Today is the last day of our fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. I’ve been here for the past 3 weeks or so with anthropologist James Leach piloting the first stage of a new kind of toolkit designed to help remote indigenous communities document and record – in their own hand and forms of expression – the kinds of traditional cultural, environmental, ecological and social knowledge (“TEK”) that are in danger of gradually fading away as development, resource extraction, industrialisation and the money economy erode their ability to live sustainably in the bush/jungle.
I flew to Perth in late February to spend a week with James preparing for our trip : gathering the gear we’d need to be able to co-design booklets using bookleteer offline in the bush, print them out and scan them back in, as well as documenting all these processes. James is currently on an ARC Future Fellowship at the University of Western Australia, as well as Professor and Director of Research for the French Pacific Research Institute, CREDO in Marseille. He has been working with the people of Reite village on Papua New Guinea’s Rai Coast (Madang Province) since 1993 and his 2003 book, Creative Land (Berghahn Books), is a major anthropological study of their culture and society. James and I have been collaborating on ideas of self-documentation of traditional knowledge and “indigenous science” ever since I introduced him to the Diffusion eBook format and bookleteer back in 2008. When two Reite people, Porer Nombo and Pinbin Sisau, came to the UK in 2009 to take part in a project at the British Museum’s Ethnographic Dept telling stories and giving information about hundreds of objects from PNG in the collection, we first used the notebooks together to create a parallel series of documents about this encounter and what was revealed.
In 2012 I was invited to share my thoughts on how bookleteer and the books format could be used by indigenous people themselves at the Saem Majnep Memorial Symposium on TEK at the University of Goroka in PNG. We followed this up with a trip to Reite village where we spent a week testing out our ideas with people from the village, and developing a simple co-design process for creating notebooks with prompts to help people (whose literacy varies dramatically) record and share things of value to them. The focus was to understand how far this idea could really deliver something of use and value to people who live a largely traditional way of life in the bush, and why they might want to do this. It became clear early on that the enormous enthusiasm was driven by concerns about how all the knowledge that has allowed their society to thrive in the bush for countless generations could easily vanish in the face of money, cash cropping and the speed of communications and change that factors like mobile phones are bringing – leading some young people to turn away from traditional life for the dubious advantages of a precarious life in the shanty towns on the edge of PNG’s growing cities. The notebooks offer a new kind of way to preserve and transmit such knowledge for future generations, especially as they combine the physical and the digital, meaning the loss of a physical copy of a book doesn’t matter when it has been digitised and stored online. The success of this first experiment enabled us to write a proposal for funding a 2 year pilot to the Christensen Fund (a US-based NGO) which awarded us funding in 2014.
After a brief stopover in Canberra to consult and share ideas with Colin Filer and Robin Hide of Australian National University (both PNG experts of longstanding), we headed straight to Madang to meet with James’ friend Pinbin Sisau (at whose home we would be staying in Reite village) and gather all the necessary stores to sustain us in the field for several weeks. After a day in Madang we took a dinghy, skippered by the ever-reliable Alfus, across Astrolabe Bay and South-East 60km or so along the Rai Coast to the black sand beach where we landed and were met by some villagers who’d help portage all our cargo the 10km inland we’d have to walk, up into the foothills of the Finisterre Mountains where Reite village is located (at about 300m above sea level).
James had visited Reite again recently, in October 2014, to discuss the upcoming field work and to gather more feedback on our original experiment so we could plan how, in practice, we could co-design notebook templates with the villagers and what we could prepare in advance to help this. A few small tweaks to prompts used in our 2012 co-designed notebook were made, as well as creating a simple printed version (I had handwritten all the notebooks we used before) on bookleteer and a new book for collective writing. To have the capability to design, generate and print out bookleteer books in the field, I commissioned Joe Flintham (Fathom Point Ltd) – who is bookleteer’s chief consultant programmer – to adapt a version of bookleteer to run offline (i.e. with no need for internet connectivity) on my Apple MacBook Air laptop. Joe created an Ubuntu Virtual Machine image of bookleteer (minus various online services) that runs on Oracle’s Virtual Box application. Combining this with a portable inkjet printer (a Canon Pixma iP110 with battery), a portable scanner (an EPSON DS-30) and the Polaroid PoGo & LG Pocket Photo PD239 Zink printers would give us a fully-fledged ‘bush publishing” capability. For paper we brought with us a supply of Aquascribe waterproof paper (a Tyvek-type product) and pre-printed and shipped some 170 copies of different book templates. The waterproof paper is a highly useful technology to use in the damp and humid environment, where ordinary pulp-based paper becomes fibrous very swiftly and disintegrates in a short time. Books printed and made on this paper (as we used before) have a much longer lifespan – possibly decades.
