“The visitors who told their stories are very proud of the work and the fact that they can see their work put to good use.” Cath Chesterton NEPACS
We were recently asked to create a set of 8 StoryCubes for Hidden Families (part of Royal Holloway University of London’s Families Disconnected by Prison project), to be used by Royal Holloway and partners such as Action for Prisoners Families, NEPACS and in training, talking about and raising awareness of the issues faced by families with a relative in prison.
We selected 48 of the images, originally created for the Hidden Families quilt, around the six key themes that had emerged – family, journey, time, finance, loneliness and support. Using a combination of participants’ photos, words and sketches with my illustrations, we created a block of 8 cubes that brings together some of people’s memories, comments and experiences.
Lizzie Coles-Kemp project lead said; “The focus of this project was to create a call to action by collecting the voices of families separated by prison and using different techniques to present the collective narrative. StoryCubes help us to develop the call to action by making the collective narrative interactive and providing another means for adding to and developing the story of this particular community. They make interactive and tactile objects from the textile quilt which are even more accessible to families, policy makers, practitioners and academics alike.”
NEPACS and Action for Prisoners Families will be using the cubes at training events and conferences, raising awareness of the impact of prison sentences on families.
Last week we quietly updated bookleteer to give it a fresh look and to introduce the sharing features we announced previously. We’ve been tweaking and bug-fixing over the last week or so and are now very excited to let everyone know about it.
Individual Publication Pages
Each publication that is shared publicly has a unique page created for it which can be linked to and shared via popular social media services (Twitter, Facebook etc). eBooks have an embedded version of the bookreader in the page for previewing as well as download links for the PDFs. StoryCubes also have preview images and download link.
Member Public Profile Page
A new public profile page has been created to list all the shared publications by each member, also displaying a short bio and links to personal blog, website, twitter and facebook pages. These can be added in the member’s account page.
These are just the first in a series of updates and improvements to bookleteer that we’re adding over the next few months – stay tuned for further announcements!
A Critical Text by Frederik Lesage
A recurring theme underpinning Proboscis’ work is storytelling. Their preoccupation with it is not only reflected in the stories they have told – through works such as Topographies and Tales and Snout – but also in their efforts to explore the practices and forms that enable people to tell stories. For a group of artists to embark on this latter kind of exploration may at first seem counterintuitive; the artist as a teller of stories is a familiar role, the artist as one who helps us tell our own is less so. It is beyond the scope of this paper to convince the reader of the value of such a role. Rather, I will set out to investigate how a specific tool developed by members Proboscis helped to shape one particular collaborative exchange with Warren Craghead in a work titled A Sort of Autobiography. By doing this, I hope to demonstrate how collaborative processes for storytelling like the ones that Proboscis are developing require new frameworks for understanding the kinds of work taking place.
What in the world is a StoryCube?
I often hear this perplexed question when talking to people about my research into Proboscis’ work. Most often, my answer is similar to the one that Proboscis themselves give on their diffusion.org.uk website:
StoryCubes are a tactile thinking and storytelling tool for exploring relationships and narratives. Each face of the cube can illustrate or describe an idea, a thing or an action, placed together it is possible to build up multiple narratives or explore the relationships between them in a novel three-dimensional way. StoryCubes can be folded in two different ways, giving each cube twelve possible faces – and thus two different ways of telling a story, two musings around an idea. Like books turned inside out and upside down they are read by turning and twisting in your hand and combining in vertical and horizontal constructions.”
This answer, for the most part, tells my interlocutor what one can do with a StoryCube – it encompasses a number of actions as part of a process wherein one makes and uses this particular type of object. The StoryCube represents a way to print images and text onto a different kind of paper surface in order to share these images and texts with others in a particular way. But I often find that this answer does not suffice. In this paper I will argue that this problem arises because, although a process description of what one can do with a StoryCube does provide part of the answer for what in the world it is, a more complete answer would require more worlds in which it has been used.
To clarify this obtuse little wordplay, I turn to two different authors who provide two very different models for understanding how culture is made and how it is interpreted: Howard Becker’s art worlds and Henry Jenkin’s story worlds.
Disciplines such as the sociology of art have gone out of their way to show how artists are not alone in creating cultural objects. It has arguably become a cliché to state this fact. But one must not forget its implication. Howard Becker’s Art Worlds (1982), for example, demonstrates to what degree artistic practices from painting to rock music constitute complex sets of relationships among a number of individuals who accomplish different tasks – the people who make, buy, talk about, pack and un-pack works of art are connected through what he refers to as art worlds. These worlds are populated by different roles including artists, editors, and support personnel. By artists, he means the people who are credited with producing the work. By editors, he means the people who modify the artwork in some way before it reaches its audience. By support personnel, he means the people who help ensure that the artwork is completed and circulated between people but who aren’t credited with producing the artwork itself. This might include a variety of different people including framers, movers and audience members. If one were to apply Becker’s art world model to the world of book publishing and printing, for example, we might say that the artists are the authors, that publishers are editors and that the book printers are part of the support personnel: they reproduce and maintain a set of conventions for the production and distribution of an author’s work.
Part of Becker’s point is that even if we credit authors as the source of a book’s story, significant parts of the book’s final shape will be defined by choices that are the purview of support personnel like printers rather than by the authors: what kind of ink will be used to print the text, the weight and dimensions of the book pages, etc. These decisions, be they based on aesthetic, economic, or other considerations, can often be made without consulting authors and have a significant impact on what readers will hold and read when they get their hands on the finished product. Nevertheless, there are arguably varying degrees of importance attributed these different choices. After all, few of us read books because of the kind of ink it was printed with.
