THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Digital scholarship blog

Enabling innovative research with British Library digital collections

Introduction

Tracking exciting developments at the intersection of libraries, scholarship and technology. Read more

12 April 2017

New technologies challenging author and reader roles

This a guest post is by Carol Butler introducing her PhD topic, you can follow her on twitter as @fantomascarol.

New technologies are challenging the traditional view of what it is to be an author or a reader. A range of digital tools are used by readers and authors to ask each other questions, share interpretations and knowledge, and to socialise.

I am a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership student based at the British Library (BL) and City, University Of London, supervised by Ian Cooke at the BL, and Dr Stephann Makri at City. My research explores how online social networking technologies enable authors and readers to interact in ways that were previously not possible. I am interested in how this can impact understanding of a written work, and how it can shape an author’s ongoing or future work.

Authors and readers have always sought to better their understanding of a written work- and of each other- by exchanging questions and feedback. However, historically, their communications have been mediated through a hierarchical chain, for example through letters sent privately via an author’s agent. Constrained by process, available technology and geography, this has also largely only possible after a finished work has been published. Interaction has therefore been somewhat slow and limited.

There are now digital tools for reading-related activities used by authors and readers alike, for example GoodReads, which is for writing reviews and cataloguing books. With these tools, communities discuss their reading, partake in competitions and also share their writing. In some, an author may use reader feedback to develop writing in progress, which may be published as a working draft, rather than a final artefact. Authors can also field questions from their readers - either as an ongoing open communication channel, or in a timed Q&A session (an example of this can be seen here).

Other tools, such as Genius, support discussion about a text directly on top of it, through digital annotations. An example can be seen here, where a scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been annotated line by line, with readers sharing their interpretations and providing links to external reading. Also here, the author has annotated his own work (in green), to offer deeper contextual understanding to the reader.

However, as well as purpose-made tools, communities also use ones that were intended for different purposes, such as social media sites, e.g. Twitter. People also do not always confine their behaviour to any one tool, and so an activity starting in one tool may often bleed into, repeat, or further develop in another.

A useful example of how readers meander between multiple tools can be found here, where a reader describes his process for reading a physical book- a task supported by checking in with a range of tools and social networks.

A symbiotic relationship between tools and behaviour means that technology evolves in response to how it is used. However, with reader and author activity dispersed across multiple tools, often contrary to a tools intended purpose, and over fluctuating periods of time, this usage cannot be readily observed or understood.

By ascertaining where, how and why readers and authors interact with each other and the tools, I hope to better understand their needs and behaviours. I will investigate how interaction behaviour is mediated, hindered by, and at times resultant of this technology. My intent is to develop theory to explain their behaviour which I can use to provide design guidelines for future tools, to help better support their needs. I will also be looking at what types of works, ways of working and publishing trends emerge from this use of technology, and the challenges posed for the British Library in collecting and preserving them.

I will shortly be conducting interviews with authors and readers to begin to unveil both their motivations for interacting in this manner, and their experiences with doing so.  

I would be happy to speak to anyone with an interest in this area, either by email or in person, so feel free to contact me (carol.butler@bl.uk).

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The traditional view of reader and author roles- where the reader only sees a finished artefact, isolated from the drafts and processes that formed it - is challenged by readers’ increasingly participatory involvement prior to publication.

10 April 2017

Off the Page; Playing and Reading in the City

I just want to express a huge thanks to all the speakers and attendees who came along on Saturday to the British Library's London Games Festival fringe event, Off the Page: Literature and Games,  exploring how the fictional worlds of novels and plays are represented in games and in return what games bring to the written word. The amazing line-up included:

I want to give a special thank you to Sarah Cole who organised the event with me; inviting some really awesome speakers and sharing her passion of games. Kudos to Sarah, as the day after Off the Page, she also volunteered at Now Play This; an experimental game design showcase held in Somerset House as part of the London Games Festival.

There were lots of tweets during Off the Page using #LGF2017 and #BLdigital, much gratitude to Alastair Horne who is a champion tweeter and shared information on the talks for those following the event on Twitter. I'm hoping to make the audio recordings and slides from the event available soon. However, until then, please do read Lynda Clark's great blog post summing up the talks and linking to videos of some of the games.

I was also pleased to see an attendee at Off the Page in the interval reading Prophecy, which is the CityRead London book for 2017.  CityRead have lots of events planned in London libraries for the whole of April and also an interactive theatrical performance at The Charterhouse, which I can't say too much about - as it would spoil your experience if you go! However, it is very playful and brings the book to life in a delightful immersive way.

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Image of CityRead London's interactive theatrical performance of Prophecy (image copyright CityRead London)

This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom, on twitter as @miss_wisdom.

06 April 2017

Off the Page: Literature and Games

It is currently the London Games Festival (30 March – 9 April 2017), which champions and showcases the cultural power of interactive entertainment in the capital. All sorts of exciting events are being held. Last week I attended a Games Culture Summit hosted by the British Council, which discussed the relationship of culture to games, including discussion of developing and supporting creative communities, arts practice and commercial development. I was pleased to hear Jo Summers speak in a session looking at skills for collaborating with cultural institutions, drawing on her experience of running WordPlay at the British Library in November 2016. Jo is also an organiser of Now Play This; an experimental game design showcase, running for the third time at Somerset House in London from 7-9 April, 2017, as part of the London Games Festival. 

Not to be left out, here at the British Library we are running a free festival fringe event, Off the Page: Literature and Games, on Saturday 8 April, 13:00 – 16:00 in the Knowledge Centre, exploring the overlap between literature and games. Looking at how the fictional worlds of our favourite novels and plays are represented in games and in return what games bring to the written word? We have invited a range of speakers to discuss this evolving landscape and inspiring projects; including myself talking about the Library's Off the Map competition, which challenged students to create Alice in Wonderland and Shakespearean themed games. The other speakers are:

Places are free, but must be booked via: https://off_the_page.eventbrite.co.uk.

Look forward to seeing you there!

This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom, on twitter as @miss_wisdom.

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Off the Page event, image taken from Off the Map 2016 winning game The Tempest by Team Quattro