2016 abstracts

BiB VII Abstracts
Tom Abba and Kate Pullinger Dan Archer Nick Brown
Vivian Sming Dave Cramer Adam Dewar
Mohini Dutta Kris Fallon Dan Goldman
Samantha Gorman Donna Hancox and Helen Klaebe Jack Lerner and Zahr Said
Richard Nash Ali Osworth Corey Pressman
Zara Rahman Michael Rau Dorothy Santos
Ivan Sigal Craig Taylor Joe Veix


Tom Abba, University of the West of England and Kate Pullinger, Bath Spa University
Ambient Literature: Story as Spatial Experience

What happens when the place where you’re reading becomes the stage for the story? 

How can your location shape and alter the story you are hearing?

How might writing, reading and the idea of the book itself change when we use technology to design stories, rather than just present them? 

In 2016, the UK Arts & Humanities Research Council awarded £800k to a consortium of UK universities to explore ‘Ambient Literature’; defined as ‘situated literary experiences, delivered by pervasive computing platforms, responding to the presence of a reader to deliver story’.

The project will commission three original pieces of work, each of which will launch to a public audience. More fundamental is the team’s intention to develop a grammar and form for writing Ambient Literary works; combining the iterative experience of producing practical experiments in this space with the rigour of an academic inquiry into situated writing practices.

Dr Tom Abba and Professor Kate Pullinger, co-investigators on Ambient Literature, will discuss the project’s foundation, explore its use of technology to design and deliver story, and present works in progress.

Kate Pullinger works across forms that include the novel, serialised rich media fiction, and participatory writing projects; she is Professor of Creative Writing and Digital Media at Bath Spa University.

Tom Abba is a writer and designer of books that bridge digital and physical experiences. He is a Director of the artists’ collective Circumstance and an Associate Professor in Art & Design at the University of the West of England.

Dan Archer, Empathetic Media
Expanding the frame: lessons learned from using comics journalism, VR and AR to cover human rights issues

How can drawn and virtually realized perspectives help to put audiences “in another’s shoes”? What are the ethical implications? What are some of the different practices for ensuring that immersive storytelling creates local impact at the site where the stories are collected, and is also based on inclusion? Dan Archer, founder of Empathetic Media, will address these concerns while highlighting his work on the metrics of VR at Columbia University, as well as his visual storytelling work from sketchbook through to head mounted display.

Vivian Sming, Daily Serving
title tbd

abstract tbd

Dave Cramer, Hachette Book Group
A Bag Full of Stories

Before there were browsers, before there were books, there were stories. Ten or twenty thousand years ago, one could live nicely on just food and stories. Food was mostly vegetables, mostly gathered, and one of the biggest technological breakthrough in pre-history was using a bag or net or pot to carry what you gathered back to camp.

We still need food and stories. As we wander the internet, gathering images, videos and text to make stories, how do we carry them back to camp, how do we share them with our community? We need a bag to hold our small stories, to turn what we gathered not into a codex, but something new.

If you look inside an EPUB, you’ll find something called container.xml. Can we use modern ideas of containers and manifests to hold together the pieces of our stories? Can new developments in standards like BFF and PWP help us assemble narratives out of raw internet stuff? Let’s find out.

Adam Dewar, Shield5
Gone in 15 Seconds: Unlocking the potential of Social Cinema

Storytelling on social-media is rapidly gaining momentum as consumers get used to watching scripted entertainment on laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Shield 5, a taut thriller broadcast exclusively throughout February 2016 on Instagram, was an experiment in transplanting traditional cinematic narrative onto social media. It achieved its aim by blending text, images and videos together to tell a story suited to 2 hrs of screen time in just 7 minutes.
By exploring some of the shows successes and failures, alongside similar shows on other platforms, we can point the way to unlocking social cinema’s potential for the future.

