Tropical Storm Irene and Social Media

Image from CBC News.

Recently Tropical Storm Irene has ripped it’s way through several areas causing massive destruction. It “began as a hurricane and was later reduced to a tropical storm and then downgraded again to a post-tropical cyclone, delivered enough rain to cause flooding in Lower Manhattan on Sunday.” Irene then moved on to Canada, leaving thousands without power in Quebec and the Atlantic Canada. During the raging storm, people kept abreast of news using Twitter and other social media tools. Some interesting examples include:


Twitter Reaction to Tropical Storm Irene: Relief by  on Mashable

The Live Time Square Webcam via EarthCam

Search Twitter for #Irene

A Crowdsourced Damage Map via Sarah Kessler on Versions.



Here’s a YouTube video by catdoodle documenting the storm in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. 

New Media Writing Prize 2011

New Media Writing Prize 2011

Bournemouth University’s Media School is delighted to announce the second annual prize for new media writing.

The prize encourages writers working with new media to showcase their skills, provoke discussion and raise awareness of new media writing, the future of the 'written' word and storytelling. The prize is split into two categories: student and professional. The winners in each category will receive a valuable bundle of new media hardware and software. The judging panel are looking for good storytelling (fiction or non-fiction) written specifically for delivery and reading/viewing on a PC or Mac, the web, or a hand-held device such as an iPad or mobile phone. It could be a short story, novel, documentary or poem using words, images, film or animation with audience interaction.

Anyone can apply! Whether you’re a student, a professional, an artist, a writer, a Flash designer or an enthusiast, the competition is open to all. It's an international competition, open to all outside the UK. The deadline is midday on Monday 31 October 2011 and each entry should be submitted by email to Shortlisted entrants will be invited to the awards ceremony on the 23 November where the winner will be announced. There will be substantial media coverage for the Awards, and winners will be given full acknowledgement in all press releases and related material.

For further information please visit the New Media Writing Prize website.

A high profile Awards Ceremony will be staged at Bournemouth University on Wednesday 23 November. An esteemed panel of judges will select winning entries that will be published on high profile new media web-hub, The Literary Platform, the Bournemouth University website and will be showcased at the Awards Ceremony.

Welcome to new contributors Souvik Mukherjee and Bobbi Newman

I'm delighted to announce that two new contributors have agreed to write for the Transliteracy Research Group. Souvik is writing from India, and Bobbi from the USA. I very much look forward to their perspectives. Meanwhile, here are their bios. Read about the whole team here.

Souvik Mukerhjee

Mukherjee Souvik Mukherjee is an independent research fellow working on digital game narratives. Besides his reearch on videogames, Souvik has also been involved in analysing the impact of social media projects on communities, especially in relation to transliteracy and business innovation., as a research fellow in the Film, Media and Journalism department of De Montfort University.  He completed his PhD on storytelling in New Media, especially  focusing on videogame narratives, and has published and presented papers on a range of related topics. Besides New Media, Souvik also takes a keen interest in e-learning and has been involved in analysing online media and virtual learning network usage in a higher. After completing his project at DMU, he has returned to India, where he hails from, to develop New Media research networks. Souvik writes about his research on his blog Ludus ex Machina and tweets as @prosperoscell

Bobbi Newman


Bobbi is dedicated to helping libraries find their place in the digital age. She is passionate about 21st century literacies and the role of all libraries in equal access and opportunity for all. Her professional interests include digital and technology based services, the digital divide, and improving existing services through expanding traditional methods, while creating innovative new practices. On the personal side, she is on a never-ending quest for the perfect pair of shoes. Bobbi was named a Mover and Shaker by Library Journal in 2011. Her professional involvements and accomplishments include founding and coordinating the semi-annual Library Day in the Life Project. She is a frequent caller on T is for Training and a contributing editor and advocate at Library Renewal. In 2010 she co-founded Transliteracy Interest Group, LITA, ALA and served as Chair from 2010-2011. Bobbi co-founded and writes for the Libraries and Transliteracy Project. She was recently appointed as the LITA representative on the ALA OITP Digital Literacy Task Force and serves as an ALA Councilor-at-Large and on the OITP Advisory Committee. She shares her passions by consulting and speaking at local, national, and international conferences. She writes at Librarian by Day and Libraries and Transliteracy and lives in the USA.

Call for contributions for a ‘Book’ Proposal on The Uses of Transliteracy

I am compiling a 'book' proposal, working title The Uses of Transliteracy. The title and final  brief are yet to be decided, but I would like it to interrogate the ways in which transliteracy is being examined and applied across disciplines, countries and cultures.

