Video of Keynote Lecture at 3Ts 2013: Transliteracy from Cradle to Career

I've been sent videos of 3 lectures at the 3Ts conference at SUNY Empire State College on 15 March 2013. My talk is embedded below and features introductions by the college provost, Deborah Amery, and the Dean, Tom Mackey.  I really enjoyed all of our conversations that day.

OER 101

Presentation by Mark McBride and Beth Burns about SUNY Buffalo State's OER 101 course
Metaliteracy: Dean Thomas Mackey

Sue Thomas Lecture

A lecture on Transliteracy delivered by Sue Thomas on March 15, 2013

Transliterate Spaces at 3Ts 2013: Transliteracy from Cradle to Career

Here are my slides from 3Ts 2013: Transliteracy from Cradle to Career, held at Empire State College in Saratoga Springs on 15 March 2013. Thanks to Tom Mackey and Michele Forte and their colleagues for a very stimulating and enjoyable event. We talked about many things in the course of the day and I tried to keep a note of all the links I needed to pass on. Here, in no particular order, are the items I think I promised to share. Do contact me if I missed anything.
And here are a couple of photos of you all from the start of the day. 

Videos from Sorbonne Colloque « Translittératies : enjeux de citoyenneté et de créativité » 7-9 novembre 2012

There is an excellent series of videos recording this event organised by Prof Divina Meigs and her colleagues in Paris in November 2012. Here are two of the videos introducing transliteracy – Professor Alan Liu, of the University of California Santa Barbara, and myself, Professor Sue Thomas, of De Montfort University, Leicester. Follow this link for the whole set.


Colloque « Translittératies : enjeux de citoyenneté et de créativité » 7-9 novembre 2012

Symposium "Translittératies: issues of citizenship and creativity"

ENS-Cachan and Université Sorbonne Nouvelle
organized by
STEF (ENS Cachan) and CREW (Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3)
with the support of the French Commission for UNESCO, the INA and Vivendi

7-9 November 2012
Pavilion Gardens, ENS Cachan

Si les questions d’éducation aux médias et à l’information sont d’actualité, leur prise en compte nécessite une restructuration des approches actuellement suivies, pour profiter de la convergence des médias autour du numérique et répondre aux nouveaux défis de la mondialisation, notamment pour la circulation des savoirs. more

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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The electronic writer as trans[per]former

What’s the ideal skill set for a transliterate creative practitioner? I’m not sure. All I know is it’s very broad, encompassing a wide range of creative, multimedia, storytelling, problem-solving and technical skills – at least it is for an electronic writer/artist like myself, who tends to work alone. Here I’m thinking mainly about the skills and creative abilities you need to develop and create a work of digital storytelling or electronic literature. But what about once the work of e-lit is finished? How can you help it reach an audience? How do you promote it? That’s when another set of skills comes into play.

We’re used to seeing print writers give readings on the literary festival circuit. Electronic writers need to do this kind of thing too. Self-publishing and submitting work for online publications and exhibitions is fine, but you can’t just rely on an audience finding your work on the web – like musicians and print writers, it helps to go out on the promotional trail, make a live appearance, give a performance.

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Later this month my transliterate abilities as an e-lit performer are going to be tested – at Ilkley Literature Fringe Festival, with a great group of poets and fiction writers, and at Inspace in Edinburgh, with a fabulous line-up of digital writers and artists, as part of the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS 2010).

In Ilkley, I’m performing with a group of creative print writers who came out of the Yorkshire Art Circus writer development programme some years ago. It’s a kind of reunion and to give ourselves an angle, we’re staging it as The Writers’ Group Exposed!!! We’ll be simulating a typical meeting – well, maybe not so typical because there will be an electronic writer in the group. It’ll be interesting to see how my e-lit (Fitting the Pattern) is received in this context.