Reite is made up of several hamlets, being the name applied not just to one village but an administrative district from the colonial period. As such the people who took part in our project come not just from Reite itself, but from Sarangama, Yasing, Marpungae and Serieng. For the next two weeks of our fieldwork we were constantly engaged in discussions with local people about the books, what they might include in them and how they could help reinforce the importance of the knowledge of the land, plants, animals and environment that people here have developed over generations. Once again, James’ long-term collaborator and informant, Porer Nombo, was the hub around which much of the necessary energy to bring people together and discuss the ideas was focused. In addition to the 3 templates we had prepared before coming, we co-designed with Porer, Pinbin and several others with a keen interest (such as Peter Nombo and Katak Pulu) another 4 different styles of notebook for a range of different themes and types of ‘stori’ that people wanted to record. Overall, 63 books were completed by around 42 people during the fortnight we stayed in the village. The major difference in this project was that, rather than taking the books away to scan and return, the portable scanner meant that we could scan everyone’s book in the village itself. Thus we could store a digital copy (and print out another if needed) and leave the original in its author’s hands in the village. This was an important step, partly to underscore that the books were by and for people in the village, not for us, and also to counter ideas that we might be taking knowledge away from the village to profit from selling it. For us, the digitisation of the books is a critical component for transmission to the future as it means that the unique books, which are hand written and drawn in by their authors, can be retrieved and printed again if lost or damaged. We explained this to everyone in several meetings – both smaller ones within the house we stayed in, and a larger public meeting about halfway through the project.
As in our previous experiment, we designed the front cover of each book to include a photograph of the author (which we took using digital cameras and our smartphones and printed out on the sticky-backed photo paper of the PoGo & LG Zink printers). As well as describing the general themes of the prompts inside each book, the cover also includes the simple statement that the author has been told about and understands the project, as well as statements (which they can cross out if they don’t agree to) that the book can be scanned onto computer, and shared online. As it turned out, the excitement that people’s work would appear on the internet was palpable and a significant impetus behind participation. Having something they had made, with their picture on it, on the internet had real value – suggesting that the knowledge they have could both be seen by others around the world and known about across PNG too.
What became one of the most important aspects of the fieldwork was the way that the local primary school (St Monica’s Reite) adopted the books wholesale and wove them directly into the curriculum around social science and environmental studies. We met up with Mr Jonathan Zorro, the school headmaster, in the first days of our trip (I had met him on my previous trip and James again last October) and he confirmed that he was very keen for the school to become involved. It turned out that the school has a desktop PC with a laser printer and scanner, so it became clear that not only could the school print out copies of the books on standard A4 paper, but they could scan them in and store them locally on the school computer. We agreed to spend a day at the school to introduce the project to all the students and then to do some practical book-making demonstrations and workshops with each class. James also agreed to give each of the Upper school classes (years 5-8) a short lecture on the importance of traditional knowledge and how it relates to environmental studies and preserving the community’s way of life. Mr Zorro organised for 290 books to be printed at the school, with one of the key emphases being that the students should use both the Tok Pisin versions and the English versions to improve their language and descriptive skills. Mr Zorro kindly shared with us the assessment criteria which he also developed for the students’ work : assessing their English language skills, their artwork (drawing), narrative ability, use of social science and environmental studies knowledge. Within a week of our first presentation at the school many of the students had submitted books of their own and we ended up digitising 55 of the best ones.
We had planned for a visit by to Reite by Catherine Sparks (who is based in Vanuatu) and Yat Paol (based in PNG) from the Christensen Fund’s Melanesian programme, but Cyclone Pam intervened and our own visit to the village was cut short by a few days (due to some health and security issues) so we have ended up completing our fieldwork from a base in Madang. There we presented the work completed to Yat Paol and were also able to arrange a meeting for him with the school headmaster plus Porer Nombo and Pinbin Sisau who have been our steadfast colleagues in this project. Now we have scanned the 118 books we have been indexing their contents and details of the authors to prepare a specially designed website to act as an online repository of library for Reite, and beginning to analyse and work with Porer and Pinbin on some indigenous classifications for the kinds of knowledge and experience that they contain. As our time here draws to a close we find that we have a wealth of stories to develop new parts of the toolkit from, and a clear sense of direction for the project’s second stage.
Towards the end of October 2012 I boarded a flight to Sydney on the first leg of a journey to Papua New Guinea, where I was to give a presentation about public authoring and the Shareables we have created over the past dozen and more years. Through my friend, the anthropologist James Leach, I had been invited to participate in a symposium at the University of Goroka in PNG’s Eastern Highlands to share my thoughts and experiences of using hybrid tools and technologies with different communities to record and share their knowledge, stories and experiences – a process we have called public authoring since developing our Urban Tapestries project back in 2003.
I first got to know James at the University of Cambridge at a symposium he, Lee Wilson and Robin Boast co-organised for CRASSH where I was an invited speaker. We then began collaborating in 2009 when two Reite villagers, Porer Nombo and Pinbin Sisau, came to the UK to participate in a project at the British Museum Ethnography Department. Porer and Pinbin were invited to help identify hundreds of objects from the Rai Coast area of PNG that the BM has in its collections, but about which very little was known. In addition to the audio recording and photography of the objects, James wanted to capture something about the process of encountering and engaging with the objects; he turned to me to explore using the Diffusion Notebooks format we had previously discussed. Over the week or so of Porer and Pinbin’s visit to the BM Ethnographic Store in an east London warehouse several notebooks were made and shared online (these are also browsable on bookleteer and downloadable – Melanesia Project Notebooks). This small project was a personal turning point in several ways and when the opportunity came to visit PNG and to travel to Reite village itself with James I had no hesitation in accepting.
