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Note from Bath Spa: The Conference

Me delivering my paper on Tuesday morning
What a busy few days, not even enough time to do a quick blog post. Patty and I were staying in Bath Spa in western England, and attending a conference at Corsham Court, a fifteenth century manor house about 15 miles north of the city. The conference was called MIX: Transmedia Writing and Digital Creativity, and it brought together all sorts of artists, writers, and academics who are working with writing and narrative, but within the digital realm.

I gave a half hour presentation about The Lucerne Project, which was accepted into the line-up on the strength of the blog part of the project, the QR codes linking to YouTube audio files, and the use of images culled from the internet in order to provide the source for the 100 page accordion book. I threw in a bit of Walter Benjamin for the 9 page paper that I wrote, but mainly I was describing the process of making the book, and so forth. I was I the first time-slot for presentations on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, Patty and I did a 90 minute Journal and Sketchbook workshop, which had no multimedia elements at all, unless you count crayons and paper as two media: the excuse was that we were giving people “back to basics” tools that they could use for generating material for the digital arts.
As far as the rest of the presentations and workshops are concerned, the best one I saw was the one that came immediately after mine. It was by Kevin Henry, who works in Product Design at Columbia College Chicago and who has a fine art background, and his wife Doro, who works at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. They are developing a program for the iPad which presents a multi-media interpretation of a journal Doro kept during an illness last year. It used sound, maps, social media and other features of current online activity in a really beautiful and inventive way. There was also a decent talk on the second and last day by a writer who had created a series of radio plays with lots of interaction from listeners.

The least interesting parts of the conference were the presentations by the invited guests, or keynote speakers. Most of them were badly presented and ran well over their allotted time. They were also, as I feared they might be, very weighed down by theory, and very little concerned with having an effect on an audience that might involve things like pleasure or even comprehensibility. Quite the opposite: it seemed like a badge of honour if the visual aspect of their digital poetry was to create a completely new (and therefore unreadable) language, in the name of avant garde invention (I suppose). Anyway, Patty and I were very much the old school people there, and it was nice to be invited. I tried to keep an open mind (no, really), and there were some things I heard that made me think I should discover more, such as:

Immersive storytelling, where for example each character has their own Facebook acct/blog/way of interacting with the reader.

GPS based material, which is adapted to the location of the reader’s tablet/smartphone.

The way video games use narrative.

The conference was only two days, plus an introductory dinner on Monday evening, but it was as exhausting as if it had lasted a week. We were also having dinner nearly every night with friends in Bath, too, so by the time we crashed into bed at or after midnight, we were both too tired to do anything more than check email. We were staying in Bath, but only got to walk around a little, mainly when exercising in the early morning before the conference started. It’s a beautiful part of England, though, and Corsham was a classic little market town with the aristocrat’s mansion looming over it (complete with peacocks, that roamed the lush grounds of Corsham Court and emitted their piercing, elongated, almost feline cries throughout the day.)

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  1. As an encouraging mum, if I can say so myself, I had a nice time recently with my two kids to decorate their room in our new house that we just moved into. There were lots of the children's art work, made at home and school, that we happily put on the wall.
    Then we spent time together sitting in front of the iMac and looked through the big collection of digital images that wahooart.com had for their customers to select from and have printed as canvas prints. The kids together chose this painting for their room, Ivan Horse by Edmund Dulac, http://en.wahooart.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LHRV2, that we ordered online to have delivered to our new house.

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