Panel: Ambient Literature

02 Jul 2019
14:00 - 15:15
The Barn, Corsham Court

Panel: Ambient Literature

Alastair Eilbeck (Liverpool University)

Fantasia Express – Mixed reality and hybrid narratives for train journeys

The Fantasia Express was a 12-month project funded by the Dept of Transport under the First of a kind, (tomorrow’s trains today) initiative administered by Innovate UK. Its core deliverable was a two week public trial on LNER trains traveling the London to Newcastle section of the East Coast mainline.

The trial tested a prototype geo-locative augmented reality application designed for a fast moving train carriage. The content was based on a strong narrative thread that related directly to the locations on the route.

This presentation will look at the process and findings of this project. Focusing on three main aspects, The technical, narrative and interface challenges of engaging passengers on a 2-3 hour train journey (with variable start and end points).

Richard A Carter and Jenna Ng (University of Roehampton/ University of York)

Wayfaring in Time – The Ambient Storytelling of Wandering Games

Inspired by work conducted as part of the Ambient Literature project, in examining texts that actively engage, react, and adapt to their environmental contexts, this paper considers how narrative encounters emerge and evolve within the space of exploratory, virtual environments—that is, within so-called ‘wandering games’, or, more popularly ‘walking simulators’. This paper discusses how a mode of storytelling, which we term ‘ambient storytelling’, is articulated through the matrix of free movement, spatial exploration, environmental cues, lighting, and sound that characterises the architecture and flow of wandering games. Contra to its overt form in spatial terms, we argue that ambient storytelling in these virtual contexts is, rather, about evoking time, as well as becoming, transience, encounter, rhythms, and moods. In that respect, we also contrast ambient storytelling with the more conventional three-act structure of storytelling, and its familiar modes of advancing action through varied crises and resolutions. To illustrate our approach, this paper will examine two instances of wandering games, Sacramento (2016) and Ruins (2011), where the thematic aspects of both stories, dwelling on questions of time and memory, are entangled deeply with their very form as spaces for reflective wandering—presenting sophisticated instances of a narrative mode centring on the virtual mobilities of the immobile user. In the process, we will also contemplate the unique richness and potential of contemporary interactive storytelling for meaning-making, affective conditions, and experiential evocation.

Sarah Ciston (University of Southern California)

The Haptics of Not Touching: Lust and Language in the Time of Subscription Capitalism

How do we write about and within algorithmic intimacy? How does it reshape narrative forms and retexture text? What stories emerge from embodied data and endataed bodies? Part techno-poetics, part lyric critical essay, this performance-presentation connects the tactility of Tinder, the synesthesia of GIFs, the database labor of ASMR, and the caretaking gig-economics of Postmates. It investigates narratives of nearness experienced through networks as porous as skin—and how those networks write with the data they ask for in return. In this investigation, I share several experiments in co-writing with algorithms, including writing with self-tracking data recording my body and writing with a chatbot that stands in for my body in order to speak to misogynists online. Such experiments, and the daily experiences of algorithmic intimacy, expand the field of author and audience to include the machines which produce us, read us, and connect us as immersive data streams. Through the lens of touch, and its uncanny digital translations, I trace how author-audience-subject intersect in the body-becoming-interface.

Matt Hayler (University of Birmingham)

Ambient Literature – Immersion, Entanglement, and Awareness

This paper will explore the importance of entanglement for understanding how works of Ambient Literature achieve their formal and narrative power. Entanglements of readers, environments, texts, and tools; of technologies and their technological systems; and of histories with presents and possible futures each dictate what can occur in Ambient Literary experiences, with writers drawing on, or having their works unintentionally shaped by, such entanglement effects.

Drawing on Kate Pullinger’s Breathe and Duncan Speakman’s It Must Have Been Dark By Then, two works produced as part of the AHRC-funded Ambient Literature project, I will show how Pullinger and Speakman make us feel our often-unnoticed interconnections. Pullinger wraps us in surveillant technical systems, memories and echoes, and our immediate location; Speakman traces the strands of the webs which span the world: ecological and empathetic connections and a collapsing of both space and time in present experience.

These entanglements lend a different aspect to “immersion” in media – the works described certainly deploy new methods to cause us to sink deeper into their narrative, and blur the lines between storyworld and real world, but they also reveal the ways in which we are also already embedded in the stories and practices of place and daily life. Ambient Literary works join the clamour of what’s already there, not whisking us away to an alternate place, but showing us where we are and becoming an additional element of the whole.