ABC Gippsland Radio Interview

This morning I was interviewed on ABC Gippsland Radio about Digital Literacy and Digital Fiction. This was a result of the following Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper article about my conference talk at AATE last week:

Here is the interview:


And this was the flyer from my presentation:

New Literacies, Digital Media and Classroom Teaching Conference

I am convening a conference on September 3 and 4 which I am very excited about – click below for the conference flyer.

NewLiteraciesFlyerPDF

UPDATE: Here is a tv news spot about our conference:

and here is some assorted media coverage from the conference:

New Literacies conference media

Juliet’s Tweet Sorrow

The Royal Shakespeare Company just produced a new production of Romeo and Juliet… over twitter. It consisted of 4000 tweets over a period of several weeks. I have enjoyed going through the archives and piecing together this version, but wish I’d managed to see it all playing out in real time. I think it is a clever adaptation – fresh, cross-media (tweets, youtube videos, images) – yet it still retains a kind of beauty and poetic nature, with smatterings of the original thrown in, such as:

julietcap16 My wrists be the first to receive the deep red, yet pleasurably painless tattooed pattern from which the water of my veins be purged.

Juliet also had several videos on a youtube channel. In this adaptation Juliet was a wannabe song writer. Here is her song dedicated to romeo and his tweets:

Songwriting is another form of the poetic. I also really enjoyed viewing the images and captions, which were haunting and poignant in the way they captured a young girl’s thoughts and dreams:

One of my former honours students (in 2006 I think it was), did a study of text messaging and literacy and found that many English teachers were using text messages creatively in their classrooms, to explore literature, poetry, writing, and communication.

I really liked an article by David Crystal about the poetics of text messages (and I am making this connection because twitter is also about brevity and containment of a message within 140 characters):

The length constraint in text-poetry fosters economy of expression in much the same way as other tightly constrained forms of poetry do, such as the haiku or the Welsh englyn. To say a poem must be written within 160 characters at first seems just as pointless as to say that a poem must be written in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. But put such a discipline into the hands of a master, and the result can be poetic magic. Of course, SMS poetry has some way to go before it can match the haiku tradition; but then, haikus have had a head-start of several hundred years.

Crystal goes on further to claim the following:

An extraordinary number of doom-laden prophecies have been made about the supposed linguistic evils unleashed by texting. Sadly, its creative potential has been virtually ignored. But five years of research has at last begun to dispel the myths. The most important finding is that texting does not erode children’s ability to read and write. On the contrary, literacy improves. The latest studies (from a team at Coventry University) have found strong positive links between the use of text language and the skills underlying success in standard English in pre-teenage children. The more abbreviations in their messages, the higher they scored on tests of reading and vocabulary. The children who were better at spelling and writing used the most textisms. And the younger they received their first phone, the higher their scores.

So, I’m all for texting and tweeting in creative ways – and I’d like to see more use of it in classroom contexts.

For further information see:

  • Such Tweet Sorrow (Mudlark and the Royal Shakespeare Company website)
  • Romeo and Juliet get twitter makeover (The Telegraph)
  • Romeo Tweets Juliet (NspireD2)
  • Romeo and Juliet get Twitter Treatment (The Guardian)

Scrabble: the Beautiful Word

I missed this! Mattel created a really clever campaign to update Scrabble. From the art director on the campaign:

“Everybody knows Scrabble, it’s one of those iconic games, and over time it became maybe, in a way, a little bit old fashioned, so we wanted to get people, especially young people, to be more interested in the game. We wanted to do something very visual, and very self-explanatory, kind of bringing the words to life, and make them as fun as possible, so that’s where the ‘the Beautiful Word’ came from.”

Here are the ads that ran for “the Beautiful Word” campaign:

You can read all about the campaign on my new favourite website, Jawbone TV.

