social Sciences and Humanities / New University of Lisbon
Editor of the Journal “Specific- Revista de Inglês para Fins Específicos” since 2002.
Member of the Project Dictionary of Military Terms (DicMil) English-Portuguese.
‘New Media Fiction and Non-Fiction Creativity and Mobile Platforms’
It is based on her MA Thesis which in full may be found here:-
Craggworks – Collaboration in Transliteracy
Web 2.0 technology has generated a boom in online writing, making it far more easy for New Media writers to become publishers of their own creative work. A great deal of the content, though, does not — and will not — work on a handheld phone and, because of platform and language complexities, is unlikely to do so for some time to come. This presentation discusses the nature of the problems as they arise in the presenter’s own work and in the transliteracy of that content from original creation on a desktop computer to its being read on a handheld device.
Claudia Cragg joined Which?, the Consumers’ Association publication in the late ’70s. She worked in Hong Kong for The South China Morning Post (then News International) before moving to Tokyo as their correspondent. In Hong Kong, She was also Editorial Director of ‘B Magazine” and then, in Japan, editor of ‘Tokyo Journal’. Returning to the UK in 1987, she wrote several books on Asia including including ‘The New Taipans’ and ‘The New Maharajahs’, for Random House UK. The very welcome arrival of 3 children along the way led to her present concentration on freelance work in journalism, broadcasting and New Media.
Dr Steve Gibson
Transdisciplinary Digital Art
This presentation discusses the recent transdisciplinary digital art trends and gives a clear overview of the on-going strength of scientific, philosophical, aesthetic and artistic research and practice that does not confirm to strict disciplinary boundaries.
The term Transdisciplinarity can be distinguished from the older term Interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity implies a certain level of detachment across the mediums. A perfect illustration of this is the modernist notion of interdisciplinarity as exemplified by John Cage’s Variations V. While not all art termed interdisciplinary is this radical in its separation of roles, there is a general tendency to accept a distinct line of expertise between disciplines in Interdisciplinary work.
Transdisciplinarity implies a level of direct connection and cross-over between mediums and disciplines. Most recently we have seen examples of science/art crossover in which artists and scientists not only work together but assist in the others’ traditional tasks. Similarly there are projects in which single individuals assume transdisciplinary roles usually reserved for experts in various disciplines.
This presentation will present short excerpts from digital artworks that cross boundaries and in which the artist becomes the scientist and vice-versa. Works shown will include the author’s piece Grand Theft Bicycle.
Steve Gibson is a Canadian media artist. He currently serves as Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University. He was curator for the Media Art event Interactive Futures from 2002-07. Simultaneously deeply involved with technology and deeply suspicious of its effects, Gibson’s work celebrates both the liberation and paranoia of techno-fetishism. Influenced by a diverse body of art and popular movements his work fuses electronica, immersive art, game art, montage and post-minimalism. Steve Gibson’s works have been exhibited in such venues as: Ars Electronica; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Banff Centre for the Arts; the European Media Arts Festival; ISEA; 4 & 6CyberConf. He recently co-edited a volume entitled Transdisciplinary Digital Art which was published by Springer in Spring 2008.
Geography and plenty of penguins: the propensity of co-authorship to aid geograph(y/ers)
This paper seeks to demonstrate that co-authorship as demonstrated by the “A Million Penguins” project is a strong multidisciplinary platform, combining, without diluting, the individual worth of each subject, including geography. I will do this in three stages. First, I will work through examples of geographer’s attempts at collaborative writing projects both inside and outside of academia. Geographer’s acceptance of participatory research epistemologies is recent, compared with the length of time with which the subject has embraced (often silent) collaboration in some parts, yet shunned the general public as objects of research in others, from the safety of their ivory towers (see Procter 1998). Secondly, I will explore geography’s past autoethnographically in order to seek out inspiration for new epistemologies of ‘writing together’ from previous and current academic and non-academic practices. It is my contention that from looking back from a position within our subjects, we can both learn from mistakes, but also take heed from the ways in which collaboration occurred in a less technological age. For example, a humanistic geography reading of a ‘sense of place’, infused with a present day autoethnographic reading of geography may inform us for a technological collaborative future in various places. Finally, I will describe my own attempts at online collaboration using weblogs in physical community based research, highlighting the (many) failures and successes, and concluding with what I see as the future with ‘Penguins’, technology, collaboration and geography in our online ‘placed’ beings.