For any writer, it’s seldom as simple as giving a reading, as the Ilkley gig demonstrates, but for the electronic writer, inevitably, there’s even more to consider. You’ve got to sort out the tech (computer software/hardware, digital displays/projection, sound, etc.) and more than likely you’ve got to be able to operate your tech and read/perform at the same time. Those are the practicalities, but there are also aesthetic and dramaturgical considerations too. How will your live self, your bodily presence, affect or interact with the virtual presence/s, visually, sonically and kinetically? Should work designed for the web be repurposed for live performance?

Canadian electronic writer Jim Andrews has an interesting take on this. Here’s his plan for a work he intends to perform at e-Poetry 2011:

Basically, the idea of the project is to scream my fool head off while playing Jig-Sound and dbCinema as instruments.

You’ve seen musicians play an instrument while they sing. Well, this is similar. Only I’ll be telling a story between (or perhaps during) screaming bouts. And the instruments I’ll be playing are Jig-Sound, which is sonic, and dbCinema, which is visual.

If live gigs are part of the process of reaching an audience, then should one build that potential into the design of the work from the outset (or at least somewhere along the way during the process of creation)? Should one consider it an opportunity for transmedia storytelling rather than promotion and networking?

In Edinburgh I’m performing Underbelly – playing it like an instrument – in an evening dedicated to Language in Digital Performance and, as such, the occasion will give me scope to explore these potentialities. For the most part, Underbelly presents a diegetic story-world that explores a psychic landscape where the predominance of spoken word exploits the intimate relationship between voice and the body, voice and interiority. I designed the piece as a work of playable media but not particularly for live performance so I’ll be adapting it for the Inspace show, mixing my live voice with the multiple voices on the digital soundtrack.

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The ICIDS Language in Digital Performance event is billed as Inspace no one can hear you scream and, since it’s taking place on Halloween, we’ve been invited ‘to engage the spirit of this festival’… so, who knows, I might end up screaming too.

Reflections from the Library & Information Science Research Coalition Conference

LISlogo I was recently invited to amplify the Library and Information Science (LIS) Research Coalition’s first conference, which was held at the British Library on 28th June 2010. Whilst much of the event was focussed on discussing and identifying the key needs within the LIS research environment (making it a true conference), I was struck by some of the points raised by the keynote speaker, Professor Andrew Dillon from the University of Texas. Dillon did not mention Transliteracy, but brought up several issues that I felt resonated and could be viewed through the lens of Transliteracy.

Dillon’s main point was that library and information science research should be separated into two strands: research examining the technology of organising and presenting, and research studying the ways in which humans deal with information. I thought this distinction was actually really useful in terms of analysing my own creative practice, as I tend to sit in the blurry area where these two strands overlap, assessing the success of the technologies I am using to tell a particular story in terms of how intuitive they are to use. This does not make me think fully about either the technology or about the way that story is being digested. The usability of the technology is important, but it is only one edge of how humans deal with digital stories and it is easy to get distracted by this rather than taking a wider view of both the human and the technological aspect of the story.

I also found it interesting that Dillon discussed the current obsession with information retrieval, pointing out that this has resulted in too little emphasis on longitudinal outcomes of reading. He expressed concern over the emergence of a new literacy that emphasises search over comprehension, and leads to a loss of “deep” reading skills. The internet is dominated by link-based systems, so it is inevitable that people will be reading in this way and he observed that this in itself this is not a bad thing. However, we need to move beyond the instant and study the longer tale of information use – particularly the process of adjustment to new technology. I was previously unaware that usability studies tend only to look at the instant response when judging the communicative success of a technology (in much the same way as I look for digital fiction to be intuitive as a first priority), but there is then little study of how the information is then used and interpreted, or how the human interacting with the new technology adapts to it over time. This longer tale has more to do with how people develop new literacies and how literacies (as conventions) themselves evolve.

What I found most reassuring about the whole presentation was Dillon’s reminder that explaining Gutenberg’s impact on communication took centuries. However, we are expected to explain the contribution of the internet now. It will take time to fully understand and appreciate the long term impacts of this relatively new technology on how we communicate and what range of literacies we will need to negotiate the modern world. He remarked that data is stored; information is experienced. Studying how technology impacts on this experience will take time.