But one should also remember that the distribution of these roles within an art world is not necessarily fixed. In Books in the Digital Age, John B. Thompson writes that it was only in the past two centuries that there has been a distinction in the Western world between what a book publisher does and what a book printer does. Prior to this differentiation, the person who published a book and the person who printed it were one and the same. Just as the distribution of printing and publishing roles can change over time, the significance attributed to these roles might also change.
Becker’s art world model is useful for the answer to my initial question stated at the beginning of this paper because it is a social world model. Placing the StoryCubes into an art world allows me to populate the process answer provided above with a number of different roles:
Proboscis are the designers of the StoryCube who created it as “a tactile thinking and storytelling tool for exploring relationships and narratives”. They invite all sorts of different people from different disciplines to play an artist’s role by using the StoryCube to “illustrate or describe an idea, a thing or an action” and to “build up multiple narratives or explore the relationships between them in a novel three-dimensional way”. The results of all of these different peoples’ work are then made available in various ways to anyone interested in these relationships and narratives. These audience members are invited to “read [the StoryCube] by turning and twisting [it] in your hand and combining in vertical and horizontal constructions.” In some cases, these same audience members take-on additional support personnel roles such as “printers” when they download the StoryCube online and print and assemble it themselves.”
This newly revised version of my answer now has artists and audiences who are working with Proboscis and StoryCubes. But it still seems quite vague. What are these “relationships and narratives” that seem to be the point of making StoryCubes in the first place?
The second world I turn to for putting my answer together is what I refer to as Henry Jenkins’ “story world” model. In his book Convergence Culture, Jenkins argues that a convergence is taking place between different media that is not simply due to technological changes brought about by digitisation. He believes that in order to understand the changes taking place in media, one needs to include other factors including economic pressures and audience tastes. One of the ways in which he demonstrates this is by analysing how storytellers like the Wachowski brothers developed The Matrix franchise. Jenkins argues that the brothers were not only engaged in the process of making films but that they were in fact engaged in an “art of world building” (116) in which the “artists create compelling environments that cannot be fully explored or exhausted within a single work or even a single medium” (ibid). The Matrix was not only available as a movie trilogy but was also explored and developed in short films, comics and novels by a number of different contributing artists. In other words, today’s creative people – be they individual artists or media conglomerate business executives – need to start to think about a ‘story world’ that is manifested in multiple, interdependent media.
I would argue that one should not interpret Jenkins’ model as suggesting that story worlds exist independently of any specific medium. Rather, the model suggests that other people, not just the author credited with originating the story world, can contribute to the development of a story world. Audience members and other authors can actively reinterpret aspects of story worlds not only through an active interpretation of the text but also by authoring their own parallel contributions. This is significant because it suggests there are contingent relations of power involved in the negotiation of the overall representation and interpretation of those same story worlds. The simplest example is how laws for copyright are employed to ensure that authors and their publishers maintain certain kinds of control over the development of story worlds.
For me to explain how Jenkins’ story world model is useful for answering my initial question will take a bit more effort. In order to fully clarify why I have gone through the trouble of bringing these two very different worlds from two very different research traditions, I will need to demonstrate how they can be combined and applied to a specific example which follows bellow. For now, however, suffice it to say that the story world model deals with meaning and how the narratives and relationships that stem from the process of making and reading StoryCubes do not appear in isolation from other related meaningful artefacts. How one interprets the meaning of a particular StoryCube is embedded within a particular set of intertextual relationships that I refer to as a story world.
We now have two different ‘world’ models for explaining what are StoryCubes:
- the art world model as a way to understand how a particular artwork is produced, distributed and appreciated through a set of interdependent roles enacted by people and
- the story world model as a way to understand how meaning can be conceived as part of a number of different texts produced by a number of different people.
A sort of printing experiment – The case of Warren Craghead
I will now examine Warren Craghead’s A Sort of Autobiography and how some critics interpreted his work as a way of illustrating how both models presented above enable me to better answer what in the world is a StoryCube. A Sort of Autobiography is a series of ten StoryCubes whose outer faces are covered by drawings of Craghead’s own making. Taken together, the ten cubes are intended to be interpreted as his “possible” autobiography – hence the title of the work. Here is a description of the work posted by Matthew J. Brady on his “Warren Peace” blog as part of a longer review of the project:
With the onset of digital comics, an infinite number of possible ways to use the medium has erupted, and even the weirdest experiments are now visible for any number of people to experience. This is great for comics fans, who can now experience the sort of odd idea that creators might not have shared with the world otherwise. Warren Craghead’s A Sort of Autobiography is a fascinating example, using the tools provided by the site Diffusion.org.uk to create a series of three-dimensional comic strips, with each in a series of ten cubes representing a moment in his life, separated by decades. Some of them seem to simply place an image on each side of the cube (with one side of each working as a “title page”), while others wrap images around the surface, and several working to make faces representing Craghead at that cube’s age. It’s a neat way to use the medium, if you can call it that.”