I am a first year geography MPhil/PhD student at the University of Exeter. My academic interests include participatory geographies, autoethnography and geographies of locality. During my previous degrees, I have attempted to explore ways to combine research with alternative styles of writing and working, and seek to further this work by exploring the ways in which individuals and groups form themselves in order to write collaboratively. I come from a village of around four hundred individuals in the South Hams, South Devon; my interests a(long)side from academia include cycling and ‘beaching’.
‘Trans-arts Literacy and Creative Efficiency’
Machines are typically designed with efficiency as a principal objective. Though programming a computer often seems like an extraordinarily inefficient means for solving a problem, the computer is to date the most impressive trans-art machine available, and ultimately does enable an efficient transfer of literacy across multiple kinds of art-making. In my presentation, I will illustrate how my literacy within the domain of digital sound and music has contributed to my growing digital literacy in visual arts. This will involve the presentation of excerpts from several of my sonic and graphic compositions and will include some mention of the role of web-based social software in this transliterative process. I will discuss some of the specific techniques used in the excerpts, and will also consider the digital specification of gesture and how it relates, whether efficiently or not, to a sense of real kinesthesia in both sonic and visual arts.
Ron Herrema is a composer, teacher and researcher working at De Montfort University’s Music, Technology and Innovation Research Centre. He is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan and received his PhD in composition from Michigan State University, where he studied with Mark Sullivan. He composes both acoustic and electroacoustic music, specializing in algorithmic composition and in interdisciplinary approaches to music composition. He works increasingly with both still and moving image, and has presented papers and published articles on the relationship between music and architecture, on music technology and politics, and on the evolving relationship between composers and programming.
you’re a blockhead, @charliebrown
In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud uses the term ‘closure’ to describe the way a reader is guided from panel to panel on a comics page, hopping the gaps or gutters between images. Examples include ‘moment to moment’, ‘scene to scene’, ‘aspect to aspect’. McCloud suggests that the spaces between the panels are as important as the panels themselves, the spaces being where readers take the conceptual leap from one moment to the next, fill in gaps and reach a better understanding of the story and characters.
In transliterate reading and writing, the reader is often encountering fragments of the same story across a range of technologies, situations and timeframes, piecing together the narrative themselves. I decided to look at how we might expand the definitions of closure to provide a practical framework for understanding how we read, write and participate online. The additional types of closure I outlined are ‘site to site’, ‘device to device’, ‘time to time’, ‘media to media’, and ‘author to author’.
We engage in expanded narratives all the time. TV shows and films increasingly offer us the possibility of interaction, through accompanying websites and character profiles on social networks. Others develop the idea further through Alternate Reality Games; the TV series LOST built a conspiracy game around the series, populated through websites, flashmobs and real life interventions. The way we follow real world stories works in similar ways. Expanding closure is an attempt to understand the gaps we cross as we read, write and inhabit online spaces.
Gareth Howell is a Lecturer in Digital Media at De Montfort University and Research Fellow at the IOCT. He was a founding member of Digital Arts organization Active Ingredient and the new media platform event trampoline. Gareth joined DMU from Loughborough University, where he was a Research Associate at the Animation Academy. During this time, he became interested in the relationship between comics and animation, digital narrative and participatory culture. Recently he set up and is managing the TRG Ning social network at transliteracy.ning.com. He is blogging via Facebook at athousandtinypieces, and tweeting at @garethdoodles.
As part of a short, media rich presentation Michael will publicly launch/premiere his latest piece of (on-line) experimental creative work. Presented via an interactive graphic, there is an introductory outline of the theoretical framework within which his work, cameltext.com resides. His fifteen minute presentations will contain approximately 5 X 3 minute slides/dynamic images – for collective edutainment pleasure. Cameltext is a new on-line work that combines elements of visual and concrete poetry, flash game mechanics, comedic interpretations of literary theory with fun and play elements. The work is currently in development and will be completed before early January 2010.
As evidenced by the propagation of transliterate objects and artifacts such as ARGs, internet memes, mobile messaging, etc, new technologies afford and encourage new forms, yet as McLuhan observed new forms of media usually accommodate or contain old(er) ones. In our acknowledged era of remix and remediation; Cameltext is based around an online implementation of one of the newest of creative forms – an interactive flash game, it inherently contains elements of oulipian word play, visual ludic references and is specifically designed to explicitly contain older text based forms that mimic pseudo Persian poetry and selected elements of literary theory. The goal is to offer an interactive opportunity for immediate entertainment and stimulation with the potential for later deeper referential reflection and exploration.