The Saem Majnep Memorial Symposium on Traditional Environmental Knowledge took place from October 31st to 2nd November and featured both local as well as international researchers. James and Porer Nombo presented their book, Reite Plants, as a potential model for sharing local traditional knowledge. I gave a presentation about how we have used the Diffusion eBook format and bookleteer in our work with different communities to record and share their stories, experiences and other things that they value. Prior to visiting PNG James and I had spent a few days discussing and sketching up some possible notebooks to take to Reite village. I had also researched a waterproof paper stock that could both be printed on and written on using universally available pens (such as biro and also Sharpie pens) – which was crucial in the hot and humid climate of PNG where ordinary paper is highly susceptible to mould, damp and disintegration. Taking a small amount of this paper with me, and some test printed waterproof eNotebooks, we made our way via Madang to Reite village.Once in the village, we realised that the sketches for notebooks that we had planned before were not quite right and that there was a unique opportunity to co-design a simpler approach that reflected local sensitivities to knowledge sharing. Working with Porer and Pinbin again, we devised a new formulation for the wording of the notebooks about the kind of subject matter we would be asking participants to record and share, as well as the provenance of their knowledge. A key ingredient was the informed consent statement that appears on the front cover of each notebook below the space for the participant’s photograph, which was printed and stuck on using a Polaroid PoGo printer, and beneath which each participant wrote their name after reading and agreeing.
Having just a limited supply of materials I was able to create 16 notebooks – far less than the number of people who wanted to take part – which were all handmade and written out in the village itself. At a morning meeting, the aims of the project were explained to the participants by Porer and James whilst I took their photos and printed them out to stick on the cover of their notebooks. As a simple pilot, we asked the participants to write about just one thing in their environment about which they had specific knowledge – knowledge that was their’s to share (i.e. not taboo or magical knowledge, hap tok in Tok Pisin). It was important that everyone taking part understood exactly what we were doing and why – that this was intended and an experiment to explore new ways for their community to record what they know and to be able to pass in on to their descendants as well as to share with others.
By the end of our week in the village all 16 notebooks had been returned, filled with stories, drawings and information – the first time I have had a 100% return rate in any participation project! Disassembling each of the notebooks back into flat sheets, I used a cheap portable hand scanner to create our very first digital versions of the notebooks, which were saved as multi-page PDF files for immediate sharing. Once back in our London studio I was able to take more accurate scans on a desktop scanner, but the use of the portable scanner to capture and immediately share (via SD card) digital versions of the notebooks was another useful demonstration of the simplicity of the whole process for sharing in the field without access to mains electricity and the usual infrastructure required for file sharing.
James provided some English translations to the notebooks, which we then incorporated into new versions made and shared on bookleteer – all of which can be browsed online or downloaded as A4 PDFs for making into handmade books in this collection – Reite and Sarangama Notebooks. We also combined the 16 notebooks into three larger bookleteer books grouped together according to subject matter accompanied by a book written by us (in both Tok Pisin and English) browsable or downloadable (as A3 PDFs) in the collection – TEK Pilot 1. Two of these books were recently printed in a small run using bookleteer’s Short Run printing service and sent out to subscribers of the Periodical – read about them here. We are sending handmade versions of all the books and notebooks back to the participants in Reite and Saragama villages, laser printed on another waterproof paper stock for durability.
Our longer terms aims are to expand this process for simple tools and techniques for recording and sharing local traditional cultural and ecological knowledge into a toolkit that could be used in different contexts and situations, and which is, as far as possible, technology agnostic. To do this we plan to return to Reite in 2014 to continue our co-design and collaboration with the villagers there, and to then devise a basic toolkit which can be shared with other people and communities in PNG, then potentially further afield. I would love to hear from others working with traditional or remote communities who’d like to share ideas and perhaps experiment with the process and tools we’ve developed so far.
On the trip to PNG I kept a diary of my experiences for my then 8 year old daughter, which I digitised using bookleteer. It is personal and written with her in mind, yet it is probably the best way to communicate some of the intense experiences I had in the village – with a culture and society that is so very different to my own yet offered so much to me in generosity of welcome, food, gifts and in spirit.
Tomorrow I start my journey to Papua New Guinea where I’m taking part in the Saem Majnep Memorial Symposium on Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK), hosted by the University of Goroka (Eastern Highlands Province) and supported by the Christensen Fund. The title and abstract of my talk at the symposium is:
Digital and Physical : simple solutions for documenting and sharing community knowledge
My work is about engaging with people to identify things which they value – for instance knowledge, experiences, skills – and how they can share them with others in ways that are safe, appropriate and inspiring. As an artist and designer I have helped devise simple tools and techniques that can be adopted and adapted by people on their own terms – such as uses of everyday paper, cameras and printers alongside digital technologies such as the internet, archives and databases. I will demonstrate some examples of how these simple physical and digital tools can be used to share community knowledge in freely and easily accessible ways, so that they can also be re-worked and circulated in both paper and digital formats. I hope to offer some examples of how TEK in PNG might be widely documented and circulated as part of commonly available resources.