Mohini Dutta, Antidote Games
Interactive Chasms: How the Digital Medium Schisms Story from Narrative

Everyone wants a unique story. We crave that perfect metaphor that inspires and moves us. However, stories within the Digital Medium often fall short of books, films, or other forms of storytelling. The subsuming myst of technology seems to conceal the connections we want to make between the stories we create and larger cultural narratives. In a story, princes rescue princesses, but in cultural narratives, generations of girls grow up being told they need saving. A successful digital example is Pokémon Go**, which is the largest mobile game ever. But the story inside Pokémon Go has little to do with the cultural narrative it creates. A narrative, in my definition, is the collision of players, interactive storytelling, and the culture they exist within. The narrative of Pokemon Go isn’t limited to the screen, but shaped in the unexpected camaraderie between roving bands of rare Vapereon hunters, or the knowing smiles shared by players walking that extra kilometer to hatch their eggs.

Unsuccessful artifacts of the Digital Medium fail to connect with their audiences by focussing too much on controlling the story. In the process, they unsee their own narratives. At Antidote, we use playful experiences to understand complex realities. We use games and digital art to engage with ephemeral cultural narratives and leverage them into inlets for culture to flow through. I will speak about our experiments designing narratives in different media, the lessons we learned, challenges we have faced, and the epiphanies along the way.

**Level 14 Mystic as of writing

Kris Fallon, UC Davis
The Many Lives of Metadata

The history of metadata is at once very long and relatively short. While the term itself dates only back to early computer science research in the 1970s, systems of information for categorizing other forms of information appear to emerge centuries ago with the first books and libraries. In this organizational capacity, we tend to regard metadata as a useful helpmate to the more centrally important kind of information it points to. In its digital forms, however, metadata plays an increasingly vital role. It allows us to organize and cope with an avalanche of different information forms including documents, emails, music, images and a universe of other file types. Indeed, without metadata about file type and location, some information effectively disappears altogether. Moreover, as a relational tool for combining and blending different pieces of information, metadata embodies a rich expressive capacity for storytelling and meaning making within the digital archives that it holds together.

This talk will explore the increasingly important role of metadata in multimedia based narrative on both a material and theoretical level, taking examples from photo stitching, multi-camera VR, and google earth.

Jane Friedhoff, Office for Creative Research
Membranes: An experiment in permeable publishing

When we think about community discussion between and among readers and writers, we tend to think ofthe free-text comment box. Free-text comments have high bandwidth (i.e. being able to express yourself in your own words for as long as you like), but also have problems of relevance, spam, and moderation. What communication systems can we design that, while having lower bandwidth, have just as high—or higher—fidelity? How can we use the affordances of digital text to create systems that not only lower boundaries between readers and writers, but start to blur the line between them?

In this talk, I’ll be discussing a project I created called Membrane, which is an experiment in “permeable publishing.” By permeable publishing, I mean a new form of reading experience, in which readers may “push back” through the medium to ask specific, contextual, and constrained questions of the author. In Membrane, authors can define the kinds of questions they want to receive, and users can ask one of those questions by highlighting any piece of text and selecting it from a dropdown. Once submitted, the author can aggregate questions and answer them in line with their original text, creating a tree that branches for as long as all parties like.

I’ll discuss the tech and the philosophy behind Membrane, from Go backends to positive feedback loops to my favorite bits of Borges, as well as its inherent implications. These prompts and provocations can help us collectively imagine new forms of communication.

Dan Goldman, Kinjin, Inc.
Feed-Native Comics: Visual Storytelling for the Vertical Scroll

The ubiquity of social media has shifted our culture from page-based reading to the never-ending vertical scroll of our Feeds. Comic-books have spent the last 15 years evolving in parallel to digital media, adapting to Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat along the way. Let’s explore the new narrative challenges–and story-sharing opportunities—that Feed-native comics represent in creating stories never before seen in the visual language of the comics medium.