Michael J. Maguire Bio (also known as clevercelt)
An Irish writer, poet, entrepreneur and digital creative working across platforms and disciplines from theatre to film, computer games to poetry, TV to eliterature, the internet and beyond. Michael holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and New Media from De Montfort University Leicester and is currently a PhD student of digital literature in the school of English Drama and Film in University College Dublin. His publication credits include, Xbox and PC games, On-line Literature, stage plays, short films, software applications and poetry. He has been involved with creativity, entertainment and computers for over twenty five years.
See: www.michaeljmaguire.com and www.clevercelt.com
As travelling and expenses budgets are being slashed in many sectors, attendance at national and international conferences is dropping. Environmental pressures are also leading many firms to look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint – including minimising air travel.
These factors, together with the rise of social media tools such as Twitter, have led to the emergence of “remote audiences”, who attempt to follow the events of a conference via the internet, often relying on a mixture of unofficial sources to piece together an understanding of the issues covered. However, conference organisers are now beginning to recognise the need to produce official resources to cater for and encourage this remote audience in order to harness their contributions.
This presentation will provide a brief introduction to creating a complete online experience of a conference for a remote audience by creating tools and providing content so they can actively engage and interact with the live event.
Providing effective combinations of resources and integrating them with a live event raises a number of challenges related to transliteracy: the remote audience may wish to access the event content from a variety of different platforms; representing the event appropriately within the literacies of each platform may require some adaptation of the content; and members of the remote audience may have different levels of ability to navigate and use the resources to full effect.
To explore these issues, I will present a short a stylistic analysis of an Online Conference Space which attempts to achieve all this, specifically examining how an understanding of transliteracy is helping to inform its design.
Kirsty McGill is the Creative Director of communications and training firm TConsult Ltd. As part of this diverse role, Kirsty delivers professional blogging and event amplification services for conferences, creative uses of social media for business firms and specialist English tuition. A graduate of the MA in Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University, Kirsty has a keen focus on translating the narratives of the physical world into the digital, where they are sometimes lost. Kirsty also contributes to the Transliteracy Research Group blog and explores a range of new media related issues on her own blog: Custard in the Ether.
For practitioners, research into transliteracy and transliterate practice provides a useful framework for the discussion of new modes of literature. Digital fiction – digital or electronic literature – is a developing field and, while it is true that the internet has offered a democratisation of access to information, as well as greater access to online publication, it is also true that creating any form of literature requires high levels of skill and that greater access does not equal greater quality. This talk will demonstrate one form of transliterate practice through the on-going digital fiction project ‘Flight Paths: a networked novel’.
Kate Pullinger’s most recent novel is The Mistress of Nothing which won the GG, Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, 2009. Other books include A Little Stranger (2006), Weird Sister (1999) and the short story collection My Life as a Girl in a Men’s Prison (1997). Pullinger’s many digital fiction projects include her multiple award-winning collaboration with Chris Joseph on ‘Inanimate Alice’, a multimedia episodic digital fiction – www.inanimatealice.com – and ‘Flight Paths’ – http://www.flightpaths.net – a networked novel, as well as the online and print collaborative writing project ‘A Vauxhall Chorus: the 24 Hour Book’. Kate Pullinger is Reader in Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University; she lives in London. www.katepullinger.com
The Third Woman
The Third Woman project combines transliteracy elements including an interactive mobile film–game, soundworks, performances, installation, and bio-art. Its core scenario The core project scripted an interactive Mobile Film-Game using mobile phone photosensing, that progressively revealed the layers of contemporary film drama.
In May 2008 the first workshop of the E-mobiLArt initiative was held in
Athens. Thirty-three artists working with digital media were gathered
together from a eurocentric, but worldwide selection. Very few artists
knew each other before the event, but, miraculously, before the end of
the week, many of the working groups had coalesced around embryonic
ideas. Like the other teams who eventually were to generate the 14
installations of the future exhibition, the eight artists who formed the
Vienna Underground group were an international mix of professional media
artists brought together by the worldwide network provided through the
e-MobilArt workshop. They included Anna Dumitriu (UK), Cliona Harmey
(Eire), Margarete Jahrmann( Switzerland), Martin Rieser (UK), Barry
Roshto(US/Germany) Nita Tandon (Austria) Pia Tikka (Finland) and Nina
Yankowitz (USA). Subsequently, grants were obtained from Avek: The
Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture, Finland, The Arts Council of
England, De Montfort Univerity and BMUK.