If we attempted to place A Sort of Autobiography in the art world model presented earlier, it would be fairly easy to follow Brady’s lead and look to comic strips as a guiding template. One could say that Craghead is the artist-author who created the work. Determining who plays this role is fairly easy because Craghead has authored a number of comic strips using a similar visual style. Things get a bit more complicated when we try to determine who is the editor-publisher. Based on the information I’ve been able to gather, there doesn’t seem to be anyone other than Craghead who makes editorial choices about the content of the final artwork – the style of drawing, the way in which the story unfolds, etc. There may be some “invisible”, un-credited co-editors who help Craghead with his drawing and choice of subject matter but they are not formally acknowledged and I have not tried to enquire whether or not this is the case. What is clear, however, is that Proboscis also do take-on aspects of the editor-publisher role: Proboscis commissioned the project as part of their Transformations series, the works are made available through Proboscis’ Diffusion website and, of course, Proboscis designed what Brady refers to as the “tools” used to publish the project.
It is this last aspect that seems particularly problematic for Brady. If we focus (rather narrowly) on some of the comments Brady makes in passing about the StoryCubes as a support for the work in his review, it is clear that they make it more difficult for him to pin down the project. Much of Brady’s review seems to implicitly be asking “Is this a comic?”. In describing the work, he uses the language of comic books to help him describe it. For example:
“Some of [the cubes] seem to simply place an image on each side of the cube (with one side of each working as a “title page”) […]”
Here Brady suggests that Craghead employs a particular convention of comics – the title page – as part of how he constructs some of his cubes. But though one of the panels located at the same place on each of the ten cubes does have writing that indicates the year and how old Craghead is at the time (ex. 1970, I am zero years old; 1980, I am ten years old; etc.), there is little to suggest that this choice is necessarily drawn from comics. This might explain why Brady puts “title page” in quotation marks. Brady seems pleased with the overall results of the project but also refrains from categorizing the result outright as a comic. Recall how he ends the paragraph I cite above with:
“It’s a neat way to use the medium, if you can call it that.”
Further along in his review of the project, Brady still seems hesitant:
“Does the whole thing work as a comic? Sure, if you want to put the work into interpreting it, not to mention the assembly time, which can make for a fun little craft project.”
One could argue that Brady may be pushing the comics category a bit: Craghead’s own website doesn’t seem to put so much emphasis on whether or not this, or any of his other projects for that matter, should be interpreted as comics. But Brady is not the only one who approaches A Sort of Autobiography in this way. Inspired by Brady’s reading, Scott McCloud – an authority on the comics medium if there ever was one – characterizes Craghead’s work as an “experimental comic”. Brady and McCloud’s categorisations of A Sort of Autobiography as a comic matter in part because it strengthens a number of associations with the comics art world. For example, if one reads A Sort of Autobiography as a reader of comics, then it does involve some additional assembly time. But what if one categorised it as part of an origami art world? Then this assembly time would be taken for granted (but Craghead’s drawings on the cubes might be interpreted as an oddity).
But Brady and McCloud are able to make this kind of association in part because they are familiar with the author’s previous work. Craghead is an established comics artist for both Brady and McCloud. It is therefore possible to compare A Sort of Autobiography to his other works. This is where I need to bring in the second world model presented above – the story world. As stated previously, the definition of story worlds based on Jenkins’ work depends on a set of possible meanings within “environments that cannot be fully explored or exhausted within a single work or even a single medium”. One could argue, that Craghead creates a similar kind of story world based on a particular style of illustration and subject matter that is consistent with other works he has created. So rather than working with comparisons to other comics, Brady’s reading can simply refer to Craghead’s established story world.
But instead of placing Craghead’s biography as the foundation of our story world, why couldn’t we instead use the StoryCube’s story as our starting point? That is, rather than assuming that authors are the only ones who create meaning by telling stories, what if we assumed that Proboscis had designed a compelling story environment “that cannot be fully explored or exhausted within a single work” and that Craghead’s A Sort of Autobiography was only one of the many parallel contributions to the meaning of this medium?
This kind of inversion is problematic because our contemporary culture, for the most part, depends on consistent formal conventions to be able to make comparisons and value judgments. That isn’t simply at the level of individual artists, but as a whole. Jenkins’ story world model does allow for all sorts of different media, but most of the media he discusses are based in familiar art worlds – comics, books, television programmes, videogames, and movies – art worlds whose implicit formal conventions allow authors to tell their stories in relatively unproblematic ways. But if we don’t know what a StoryCube is, how are we supposed to know what these conventions are? How can we know if this is a “good” or “bad” StoryCube since most of us don’t know how a StoryCube is supposed to work
I would therefore argue that Craghead, Brady and McCloud are telling us their stories of the StoryCube that involves mixing together art world and story world. They are using the more or less familiar narrative of how one makes and reads comics to tell us how to make and read a StoryCube. Craghead is relating to us the tale of how an illustrator can assume the artist’s role in the process of making a StoryCube by making different kind of drawings on it. Brady and McCloud are producing accounts of how to be readers of StoryCubes. Just as with any other kind of story world, these contributions provide only partial insights into the whole story environment and how one might participate in its creation and extension.
The example of A Sort of Autobiography suggests why Proboscis’ initial definition, the one presented at the beginning of this text, was left under-developed: their objective is to develop a meaningful world in which people can tell stories – one that invites people to populate it with their own art worlds and story worlds. In order for there to be enough room for others to create and sustain this kind of world, Proboscis may have to allow the StoryCubes to remain an insufficient process and an incomplete story. But they must also continue the delicate work of articulating how this incompleteness can itself be a meaningful and fertile ground for others to complete. The bookleteer platform is arguably one step in this direction in that it is an attempt to generate an online community of people who use StoryCubes and other “Diffusion Shareables”.