Samantha Gorman, Tender Claws and USC
Creating Compelling Content for What Technology Does Great: Lessons Learned Through PRY (iOS) and Google Daydream VR

The rapid advance, crash and resurgence of technologies for publication, writing and dissemination require specially tailored strategies and content to make projects that resonate beyond gimmick. Although “in” technical methods and platforms are constantly in flux, creators and publishers need to be flexible and open to working with what makes each technology unique to create work that sustains beyond the hype window. Print can’t be simply shoved into new forms in lieu of considering what properties each medium brings to the table. Samantha Gorman of Tender Claws will draw from lessons learned during the creation of their hybrid book/cinema app PRY (named by Apple as one of the best apps of 2015) and her seven years of experience designing text projects for a virtual reality studio to talk about both the process of writing for media and going through Apple/Google channels as a small company. Insights learned through Tender Claws’ new VR project for Google Daydream will cover discoveries in design process, what the history of VR and Theatre can teach us, and ethical considerations of VR used as an “empathy machine” in journalism.

Donna Hancox and Helen Klaebe, Queensland Univ. of Technology
Amplified Voices – Transmedia storytelling in communities

Original examples of transmedia storytelling tended to be tethered to major mainstream creative artefacts such as a feature film or television series. However, contemporary transmedia stories are increasingly a constellation of media, forms and modes of storytelling that create a holistic narrative that brings together form and content to create a unique aesthetic. One of the central philosophies of this type of transmedia is a commitment to a de-centralised concept of authorship that does not privilege one voice, one part of the story or one platform over another. This presentation focuses on a series of workshops in rural Australia that supported participants to create transmedia stories about their community using text, audio, video, images and location based information, and explores how these hybrid stories amplified ordinary voices in profound ways.

Nick Brown, Ingram VitalSource
Generating Textbooks

Textbooks are busting out of their bindings, with personalized learning objects, interactive assessments, granular chunks of content, and orchestration of multiple media sources all co-existing in the modern digital “course”. Driving the future vision of these new learning modalities are web services enabling the simple assembly of new user interfaces, and rapid experimentation with learning process and tools. VitalSource will demonstrate their latest experiments around helping institutions, publishers, and learners tap into this fast, flexible and interconnected learning environment.

Jack Lerner, UCI and Zahr Said, Univ. of Washington
Exploring VR Law

While AR technologies pose interesting challenges for many areas of law, including tort and property law, they are perhaps particularly vexing for copyright law, whose definition of authorship may not align with many contemporary practices in AR. For instance, copyright law relies on somewhat bright-line rules about who is an author and under what circumstances, and it requires that authors be human, for a start, thus potentially posing an issue for works created by algorithm or other technological means. In addition, AR may present a puzzle when multiple authors would seem to exist, as when users of AR platforms co-create their experiences, or build on and expand works of art within platforms created by original authors. Copyright law has some tentative answers, to be sure, but many of these circumvent, rather than solving, the puzzles posed by new means of storytelling. Copyright doctrine will be increasingly challenged as creative practices continue to evolve in connection with AR’s uptake by artists, engineers, and other visionaries. This panel will provide some historical context for today’s AR technologies, offer a broad overview of how copyright law thinks of authorship, and consider several use cases that illustrate the possible tensions between copyright law and AR practice.

Richard Nash, Cursor
Film is Evil, Radio is Good.

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” is an admonition that, in various forms and languages, has driven many of humanity’s religions. Judiasm, Protestant Christianity, and Islam have all elevated text over image—in so doing they reveal a tension at the core of how human’s perceive and represent the world in which we live. As so often in the past 500 years, this battle is being played out in the realm of the book, and it again has anxiety about technology at its core. This talk will tease out the social, aesthethic and historical underpinnings of the text vs image drama from the smashing of statues to the rise of Snapchat, and then step forward to a yet more provocative exploration, considering the possibility that while image may never conquer, both face a vastly more powerful dissolving agent—the end of representation itself.