I wrote a piece about my initial thoughts on what I’ll be presenting and doing whilst I’m there on the bookleteer blog last month. My invitation to this event has been through James Leach, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen who will be there presenting his collaborative publication, Reite Plants, with Porer Nombo in whose village James has been doing fieldwork for 20 years. I first met Porer three years ago when he visited the UK to assist the British Museum’s Melanesia Project in identifying artefacts from the region where he lives in the Ethnographic Collection. At the time James had asked me to help him devise some new ways to document this kind of Traditional Knowledge Exchange that would capture something of the experience of all sharing knowledge that more institutional methods might miss. Consequently we used some Diffusion eNotebooks to capture and record our interactions as much as the stories and information that Porer and Pinbin shared about the artefacts. Alice and I also had the privilege of spending time with Porer and his fellow villager, Pinbin Sisau, inviting them to our home for an evening with James and his family and sharing with them some of the simple delights of central London life that people who don’t live here wouldn’t experience.
After the symposium James, Porer and myself will travel back to Porer’s village of Reite on the Rai Coast in Madang Province where we’ll stay for a week or so. There we’ll attempt to put some of our ideas into practice – I’ve designed some simple notebooks for us to use out in the bush, some printed on waterproof paper, others printed on standard papers. I’m very excited to have this unique opportunity to test out ideas I’ve had for using the Diffusion eBook format and bookleteer in the field for over 10 years now – harking back to conversations I had with anthropologist Genevieve Bell of Intel in 2003. I’m also very excited to have the privilege of visiting Porer and Pinbin in their home and meeting their families and community – joining the loop of one smaller circle of friendship and exchange and hopefully spiralling out into some larger ones that will continue into the future.
Its been 12 years since we published Performance Notations, the first series of Diffusion eBooks, and launched our unique publishing format on an unsuspecting world. In that time, we have commissioned and facilitated hundreds of original eBooks and StoryCubes by an incredibly diverse range of people from all kinds of disciplines and backgrounds. In that time we also began to evolve our own free and online software platform for people without professional design skills to be able to create their own eBooks and StoryCubes. Our first proof of concept prototype was made in the summer of 2003. We then spent a few years building a fully working version – the Diffusion Generator – which was online between 2006 and 2009. In September 2009 we launched bookleteer, a whole new set of ways for making and sharing eBooks and StoryCubes.
A New Place for Future eBooks & StoryCubes
This summer we made a series of technical changes to bookleteer that allow users to share their own publications directly with others via a Public Library. Each user has their own personal profile page listing all their shared publications (for instance, here’s mine) and each publication has its page listing both the downloadable PDFs and the bookreader online version (for example, see Material Conditions: Epilogue). We have further exciting developments in the pipeline too.
To continue our long tradition of commissioning and publishing new work, we have created a new Curated by Proboscis library which will, from now on, be where all new commissions and featured eBooks and StoryCubes will be listed. Our long-serving Diffusion Library website will remain online indefinitely as an archive of more than 12 years of pushing the boundaries of what we think of as publishing and creative practice.
As part of these changes we are also launching a new monthly publication – the Periodical – which will select, print and send out to subscribers some of the most exciting, experimental, imaginative and insipring eBooks created and shared on bookleteer. Anyone can take part – just sign up, make and share something on bookleteer. Each month we’ll pick one eBook to print and send out. We are also devising special projects, like Field Work, that will enable people to participate in other ways. And we are developing partnerships and collaborations to commission new series that will also be distributed as part of the Periodical’s monthly issues.
Subscribe to the Periodical and get bookleteering!
Publishing remains at the heart of Proboscis. We began 18 years ago with COIL journal of the moving image and followed this with many series of Diffusion eBooks. Since 1994, we have commissioned and published works by hundreds of different people in many formats.
Our latest publishing venture, the Periodical, aims to re-imagine publishing as public authoring – a phrase we’ve been using for over 10 years to describe the process by which people actively make and share what they value – knowledge, skills, experiences, observations – those things we characterise as Public Goods. Based on bookleteer, the Periodical is a way for people to participate in publishing as well as reading – in addition to receiving a printed eBook (sometimes more than just one) by post each month subscribers are encouraged to use bookleteer to make and share their own publications, which may then be chosen to be printed and posted out for a future issue.
Our first project being developed as part of this venture is Field Work : subscribers will be sent a custom eNotebook to use as a sketch and note book for a project of their own. Once they’ve filled it in they can return it to us to be digitised and shared on bookleteer. Several times a year we will select and print someone’s Field Work eNotebook to be sent out as part of a monthly issue of the Periodical.
Why are we doing this? We’ve long used the Diffusion eBook format to make custom notebooks for our projects and digitised them as part of our shareables concept. We think that such new possibilities of sharing our creative and research processes with others is a key strength of what these hybrid digital/physical technologies offer. Creating a vehicle, via the Periodical, for others to take part in an emergent and evolving conversation about how and why we do what we do seems like a natural step forward. If you’d like to take part, subscribe here.
Taking part in the 2012 NASA Space Apps Challenge
Within the Public Goods Lab here at Proboscis we have been exploring a number of themes we are tying together, one of which is a strong interest in the practice and production of ‘citizen science’. We like getting hands on and are always keen to learn from exitisting models and projects to understand the issues and possible modes and obstacles to production and delivery and so it makes a lot of sense for us to participate in projects that we can learn from.
