DMSP Submission 3 – By Jessica Ruiz
While brainstorming ideas for the website functionality, our group unanimously agreed that implementing an audible narration feature would enhance the user experience. It was at a meeting with Matthew Aylett, technical director of CereProc text-to-speech technology, that I began to question our assumptions. How do other forms of narration such as film or theatre affect the audience? What about silent reading with your inner voice? I was very interested to learn more about the interpretive practices that accompany literature. Perhaps it was the appeal of a new text-to-speech technology that had us jump for the voice narration, but others forms of narrative were yet to be explored.
We began discussing how CereProc could influence the user’s imaginative experience on the Royal Mile —how one experiences literature. Philosopher Michael Polanyi, author of “Knowing and Being,” provides a strong argument for the theory of writing. His theory focuses on the the reader’s engagement with the text and how one derives meaning from it. That is, the author writes based on experiences and the reader finds meaning from interpretation. It is important to mention that the interpretation may be different from what the author intended to convey. This process emphasizes the importance of interpretation and how individuals might experience literature in different ways.
So does oral narration conflict with our inner voice that silently accompanies words on the pages? From Polanyi’s suggestions, interpreting literature is inherently subjective. Based on this, we can assume that Literary High Street users will have unique experiences on the Royal Mile.
Personally, I have always preferred silent reading as opposed to group or oral narration like books on tape. I find it difficult to concentrate, constantly drifting off to thoughts like, “I wonder what I should eat for lunch.” When silently reading, I am fully engaged with the literature and not distracted by other thoughts (with the exception of the dreaded textbook). There is much to explore about how different forms of narratives are experienced and what is preferred by the user. One form over another should not be deemed as ‘better’ or more imaginative, but viewed as an independent method to engage with literature. For example, this could be compared to practices of learning. Visual vs. auditory learning styles demonstrate how students retain information in different ways.
Specific to Literary High Street, different forms of narration may take the audience to unique imaginative spaces. The LHS group has created transitional photographs to aid the user’s imagination. We have called the photos ‘transitional’ as they blend historic and modern images and maps. They are a great representation of project objectives —a unique experience where the reader is immersed in Edinburgh’s strong literary presence.
The article titled, ”Neo-narration: stories of art” by Mike Brennan, explores ways in which narrative techniques are employed in modern culture. Brennan coins the term ‘neo-narration’ to explain the new, “adopting of an unprecedented range of narrative techniques, especially those gleaned from literature, theatre, film or TV” (2012). Brennan provides a range of examples and examines modern narratives of classic literature of authors like Charles Dickens. He discusses how a modern film adaptation of Dickens’ semi-autobiographical hero David Copperfield, becomes a new interpretation of the classic tale.
Interpretation is central to Brennan’s analysis of modern narration. He claims, “while the process of interpretation may seem an uncertain endeavor, ambiguities and nuances are clearly more dependent on our response to what we read or hear than what we see” (2012). You could argue that this assumption demonstrates the power of oral narration for a Literary High Street app user. Emphasis on certain words, reiteration, emotion, and accent are all factors that may influence interpretation of the literature.
Brennan’s article has helped me reflect on the LHS design approach. Because the user’s experience will not be fixed but rather dependent on interpretation, we will provide a range of function to choose from. Feelings we want the user to experience will be different depending on their interpretation of the literature and how they derive meaning from the text. Application options will include reading the text silently, text with oral narration, or a hands-free option accompanied by oral narration. With a multi-platform format, our audience can experience the literature from any location. Perhaps one’s imagination is restricted by voice narration and may better imagine the Royal Mile silently reading on their desktop computer at home. User feedback will be very important in enhancing the prototype to create the larger Edinburgh Literary Project. With the prevalent theme of psychogeography seen throughout the project, we hope Literary High Street can provide both a historic and modern view of a city with deep literary roots.
So how do you like to read? What do you think about interpretation and different forms of narration?
Brennan, Mike. “Neo-narration: stories of art.” Modernedition, 2009. Web. 14 April. 2011. www.modernedition.com/art-articles/neo-narration/neo-narration.html
Polanyi, Michael. Knowing and Being. University of Chicago Press, 1969.