Ali Osworth, Autostraddle || The New School
Embodying Queerness: From Cartoons to Virtual Reality

Comics are fundamentally juxtapositional—put two images next to each other, and the mind leaps from one to the next, filling in the movement and the story between frames. Add in the juxtaposition between image and text, and the art of the webcomic is rife with tension and grey area to swim through. So it is with queer identities—gender expression and sexuality are loaded with the same juxtapositions, grey areas and tensions. It’s why I created Autostraddle’s Saturday Morning Cartoons, dedicated to letting queer artists tell community truths through illustration. Comics are a perfect medium for communicating the queer experience, both to other queers and to more mainstream groups because they allow a person to bring their body online and alter the perceived reality of it, to ask the reader to make the same leaps that they are already used to making while reading graphic narrative.

Virtual reality makes use of similar elements—while juxtaposition is less integral, embodiment is even more so. The way a body reacts to stimuli in a VR setting is not the exact equivalent of bringing a body into a digital space, but it is a relative simulacrum. So how can we use this embodiment to our advantage? How can we make VR the next perfect medium with which to tell queer stories? This talk will explore these and other leaps.

Corey Pressman, Exprima Media
Poetry for Robots: An Expriment in Metaphorical Metadata

We understand the world through metaphor. Our minds seek and spin patterns and connections, likenesses and equations.And the most effective and explicit specimens of metaphor are found in poetry. Weaving metaphors into poems is an age-old and far-flung human act: we see and search the world with a poetic mind.

In 1989, scholar Norman Cousins published a piece called The Poet and the Computer. Anticipating the computer revolution at his doorstep, Cousins makes a plea: do not allow our machines to dehumanize us. And he offers a specific prescription against the potential malady – poetry.

“The danger,” he explains, is “not so much that man will be controlled by the computer as that he may imitate it.” Intimate and repeated communication with the robots may require us to too conform our minds to their limited logics and cold calculations. To preserve and reinforce humanness, “…it might be fruitful to effect some sort of junction between the computer technologist and the poet.” We propose writing poetry for the robots.

What would happen if we created metaphorical metadata for an image bank? Would a search for ‘stars’ return image of ‘eyes’?

At poetry4robots.com, we’ve made the experiment live. This ‘digital humanities experiment’ is being conducted by Neologic Labs, Webvisions, and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. And the results are clear: metaphorical metadata works and can inform how we can better use our machines to do what we do: live our lives and tell our stories.

Zara Rahman, Data & Society
The Lies of Data-Driven Stories

Using data in a story or campaign isn’t new, but it’s becoming more widespread. As political campaigners figured out years ago: put a quantified figure or statistic in a story and you’ll get people’s attention. But in messy political or conflict situations, there’s often no way to be certain about the accuracy of those numbers.

Michael Rau, Wolf 359
What live performance can teach us about VR; or five meditations on creating immersive experiences

Creators are struggling to figure out how to tell stories in virtual reality, and looking for models and tools across disciplines. The theatre has been working on telling stories in a similar medium for thousands of years. Here are five lessons drawn from immersive performances, theater history and performance art that can be applied to the development of a virtual reality piece. Looking at the connections between medieval performance art, Allan Kaprow’s Happenings, and Punchdrunk’s “Sleep No More,” and how these skills can be applied to engaging experiences in virtual reality.

Dorothy Santos, UC Santa Cruz
The Book as Cartography: The Materialization of Digital and Imagined Spaces

Despite resistance by connoisseurs and lovers of printed material, the advancement of digital applications and platforms rivals physical bookmaking and publishing at a faster rate. Yet the practices of artists and cultural producer partnerships such as Carla Gannis, Moreshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke, Liat Berdugo and Elia Vargas, or Amaranth Borsuk, Kate Durbin, and Ian Hatcher, bound material becomes more than an archive and mere documentation. The book becomes a cartography of imagined landscapes, an amalgamation of repeated, familiar, and patented gestures, or rhizomatic mapping of 3D-printed fantasies.