In the end, the true challenge may not be whether any of the answers about “What in the world is a StoryCube?” are sufficiently clear or exhaustive, but whether or not one of them can entice you into telling your own story of the StoryCube.
Frederik Lesage, March 2011
Hi all! We had our first play test for Outside The Box yesterday with the children who were taking part in the play scheme with the YMCA of Central London. We went with them to Lambourne End Centre for Outdoor Learning, where the children will get to take part in various activities including a chance to have a go with the play sets.
Upon arrival I was engulfed by the surrounding greenery, the centre was huge! 54 acres of land; open fields with animals grazing on the grass and various adventure activities built and scattered across the vast fields.
As we walked through the reception area to catch up with the children who were currently having lunch. My attention was immediately swept away from a beautiful blond haired horse which trotted passed; a small carriage trailing behind it with children gleefully cheering as they enjoyed the ride, “I want to go on that” was all I could think of after that.
After lunch the children were split into two groups and thus it was time to set the cubes free onto the grass and just see what happens.
The curious children watched and questioned as Giles placed the play set on the grass, they began picking them up and marvelled at the different drawings and asked who drew them – I felt proud and happy that they really liked them. They’ve ask me how did I draw the images to which I explained very briefly the process.
Then the blank cubes had become like gold, they all became immersed in the idea of making their own cubes and swarmed around trying to overcome the challenge of assembling a cube and immediately attacking the art box soon after. Frantically scooping PVA glue over the grass and dribbling it across each other, they busied away crafting their masterpiece.
There was one girl however, who was more determined to solve the animal set. At first when she couldn’t work it out she claimed the cubes were wrong, so I nudged and gave a clue to which she immediately thought “Ah! so it can also go this way!” she shuffled the cubes and tried again. Eventually she solved the puzzle and huffed “that was hard”.
Then the groups switched over, a trio sprinted across the field and sat down to make a cube. They then began playing with the storytelling set. At first they only picked one word from each face of the cube – which made their stories one sentence long, but after suggesting that they can use all the words from each face, their stories became longer.
One of the girls used the words in order shown, another used the genre cube – but instead of rolling it she preferred to choose the face that she liked and did the same with the word cubes. They competed with each other to tell the best story and started shouting to drown out each other’s story!
(If you would like to listen to some of their funny stories, click on the links below)
Finally the groups reunited to go see the farm animals, indicating the end of the first play testing session. Overall it was a great opportunity to be able to play test with children in a outdoor setting, it gave me an idea of what needs changing and how to set up the next play test. It would have been better to be able to get more children to play with them and to also get some of the boys to give it a go for a fair play test, instead of taking one look at it and tossing it aside for football. I thank the Central YMCA for this opportunity and look forward to more visits in hope that children will like Outside The Box. As for the golden horse that kept trotting passed me numerous times and swaying it’s golden mane as if taunting me…one day..one day..*shakes fists*.
(Drum rolls) Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly present the finished eBooks!
The eBooks are part of Outside The Box and were created to accompany the play sets, they act as props to help stimulate game play.
I’ve created a total of six eBooks that fit with the role playing set, each eBook corresponds to the six roles available. Once roles have been assigned, players can take their eBooks with them to carry out missions. They can use it to take notes, draw maps, sketch images or even stick things into, they can do whatever they like with these eBooks that will assist their game experience.
But what’s inside you ask? (sniggers). Each book is themed to each role, not just on the cover, but the inside pages too. All pages inside are hand drawn with blank spaces for the player to use, it’s printer friendly and encourages players to freely scribble in them.
The eBooks can also be used for the other play sets too! For example, players can choose an eBook of their choice and use it to play along the story telling game. Or they could use the eBooks to create strange combination animals. (More suggestions available in the Outside The Box Suggestion eBook).
I enjoyed designing and creating the eBooks, it all began with making miniature versions as the initial design. Then making the basic prototype and moving onto finalising details and adding messages to the players. I had a lot of fun making the eBooks, I now hope that players will enjoy the finished product.
Radhika here, the not so new Marketing and Business Development Assistant. It’s already been 4 months and here I am writing my second impression post… how time flies!
I last left off in the middle of the creation of the StoryCubes website, which has now been launched . Having worked on the website and written numerous blog posts for promoting the StoryCubes, I have finally overcome my initial difficulty of blogging. This had led me to become a weekly ‘pop-up’ on the Bookleteer blog too, coming up with new and inspiring uses for Bookleteer. The part I enjoy the most, is actually bringing my ideas to life, by creating a mock up of each idea. It’s great seeing my ideas on paper instead of an image in my mind, and for all to see!
Even though I’m the Marketing Assistant here at Proboscis, my favourite part so far has been the opportunity I have had to dabble in all the projects that are happening, from City as Material to Mandy’s Outside the Box project (great fun!). Being able to be apart of a variety of projects has given me much more understanding about Proboscis, how they work and much more of an insight than I could have imagined.
Another bonus I have had working at Proboscis is putting my photography ‘skills’ into action! This has definitely been one of the highlights so far as I love being behind the camera and being taught by Alice or Giles on using the SLR and about lighting, is much more valuable than attending any class! I am very grateful I have had the opportunity to do this, as it’s something I enjoy and want to continue doing.
The placement so far has given me a number of opportunities to learn new things, especially finally learning how to use Photoshop, with the help from my fellow placements.
I have continued to learn from both Alice and Giles about the arts and can expect an inspiring story to pop up any time of the day. I feel this has been one of my most valuable experiences here, as before I wasn’t exposed to the arts industry and have been opened up to a whole new world if you like.
