Monday, 2 September 2013

The Literary Platform: working with books and technology

Sophie Rochester founded online magazine The Literary Platform in 2009, to report on ‘current thinking about books and technology and innovative projects that blend the two.’  The site is a treasure trove of projects – apps, digital publications, games and websites with a literary slant.

Alongside the magazine, Sophie formed a consultancy business, attracting a collection of like-minded folk with publishing backgrounds. TLP Collective work with: clients on digital publishing projects (publishers, developers, literary organisations and festivals); academic institutions and other organisations to research and run workshops around the impact of technology on writing and publishing (including Bath Spa University, Goldsmiths, Bournemouth, UEA and LCC, Faber&Faber, Random House, National Literacy Trust), and; on their own creative projects with funding from the Arts Council England and NALD.

A couple of their projects that resonate with my current research are:

Library 21, a 3-month research collaboration with The Reading Agency, funding by Art Council England, testing a proposition for in-library access to a variety of digital reading and reading-related content. More broadly, this project examines ways a physical public library can meet the changing needs of readers visiting the site. Although not designers, the research conducted in this project could be framed a model for how creative research (practitioner research, design research) could be valuable in a consultancy/service design capacity.  I'm eager to read the report, which will be publicly released in the near future.

The FutureBook Innovation Workshop has run as a half-day annually for three years, attracting around 100 people in 2013 as part of the Digtial Shoreditch festival. From the website, it seems as though the kinds of projects that appear in the Literary Platform magazine are presented live, by the creators. This kind of conference/seminar/workshop is what I’d love to coordinate as a Sydney Writers’ Festival (or similar) event. Opening dialogue between the publishing industry and researchers in universities or in parallel industries (gaming, web development, film, etc) doesn’t appear in a format like this that I am aware of in Sydney.

In a nutshell, they have my dream job (if you throw in some designing).

I was fortunate that Sophie and Joanna Ellis could give me an hour or so of their time during my too brief UK trip. The Collective work from a small space in Shoreditch, an area known for its tight clustering of digital design, programming and consultancies as 'Tech City' or with English humour, the 'Silicone Roundabout'. Sophie and Jo are engaged and engaging, we had a great conversation. It’s heartening to find people with fingers on the pulse in this area, though selfishly, also a relief to find they are working excessively hard and still feeling their way forward. This is uncertain territory, which also makes it fertile ground for creative research, and forging links between research and future practice. TLP Collective sit outside specific publishing houses, cultural institutions, or universities. This distance allows them to bridge the gap between current publishing practice and what it might be. Considering this a model for the Page Screen Studio, I left invigorated and confident I’m on the right track. We discussed collaborating in the future, initially the potential for an interview about Page Screen and for me to write up interesting projects for the magazine, and seconding finding a way to get Jo to Australia as part of a festival/event.

Shoreditch.

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