Books & Print Sandbox projects set bold digital agenda for reading and publishing at Watershed

By Richard Moss | 15 January 2013
a photo of an outdoor bookstall
© The Secret Lives of Books

The growth of social media, gaming, e-books and Kindles may have seen traditional book publishing take a bit of a battering in recent years, but a new project based at Watershed in Bristol is investigating how “digital” can support the act of reading.

Eight lively collaborations, each receiving £60,000 in AHRC funding, are bringing together academics and creative economy partners in an attempt to engage with the history and concept of the book.

Jekyll 2.0, by SlingShot and Anthony Mandal, promises a "pervasive media adaptation of the novel for the age of the bio-hacker" which will use "readers’ bio-data" to shape a live game experience. Another project, called The Next Time(line) by Amblr and Bradley Stephens, uses “data visualization” to create “malleable timelines” that will accompany classic literary texts.  

The Secret Lives of Books, by Guerilla Dance Company and Tom Mitchell, seeks to create an “interactive platform" within Birmingham Library which "visualises the unexploited data sets" of public libraries to show how, where, by whom and how often books have been read.

Digital speak may seem opaque at times, but the intended outcomes are simple: to use digital technologies and formats to promote reading - whatever the mode of delivery.

Clare Reddington, the executive producer overseeing the projects, says she is “incredibly excited” by them.

“The strength of the collaborations and the focus on narrative and writing within the group is particularly rewarding,” she says.

“Over the next three months these projects will explore the many opportunities for the written word in a digital age. I can’t wait to see what they will produce.”

The commissions, which will be funded for three months, come under the banner of Books and Print Sandbox, produced by iShed as part of the Sandbox Programme funded by the REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub for the Creative Economy.

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