However, I am still trying to conquer the four flights of stairs every morning, but apart from the breathless moment I have once I get into the studio, I am enjoying every minute of my time here.
It took a bit longer than planned, but the set of cubes for Outside The Box have reached the first prototype stage! (Applauds) It took a lot of energy to meet the deadline but seeing the finished prototype makes all the hard work worthwhile, I am very pleased with the results and hope you all will grow fond of them too! Thank you Giles and Alice for your patience and advice in teaching me the palette decision making process and guiding me in polishing the sets to a finished prototype. Thanks to Radhika and Haz for taking time out to assist in assembling the cubes together and working on the story telling set!
What happens next? (grin) we play with them! The next stage will be to test them out, not just with the team but with our target audience – kids! We’ll be thinking of additional ways to play with them, making observations to check that children understand the content on the cubes and hope they will enjoy playing with them. Our findings in this stage will be taken into consideration when making decisions on the final product.
eBooks and StoryCubes published on diffusion.org.uk in December 2010 :
Layered – a collaborative eBook produced by the participants of the City As Material : Underside event
Ancient Lights, City Shadows – a collaborative eBook produced by the participants of the City As Material : Skylines event
City As Material : Sonic Geographies – a collaborative eBook produced by the participants of the City As Material : Sonic Geographies event
A handy list of eBooks and StoryCubes published on diffusion.org.uk in November :
Ebb and Flow – a collaborative eBook produced by the participants of the City As Material : river event
Outside The Box is a project inspired by the Love Outdoor Play campaign, which supports the idea of encouraging children to play outdoors. We brainstormed about possible games children could play and creating props to assist their gameplay using Diffusion eBooks and StoryCubes made with bookleteer.
The first idea was a visual game using the StoryCubes, which Karen had blogged a sneak peek of a few weeks back. It was a brain teaser type of game, where one image was spread across two squares – so one face of the cube had 4 halves of an image along each edge of the square. The aim was to match up the top and bottom half together. The puzzle only worked if there was nine squares, any less and it wouldn’t have been challenging enough.
The original set had 4 themes, the first being domestic pets, the second insects and bugs, the third sea creatures and the fourth snakes.
After leaving this set out for members of Proboscis to try and solve, they thought it was humorous mismatching the animal halves together. They came up with many wild combinations such as a mer-dog (top half of a dog and lower half of a fish) which struck the idea of another way to play with this set of cubes – make the sound of the animal on the top half and move like the animal on the bottom half. Keeping this idea in mind, I redeveloped the set by adding different animals which make funny noises or move differently and as a result it made the puzzle easier for a younger age group because it resembled the card game Pairs.
The next set consists of a role playing game, encouraging children to use their imagination and interacting with each other if played in groups. With elements of exploration, this set was most fitting for the Love Outdoor Play campaign. There are six characters to choose from, each occupying one face on each cube with a mission. Just like the first set, this game used a total of nine cubes – meaning each character had a total of nine missions to accomplish. Characters for this set included spy, detective, super hero, storyteller, adventurer and scientist.
The last set is a story telling game, the set of cubes acts as a starting point in telling a story leaving children to fill in the gaps with their imagination. One cube decides the genre of the story, another cube decides the time setting and a third cube decides how the story will be told. Keeping the consistency of using nine cubes in one set, the remaining six cubes consists of words to which the player will use in their story.
At the moment these games are in prototype stage, where the final colour palette is to be decided and the finishing touches to be made and polished. Although I had hoped to have finished the prototypes sooner I guess working on 162 faces was a lot more challenging than I thought (laughs). 120 of the faces were illustrated and the remaining 42 contained words, which the Proboscis team kindly assisted with (thanks everyone!) Nonetheless, I have enjoyed the whole process and think that this project has given the opportunity for team work and I still feel that I have much to learn and look forward to learning more about the different methods used in deciding a colour palette for the final product.
Wow, it’s already time for me to write about my second impressions huh? If you’re wondering, it’s Mandy here! I started in July as a Creative Assistant for Proboscis, it’s been five months already!! Where did all the time go?! (laughs)
It’s been pretty busy during these five months, Giles and Alice have been cracking the whip to keep me busy working (T_T). Just kidding haha. They’ve been great fun, and most generous when offering advice and enlightening me with their knowledge, it always leaves me in awe with the amount of things they know.
Also, there has been more placements on board! Christina and Radhika are such lovely people, they both have a great sense of humour, easy to talk to and are always offering to help when it seems like I have too much going on (laughs). Oh and Moin; our programmer, joined just recently too! As for Haz… he’s been picking on me since day one!! that aside, he offers me assistance and I’ve enjoyed his blog posts and look forward to his future posts. Thanks guys for your help and support!
During the past few months I have been working on various projects. The first being Tangled Threads, then my current project Outside The Box and offering assistance here and there with City As Material.
Throughout these projects I sincerely thank Giles and Alice for trusting me with creating work without any pressure and just allowing me to carry out the projects to the best of my ability whilst offering kind encouragements. I tend to get carried away with trying to perfect everything so I thank you both for your patience and apologise for the delays!
If you remember reading my first impressions, I mentioned the many different assets in the studio either tucked away or on display and wondering about the story behind them… well… I’ve joined in with my own clutter! I’ve made so many Story Cubes I can build a fortress! Soon I’ll have enough to make a draw bridge to go with it (laughs).