In later workshops in Rovienemi in August 2008 and Vienna in February
2009, the ideas and content were then developed into a fully-fledged
production. Under the conceptual guidance of Martin Rieser, the project evolved
into a multi-faceted mobile film and game inspired by the Vienna-based
film noir : The Third Man (dir. Reed 1949). Combined with costume performances, soundart installations and events and bio-art interventions it combined Transliteracy elements in both its method of collaborative production and its complexity of delivery. Exhibited in Vienna, Bath, Thessaloniki, Portugal and soon in China.
Visualizing the Story From Text to Screen: Application of Film Adaptation Techniques to Digital Fiction
Authors: Lyle Skains, Amy Chambers, Maggie Parke
As participants become more familiar with the conventions of the internet as a storytelling medium, digital fiction is emerging as a literary genre alongside novels and films. The genre will eventually broaden to include forms and stories that are more easily accessible to the consumer public than the current academic- and experiment-focused works.
To date, most of these digital stories have been “born-digital”; few adaptations have been attempted. In the past, as storytelling technology advanced to the printed book and then film, authors and directors relied heavily on the processes of remediation to adapt familiar stories with the new technology, easing the transition to the new media. In film adaptations, multiple modes of interpretation are utilized to depict the story. Set design, costume, camera angles, and framing all contribute to transforming the textual narrative to the visual media of film. The processes used in adapting a literary work to screen are well-tried, and the fundamental techniques may apply to remediation in other technologies – namely, the newer media of digital fiction.
This paper looks at the influential film adaptation Blade Runner, adapted from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, analyzing how the visuals contribute to the storyworld and narrative of the film. Examples of current remediation techniques will be explored, as well as a proposal for their applicaions to new media storytelling. A possible model for the remediation of Dick’s original text into digital fiction will also be illustrated, using these principles, during the presentation of the paper.
The authors are PhD students in the School of Creative Studies and Media, Bangor University. Lyle Skains examines multimodal creativity through simultaneous production of stories in both print and digital media. Amy Chambers combines film studies with an historical approach and focuses upon the use of film as an historical source, including an extensive case study of Planet of the Apes (1968). Maggie Parke studies the adaptation and remediation of event films from book to film, video game and merchandise and the negotiation of the fan base in these popular adaptations; her main case study is The Twilight Saga.
Transliterate Readers and the Networked Book*
This paper will explore the potential of digital literature to offer collective reading experiences and how these impact on the concept of the book. As the act of reading moves from the printed page to the online space designed for social interaction, the positions of reader and writer are shifting. Reading becomes a transliterate experience and, while exploring a text, readers can be encouraged to leave a textual trace of themselves behind. Discussions between readers can be recorded and the reading experience moves from being a private and solitary experience to a social one. The experience of reading becomes collaborative and the boundaries between author and reader adapt and change. The roles of author and reader are no longer fixed and static.
Through these encounters, the networked book becomes a place rather than an artifact and readers gather around the text and contribute their own ideas. The familiar concept of the book begins to include the commentaries and notes left by its readers.
There have been several experiments into how online social networking spaces can be used to re-imagine both the book and the reading experience. The paper will examine reading projects that have used new media platforms to connect a reader to a text by encouraging them to contribute directly to the text and to discussions surrounding
it. It will explore The Golden Notebook Project and Songs of Imagination and Digitisation and will also address BookGlutton and Shelfari as places of social reading.
Amy Spencer is currently a PhD candidate at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths. Her research explores the shifting positions of the author and reader in digital literature. Her research background is in do-it-yourself media production and she is the author of /DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture/ (2005, 2008) and /The Crafter Culture Handbook/ (2007). She is a also Programme Coordinator for art + power, a Bristol
arts organisation that aims to promote social inclusion through participation in the arts, and she runs creative writing workshops.
What is Transliteracy?
Transliteracy provides a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the twenty-first century. It is not a new behaviour but has been identified as a working concept since the internet generated new ways of thinking about human communication. Transliteracy research began at the Institute of Creative Technologies at De Montfort University in 2005, and has attracted the attention of a wide range of disciplines, as this conference shows. However it is not simply an abstract idea, but a conceptual tool for use in business, community, education and the arts. This talk demonstrates why transliteracy is the literacy of convergence.