Overall, whilst this presentation was clearly aimed at helping to provoke fresh thinking about the value, impact and focus of library and information science research, I found that these ideas were useful as a basis for assessing my own research and practice with respect to transliteracy: look at the technology and the humans separately, look at the longer tale of interaction and don’t expect to see all the answers instantly.

My summary of Professor Dillon’s full presentation is available at the LIS Research Coalition’s website here.

Professor Dillon’s slides are available on Slideshare here.

Transliteracy Talk at the Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol 16 July 2010

Pmstudio-logo I'll be speaking about transliteracy on Friday 16 July at the Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol. I've been invited there by Mandy Rose, a Research Fellow at the Digital Cultures Research Centre and I'm excited about this talk because the Pervasive Media Studio has a long and distinguished reputation for transdisciplinarity. I'm guessing that the audience will have strong opinions on what 'literacy' means in their individual fields.

Xi’an slides in Mandarin and English

I'm posting here the slides I showed at the Digital Art Weeks Symposium in Xi'an, China, last week. Bobbi Newman was kind enough to allow me to show her excellent Transliteracy video and although I couldn't get the video translated, I did manage to get the slideshow translated into Mandarin. You'll find it halfway through the sets below. (NB this was a much simplified version of a longer lecture. I had to keep it very brief to ensure an effective translation.)

Augmented e-poetry at ELO_AI

Strange things happen to the reader when printed matter unlocks digital delights!

ELOai_030610_0078 In early June an international collection of e-lit was installed in a gallery setting in downtown Providence (Rhode Island, USA) for the Arts Program of the Electronic Literature Organization 2010 Conference (ELO_AI), including my own piece, Underbelly. There were many wonderful works presented but I’d like to pick out a few that made me think about transliteracy in particular: Requiem, Ethereal Landscapes and Between Page And Screen.

The creators of these works augment their digital art and e-poetry with print, employing a delightful topsy-turvy kind of transliteracy, whereby the printed matter becomes a device for reading the digital, rather than the usual way remediation goes when texts originated for print are digitized. Reading these works, you wonder, where is the poem, where is the story? The poem, the art is powerfully and clearly present, but you’re aware that it doesn’t exist in the computer and it doesn’t exist on the page – it’s between these realms, slipping and sliding along the virtuality continuum – or perhaps it’s the reader who is transliterately sliding around in mixed reality?

It’s an experience that simultaneously displaces and enchants the human reader. It slides you into a magical zone where somehow your corporeal reading equipment – eyes (and reading glasses) – have been substituted by a black & white graphic and a webcam or barcode reader. It’s only when, and if, you allow yourself to be transformed like this that the poetry appears for you.

Have a look at the works, see where they take you…

Requiem by Charles Fisher and Caitlin Fisher

“Requiem is an augmented reality poem in which digital imagery and sound is superimposed on a physical object — in this case the card with the black and white marker. Simply hold the marker up to the webcam to begin experiencing the piece.”

ELOai_060610_0014 ELOai_060610_0013

Requiem, which incorporates a poem written by her father, is part of a larger, more fragmented work by Caitlin Fisher “about collections, hoarding and the things we save when people die” called Cardamom of the Dead. Download and print out a marker.

by by Alexander Mouton and Christian Faur

Ethereal Landscapes is an interactive electronic installation that immerses a viewer into a photographic artists’ book and generative video and audio data-base which a viewer can interact with in real-time through scanning the bar codes on the pages of an accompanying book….

“The concept comes from our love of the immersive quality of books (which can be held), of sound (which surrounds you), and of video (which engages your sense of temporality through its movement).”


Page And Screen
written by Amaranth Borsuk and programmed by Brad Bouse

“…is an augmented-reality chapbook. Like a digital pop-up book, you hold the words in your hands…

“The poems—a series of cryptic letters between two lovers, P and S—do not exist on either page or screen, but in an augmented reality only accessible to the reader who has both the physical object and the device necessary to read it.”

Watch the video or print out the preview marker and try it for yourself (you’ll need a webcam).