It’s been really fun so far and I’ve learnt a great deal from Giles and Alice. I’ll do my best to fulfil my role and create work which others will enjoy! Have a great Christmas everyone!
Last week, I got a chance to help out the Graffito crew with their installation at the Vintage at Goodwood festival, in Chichester. This was the festivals first year, set up by Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway, along with other curators, to celebrate five decades of British music and culture. The Graffito installation was in the 80s Warehouse area, a mock abandoned industrial Warehouse; an ode to the 80s rave and acid house scene. A huge digital LED screen was linked to a handful of iPhones with the Graffito app installed, (the app was also available to download for free from the Apple apps store, the first taker being a very persistent and enthusiastic kid) which we handed out to various people to try out, their collaborative doodles instantly appearing on the screen.
The effect was amazing, and it took me a while to actually surrender the iPhones in my care to eager festival goers. When night beckoned, and the music from the amazing sound-system became more intense, the screen became trance inducing, and people got really involved. After capturing some of the more interesting screen shots, we compiled them in a blank eBook sketchbook, handily designed and provided by Giles, to chronicle the event. We also made StoryCubes with the Graffito logo and instructions on how to download the app, and left them around the arena. The Graffito crew are looking to do similar events in the future, so keep an eye out – hopefully I’ll be there hogging the iPhones once again.
Gallery: (click to enlarge)
Hello, Haz here. I’ve been asked by Giles and Alice to write about my first impressions of Proboscis and my experience of working here as a Creative Assistant for the last fortnight, under the Future Job Funds placement scheme. I was fortunate enough to get a placement just as the scheme was ending, and it’s a welcome opportunity after an otherwise unproductive year for me, an opportunity where creativity is a crucial part of my role, and something to be celebrated, rather than suppressed, as in previous job experiences.
As would be the case for many other young people in Future Job Fund placements like this, I have no prior education or experience in the arts, only a recreational passion. Any initial trepidation has been eased by the focus on existing strengths and interests (for me, literary) and a comfortable, relaxed environment to get familiar with Bookleteer, by creating eBooks and StoryCubes of my own. The studio, and the surrounding architecture of Clerkenwell, with its rich history, is inspiring. This was the basis for my first StoryCube, a simple photocube of historic buildings. Simple, because my initial idea, a 3D model of Smithfield market made using multiple StoryCubes, was a tad too ambitious for my first attempt, alas.
My eBook was a very slight portfolio of poems, which led me to start thinking about how Bookleteer could be a useful tool when creating zines (small circulation publications) and inspiring people to create their own through its simplicity. I’ll be exploring this during my time at Proboscis and sharing any interesting ideas and creations I’ve found from the zine scene on the Bookleteer blog, hopefully even attending some zine fair’s with a on-site Bookleteer workshop and writing about the experience.
We are very excited that bookleteer now offers a service for users to order their eBooks professionally printed and bound as A6 saddle-stitched books on high-quality 100% recycled paper in short runs of 50 copies or more. StoryCubes can also be printed on die-cut card in runs of 200 cubes or more.
We are making more test accounts available for people wanting to create their own eBooks and StoryCubes and try out the PPOD service – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive an invite.
I went to the Birmingham Total Place summit last week with the specially commissioned cubes and illustrations Orlagh and I had made for the Early Intervention Project, in response to conversations with parents, carers and workers. They revealed some of the difficulties faced by children and their families and the often very intense frustrations they have in accessing support or working with local services. Proboscis was commissioned through educator and organisational consultant Lesley Cramman, who was facilitating the strand on Early Intervention and we were all driven, in making these, to bring the everyday voices of families, parents and carers into the event. Total Place is a government initiative to look at how a ‘whole area’ approach to public services can lead to better services at less cost.
The event, hosted by BeBirmingham drew a much more varied crowd than I had expected and most people I spoke to expressed real concern and care about their communities and neighbourhoods. However its hard not to be just a little bit skeptical about the ability of Local Government to open up to new ways of thinking and working, despite the obvious commitment, imagination, skills and passions of many of the people I met who work in it. I had some moving and inspiring conversations with a group discussing how to make meaningful connections between the Local Authority and neighbourhoods and how to improve democratic engagement. I hope that the ideas of these people are present in the decisions that come out of Total Place and that the “better services” can lead before the “reduced costs”. I’d love to see staff being allowed to take risks to effect changes and be supported to have more time to talk with and listen to the people and communities they work with and for.
A series of drawings as part of our work on a part of the Total Place initiative in Birmingham. In January and Feburary we were asked to undertake a small commission to produce some StoryCubes for the Total Place summit to provoke conversations about issues to do with childrens’ services, support for young people and parents in Birmingham. We were asked to work on the Early Intervention strand so Orlagh and I went to meet some parents and workers to understand a some of the issues facing them in terms of at how various services and networks come together to support families and children under 10. These drawings are based on the conversations. (Total Place is a new government initiative that looks at how a ‘whole area’ approach to public services can lead to better services).
Over the last year we have been involved in several projects where we’ve aimed to intervene creatively in the planning process, opening up avenues for the voices of individuals and communities to be heard. In this project several quotes and conversations will be represented on the cubes which are to be used to provoke conversations at the Be Birmingham summit will be taking place on 3 February where the main focus will be to generate new ways of thinking and collaboration. Anything to do with children can be an emotive, sometimes inspiring and sometimes heart wrenching area and in the short time we worked on this it was so clear that so many lives are affected by the availability of support, whether intervention becomes interference and how if people are not heard or listened to it can have a huge impact on their lives.