To this end in late April I spent a fun weekend with my friend James from Imaginals and other space-fanatics at ISIC, the International Space Innovation Centre in Harwell, Oxford which played host to an extraordinary and fun challenge:
We joined the Oxford group of the NASA Space Apps Challenge; a brilliant event that was hosted in 25 cities around the globe (e.g. San Francisco, Tokyo, Melbourne, Canberra, Jakarta, Exeter; Nairobi, Sao Paulo, Santo Domingo and McMurdo Station, Antarctica….) drawing a crowd of 2000+ participants interested in creating ‘Apps’ relating to NASA space science under a number of possible themes; e.g. Software, Open Hardware, Citizen Science and Data Visualization.
The NASA Space Apps challenge was conceived as part of a much larger and very interesting ongoing US and global agenda in open government via the Open Government Partnership. The US Open Government Initiative is translating directly into Open Government activities at NASA; a programme to generate more interest in, access to and popularise ideas around NASA’s space science programme and enhance public visibility.
Our impromptu team (primarily assembled on the workshop weekend itself) consisted -Emal, Peter, James and myself – joined up because of our mutual interest in the theme of “Mobile Environment Capture”. We clubbed together with a hope of coming up with something that would relate it to citizen science and in particular exploring participatory models and ideas.
With lots of ideas being thrown around the table on the Saturday – for while we were joined by from ESA scientists who gave us some great insights – we decided to produce an idea that is looking to capture the excitement of engaging with space science from the ground by connecting citizen scientists through to the professional science community via our concept ‘StrangeDesk’. It’s our way to capture, share and aggregate odd, out of the ordinary and potentially important environmental events and connect them through the social web with the wider world including the professional science community to use and elaborate upon.
Excitingly, in the weekend competition we must have hit some kind of nerve with the concept as we were lucky enough to win second prize in the local Oxford selections and are now moving into the second round with our idea.
Please check out our promo video we produced with the great help from Izzy Way at Imaginals for the second round of the competition on vimeo: StrangeDesk Promo
Support us by voting for it on the Talenthouse competion web site! and watch this space for any further news on this initiative!
You can also check out the twitter feed on the SpaceApps challlenge on twitter under #SpaceApps…
It is now a year since we launched the short run printing service for Bookleteer our online self publish and print platform. So now seemed like a good time to start a series of posts reflecting on the diverse uses people have found for it. Fredrick Leasge has been doing a series of case studies and interviews over on the Bookleteer Blog with people who have used it. Ive been interested to read how some historical and ethnographic projects that have used this method of publishing for documentation and communication.
Julie Anderson, the Assistant Keeper of Egyptian and Sudanese Antiquities at the British Museum used Bookleteer to create 1000 books in Arabic and English about a 10 year archaeological excavation in Dangeil, Sudan to share the findings with the local community in Sudan.
Following the distribution of the book, teenagers began coming to our door in the village to ask questions about the site / archaeology / their own Sudanese history… connecting with their history as made possible through the booklet. It was astonishing. More surprising was the reaction people had upon receiving a copy. In virtually every single case, they engaged with the Book immediately and began to read it or look through it….The Book has served not only as an educational tool, but has empowered the local community and created a sense of pride and proprietary ownership of the ruins and their history.
Bookleteer was used in the Melanesia Project to record, Porer and Pinbin, indigenous people from Papua New Guinea discussing objects in the British Museum’s ethnographic collection. Bookleteer was used first to create simple notebooks that were printed out on an office printer and handmade. Anthrolologist James Leach used them to note the discussion in both English and Tok Pisin, next to glued in polaroid images, to produce a record that involved “capturing the moment of what we were doing and what we were seeing”.
Once filled in the notebooks were scanned and professionally printed to share with the local community in Papua New Guinea. (who have a subsistence lifestyle without electricity).
“[...] As something to give people, they’re an extremely nice thing. People are very keen. I also took some to an anthropology conference before I went [to Papua New Guinea] and would show them to people and they’d immediately say “Oh, is that for me?” People kind of like them. They’re nice little objects.”
Researcher and community education worker Gillian Cowell has used the books as part of a community project with Greenhill Historical Society:
“I think, for community work, it’s really important that you engage in much more unique and creative and interesting ways as a way of trying to spur some kind of interest and excitement in community work [...] The books are such a lovely way for that to actually fit with that kind of notion.”
If you are interested in finding out about how you could use Bookleteer, come along to one of our day long Pitch Up & Publish Workshops or Get Bookleteering short sessions this summer.
This year’s seen several major milestones achieved in developing our bookleteer platform. At the beginning of the year we launched a User API (Application Programming Interface) allowing people to create and share eBooks and StoryCubes directly from their own projects, applications and websites.
In February we unveiled a new price estimator to help people calculate the costs of printing and shipping (all over the world) eBooks and StoryCubes through our Short Run Printing Service. We combined this with new pricing structures that make both the eBooks and StoryCubes cheaper and easier to order in small quantities (from 50 copies)
This month we’ve launched what we think is our most exciting new feature : an online bookreader allowing users to read and share their eBooks via standard web browsers. We have also re-vamped the user interface for creating and editing eBooks which should make it simpler and more intuitive. Below is an example of an embedded ‘mini reader’ showing an eBook created by Caroline Maclennan as part of Alice’s As It Comes project in Lancaster:
You can also find plenty more (and growing) over on our Diffusion website.
“Trundling along our everyday routes through the city, our minds often consumed by thoughts of work and daydreams, our surroundings become all too familiar; a grid which we traverse on set rails, eyes downcast, something purely to be suffered until we reach our destination.
