The stuff translation is made of...

There have been a couple of noticeable themes for me in this week’s blogs from the projects. The first is the growing awareness in many of the teams

There have been a couple of noticeable themes for me in this week’s blogs from the projects. The first is the growing awareness in many of the teams of their place within a tradition of telling stories across time, form and place. Of their role in an ongoing process of translation. The second is an increasingly overt discussion about audience and how the choices that they make now will shape and define who engages with their eventual thing (product, experience, book whatever), how they do so and what they feel about it.


As Slingshot learn more about the original book (interesting that at this week’s workshop it was Simon who presented the relevant themes of the text while Anthony chipped in with thoughts about the kit and site), the more aware they seem of the history of its many editions. Translated across films, video games and music, technology is highlighted as a persistent but ever changing presence. Jekyll 2.0 will of course bring this to the fore with the use of bio-sensors and the team are deep in discussion about which other themes will make the cut. A discussion with advisor Tom Grinsted from The Guardian helped to cement some ideas about format for the Little j: Hyper Local News team. Adapting a local news model predicated on the existence of local newspapers into an online platform presents many opportunities for using the affordances of digital technology. The traditional by-line for example could be adapted to reward collaborative publishing (possibilities will be tested in a one day pop up newsroom in Port Talbot shopping centre in the next few weeks).

Translation between languages and forms has always been a central theme for the Book Kernel team. It both underpins the Dylan Thomas test case and acts as a school of thought for the development of their events publishing platform more generally. Likewise for The Next Time(line), multiple adaptations and version of texts over time will form the content for their visualisation. Interestingly however, in both of these projects there is also a need for translation within. Some of these early weeks have been dedicated to building and establishing teams. The exciting and varied bunch undertaking Book Kernel will have to identify a very clear and shared understanding about where the Dylan Thomas event ends and the platform begins so that the interface that they build is not too bespoke. Meanwhile, the complex relationships within The Prelude and Les Mis that the Timeline team want to explore must be translated by Matt, the developer, into a working prototype for a more general audience. He tells me that he currently spends a lot of time asking ‘ok, but what do you actually mean by that?’. Being questioned like this by someone from a totally different field can be discomforting for people, Bradley spoke about how much he is being challenged by this new way of working, but is incredibly useful.


In our Sandbox workshop this week we focussed on audiences. Asking the teams to build audience personas to begin to understand what will motivate people to engage with their thing (see ‘thing’ above for details), what their expectations and frustrations might be and how they will find out about it in the first place. The truth is that Clare and I had to redesign the activity on the fly when we realised that a number of the teams had already begun to think about their audience in quite some detail. Laura has been out and about, exploring not only The Secret Lives of Books but the secret lives of shops too. In order to learn about your audience, watch them, follow them and ask the people that already know them. Also ask them directly and Laura is asking you too. Soon of course we will also be testing things out on them. For the Writer on the Train, the task is to find out more about the readers on the train. About, for example, where they are and how fast they are going when they are reading each bit of content. Dave has been testing the accuracy of plotting location and movement using mobile phone towers, which seems to work pretty well for the Bristol – London mainline. Luckily the team also have access to the (annonymised) data from the UK Train Times app, developed by Agant, which is a fantastic resource for James in understanding the type of journeys that his readers are likely to be making.

While working on the scope of the project and developing a structure for Digitising the Dollar Princess the team have also started to think about the interface design. They have sketched out some possibilities and bravely brought them along to the workshop for feedback (as well as asking attendees at a public lecture Nicola gave last week). This has raised some fundamental questions about how digital books choose to reference physical books (or not). Will an audience for a biography of Mary Curzon like the comfort of a familiar signpost (like a page turning for example) or could it becoming a pastiche? These questions have always been at the heart of ‘these pages fall like ash’ because Tom and Duncan are very definitely not making a book app or an ebook (we tease Tom about his aversion to skeumorphism) but are exploring what a book might be when it is created using the tools of digital technology. This means that the structure is potentially much more flexible and less familiar. What does this mean for the role of the writer and how will the audience understand their progress through the story? Interestingly a focus on how the experience will work for the reader in practice seems to have brought them closer to the physical book, which will now be used in conjunction with the digital content. This is set against an acute attentiveness of our changing times, as beautifully explained by Duncan in a letter to his Opa (read this, it explains so much of what we are doing and why).