Interactive and Social Reading Seminar Confirmed for Annual SYP Conference!

Posted on October 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Our Interactive and Social Reading seminar will consider how technology has enabled different reading experiences to emerge by looking at two new companies who are using technology to cater for an unprecedented level of interactivity.  Have these companies succeeded in enhancing their readers’ overall reading experience, or is technology encroaching on a traditional past-time?


We will be joined by Jon Ingold who is a writer, games designer and former Cambridge mathematician. He is the co-founder of inkle, a company specialising in interactive narrativedriven projects for web and mobile platforms. Their recent projects include the rave-reviewed Frankenstein app, written by Dave Morris and published by Profile Books.

Andrew Rhomberg will also be joining us. Andrew is the Founder and Managing Director of Jellybooks which aims to help people discover what to read next with the aid of engaging visuals, the opportunity to try 10% of a book before purchase, and the means to send these samples to friends as a sharable link via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or email.

We asked Jon what is it about books in particular that lends itself to digital interactivity?

I’ve been writing interactive fiction, and working with other writers, for about a decade. Over that time, the argument I’ve heard most often against the idea of interactive storytelling, and in particular, interactive reading, is that reading is a passive experience. Readers, I’m told, sit back, turn off their brains, and absorb, like sponges dropped into water.

This, of course, isn’t true. Reading takes effort. It takes a child several years to learn to do it, and a lot of people choose not to read, but watch television instead, because reading is too much like hard work.

In fact, reading is uniquely hard because – unlike in theatre, where the audience has to do some imaginative work to understand where the play is set, and what action is being represented on stage, they at least have the energy of the performers to help them through. But when you’re reading, it’s just you, on your own, supplying all the energy, all the drama, and all the momentum to bring the text to life in your mind.

Reading isn’t passive, it’s active. It’s also interpretive – one person’s reading of something is usually different than another’s, just as one person’s performance from a sheet of music will differ from another’s. As we bring stories to life we infuse them with our experience and our memories and perceptions. We personalise them: we give them our voices and our sensibilities.

So books lend themselves to interactivity because books are interactive already. The only difference in the digital context is that we can spin a book out over time – we can inject it with some momentum of its own. We can perform books through digital devices and provide a little theatricality. The effect is not as powerful as the transition from script to stage – but it’s a similar idea.

Books make for great source material. They have scope, depth and richness. They play us, and we play them. And text is a wonderful medium – it gets into people’s heads easily, it’s powerful, it’s flexible and expressive.

In short: Books are good for interactivity, because books make for fun places to play.

We look forward to seeing you all at the conference 3 November! Don’t forget to register!