Surrender to the city’s own pace – immobile and immemorial – delve into dark corners and gaze upwards at spires; abandon the city as a stale platform for living, and seize it as material to inspire. Through shared excursions and experiences, playfully exploring our city, we come together to create. Open to all with no set ambitions, join us to collaboratively produce publications which showcase and investigate the city we inhabit.”
The City As Material set contains the 10 books commissioned and produced as part of last Autumn’s City As Material series of urban explorations and collaborative bookmaking. Printed using bookleteer‘s Short Run Printing Service, the set is limited to 50 slipcase-bound, individually numbered copies. It includes:
- City As Material: An Overview
- An Unbooklet of Disappropriation
- Ebb and Flow
- Ancient Lights, City Shadows
- Sonic Geographies
- The 2nd Book of Urizen by Tim Wright
- River – Gap by Ben Eastop
- Skylines & Sightlines by Simon Pope
- Deep City by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino
At the beginning this year I started planning how we could begin to introduce bookleteer into education and learning contexts and programmes – not just in formal settings such as schools, colleges and universities, but also in other spaces and places where learning takes place : museums, community centres, libraries, archives and grassroots groups.
We began this journey with a Pitch Up & Publish workshop in February co-hosted by former teacher, writer and digital evangelist at TeachersTV, Kati Rynne which was aimed at teachers and creative people who work in education settings. Among the participants who took part was Ruth from Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination who have ended up creating around a dozen eBooks for workshops and projects they’ve been running with people of all age groups. Others have also used bookleteer in their own projects and for creating teaching and learning outcomes – workbooks, notebooks, documentation and course materials – and not just in English, but Hindi and Arabic so far too.
Our own City As Material event series has also outlined a simple model to bring a group of people together to explore an idea, place or theme and then collaboratively produce eBooks (you can follow the development of the series over at diffusion.org.uk). In these events we’ve shared lots of local knowledge and experience within the group of participants, and found creative ways to share and explore themes of common interest with other people. Its very much in the informal/non-formal learning space (one of the participants was Fred Garnett, a former policy advisor at Becta who’s written on and worked extensively in this area) and I think it suggests exciting ways in which hyper-local groups can come together to explore or pool knowledge and experience, capture and share it in a rapid and very easy way not only among themselves but with wider communities too.
More recently we’ve been joined by Education Assistant, Christina Wanambwa, on a 6-month placement whose role is to help extend and focus our efforts on working both in formal and informal learning. We’ve begun a collaboration with Soho Parish Primary School, where she’ll be spending 1 day a week from January til Easter – helping both teachers and students use bookleteer to create tangible outcomes from curriculum based projects. We’re also using this project to understand more about the specific needs of schools in using online platforms like bookleteer; potentially to build a separate schools version that suits the context of authoring and sharing by children and the need for oversight by staff around issues such as child protection.
Christina’s also begun a research and outreach project visiting other kinds of learning environments to see how bookleteer could be weaved into their existing education programmes to add value and fun. She’ll be publishing an eBook of ideas relating to each place she visits over the coming months, as well as posting about her research on the bookleteer blog. Her first post discusses a recent visit to the Museum of Childhood (download the eBook).
bookleteer is about helping people make and share beautiful publications of their own – whether they handmake the results or choose the PPOD professional printing service. We want to help people find new and dynamic ways to record and share the ideas, stories, knowledge and experiences they have – learning and exchanging things of value as they go. bookleteer has enormous potential to enable people to make and share things of their own, books and storycubes; things which they can share with people all around the world, without the problem of shipping physical objects. Hand-written eBooks can be scanned in and made available online in the same way as ‘born digital’ ones and can also be turned into professionally printed books too.
We’d love to hear from other people in education and learning contexts who see the potential of using bookleteer in their own work and play, want to try it out and share their ideas, experiences and templates with others. We’d like to see bookleteer evolve into more than just a tool – into a community of practitioners creating and sharing across many languages, geographies, interests and outcomes. In the new year we’ll be launching new functionality which will open it up even further. Watch this space.
We’ve recently started a new series of events called City As Material. Between October and December 2010 we’re running 5 one-day urban exploration and collaborative publishing events which aim to bring diverse groups together around a number of topics to generate some fresh perspectives on urban space and experience. We will be coordinating the creation of a collaboration Diffusion eBook as the outcome of each event, which will be published on diffusion.org.uk and printedin a limited edition using bookleteer’s PPOD service. Each event will also have a special guest who will be invited to share their personal interests in the topic and who will also be commissioned to create their own eBook for the series:
- Streetscapes (15th October) – guest : Tim Wright
- River (29th October) – guest: Ben Eastop
- Skyline (12th November) – guest : Simon Pope
- Underside (26th November) – guest : Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino
- Sonic Geographies (10th December) – guest : tbc
Book places for the events here : cityasmaterial.eventbrite.com
Download publications from the series here : diffusion.org.uk/?cat=976
Follow our reports on the events here : bookleteer.com/blog/tag/pitch-in-publish/
For a week in early July Proboscis worked on Seven Days in Seven Dials a project by artistsandmakers.com and the West End Cultural Quarter to create an exhibition in one week with 30 young people on the Culture Quarter Programme of placements.
