An intriguing new site is bringing together the most exciting digital text experiements
If you’ve been looking for a place to find the most exciting experiments with literature and technology, then the launch of The Literary Platform this week should hit the spot. But there’s enough there that anyone with even the vaguest interest in how publishers are responding to what the site’s founder is describing as “the biggest shift change in the industry since the 19th century” should take a look.
The Literary Platform is built on short descriptions of new digital text experiments, from iPhone apps (such as the game-changing version of Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro) to collaborative digital writing projects (The 24hr book) and whizzy multimedia hybrids (Songs of Imagination and Digitisation, PhoneBook). A quick browse gives a good overview of current practice in this field.
The descriptions are contextualised with longer, more thoughtful comment pieces from people across the spectrum of the digital lit scene, including a writer (Kate Pullinger), a publisher (Robin Harvie from The Friday Project), a developer (Chris Stevens, who created Alice for the iPad) and a funder (the Arts Council). It offers a fascinating insight into how people at the cutting edge of digital literature are thinking. For example, here’s Stevens on how the technology in itself isn’t enough:
“The temptation will naturally be to throw this technology at every book, but the craftsmanship behind implementing this technology is as important as the technology itself. It’s not a short-cut to “enhancing” a book for the digital age, and the power to create these books must be wielded as deftly and wisely as an illustrator’s pen.”
It’s good to look at as well: Sam Oakley has produced a neat looking site that’s easy to use with a really appealing front page, laid out to look like a journal.
Less successful at the moment is the “focus” section, which overlaps with the showcase without a clear identity of its own, and the “news” section which consists of churnalised press releases. Given the confusion and panic in the field, which the site’s founder, Sophie Rochester, describes as “challenging and terrifying for traditional publishers”, what’s needed is less of the announcements and more critical engagement with the projects publishers are rushing to create. A reviews section which looks at what works and what doesn’t, from the perspectives of both the reader and the industry, would be worthwhile. I also hope there will be room on the site for some of the smaller, quirkier digital text experiments amid the big hitters and the Nigella and Jamie iPhone apps.
Rochester has promised that some of these areas will be beefed up as the site grows, and holds out the prospect of a critical reviews section along with video and other added functionality still to come in the first phase of the site.
In the meantime, it’s an inspiring browse around some of the innovative and collaborative experiments taking place in the exciting physical-to-digital realm. I’m off to check out the intriguing 26 Exchanges.