Sufferrosa: a non-linear interactive web based film

Have you watched Sufferrosa yet? From the site:

Sufferrosa is a non-linear, interactive web-based movie made by Dawid Marcinkowski (screenwriter, director, editor and designer) with help from an international group of filmmakers, musicians and artists. It is an experimental storytelling project combining cinema and the web. Sufferrosa is a homage to Jean Luc Godard’s movie ‘Alphaville’ (1965), W.J.Has’s cult-movie ’Manuscript found in Saragossa’, American film noir and the French writer Vernon Sullivan. The movie is a NON-COMMERCIAL artistic project. Sufferrosa is a satire of cult of beauty and youthin the present-day world. Do you remember the film ‘Logan’s Run’ (1976), where everybody who is older than 30 gets exterminated? Probably our generation is not endangered by such experiments. But there is a chance that, in 40 years time we will all have transformed into frustrated woopies (Well-Off Older People) who spend their life savings on plastic surgery. And when it happens that the scalpel is not enough, we will probably head directly to the clinic of Carlos von Braun. As Mae West once said ”You are never too old to become younger”.

I found this discussed at Jawbone TV – “The good, the bad, and the bad-ass of story in the digital age”.

Inanimate Alice and the Transmedia Storytelling Business

(image copyright The Bradfield Company)

Readers of this blog will know I’ve had a long interest in the wonderful digital fiction series Inanimate Alice. Recently the producer of the series, Ian Harper, wrote an editorial for Publishing Perspectives, about the transmedia storytelling business. It is definitely worth a read, and I especially like the way he concluded:

I believe that Inanimate Alice is a breakthrough project demonstrating a new kind of reading-from-the-screen experience. Is it a billion-dollar story? Perhaps…Our vision, a package that addresses movie, game, on-line and print outcomes from the outset, is designed with this in mind. It sets out objectives and addresses issues from the beginning. It would have to be successful, but not on the scale of a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings to achieve that.

The team’s commitment to this project far exceeds the six-figure sum that has been spent thus far. Completion of the series will take the budget north of a million dollars, a considerable sum for a digital novel. But then, as CTV reporter Kris Abel succinctly put it, “there is nothing else like it on the Net.”

Alice has become a bridge with the ability to connect technologies, languages, generations and curricula.

I’m looking forward to the next episode :)

Stop Motion Animation

I’ve been a huge fan of stop motion animation since I was little and didn’t even know what it was called – do you remember seeing the operatic orange on Sesame Street?

Later when I took photography as an optional course at University I worked with a friend and classmate to make two stop motion movies. One was a melodramatic soap opera of a banana sacrificing itself to become a banana smoothie and the other was using the giant chess pieces in a local park to create a love / war film noir-ish drama (just imagine the image below coming to life!). If only we’d had the resources and technology and sharing opportunities then that are available today!

chess

I’ve been doing research on DIY / amateur / classroom practices around stop motion animation for a book chapter and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed discovering all sorts of talented people (even 3 year olds!) participating and sharing their work. Some of the latest trends are amazing, awe-inspiring, exciting, and very clever. You’ll have to stay tuned for the publication details but here is a sneak preview of one I found just plain funny:

HUMlab Talk/Tour Video

SafariScreenSnapz002

Today I gave a tour of Macbeth for the HUMlab in Sweden! Click here if you’d like to view the video stream of the tour. It goes for about an hour. It was a bit of an experiment for us to do the live streaming, but it mostly worked well, except an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction in which I lost my hair! Thanks to Jim Barrett for the invitation to speak and for doing all the camera work.

Transformative Works and Cultures

I am going to be interviewed for the Transformative Works and Cultures journal by William P Wend!  It’s a fun process. The journal claims that: “Interviews  - showcases interviews with interesting people in academia, media industry, or fandom”, so its an honour to fall into that category. Stay tuned, and thanks for the invite William!

Achariya Reviews Macbeth

travelogue

Thanks to Achariya, there’s a lovely post about Macbeth on Rezzable that offers a thoughtful and favourable review of Macbeth (whilst at the same time blending in a fashion shoot and links to commercial vendors for clothing and avatar items). Here are my favourite quotes from her review:

The sim transported me into a world that went beyond a stage play and into the text itself, sending me alone into an imagined Macbeth, pacing through the fields, approaching the castle on the cliff…

I found myself thinking about Macbeth in a much more creative and visceral way after watching it grow around me in sound and vision — a clear reminder that plays are not static texts to be read, but springboards for the imagination.