Proboscis currently has a scheme of placements funded by the Future Jobs Fund and the first two in the scheme, Shalene Barnett and Karine Dorset, joined Seven Days in Seven Dials to create download, print and makeup publications using bookleteer.com to accompany the exhibition. Here are their thoughts on the week:
“My role was to put together and produce a publication of the walking tour that took place… First we mapped out the places we were going to go and the route that we were going to take then we set out on the journey. By the end of the day we had taken pictures, collected facts and had most of the content for the eBook. On the Wednesday I spent my time at the shop in Covent Garden, editing photos and text, rearranging the eBook template I had already done and actually start putting in some content.
Friday we were in the studio. I began to finish the book, did some editing and rearranging just to make sure that the eBook was correct., printed off copies and ran them down to the shop in Convent Garden for display for the opening show on the project. It was a great experience and I had great fun working with a big range of different groups of people, I would love to do it again in the near future.” KD
“Seven Days in Seven Dials for me was a lovely experience. I spent seven days in an area called Seven Dials which is located in Covent Garden. I spent the seven days documenting different groups of people as they gathered various information about seven dials….All in all I highly enjoyed my time at Seven Dials. It was nice to meet young people that are on the same FJF scheme as myself and are trying something new and out of the box. I think the Empty Shops project is very creative and I would gladly do it again. At times it was hard work but the hard work most definitely paid off.” SB
You can see images here
and read more on the artistsandmakers website.
Proboscis is collaborating with Dan Thompson of artistsandmakers.com to run a series of bookleteer Pitch Up & Publish events alongside his Empty Shops Network Tour. Last week we were in Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex and this week (Friday 19th March) we’ll be in Carlisle, Cumbria, with future visits planned for Coventry and Margate.
NOW & UPCOMING
Our new web app for creating Diffusion eBooks and StoryCubes was deployed at the end of September and is now in an ‘alpha’ testing phase. A number of people have been invited to help us test the fledgling service and put it through its paces in preparation for a wider public ‘beta’ test next year. Follow our progress on twitter and on the bookleteer blog, or alternatively take part in one of our ‘Pitch Up & Publish’ sessions where you’ll get a free bookleteer test account and help to learn how to make eBooks and StoryCubes.
http://bookleteer.com | http://bookleteer.com/blog | http://twitter.com/bookleteer
bookleter alpha club
Proboscis has launched a supporters’ club offering advance access during the ‘alpha’ phase (up to 5 user accounts, access to APIs, pitch up & publish workshops & a Proboscis artists’ bookwork). Funds raised will go towards development of the bookleteer public beta which we hope to launch in Spring 2010. Alpha Club members will be honoured on the site as founder sponsors, and membership will be exclusive to those who join during the alpha phase. We’re excited that our first two members are DodoLab and Architecture Centre Network.
http://bookleteer.com/blog/2009/10/alpha-club/ | http://bookleteer.com/blog/alpha-club/
arte.mov and Mobilefest, Brazil
Proboscis will be showing a new installation piece as part of the Mobilefest Festival, in Sao Paulo at MIC November 11-17.
Giles Lane will be presenting at the arte.mov festival symposium in Belo Horizonte on November 13th as well as devising a creative project about the city during his stay.
Giles will also be participating in arte.mov’s symposium in Salvador de Bahia on the 17-19th November.
With Our Ears To The Ground
Proboscis has been commissioned by Green Heart Partnership with Hertfordshire County Council to explore peoples ideas about community. The project focuses on four very different types of community in order to get a broad range of opinions across the county: in Watford, Stevenage, rural North Hertfordshire and the commuter areas of Broxbourne. It focuses on finding out the reasons why people get on with each other and feel part of the community and is about developing a better understanding of our communities in order to help Hertfordshire County Council and its partners to plan their work supporting communities over the next few years.
http://withourearstotheground.wordpress.com | http://twitter.com/ears2theground
City As Material Course
Giles Lane is leading a course for students from Vassar College, New York State, USA who are on an international study program in London. It is a co-creative course for students to explore the city, investigate how other artists and creative people have used it as an artistic medium, and devise their own personal creative interventions.
lift @ home’s Hands on Barcelona’s Informational Membrane
Giles was an invited speaker at the Citilab workshop in Barcelona, Spain, October 24:
At the Water’s Edge: Grand River Sketches
Alice Angus’ large format work of drawings and video was installed in Render’s main exhibition space in Waterloo, Canada September 23rd to October 30th. It was accompanied by screenings of Alice’s film Topographies & Tales, made with Joyce Majiski.
Arteleku’s My Map Is Not Your Map
Giles was an invited speaker at the workshop in Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain, September 23-25:
DodoLab PEI, Charlottetown, Canada
Proboscis took part in another DodoLab in August, this time in the province of Prince Edward Island, in Canada’a Atlantic Maritimes. There we helped create and distribute seedbombs at the local Farmer’s Market, design eBooks for questionnaires, research into the Experimental Farm Station and worked on some large-scale drawings.
