‘A Million Penguins’ Five Years On

Well, without dipping into too many cliches about the passage of time, it is nearly five years since the DMU/Penguin wiki-novel experiment, 'A Million Penguins', took place.  The project ran from 1 Feb 2007 for five weeks, and all of us who were involved with it remember it as a time of chaos and great entertainment.  Yesterday I was down at Goldsmith's College, in London, where I was the external examiner for a PhD candidate, Amy Spencer; her PhD was on the Networked Book.  She built her thesis around three case studies of networked books that are also works of fiction, 'Paddlesworth Press' , 'The Golden Notebook Project', and 'A Million Penguins'. It's a solid and interesting piece of research.  

Reading Amy's thesis promoted me to look at the current status of 'A Million Penguins' online.  We heard early last year that Penguin was going to give up hosting the project, and we didn't have the time, or the resources, to figure out how to archive the massive wiki, with its many many pages, ourselves.  I regret this, though it is hard to see how we could have saved it in time.  So the original site no longer exists.

However, a good portion of 'A Million Penguins' was archived by the amazing people at the Internet Archive in San Francisco, and you can find these pages by searching for it via the Wayback Machine.  

During Amy's viva we talked a bit about the phenomenon of the networked book itself.  Amy pointed out that during the noughties there were a significant number of projects that called themselves 'networked books', both fiction and non-fiction, my own on-going project, 'Flight Paths: a Networked Novel' among them of course.  Amy wondered if the networked book concept has had its day.  I think that we are now seeing trade publishing approaching publishing fiction in a manner that owes much to the networked book concept, although of course, all in the service of marketing.  Social media marketing campaigns are now being built around books; these campaigns include bespoke web content, games, extra content, author interviews, etc.  These campaigns aim to foster reader engagement around a newly published book, whereas the networked books of the noughties all sought to foster creative engagement with text and other forms of media.  The networked book emphasis was on collaboration and contributing, whereas, of necessity, a trade publishing networked social media campaign is about sales.  

Calling Transliterate Readers! Two new #elit works by @crissxross


Rememori is a degenerative memory game and playable poem that grapples with the effects of dementia on an intimate circle of characters.

Play-read or read-play, however you approach it and whoever you identify with, you’ll become entangled in a struggle for accurate recall, attention and the search for meaning. Inevitably, it’s a contrary game – there can be no winners.

OOT_thumbnailOut of Touch

In our world of perpetual connectivity, touching interfaces that keep us out of reach, we form attachments whilst remaining detached, by turns kindling and dampening emotions. Out of Touch is a short multimedia e-poem created in Flash, with sound.

Conceived as the first in a series of musings on the paradoxical and often poignant nature of human relationships amid networked life, this episode was commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for the Third Hand Plays series curated by Brian Stefans, published at SFMOMA's Open Space in August 2011.

Transliterate Effects

In their very different ways, both works encourage the reader to consider transliterate effects and reflect upon how they cope with such effects as individuals and in their relationships with others. Read more about the background to these works in these crissxross blog posts: Rememori – a new work and Third Hand Plays: Out Of Touch.

Modified image of brain: source thanks to Wellcome Library, London.

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. 


OED Goes Digital

Interesting development:

Oxford University Press Chooses PubFactory to Develop Oxford English Dictionary

BOSTON, MA–(Marketwire – August 4, 2010) –  iFactory, an award-winning web design and development firm, today announced that Oxford University Press (OUP) has chosen iFactory's online publishing platform, PubFactory, to develop the relaunched version of the online Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The Oxford English Dictionary is the accepted
authority on the evolution of the English language over the last
millennium. It traces the usage of words through 2.5 million quotations
from a wide range of international English language sources, from
classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and
cookery books. The new version of the OED will include the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary and new functionality such as the ability to search and browse the OED
by a wide variety of criteria including subject, region, usage, or
language of origin; see detailed information about the major sources of
the OED; view search results as a timeline; and personalize the resource by saving searches and entries to a personal profile.

"The OED has been a pioneering digital project,"
said Robert Faber, Editorial Director, Scholarly and General Reference
at OUP. "Building a new version is a great opportunity to present the
information locked in the OED database in what we believe is a
much more accessible, dynamic, and productive way, while maintaining its
reliability and scholarly authority. iFactory has been great to work
with on such a core project — they bring real creativity in design,
understanding of user behaviour, and engineering savvy, but also
understand the importance and value of the OED to its many readers, and to OUP."

Read the entire article here.

Transliteracy: A New Link

Recently, while researching other online new media courses and developing the syllabus for the Jan. 2011 online MA in New Media Narratives course, I was introduced to the Creative Research Centre (CRC) at Montclair State University. The director, Neil Baldwin shared some background on the centre with me and it's great to *meet* other academics interested in transdisciplinary/transliterate creative practise. Today, the Transliteracy Research Group has been added to the CRC's ever-evolving bibliography of links and connections.

Have a look at the CRC's Danceaturgy and Nell Painter's Artist Statement (she's the virtual artist in residence) that highlights issues of transdisciplinarity and digital literacy.

If you have any links  on transdisciplinary, transliteracy, new media and/or creative practise you'd like to share with me, please e-mail me: jess AT jesslaccetti.com.

Note: Image is by Nell Painter and is from the CRC's homepage.