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).
NOW & UPCOMING
New Website & Twitter
Proboscis is pleased to announce that we have a new website where we will be posting much more regular updates on projects as well as our creative process. We will continue sending occasional email newsletters, but in future we recommend bookmarking the news page or subscribing to the RSS feed.
Proboscis has been working this spring and summer in Sutton-in-the-Isle on Sutton Grapevine, a story sharing project which will be shown at Sutton Feast Week from the 1st – 5th July at St Andrews Church and around the village. We’ve been exploring various different on and offline processes around local storytelling. We roved around the village gathering and recording stories – both past, present and future; hanging out at the community shop, visiting local clubs and individuals, hosting a storytelling barbecue and a workshop with young people.
Sensory Threads : demo at Dana Centre 23/06/09 & National Physical Lab 02/07/09
We will be giving the first public demo of our Sensory Threads prototype at the Dana Centre on Tuesday June 23rd. The event, Surface Tension, is free to attend (no booking required). Sensory Threads is a new experiment in mobile participatory sensing and sonification – making imperceptible things in our environments tangible and tactile.
We will also be demoing ST at the National Physical Laboratory on Tuesday July 2nd as part of the Wireless Sensing Showcase 2009:
Artemov, Mobilefest and Arteleku
Proboscis has been invited to participate in several festivals and workshops this year – from Mobilefest in Sao Paolo (Brasil) and at the ‘Your Map is Not My Map’ workshop at Arteleku, San Sebastian (Spain) in September, to the Artemov festival in Belo Horizonte (Brasil) in November.
New Cultural Snapshot: Cultivating Research
Sarah Thelwall’s Troubadour Study for the Creator Research Cluster, “Cultivating Research : articulating value in arts and academic collaborations” is now available to download:
Jump In Workshop, The Rookery, London
Proboscis, Sarah Thelwall and Tim Jon (Solar Associates) hosted a one day workshop with about 20 participants from small arts organisations exploring possible routes to, and reasons for, acquiring Independent Research Organisation status. The workshop was the final activity of the Creator Research Cluster (funded by the EPSRC as part of the Digital Economy programme), of which Proboscis was a founder member
Being in Common : Catalogue of Ideas
Proboscis has published a special artists bookwork to accompany our Being in Common commission for Gunpowder Park. The catalogue, a deck of cards, is a playful exploration of ‘common space’ drawing together fragments and ideas from across the project, to be played with, read individually or assembled into narratives and stories making unexpected connections and perspectives. The catalogue is available to buy for £10 (inc. shipping) from our online shop.
StoryCube prices 25% lower than 2008
StoryCube packs are now an average 25% lower than in 2008 – making them an even more delectable a tool for workshops and storytelling projects:
Diffusion Generator – update on progress
As part of our Technology Strategy Board Feasibility Study, we have completely re-engineered the Diffusion Generator. Thanks to our development team (technical advisor Stefan Kueppers and coders Simon Whiteside & Yasir Assam) the new Generator supports offline content creation; landscape as well as portrait eBooks; both long and short edge version of the Diffusion eBook binding; double and single sided StoryCubes; multiple languages (including many non-Roman alphabets); right-to-left languages (Arabic etc); and can accept CSS-styled XHTML as content. We are building a new website to access it this summer and hope to invite individuals and organisations to test it out as the year progresses. Please contact us for more details.
Paralelo, Sao Paulo, Brasil
Proboscis took part in the Paralelo event hosted by the British Council Brasil, MIS-Museum of Image and Sound and Centro Cultural de Sao Paulo. We helped with the event facilitation, running two social mapping workshops and designing a special Paralelo Diffusion eNotebook for participants to capture and share ideas, reflections and information.
New Diffusion Titles
Dope smuggling, LSD, organised crime & the law in 1960s London by Stewart Home – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1205
The 36 Stratagems by anonymous – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1192
Would be Disciplined by Tony White – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1178
iStreetLab by mongrelStreet – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1148
Dodolab StoryCube by Giles Lane – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1118
Hard Hearted Hannah: Classics from Nowhere by Cartoon de Salvo – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1104
Hard Hearted Hannah: the world of the Strange and Bizarre by Cartoon de Salvo – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1107
On The Death Of Julia Callan-Thompson by Stewart Home – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1083
H2O by Alejandra Canales, Anne Ransquin and Juan F. Salazar - http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1070
The Anatomy of the Horse by George Stubbs – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1062
Measure Once, Cut Twice : a case study of Snout by Frederik Lesage – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1054
Bourriaud’s ‘Altermodern’ – an eclectic mix of bullshit and bad taste by Stewart Home – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1049
Tweetomes : some epithets on practices of pithy exchange by Giles Lane – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1025
The minimal compact by Adam Greenfield – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1012
The Tongue Conceals Time by Shae Davidson – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=1000
Click This? MySpace & the Pornography of Corporately Controlled Virtual Life by Stewart Home – http://diffusion.org.uk/?p=993
For UK customers
StoryPack (inc p+p & VAT)
A – 8 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 5.99
B – 27 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 19.99
C - 64 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 43.99
D - 125 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 74.99
E - 40 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 27.99 (education/classroom pack)
European Union/European Economic Area
StoryPack (inc p+p & VAT)
A – 8 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 7.99
B – 27 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 22.49
C - 64 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 45.99
D - 125 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 78.49
E - 40 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 29.99 (education/classroom pack)
Rest of the World
StoryPack (inc airmail p+p)
A – 8 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 9.99
B – 27 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 24.99
C - 64 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 46.99
D - 125 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 84.99
E - 40 StoryCubes & sticker sheets - £ 30.99 (education/classroom pack)
DodoLab is a collaboration between Render, Proboscis and the Musagetes Foundation – a dynamic and experimental co-creative lab for engaging participants in events and communities to challenge accepted ideas and develop insights into contexts, processes and situations.
