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).

Transliteracy 多媒体读写能力 at DAW Symposium, Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts

Duo Mei Ti Du Xie Neng Li

200px-Xi'an_-_City_wall_-_014 At the end of June I’ll be visiting China for the first time. I’ll be speaking at the DAW Symposium: Visions and Trends in Transdisciplinary Art and Science at the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts (XAFA). It promises to be a huge and very impressive event. I’m just one of many speakers from several countries and I’m really looking forward to meeting them as well as our Chinese colleagues. I’ve been learning a little Mandarin this year but not much went in, I have to admit, so I have a lot of revision to do before I leave.

I’d like to thank my colleague in the IOCT, Professor Hongji Yang, for very kindly working out a translation of the word ‘transliteracy’ for me in both characters and pinyin. I’ll be very interested to hear the view of other Mandarin speakers as to what this means to them.

I’m also keen to research metaphors of computing and the internet in China and very much hope I’ll be able to harvest a few for my growing collection.

Of course, various social media apps are blocked in China so I don’t know which I’ll use to journal my trip, but, time permitting, I will try to post some reports and pictures while I’m there.

Image from Wikipedia


Five Provocations – Kate Pullinger

I wrote this manifesto prior to attending ‘In(ter)ventions' at the Banff Centre in Canada; it
reflects my concerns as a writer who works in both print publishing and
digital fiction.  At Banff the focus of the conference was primarily on
the avant-garde and poetics; as a fiction writer my concerns, in this
context, felt more mainstream.  This itself was interesting – in the
world of book publishing I’m often seen as the futurist, the digital
advocate.  At Banff my concern with narrative and story positioned me as
a member of the non-avant old guard, a traditionalist.  This is an
observation, not a complaint – I found the conference hugely useful and
completely fascinating

1.  We need to talk about money.  Some of us reside
inside the academy, some of us reside outside the academy; some of us
get grants for our work, some of us do not.  Writers need to be
thinking hard about how to protect our revenues across all platforms. 
As publishing is shaken up by the new technologies, writers need to be
proactive, involved in the on-going discussions about developing fair
terms and new business models.

2.  Writers, publishers, and teachers need to get their heads out of
the sand:  the digital future is already here and we
risk becoming dinosaurs, as well as ostriches, if we don’t engage with
the multitude of possibilities for storytelling offered to us by the new

3.  Stop talking about ebooks. Ebooks are boring. 
Convenient, practical, destined to become one of the ways we read, but
boring, as counter-intuitive as placing the text of the latest
blockbuster novel on a television screen.  The Google Book project,
which sees the world’s leading libraries collaborating in secret with a
giant corporation, effectively pulling the copyright rug out from under
our feet, is either our best friend or our worst enemy or both; however,
the Google Book project, along with rapid developments in ereaders, has
ensured that the book, as a digital file, will remain at the heart of
our culture for the foreseeable future.  So stop talking about ebooks. 
There’s a new world of media-rich literature around the next corner;
reading on screen has huge potential to enhance the way we tell stories,
and to expand our audiences in new directions. 

4.  Always remember that human culture is highly visual.  The first
non-oral form of storytelling was cave-painting – the original
powerpoint presentation.  The dominance of film and television as
storytelling forms in the twentieth century demonstrate that as soon as
we are able to use pictures to tell stories, we do.  Literature must
reckon with this fact.  As technology enables us to carry rich media in
our pockets we need to find ways to make writing – good writing –
relevant to new generations of readers.  If we take the long view of the
history of storytelling, are plain old words on the page –
fixed-type print – an historic anomaly? 

5.  Good writing – and by this I mean writing that
demonstrates the love of language, of a good sentence, a well-turned
phrase, the power of words, writing that rewards re-reading – must
survive, regardless of platform or media
.  It’s up to us to
make sure that happens. 

This was first posted on my blog at

Transliteracy Slideshow by Bobbi Newman

I heard about this site via a Google Alert. Librarian Bobbi Newman writes
"I haven’t been able to stop thinking about transliteracy and how important the concept is for libraries and librarians. I’ve created a slideshow I hope conveys the message and is easy to share." She's produced a page of information about transliteracy and a really good slideshow. Thanks to Bobbi for allowing me to share it here.

Transliteracy at Beyond Boundaries, 22 Sept 2009, Loughborough University

Today I ran a workshop on Transliteracy at
Beyond Boundaries: Facing interdisciplinary challenges in humanities A conference for postgraduate students in the East Midlands 
It was an interesting and thought-provoking event, and especially good to see such a mix of disciplines in one place. In my workshop there was a doctor retraining to be a forensic scientist, a linguistics specialist, a librarian, a computer scientist, and artists working in quite a few different fields. They drew some great diagrams of their personal networks and the literacies to be found within them, and we had a very illuminating discussion. I promised to share my somewhat basic slides, so here they are. Download Transliteracy workshop EMUA September 2009

Plus – as discussed in the workshop, Kate Hayles' provocative paper Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes (although personally I'm not sure I agree that it is relevant to age.)