In terms of format, it makes sense for it to be a multimedia product rather than a straightforward print or digital book, so suggestions for appropriate publishers would be very welcome.

At this time, if you'd be interested in contributing please submit some details via this short form. If you'd like to discuss your idea first, please email me. NB: UK academics please note that this volume will *not* be completed in time for the 2014 REF

Swap, by Roman Ondak



I was recently lucky enough to get to go to the Manchester International Festival, which is a cross-art form biannual festival, with theatre, music, performance, and the visual arts at its heart.  One morning I took my kids to see 11 Rooms at the Manchester Art Gallery, which is a series of eleven commissioned works of live time-based art – eleven artists, given a room each.  This was a remarkable exhibition, not the least for the way in which almost all of the artists' rooms engaged both me and my kids.

The room that engaged us most completely was 'Swap' by the artist Roman Ondak.  This room had a small table in the centre, with a man sitting behind it.  On the table was a single item.  When we arrived, it was a pen.  The man sitting behind the table was encouraging the other people in the room – there was about ten in total – to swap something of their own for the pen.  Everyone held back, of course, but then, slowly, the swapping began.  The pen was replaced with a used post-it note.  The post-it note was exchanged for a single, wrapped, stick of gum.  My kids insisted I rummage through my handbag.  The eldest swapped a nearly full package of tissues for the stick of gum.  A young man on the other side of the room swapped the package of tissues – 'Ooh, Balsam!' he said - for a 50 pence coin.  My son got the 50 pence coin by handing back that stick of gum.  And on it went. 

It was a fascinating experience to watch the people in the room react to the swaps.  It made my kids and I think about not only the value of the things in our pockets, but also the nature of the swap as a transaction, mediated by the 'performer' sitting at his table.  For my kids the process was akin to a game, and they found watching the swaps take place exciting, in particular when new people entered the room and entered into the process.  It was tempting to do something outrageous – I thought briefly about putting my smartphone on the table, just to see what would happen.  I managedto resist that urge, but we were all beguiled by this highly evocative, very simple, work of art. In a digital age it was refreshing to focus on a work like this that relies completely upon bodies-in-the-room and lived experience to exist.     

The photo at the top is my son's hand and the things he came away with after his swap session.

Video: Evaluating Impact: Transliteracy and Creative Business Innovation via Social Media Dr Souvik Mukherjee & Prof Sue Thomas

Evaluating Impact: NLab, Amplified Leicester, and creative innovation via social media
Seminar by Dr Souvik Mukherjee, Impact Research Fellow, Faculty of Humanities, De Montfort University. Wednesday 8th June 2011, 4pm at the Institute of Creative Technologies De Montfort University, Leicester, UK  

Evaluating Impact: Transliteracy and Creative Business Innovation via Social Media Dr Souvik Mukherjee & Prof Sue Thomas from IOCT on Vimeo.

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Electronic Literature Collection, Vol. 2


The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 2, recently launched on the web, is an anthology of works by an international group of authors "that pushes through the boundaries of literary forms, creating new kinds of experiences for interacting readers." Published by the Electronic Literature Organisation, and edited by Laura Borràs, Talan Memmott, Rita Raley, and Brian Kim Stefans, Volume 2 picks up where the first volume, ELC1, left off.

The new collection includes 63 works drawn from (and extending beyond):

  • Countries: Austria, Australia, Catalonia, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Israel, The Netherlands, Portugal, Peru, Spain, UK, US
  • Languages: Catalan, Dutch, English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Formats: Flash, Processing, Java, JavaScript, Inform, HTML, C++

Like ELC1, the collection can be browsed by author, title, or keyword. ELC2 speaks to both the continuity as well as the bright future of electronic literature. The works include many of the emerging categories of e-lit: mash-ups, geolocative, codework, as well as “traditional” and evolving forms such as hypertext, chatbots, and interactive fiction. The authors list presents readers with both veterans and newcomers to the field.

Contributors to this TRG blog, Kate Pullinger and Christine Wilks, are amongst the authors represented in the collection. ELC2 is also available on DVD for free on request from the ELO.

ELC2 is published under a Creative Commons license, which means the collection can be freely shared, non-commercially, between individuals, libraries, and schools, provided that appropriate attribution is maintained and the works are unmodified.

Welcome to Pine Point: digital documentary

Every once in a while I come across a new piece of work (well, new to me!) that wakes me up and excites me about the vast potential of new hybrid forms of storytelling.   This morning an email landed in my inbox with an introduction to 'Welcome to Pine Point' , an interactive documentary by a Vancouver, Canada, based media production company, The Goggles. 