Thank you so much Achariya! If you haven’t seen Achariya’s fashion blog, it’s definitely worth a look – she cleverly blends in theories about identity, literacy, the body and digital culture to her fashion discussions.

Refining the 3D Sketch

Refining

Last night I went on a “walk through” the developing Second Life build with chief architect Chris (CJ Carnot) and my friend and colleague Nick (Corwin Carillon). (Is “walk through” a common term in virtual world design by the way? We’ve been using this term for the past year or so to describe the process of walking and/or flying through a development and discussing it along the way. Maybe its from architecture?). During the walk through we refined and redefined the space, the experience and the 3D sketch of my part of the sim. In my original brief I had numerous source images for the NMC build team to draw from for various spaces, and now I’ve converted some of our favourites to inspiration boards inside the space for quick and easy reference. I’ve annotated the board with a few notes as reminders of things we may have discussed about the build, or that I need to remember for myself about the purpose of each aspect within the literary role-playing experience.

This process of sketching in 2D, writing prosaic notes, sketching in 3D, adding inspiration boards, and doing walk throughs and so on is very exciting. It reminds me of some of my art classes, where we learnt to draw by using simple geometric shapes, then slowly adding the details to refine or where we learnt to paint by first using only blue paint to get shapes and shadows right, and then layering the details on top. Its all very creative and artistic and magical. When talking to Chris about architectural elements to include for example he quickly redesigned some things with simple white prim shapes until we were both happy with the feel – there’s still more to sketch out (both in 2D and 3D), but by next week we’ll be starting the refined build, texturing and detailing. It’s such pure and creative fun (errrr… a lot more fun than grading assignments and writing accreditation reports about our courses, but shhhh you didn’t see me say that!). It doesn’t even feel like work really!

From Moleskin to Sim

From Moleskin to Sim

Now that the new sims are here, I’ve been working with Larry and co at the NMC to map out my part of the space. I sent the build team a detailed 20 page brief for one section (the literary role-playing area) and a 10 page brief for another section (the central University meeting point and gathering area)! Phew!

Yesterday I drew a rough map of the literary space into my moleskin and today I woke up to see it had been converted into a giant prim to map out the land! It was completely surreal to walk around in my own drawing. You might be able to tell from the drawing that my mapping and drawing skills leave a bit to be desired – Larry asked me what the cute little deer was and I had to explain that it was Cerberus, the vicious hound from hell!! Pffft ;)

Inanimate Alice – Teaching Featured

ialice

The class I taught a couple of weeks ago on Digital Fiction in which I used Inanimate Alice as a focus text is now featured on the Inanimate Alice iTeach blog! After a few exchanges on twitter and email, Jess Lacetti (who developed the fantastic pedagogy pack that accompanies Inanimate Alice) published this piece about my class. Included is a quote from me about why I selected Inanimate Alice as my focus exemplar:

Inanimate Alice provides a great starting point for pointing out to teachers an exemplary form of Digital Fiction. It progressively uses more complex features related to what I’ve termed (Thomas, 2005) as the affordances of digital fiction: multimodality, multiliteracies, hypertext, interactivity, spatiality, and identity. For English teachers who are not adept with technology it provides a wonderful introduction to new forms of narrative, yet the developing sophistication makes it richly layered with features that can be discussed, debated, analysed and interpreted by e-literature theorists. Pragmatically, it is something that every single teacher I work with can leave my workshop and go back and use it in some way in their classrooms. It has connected with all of my students at some level, whether they teach year 2 or year 12. It is very difficult to find such rich examples that are suitable for use in the classroom context and that have a universal appeal. More recently, the encouragement for teachers and their students to remix or mashup the story allows for a much higher level of participation within and around the narrative of Alice’s journey, and its clear that the authors are genuinely pushing boundaries and shaping new narrative possibilities – true artists of new media authoring.

Thomas, A. (2005). Positioning the Reader: The Affordances of Digital Fiction. For: Reading the Past, Writing the Future. Brisbane, Queensland Council for Adult Literacy Inc. pp.24-33.

It’s an honour to be included in their special news section – thank you so much Jess!

Digital Fiction Class

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