The first DodoLab was held in Montréal in May 2009 at the 5th World Environmental Education Congress – a creative intervention in the exhibition hall and out and about in Montréal itself. Led by Andrew Hunter of Render, the DodoLab team created a series of projects engaging the congress delegates in questioning concepts of sustainability and environmental education with a focus on resilience and adaptability. Giles Lane devised and a facilitated a mapping and StoryCube activity engaging several hundred delegates in annotating a world map with their location and connections to other places, and completing a StoryCube about their ideas on sustainability and resilience.
Proboscis is proud to announce the publication of A Case of Perspectives – a limited edition artists bookwork by Alice Angus and Giles Lane, created as part of Social Tapestries. The bookwork contains a series of designed as well as handmade artefacts inspired by and responding to our experiences in the Social Tapestries programme of projects. 63 Tapestry cards are organised into 3 groups – 21 Endless Landscapes, 21 project photos and 21 Urban Tapestries mobile phone interface screenshots – the reverse sides printed with sections from a map of Urban Tapestries threads and pockets. Also enclosed are 2 StoryCubes, 1 containing images upload by UT trial participants and the other representing 6 principles of public authoring. A copy of the Atlas of Enquiry and a handmade eBook presenting an overview of the Social Tapestries research programme complete the box.
Numbers 1-21 will be sold complete with an unframed original watercolour painting of one of the Endless Landscape panels by Alice Angus. Price – £200 + shipping. Please contact us for more details.
Numbers 22-190 are available to buy online price – £40 + shipping.
Proboscis is exhibiting works from Snout, Feral Robots and Social Tapestries and our film, Play to Invent in a group show curated by architect and masterplanner, Sir Terry Farrell,
“Digital Cities looks at how digital technology helps us understand and improve the planning and experience of our city. It will look at the impact on movement in cities: how communication and information technologies enhance a persons experience of place; how people interpret cities with the use of technology; and how mapping influences the design and planning of cities. It will also discuss some of ‘the big brother’ issues such as privacy and security. “
Digital Cities: London’s Future is on from November 21st 2008 to January 24th 2009 at The Building Centre, Store Street, London WC1E 7BT.
Download the Exhibition Leaflet (PDF 6.9Mb)
In February 2008 Proboscis were resident with ICE (Information and Cultural Exchange) in Western Sydney, Australia. We collaborated with ICE and the British Council Australia to run a workshop and exchange labs over 3 weeks with a group of 15 creative practitioners from local communities. The project grew out of connections we made with ICE during the Coding Cultures project by d/Lux/MediaArts in Australia in 2007.
Through a series of intensive workshops, Proboscis explored approaches to creatively transforming cities and shared techniques with the Western Sydney artists, who in turn had the opportunity to develop projects. Members of the wider arts community participated in half-day Exchange Labs and a public symposium. Lattice addressed the ways culturally diverse communities engage with their environment and considered; what happens when people come to a city? What knowledge is lost, or gained? What are the impacts of emerging new identities on cities?
- The Lattice::Sydney film was made by participants in the workshop and features a playful model city built from any materials that came to hand, to manifest the ideas about ‘Creative City’ generated in the workshop.
- We also made Drawing Conclusions a short film of artists Matt Huynh and Tina Tran of Popperbox drawing conclusions from the Lattice forum.
- Lattice::Sydney project blog
- Lattice::Sydney Sketchbook Diffusion eBook by Tak Tran
- Lattice::Sydney Sketchbook Diffusion eBook by Tina Tran
- Lattice::Sydney Sketchbook Diffusion eBook by Matt Huynh
- Lattice::Sydney Sketchbook Diffusion eBook by David Capra
- Lattice::Sydney Unwrapped Diffusion eBook by Proboscis, ICE and Lattice Participants
- How to Find out What they Want Diffusion eBook by Matt Huynh, Todd Williams, Kasama Yamtree
Team: Alice Angus, Giles Lane & Orlagh Woods
Participants: David Capra, Ali Kadhim, Sanez Fatouhi and Amin Palagni, Ben Hoh, Tiffany Lee-Shoy, Fatima Mawas, Ben Nitiva, Matt Huynh, Tak Tran and Tina Tran of Popperbox, Denis Asif Sado, Trey Thomas, Maria Tran, Todd Williams and Kasama Yamtree.
Partners: ICE (Information & Communication Exchange)
Funded by the British Council as part of the Council’s Creative Cities East Asia initiative
with additional support from Foundation for Young Australians (Youth Digital Cultures Project) and support from the AMWU.
A week long workshop exploring children’s relationship to the environment with Year 4 students at Jenny Hammond Primary School in July 2006. Part of Social Tapestries research programme.
Activity Report (PDF 1.6Mb)
Team: Loren Chasse, Giles Lane & Orlagh Woods.
Partner: Jenny Hammond Primary School
A film for the Perception Peterborough project, documenting the creation of a 3 dimensional ‘map’ of creative visions overlaid over the city. The film was shot during workshops facilitated by Proboscis in Peterborough Museum in September 2008.