The project's creators, Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons, describe the work as 'part book, part film, part website.  The (true) story is about a town that existed for 30 years, then was wiped off the map.'

It's a wonderful work, a true transliterate hybrid, combining photos, videos, text, and animation to tell a moving and poignant story.   Great music too.  It takes 15-20 minutes to view, longer if you linger.

Short stories online

There’s a review of EC Osondu’s collections of short stories – ‘Voice of America’ in the Guardian. It’s a story about Africans. Africans in America and Africans at home.  EC Osondu won the Caine Prize 2009 for his story ‘Waiting’.  The story goes like this:

My name is Orlando Zaki. Orlando is taken from Orlando, Florida, which is what is written on the t-shirt given to me by the Red Cross. Zaki is the name of the town where I was found and from which I was brought to this refugee camp. My friends in the camp are known by the inscriptions written on their t-shirts. Acapulco wears a t-shirt with the inscription, Acapulco. Sexy’s t-shirt has the inscription Tell Me I’m Sexy. Paris’s t-shirt says See Paris And Die. When she is coming toward me, I close my eyes because I don’t want to die..

The fascinating thing about this story is that it was first published online in Osondu's other story 'A Letter from Home' was judged one of 'The Top Ten Stories on the Internet' in 2006. In 2007 his story 'Jimmy Carter's Eyes' was also short-listed for the Caine Prize. And this too, was first published online. These stories and others make up the new anthology – 'Voice of America'.

I am currently researching the role of the internet on emerging African writers. Most of my respondents – who are writers – talk about starting their writing careers online, before being picked up by traditional book publishers. And one of the questions I asked was: ‘Do you write differently for the web?’ The answer was no. I think Osondu is a perfect example of an emerging African writer whose writing is apt – whether you are reading it online or in print.

The Whole Elephant: librarians arguing about transliteracy

This year conversation about transliteracy has really taken off amongst North American librarians. Bobbi Newman's work  initiated a lot of interest resulting in a great collaborative blog Libraries and Transliteracy  and gave rise to many other blog posts and discussions which come through to me almost every day via Google Alerts. Recently Google brought me a discussion on David Rothman's post  Commensurable Nonsense (Transliteracy) which starts "It is entirely possible that I’m just dense, but everything I’ve read recently about libraries and “transliteracy” seems like nonsense to me." That post has set off a long argument which seems to involve just about every US-library-related name I've come across in the last year, and it continues in the comments to a follow-up post.

This is great, because when the term was first developed here at the Institute of Creative Technologies we knew we could not find all the answers but we  felt sure that others would take it up and bring new insights we had not been able to imagine ourselves. However, most of the conversations I have read around libraries and transliteracy tend to be internal facing within the community, with few references to the Transliteracy Research Group blog, so I would like to recommend it as an excellent source of new transliteracy thinking across many perspectives and subjects. As it happens, the library world has been the first to take up the baton, but it could have come from any number of other disciplines as our collaborative blog demonstrates, and it's important to keep that diversity going.

Elephant-car-404a_670724c In my view, transliteracy is a bit like the story about the blind men and the elephant, where the elephant = massive changes to the way we understand the dynamics of communication media. Everyone encounters individual aspects of the beast and applies their own meaning, whether the topic is talking face-to-face, on TV, on Skype on your iPhone, or via an aboriginal campfire story. Or whether it is written in newspapers, carved onto tablets, typed into email or copied by hand (with mistakes) into parchment scrolls. Or whether it is read in a book, on a poster, a website, or from the smoke-trail of a plane. Or in body language, via touching, dancing, clapping or simple gesture. I could go on and on. But few realise the enormity of the whole animal.

All of this makes transliteracy very hard to pin down, and the predicament is made worse by the fact that this elephant is also a shape-shifter. For example,  ten years ago we had no idea of how important the literacy of using a cellphone would become, or that it would help regions like Africa deal with the hurdle of desktop computing by jumping over it all together and going straight to mobile. Seeing the whole elephant is about realising that ALL of these are interconnected and can be understood in relation to each other through history, culture and context.

So transliteracy is a shape-shifting eco-system of behaviours and it is probably neither possible nor desirable for anyone to understand enough to know the whole elephant. The vital thing is to remember it is always there and in constant motion. This means recognising the limits of your own knowledge and acceptng a degree of messiness and uncertainty.

I appreciate that some people are uncomfortable with that and prefer to use concepts which are locked down and straightforward, but that's not likely to happen with transliteracy and could even diminish its flexible strength.  Those who need that kind of tool should probably look for something else. But I hope they will occasionally set aside a moment or two to consider the elephant in all its complexity.

Photo Source: Daily Telegraph