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Being a 21st Century Magazine: Re-imagining the literary essay for the digital age

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The Festival of Publishing, London, 31 January 2013

Being a 21st Century Magazine:
Re-imagining the literary essay for the digital age
Helen Jeffrey
Associate Publisher, London Review of Books
@imhelenj @lrb
#FOP13

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Being a 21st Century Magazine: Re-imagining the literary essay for the digital age

  1. 1. The Festival of Publishing, London 31 January 2013 Being a 21st Century Magazine:Re-imagining the literary essay for the digital age Helen JeffreyAssociate Publisher, London Review of Books @imhelenj @lrb #FOP13 © 2013 LRB Limited
  2. 2. A digital essay -commissionedfrom theLondon Reviewof Books for TheSpace –anonline digitalarts platformdeveloped bythe Arts Counciland the BBC.www.thespace.org
  3. 3. The Proposal:• Could there be a way to embellish the unadorned line of the text without losing the impetus and coherence of the reading experience?• Could we create a rhythmic flow in and out of the sequence of sentences, to take in other texts, video and audio material, pictures and photographs, so that reading becomes multidimensional but not merely fragmentary?• Will enriching the line of a text deepen it or confuse it, energise it or dissipate its élan?
  4. 4. The project: one essay‘Kafka’s Wound’A digital essay by Will Self, professional writerand Professor of Contemporary Thought atBrunel University. www.thespace.lrb.co.uk
  5. 5. How can we support the most fulfilling reading experience?• Surface learning: – Information – Memorising – The acquisition of facts, methods and techniques• Deep learning: – Abstraction of meaning – An interpretive process aimed at understanding reality – Learning and changing as a person “Deep and surface approaches to learning are not personality traits”; the approach taken is dependent on both what the student is asked to do, and what the student perceives to be the purpose. (The Oxford Tutorial: Thanks you taught me how to think, edited by D Palfryman, 2008; Suzanne Shale, The Oxford Tutorial in the Context of Theory on Student Learning:).
  6. 6. Form: (Content)• Archival• Creative• Documentary• The essay
  7. 7. Function (UI)• Supporting engagement with the text• Technical details• Visual index• Side-notes
  8. 8. Technical Details• HTML5 development. Responsive design.• The content articles are normal WordPress posts of custom type article with added metadata fields.• Making the audio/video and slide players work in responsive pop-ups was a little tricky to get right.• Being able to open up a gap mid-sentence/mid- paragraph for extra content without triggering a reflow is something that browsers just arent designed to support.• It would be nice to rework the animations to use modern CSS3 transformations -- this would greatly improve the performance on lower-powered devices (like the iPad).
  9. 9. Visual Index
  10. 10. Social Positioning Graph for ‘@theUL’ by Tony Hirst @psychemediahttp://blog.ouseful.info/2011/12/07/positioning-theul/
  11. 11. Hack at The National Archives: Ancient correspondence (1175-1538) by @timhodsonhttp://timhodson.com/ancient-correspondence/
  12. 12. CultureHack East at Anglia-Ruskin University, Cambridge: Using Google Fusion Tables
  13. 13. Footnotes >> Side Notes
  14. 14. Feedback: Twitter comments• Comments that expressed an opinion: 96% positive• Three days after discovering it can I now say I have finished Will Selfs Digital Essay? No! Endless exploration...• This interactive essay on Kafta, by Will Self @wself is clearly groundbreaking. Games and machinima have their part.• Swish #digital #essay from @wself with a nice #UI. The text stands on its own for any academics: Kafka’s Wound via @LRB• Will Selfs Digital Essay "Kafkas Wound" is what the Internet was made for. End of. Switch off. Buy a typewriter.
  15. 15. Google Analytics• Visits 34,500• Unique visitors 22,000• Return visits 37%• Pageviews 89,000• Bounce rate 2.8%• Time on site 8.01 minutes• Referral visits 60%
  16. 16. What Next?• Linked data & entity extraction. Exploring using other digital archives.• Investigate how to publish data within a digital essay.• Developing the side-notes concept.• Technical improvements.• Work with writers to create more experimental digital essays.
  17. 17. ReflectionsLong-form digital essays: integrating digital media with text can work well.Archives: gain new life and exposure throughdigital integration with new work.Creative arts: digital projects benefit fromcollaboration with other arts and educationalorganisations.Authors: The vision and energy of the writer iskey to creating a successful outcome.
  18. 18. Tomorrow…• Go to a Culture Hack day http://culturehackday.org.uk/• Play with paper prototyping• Look into online resources http://digitalcapacity.artscouncil.org.uk/• Apply for digital arts funding – http://www.artsdigitalrnd.org.uk/ – http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/• Experiment• Protect your core values• Join the conversation online and offline (use twitter)• Partner with other organisations• See your Data as valuable and interesting• Out-source your day to day digital work and foster your in-house talents• Develop new capacity rather than a ‘one-off’
  19. 19. More on ‘Kafka’s Wound’Debating The Digital Essayhttp://thespace.lrb.co.uk/#debating-the-digital- essay-at-the-london-review-bookshopBBC CoP Show: arts in the digital worldhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/academy/collegeofproductio n/podcast/online/digital_arts_podcastBBC Academy: Ollie Brock, Archive researcherhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGQYJdwTzAk

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