Readers Take an Active Role in Interactive Fiction

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Readers Take an Active Role in Interactive Fiction

I wrote this post about interactive fiction for the Read, Watch, Play blog.

Reading fiction is generally seen as a passive activity, with the reader following a single path of the story that has been set out by the writer. However there are opportunities for readers to take a more active role in the development of a writer’s story. This is especially true in the case of interactive fiction.

In works of interactive fiction (IF) the writer presents a story, but gives the reader the option to deviate from the thread of the narrative, or direct it in a particular path at various points along the way….

Read, Watch, Play is an online reading group that focuses on a new theme every month and includes films, TV, games and music as well as books as part of the discussion.

The full post can be read here.

Shifts in Reading and Information

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I contributed to a Guardian online chat recently that focused on the question: “What does a library look like in 2013?”

During this live chat Sandy Mahal (programme manager, The Reading Agency) made this point:

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’re in the middle of one of the biggest changes in reading in human history, experiencing a shift similar in magnitude to the move in Greek times from an oral to a literary culture. Our reading brains are changing, the way we share reading experiences is changing, and of course the book itself is changing dramatically. We’re being challenged to think very differently about what the reading experience is – by things like JK Rowling’s online Pottermore world, Profile’s Frankenstein app which uses reader input and non-linear text. Very little of these multi-platform, literary experiments seem to be making their way into libraries’ reader development work, and of course, there’s ebooks too…we need to take a big, bold step to create a future library service that will keep ahead of developments and cater for and inspire a generation of digital natives.”

And I responded with:

“Possibly the problem here is that libraries are still focusing more on the container of the content (the book) and not the content itself. Not only is the way we read changing, the way we access information is changing too – whether that’s a focus on infographics instead of pure statistics; using multimedia (videos; audio, etc) to provide information, etc – it all needs to be considered, not just focusing on information or even story telling as text in a book or on a page.”

My comment was actually answering a question in my own head, as a lead on, rather than in response to Sandy’s comments. I agree the shift is happening, but we also need to be mindful that the shift won’t just happen in how the written word is presented, as libraries aren’t just about the written word. I’m thinking around this idea from a libraries=information perspective, rather than libraries=reading, as a fair percentage of my library use has been informal learning and information finding. The shift will also happen around how information is presented (video, audio, infographics, etc) and how we interact with it.

I just wondered what other people working in libraries and information based roles thought about this?

Interaction, RFID and the British Music Experience

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I visited the British Music Experience at the O2 arena in Greenwich today and was really impressed. Not just by the fantastic amount of great music that has come out of Britain since the 50s, but also in the way they presented it at the exhibition.

Each room covered a particular period or style of music and each room used a combo of presentation/interaction styles. Most of the images were projected in some way or displayed on a screen.

(1) Juke boxes allowed you to choose different genres of music and gave you some background information about the music you’d chosen.

(2) Fretboard/keyboard style input allowed you to find out more information about memorabilia held in glass cabinets.

(3) Trackballs could be used to control news time lines – images related to particular news items were displayed on a wall and you could find out more details by skimming over them.

(4) Projected images that responded to touch and ran through more detailed documentaries.

Part of my bookmarked 1975 timeline

My personal favourite was the large map of Britain, which was projected onto a stage area in the main room. Here you could use one of 3 separate track balls to move a circular cursor over the map. On a smaller projection a few feet wide, nearer your trackball, you’d be shown information about musicians associated with that location on the map.

As well as these clever ways of presenting the information, your entrance ticket was also an rfid enabled smart ticket. At many of the information points you could scan your ticket over a sensor and bookmark the information you were looking at/listening to. Then, when you take your ticket home, you can type the ticket number into the British Music Experience website and you’re shown the information you bookmarked in the exhibition. It’s a permanent record of the bits of the exhibition that you found the most interesting. I can’t help think that it would have been good if the website provided you with further details about the areas you were interested in based on your ticket number, rather than just showing you the information you saw at the exhibition – maybe pointing you to other websites related to this music genre/band. Following on from this, I wonder if libraries could do a similar thing, by recognising when a user logs in to the library catalogue that they had recently read a particular book on a particular subject and therefore work out via some clever algorithms that they might be interested in further information on a related web site.

Another minor criticism of the exhibition was the inability to search for specific musicians/bands. Browsing is great, but if you have a particular interest in a specific musician you might want to know if they are mentioned in the exhibition at all, and if they are, in which room.

It was well worth the visit and the way it was organised meant that you could personalise the exhibition according to your own musical interests, by either ignoring, skimming, exploring in detail and/or bookmarking the resources that were there. I’d definitely recommend you visit, if you are in any way interested in popular music produced in Britain in the past 60 years.