My Transliterate Toolbox

Here is a screencast talk about my transliterate methods of creating works of
electronic literature:

My Transliterate Toolbox from Christine Wilks on Vimeo.

Links to the works and sites featured in the talk:

Software mentioned in the talk:

TRG launches today!!!

Since transliteracy research began at DMU in 2005 under the umbrella of PART (Production & Research in Transliteracy), group members have produced a significant range of projects, events, presentations and publications, stimulating an informal research network around the theory and practice of transliteracy.

Sue Thomas and Kate Pullinger have now established The Transliteracy Research Group with the aim of focusing PART's work yet more closely. TRG will continue to draw in a broad coalition of theorists and practitioners, both from DMU and other international institutions and organizations, whilst continuing  to develop our already strong links with business, local community, and the broader cultural sector. A major strength of transliteracy events at DMU is that participants have come from academia, the arts, information sciences, pedagogical researchers, and the creative industries, and this has impacted in many different areas.

The Transliteracy Research Group (TRG), is a research-focussed think-tank and creative laboratory.  The public face of the group resides here, on this new blog. It will be run by Thomas and Pullinger, with regular contributions from the following De Montfort staff, Phd students, and graduates of the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media:  Tia Azulay, Heather Conboy, Gareth Howell, Anietie Isong, Jess Laccetti, Kirsty McGill, and Christine Wilks.

Please join us as we develop this new field of academic research. You can contribute via comments to the blog or join the community 'Transliteracy Notes', designed by Gareth Howell.

As well as the new research group, we would like to bring to your attention a new resource, the Creative Writing and New Media Archive, an archive of all the Guest Lectures given during the four years of the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media. This archive contains lectures from theorists and practitioners as varied as Christy Dena, Rita Raley, Alan Sondheim, Caitlin Fisher, and John Cayley.  Created by CWNM graduate and digital artist Christine Wilks, this resource will be of value to practitioners, students and academics with an interest in transliteracy, digital fiction, digital art, e-poetry, and cross-media.  Please feel free to use this archive and discuss it in 'Transliteracy Notes'.

We will be hosting a day-long Transliteracy Conference on Tuesday 9 Feb, 2010, at the brand-new Phoenix Square Digital Media Centre, Leicester, UK.  Please watch for our Call for Presentations which we will be sending out next week.

Exploring “A Million Penguins” – Order and Chaos in a wiki novel.

Exploring “A Million Penguins:” Order and Chaos in a wiki novel.

IOCT Research Seminar by Bruce Mason

IOCT Lab, Wednesday April 23, 2008 4:30-5:30pm

This seminar is free and open to the public.
penguinforblogpromo.jpgIn February 2007, DMU and Penguin Publishing collaborated to host the world’s first wiki novel – "A Million Penguins" – using the same software that runs Wikipedia. Over a five week period nearly 1,500 people signed up to edit the novel, over 11,000 edits were made and it was viewed over 500,000 times leading the CEO over Penguin Publishing to muse that it was maybe the "most written novel in history."
In this seminar, Bruce Mason will outline the results of a research project held at the IOCT which investigated the social behaviour that unfolded during the writing of "A Million Penguins." What kinds of collaboration, conflict and compromise occurred and what did it tell us about future online writing possibilities? Did a sense of community arise or did we see nothing but chaos and vandalism?
The seminar will not require any particular knowledge of wikis or online writing.

About the presenter

Bruce Mason is an IOCT Post-Doctoral Research Fellow specialising in social research and web2.0 activities. He previously worked at DMU with Professor Sue Thomas on an Arts and Humanities Research Council Funded Project that investigated the potential for folksonomy in academic research.

About A Million Penguins

A Million Penguins is a collaborative online novel, a wiki which was open to anyone in the world to write and edit. The project ran from 1st Feb to 7th March 2007, was organised by Kate Pullinger of De Montfort University and Jeremy Ettinghausen of Penguin, with Sue Thomas, Professor of New Media at De Montfort and an editorial team of students enrolled on De Montfort’s Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media.


Further Information

If you have any questions about this seminar or the research project, please contact Bruce Mason by email: bmason01 at dmu.ac.uk

The Wild Surmise: nature and cyberspace

Most people know me from cyberspace and assume that I live there. I do spend many hours a day online, but what they don't know is that my body is sitting outside, with my bare feet in contact with the earth. I don't know that I could live in any other way.Howard Rheingold
I've been working with computers and in cyberspace ever since I bought my first machine, an Amstrad 6128, in 1987. Right from the start I was struck by what felt like very intuitive connections between computers and what we think of as the natural world, but unravelling those synergies has been a slow two-decade process of gradual revelations and occasional surprises. Over the years I've written two books directly exploring them – first, a novel, Correspondence (1992) and then twelve years later a memoir / travelogue Hello World: travels in virtuality (2004). Now I'm writing a third – The Wild Surmise – and it will be heavily influenced by our discussions here about transliteracy.
I've drafted five simple questions about nature and cyberspace and invite PART readers to answer them here. Thanks.
x-posted at WDL

IOCT Writer-in-Residence

Chris Joseph aka babel is the first Writer-in-Residence at the Institute of Creative Technologies (IOCT) at De Montfort University. The residency is 0.5 for 2 years from 1st September 2006, and includes the development of a significant and original work of new media writing, the creation of a training and mentoring relationship with new media writers living in the UK East Midlands, and development of the IOCT as a venue for new media work.
Funded by Arts Council England