Sue Thomas is Professor of New Media in the Institute of Creative Technologies and the Faculty of Humanities at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. Her most recent book is the cyberspace travelogue ‘Hello World: travels in virtuality’ (2004). Other publications include the novels ‘Correspondence’ (short-listed for the Arthur C Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel 1992) and ‘Water’ (1994); an edited anthology ‘Wild Women: Contemporary Short Stories By Women Celebrating Women’ (1994), and ‘Creative Writing: A Handbook For Workshop Leaders’ (1995). She has published extensively in both print and online, and has initiated numerous online writing projects including The Noon Quilt, now an iconic image of the early days of the web. She founded the trAce Online Writing Centre in 1995 where she was Artistic Director until going to De Montfort in January 2005. She leads the Transliteracy Research Group with Kate Pullinger, and supervises a number of PhD students working in new media related areas. She also manages social media projects including the NLab Network, CreativeCoffee Club, and Amplified Leicester, a city-wide experiment in social media. Her research interests include transliteracy, social media, and transdisciplinarity. She is currently writing ‘Nature and Cyberspace’, a study of the relationships between cyberspace and the natural world.
Dr Drew Whitworth
Critical Theory, Learning and Transliteracy
What is transliteracy for? This question has yet to be adequately answered (Thomas et al 2007) and as a result, the definition of the term on http://www.transliteracy.com is still a working definition.
This presentation will address the problem of defining transliteracy by reflecting on recent developments in theories of educational technology, principally the ecology of resources model (Luckin 2008) and the notion of learner-generated contexts (Luckin et al 2009). Learners who are generating their context (as opposed to just content) are not passive consumers in an educational context created for them, but are actively generating that context through the constant selection of different media. As a result, the ecology of resources available to them is shaped, and will go on to afford new possibilities and opportunities in the future. At one level then, transliteracy can be proposed as being the skill which learners need to generate their own context in this way.
This is only a low-level definition, however, as it is, in the philosophical sense, idealistic rather than realistic. Attention to critical theory can show how, as with information literacy, actual learners are not cognitively free to select from the range of approaches available in any given environmental context (Blaug 2007; Whitworth 2009a). Because transliteracy treats all media equally (Thomas et al 2007), it risks therefore risks idealism and relativism unless it can be shown to be, not a practice in its own right, but something which co-exists with, and helps synthesise, other subjective, objective and intersubjective forms of value (Whitworth 2009b). In this way, a fuller, and critically aware, definition of transliteracy can be formed.
Drew Whitworth has been the Programme Director of the MA: Digital Technologies, Communication and Education at the University of Manchester since 2005, and was previously in the School of Education at the University of Leeds. In 2009 he published the book “Information Obesity” which analysed the nature of information as an environmental resource, and how the ways in which we organise the consumption and production of information are potentially damaging our ability to create the informational resources that individuals and communities will need in the future.
Underbelly is an interactive digital fiction about a woman sculptor, carving on the site of a former colliery in the north of England now landscaped into a country park. As she carves, she is disturbed by a medley of voices and the reader/player is plunged into an underworld of repressed fears and desires about her sexuality, potential maternity and worldly ambitions mashed up with the disregarded histories of the 19th Century women who once worked underground mining coal.
Exploring this map-like narrative territory, the reader/player comes across hidden voices and animated elements that dramatise the tensions and contradictions in the sculptor’s life and provide glimpses into the past. Unearthing these clues and fragments, the reader is mining not only to find the meaning of the story but the way out. The denouement is via a route where she is pressed to make the choice which the protagonist faces about her future. At this point the story-world branches out into multiple alternative endings and each possible outcome is arrived at through a combination of choice and chance.
Underbelly depicts one of the most ancient art forms, stone carving, through one of the most modern, interactive digital media. This conflation of a handcrafting process with the haptics of digital interaction – particularly the way the reader uses a hand tool, i.e. mouse, to reveal images and voices, like a stone-carver uses a chisel to reveal the sculptural form ‘hidden’ within – is an example of transliteracy in action.
Christine Wilks is a digital writer and artist who creates rich-media works for the web at www.crissxross.net and engages in collaborative remixing at www.remixworx.net. She also designs and creates e-learning experiences with www.makeithappen.org.uk. She was a featured author at Writing Bodies/Reading Bodies in Contemporary Women’s Writing 2009 and has presented her works of e-literature and collaborative projects at other festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad, including e-Poetry 2009, Electronic Literature in Europe 2008 and Interactive Futures 2007. She graduated from the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media at DMU in 2008. Before becoming engrossed in the web, she made short films, videos, installations and wrote screenplays.