In Allahyari and Rourke’s Additivist Manifesto, the collection of “recipes” in their particular cookbook serves as a reflection of the effects and impact of 3D printing to contemporary culture. From the fantastical to the nightmarish, addivism has become a movement realized through this particular book project. The Living Room Light Exchange is yet another example of the result of intimate living room talks that have occurred with no official documentation, but has manifested its presence in the Bay Area art scene into a publication based on memory and tangential experiences of its contributors. For Carla Gannis, the use of Augmented Reality expands the physical book into a multi-dimensional realm. Lastly, the collaborative work of Borsuk, Durbin, and Hatcher to create a ABRA as a living text and originally created it as a mobile platform specific to haptic technology, but has evolved and manifested into both analog form and medium for performance art. The aforementioned examples serve as a constellation of how the book becomes a poetic, non-linear, and magical place.

Ivan Sigal

#image_by_image is an ongoing conversation between photographers Ivan Sigal and Anton Kusters, posted both on Instagram and on the participant’s respective websites. It is an experimental public dialogue that sets simple rules, and allows the trajectory of the discussion to proceed in inductive fashion, image by image, and text by text.

image_by_image is constructed as a weak or fragile narrative, based on associations of word and image, of fragment and concept, of reuse and reflection, of frank acknowledgement of struggle, doubt, skepticism and humility before the power of ideas and the claims of images. It is rooted in philosophies of anti-authoritarianism and a mistrust of grand narratives.

The rules of image_by_image are that each participant posts no more than 1x per day and no less than 1x per week, and that each post have one image and a maximum of 2,200 characters of text. It has emerged that the images are often fragments or details other images, or rephotographed through screens, lightboxes, scrims and other surface textures. The images work at several levels – as notes, as referents, as counterpoints, as punctuations, as divergences.

Our emerging practice with image_by_image is to enliven the consideration of images in social media, explore their meaning in dialogue with concepts and our shifting understanding of them through associations across time and history. It is a rebuttal to the assertion that images in social media are necessarily one-dimensional pictograms. It is also a way of stripping back social media speech to the simple level of the exchange of ideas, rather than the mimicking of self-broadcast through the social media tactics of sensation, self-promotion, and aggressive projection.

Over time, themes have emerged on image_by_image based on the common concerns of the participants. We consider history, memory, memorialization, travel, tensions between narrative and conceptual images, the processes of making art, and the challenges of our respective projects. We traverse the psychological geographies of Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union, Japan, Europe, and the United States, as well as the tenuous journeys of migrants and personal memoir.

image_by_image can be found on Instagram at the #image_image hash, following@ivansigal and @antonkusters, or at:


Craig Taylor, Five Dials
Let’s Make Some Good Bad Journalism at a Digital Literary Magazine

What is the role of journalism in the world of digital literary magazines? These days, could there be a chance to use directed storytelling, unrestrained art design, and collaborations with unexpected partners to produce a new, intimate, slightly off-center way of telling real-life stories. Could we use unorthodox forms to revive subjects that are dealt with by the newsmedia in a repetitive and rote manner? Could we find a way to have that important but tough conversation about, say, gun violence?

Joe Veix, Culture Editor, Newsweek
Weaponized Satire In Digital Malls: Using Humor To Pop The Filter Bubble

Contemporary social media services like Facebook wield a large amount of control over our access to information. In a rapidly centralizing web, it’s difficult for writers, artists, and traditional media outlets to reach an audience without corporate mediation. However, experimental works unbound by traditional publications and existing within these social networks, especially those that are humorous, can easily manipulate their design to serve their own purposes.

The viral-bending tactics of artists like Zardulu, The Yes Men, Nathan Fielder, Electronic Disturbance Theater, David Horvitz, and Paolo Cirio effectively break through the noise, and ultimately influence public discourse in a meaningful way. How can humor be utilized within these environments to create platform-critical perspectives and self-reflection, rather than simply offering catharsis to the likeminded? What techniques work best, and can similar strategies be used to make other, more typical pieces more visible? How can satire pop the filter bubble?