New Diffusion Titles
The Postcard Places Project by Lisa Hirmer with Laura Knap http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1602>
In the Shadow of Senate House by Hatherley, McNeile, Downing & Leslie http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1575
The Rustification of Henry Thomas Brown by Andrew Thomas Hunter http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1562
DodoLab Wants to Know: What Are The Signs of a Creative City? http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1352
DodoLab Wants to Know: About Green Space by Lisa Hirmer http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1347
An A-Z of The Ting: Theatre of Mistakes by Marie-Anne Mancio http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1327
Ethnographic Notebooks, British Museum Melanesia Project http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1301
Dodolab Wants To Know http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1295
The Lunar House ‘Re-enactment’ by Tony White http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1292
Estado de presencia por Cristina Luna http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1281
The Octuplet: Story of Our Lives by Babette Wagenvoort http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1245
Le Corbeau / The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe tr. Stéphane Mallarmé http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1238
More Diffusion Shareable Notebooks http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1227
Blakewalking by Tim Wright http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1223
Sutton Grapevine: Youth Group Storyboard by Alice Angus & Orlagh Woods http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1217
As part of our thinking into new business and revenue models for our own projects and practices, we’ve come up with a different approach for supporting the next stage development of bookleteer to relying on grants.
To progress bookleteer to a public ‘beta’ version in early 2010 – we’re looking for friends and supporters (initially organisations but also individuals) to join bookleteer’s Alpha Club. The club is an alternative support/fundraising concept, aimed at partners, friends, colleagues and sponsors who share in our ethos of ‘public authoring’, providing public access to tools of creation, production and distribution and who, as members of the Alpha Club, would like to be at the core of the emerging bookleteer community. For a modest, one-off contribution we hope Alpha Club members will help us raise our target of around £25k for the next critical phase of bookleteer’s development.
Membership of the Alpha Club will be exclusive to those who join during the ‘alpha’ stage of bookleteer’s development, establishing a founder group of friends, supporters and sponsors.
- Up to 5 bookleteer accounts per member & technical support;
- access to the bookleteer APIs to experiment with;
- a private pitch up & publish style training session at our studio
- a free copy of Proboscis’ bookwork, Social Tapestries: A Case of Perspectives (RRP £40)
- Inclusion (if desired) on the Alpha Club’s ‘Roll of Honour’ webpage
If you’d like to support bookleteer and become an Alpha Club member, please contact us at bookleteer (at) proboscis.org.uk or donate now via Paypal:
Starting in October we will be running regular informal evening workshops for people to literally pitch up and publish using bookleteer.com. Initially these will be held at our Clerkenwell Studio for up to 15 participants – all you need is a laptop and some content (text /photos/ drawings etc) you’d like to create and share as eBooks or StoryCubes (shareables). We will provide free user accounts to bookleteer and guide you through the steps of preparing and generating your shareables to share online, via email or as physical publications. Once created you can publish them on your own website or, if appropriate, we can publish them on Diffusion.
Update: The first workshop will be held on October 15th 2009 between 6.30-9pm at the Proboscis Studio.
To reserve a place please email us at diffusion (at) proboscis.org.uk Participants will be asked to make small donation to cover materials (paper/printing ink etc) and refreshments (beer).
We are preparing to head off this week to Sutton-in-the-Isle to exhibit our work on Sutton Grapevine at the annual Sutton Feast. There will be a display in St Andrews Church from Wednesday to Sunday and over Friday and Saturday we will be joining various Feast Events to show people the Grapevine and hopefully inspire them to add their own stories. Having spent a week in Sutton in June we have gathered a huge range of stories and audio which are now being edited and podcast on the Grapevine. We’ve gathered stories through interviews and chance encounters, meetings, attending clubs and groups, visiting events, working with the youth group, organising a BBQ, exploring the local area by bike, foot and car, through an exhibit in the Babylon Gallery Ely and through the website.
This week we will be at
Wed 1st – Fri 3rd July, 7pm – 11pm St Andrews Church (during Beer Festival)
Fri 3rd July, 2pm – 5pm St Andrews Church (free)
Sat 4th July, 10am – 12pm Tithe Sale, St Andrews Church (free)
Sat 4th July, 12pm – 3pm FOSS Annual Summer Fete, Sutton Primary School (free)
Sun 5th July, from 7.15pm St Andrews Church (during Last Night of the Proms)
Come and join us for a day in the Fens.
Proboscis has recently been invited to join a tender bid to Urban Living and Birmingham City Council for the Sandwell Sense of Place project. The other partners are Rob Annable and Mike Menzies of axis design architects (who are leading the bid); Michael Kohn and Chris of YouCanPlan and Nick Booth of Podnosh. The sense of place project aims to devise a toolkit and archive using a variety of media and techniques for local residents to articulate their sense of place in two areas of Sandwell near Birmingham in the ‘Western Growth Corridor‘. This sense of place and its archive will form a key input into the regeneration masterplanning process.
As part of our interview we created a special Diffusion eBook outlining the team’s approach and illustrating some of our previous work.
A playful exploration of Proboscis and some of its projects, tools and techniques.
Created by Alice Angus, Giles Lane, Orlagh Woods and Karen Martin (April 2008).
Music by Peoplelikeus.
A playful investigation of social impacts of knowledge mapping and sharing through the Social Tapestries experiments. Devised by Alice Angus & Giles Lane. Directed and animated by Alice Angus (November 2006).
A film exploring the wider contexts informing the Urban Tapestries project, setting out its key aim of exploring the social and cultural implications of public authoring and mobile technologies. Devised by Alice Angus & Giles Lane. Made by Alice Angus (2003/04).