John Lee, Mark Wright, Amy Guy, Simon Biggs and Miranda Anderson
Around us layers of history, beliefs, stories and ideas have shaped the cities in which we live, and the cities in which we live have in turn shaped the stories and histories that have been told about a place. The ever-changing world around us has acted as a setting for the events of history and as a basis and source of inspiration for the imaginary worlds that writers have created.
The Literary High Street project will be assisting work on the prototype of the Literary Edinburgh project. The Literary Edinburgh project is currently being developed through collaboration between the English Literature department, which is celebrating its 250th year, and CIRCLE (Creative Interdisciplinary Research in Collaborative Environments). This collaboration includes Simon Biggs, James Loxley, John Lee and Mark Wright as facilitators; Philip Martin, Justin Livingstone and English Literature staff as contributors; Amy Guy as technical director; and Miranda Anderson as the initiator and conceptual director of the overall project. We are weaving together a database of vivid, descriptive, evocative or dramatic extracts from literary works set in Edinburgh, as a means of exploring the literary psychogeography of the city. This project will help to test and develop the prototype, which will focus on Edinburgh’s High Street (from the Castle to the top of the Canongate). This innovative mobile web application will enable users to access a rich database of fictional and historical extracts of texts set in Edinburgh, either as they explore the city or via a website. It will reconnect historical and literary texts with their settings by having relevant extracts appear on devices according to location, but will also allow more playful and creative approaches by enabling travellers to choose their journeys according to other properties such as date, genre, season, mood and so on. The project seeks to bring these texts to life and evoke the multi-layered imaginative, conceptual and historical cityscape of our everyday settings.
Aims and Objectives
If you were to join us on this project then you would be involved in: designing the user interface for mobile and web; testing functionality; and enhancing the user experience in ways that suit you. This could involve exploring various new ways in which the application and related media could be exploited and augmented. For example, images or maps from the related periods of history could be linked to the texts, and spoken material or soundscapes might be added.
Suggested approaches/ learning outcomes
The project is just emerging from its initial conceptual stage: the database of texts and their properties is being compiled, and the system which allows the database to respond depending on user location and choices is in development. The system will be accessed by users primarily with mobile devices (such as tablets and smartphones) and secondarily through ordinary laptop or desktop browsers.
The group may, therefore, choose to contribute to the project by designing and testing a user interface for the system. Accessibility considerations are important here, as different mobile devices have different capabilities when it comes to displaying online content. Students would learn about responsive web design and progressive enhancement which are contemporary methods for crafting an inclusive user experience on the web. Students may wish to employ and record a cyclic design process, where testing and evaluating users’ experiences of the interface early on informs changes and improvements. There are many methods of testing and evaluating that can be explored as part of the project.
Alternatively, the group may take an approach that augments a text-oriented experience using audio or soundscapes or recording readings of longer texts. Another possibility could involve linking texts with maps or photos or images from the time of the text’s creation in order to enhance the reading experience. In addition to the technical outcomes this project could involve exploring some of the tropes of interactive fiction or storytelling.
Mobile web design / inclusive design & development
Marcotte, Ethan. (2011) Responsive Web Design. A Book Apart.
Wroblewski, Luke (2011) Mobile First. A Book Apart.
Walter, Aaron (2011) Designing For Emotion. A Book Apart.
Psychogeography / electronic literature
Bolter, Jay David. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext and the Remediation of Print, Routledge 2001
Bonnett, A. ‘The dilemmas of radical nostalgia in British psychogeography’. Theory, Culture & Society 26.1 (2009): 45-70.
Hayles, Katherine N. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008.
Jewell, Michael O. and Clare Hooper. ‘Linking Locations: Storytelling with Pervasive Technology’. Narrative and Hypertext Workshop (2011).
Landow, George. Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
Inspiring web links
Traditional walking tour:
Ian Hamilton Finlay:
A Literary Psychogeography of Tokyo & Amsterdam: