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Mapping the Text, NYU – 20-22 April 2018

A small charger-cable mishap (not James’ fault in any way, shape, or form!) has led to the slight delay of this blogpost, but nevertheless we can now talk about a fantastic event the team was kindly invited to: Mapping the Text 2018 (the first of hopefully many more), held at NYU and hosted by Prof. Moacir P. de Sa Pereira and the NYScapes research network.

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The sessions in full.

Although the team’s exciting explorations of the city could fill several blog posts, we had best stick solely to the event…

The Friday session was a training event, where the NYU Data Services team demonstrated the creation of simple GIS databases (using song titles that reference New York places for the dataset) using the Awesome Geocode plug-in for google docs, and in turn using the co-ordinates to form interactive story maps. Fantastic deep mapping opportunities, that the team will be exploring in greater detail.

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GIS made simple – story maps could prove very useful for a digital literature class.

Saturday was the event itself – and never have we attended an event where every single paper was of such relevance to our work. The entire event was live-streamed, so if you are interested in any of the panels (including all three of ours!) the recording can be found here. The organising team also live tweeted under , with plenty of pics and snippets. James spoke first in the afternoon, examining the CLAYE XML schema we have developed; Rebecca presented in the following session on the Romantic Bristol app (emphasising it was not a dating app!); and Sally closed the day wth a plenary discussing the concept of the Bahktinian chronotope (delighting the audience with wonderful examples of literary maps from Pilgrim’s Progress). Our work resonated with so many of the attendees, and will hopefully lead to ongoing contact with everyone involved in the event.

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A great shot of Becca – we couldn’t not post this pic. #phenomenological

The event hammered home the difficulties in integrating fictional spaces within traditional models, so our focus on linguistic and non-standard visualisations of narrative worlds really does stand alone in the field.

The following day held a final session – a ‘hackathon’ – where a few of the attendees gathered over coffee and doughnuts (traditional coding fare) and discussed some of the methodologies of our research in greater detail. Dr Elton Barker ran us through the Recogito aspect of the Pelagios Project (an extremely versatilte toolset but still heavily dependent on places being ‘real’), and Sally introduced Litcraft to everyone. It took most of the audience by surprise, but… that is exactly what we aim for! A little different in scope from the rest of the session, but it demonstrated nicely how we have ‘hacked’ the text into a new iterative form to encourage a whole new dimension of engagement for a targetted audience.

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The team along with our host, Moacir (a little blurry, sadly, but after 9 hours who wouldn’t be?)

 

The event was unparalleled in how it connected to our research, and once again the team would like to express its gratitude to everyone involved in organising it. It was a great event, that presented several new ideas to explore and introduced us to so many people with which to keep in touch. As Moacir stated in his welcome, we hope the weekend doesn’t mark a culmination point, but rather serves as just one node on our own path of contact.

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ASCEL Digital Training Day – Tue 13 March 2018

The team’s second event this week was at the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians’ digital training day (ASCEL) held in Middlesborough’s Great Library.

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It was a long drive across the country – but very much worth the early start. The event had around 40 attendees who worked (for the most part) in library services across the North East. An entirely new (but extremely relevant) audience for us. The other sessions explored the ways in which different institutions were exploring and integrating technology, coding, and gaming platforms into their services. All sorts of innovation, from the Code-a-Pillar (and connecting it with The Hungry Caterpillar, for example) through Escape Room boxes (to teach indexing, referencing, microfiche – all skills relating to info seeking).

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Stella had been invited to present, given her role in developing a staggering array of digital and gaming initiatives at the BL, and she was extremely kind in giving up over half her session for us. Despite a technical hiccup interfering with James’ new training module map, the attendees readily leapt right into the game – despite a lack of experience with Minecraft. A few pointers helped guide the way, but navigation and control was picked up with remarkable adeptness. And – most importantly – it was enjoyed.

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In gathering feedback, the response was incredibly positive, with many really liking how we had intergrated the text in such a novel manner. It wasn’t a re-telling of the story, but of exploring a wonderful setting and slowly uncovering parts of the text, building up to an understanding of how it formed the pirate archetype. Exactly what we had hoped would form a core goal of the resource resonated with the audience. We were thrilled with the level of enthusiasm showed, and the team has made many new contacts with whom we hope to trial other litcraft resources in the near future.

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It was an excellent event, which would have stood outside the attention of traditional academic work, had we not had Stella on the team. But the resources’ potential userbase has now doubled – exciting times ahead as we develop new lesson ideas and plans accordingly.

Campus in the City, Sat 10 March 2018

Campus in the City is an annual event run by Lancaster University, wherein projects take over an empty shop space in the middle of the city and run engagement sessions with the public. It is a fantastic means of introducing our work to an audience who might otherwise never hear of it, and the team was delighted to be able to run Litcraft: Treasure Island at this years event. The door saw a tally of nearly 500 people throughout the day, around 120 of which were children – despite the inclement weather.

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A little soggy, but eager for the doors to open.

We saw a huge amount of interest from primary school-aged children (not many teenagers came to the event) – but importantly, we had the opportunity to meet with parents, and solicit their thoughts on our work. Thankfully, Litcraft was universally praised, with many wanting to know more about how the availability of the resource to local schools. We did not have the means or opportunity to offer full lesson plans with the game, but demonstrated it more as a proof of concept allowing participants free exploratory reign over the island – which was more than enough to pique interest (especially when they learned about the story was about pirates).

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Parents were very interested in Litcraft, and hoped schools would adopt it.

The feedback gathered on the day also underscored the pattern we have been seeing in that pupils have very little knowledge of Treasure Island. This was unexpectedly low, but that a number of children asked their parents if they could get a copy of the book after being introduced to the fantastic island – which lies the very core of Litcraft’s intent. The event has highlighted the need the involve parents in our work going forward as well as pupils and teachers (especially when the resources feature non-syllabus texts for reading at home), but the extremely positive reception was heartening.

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Another session photo for good measure. Our only regret was not bringing more ipads…

News Spot for Litcraft

Back in January, the team demoed our Litcraft – Treasure Island work to Reuters, and the interview they recorded has just gone live!

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(we still can’t believe all the tech behaved in the Seminar Room, no hiccups at all!)

It is fantastic to see Litcraft resonating with the educational sector, and the Chronotopic Cartographies team is ideally placed (and incredibly lucky to have the ability) to truly innovate in the field.

We could not be happier with this first major promotional push for the project – and look forward to making more media appearances as it develops!

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International audience of up to 3.5 million … thank goodness we smiled!

Logo time – and the logos behind it!

The day has come – the team can finally remove the ‘logo pending’ nameplate on our door, and we can unveil the official logo for Chronotopic Cartographies, now proudly emblazoned at the head of this page.

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Provided once more, for good measure

We have the talented work of Kevin Steele, whose website of fantastic designs prompted us to get in touch. Not only did Kevin produce a digital logo, but he also created a physical 3-dimension art book, which will take pride of place at all the events we attend over the coming years.  (James has spent far too long tweaking it to an optimum layout, the others take particularly devilish delight in discretely altering it!)

We are incredibly pleased to have been able to work with Kevin, and with his own interest in fantastic worlds (providing inspirational impetus in his creative design) we hope the working relationship will continue in some capacities.

This is Kevin’s vision of what the project description (with the six ontologies) might look like, transposed into an image. His summary provided below provides a little more detail, with the angular paths given prominence in our logo to represent the spatial networks and mapped paths that are our focus.

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Capsule summaries of spatial synthesis

Time to get started on some posters; but once again, our sincerest gratitude to Kevin Steele – who was a pleasure to work with – cannot be understated.

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One final portrait version, flattened out – beautiful reflections of space, place, and time…

First Litcraft Teacher Training event – 24 Jan 2018

Last week (24/01/2018), the project team was proud to attend its initial training event through Computing at School – a series of training events intended to introduce areas of innovation that will shape the classroom of the future. This was our first engagement with an audience of teachers, and thanks to Sally’s hard work on converting Litcraft – Treasure Island over to the iPad version, and the incredibly useful input from Dr Zoe Bolton on shaping the lesson plans to meet current classroom focii, the full-morning event was a success.

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Of course, one group of teachers set about to systematically dismantle the Hispaniola, pre-empting potential distractions…

Sally introduced the wider project and the aims of the Litcraft component, whilst James provided a detailed summary of Minecraft and guide to using it. Only two of the teachers had prior experience with Minecraft, and even then it was indirect (through their own children); none had played it before – which demonstrated the primary barrier (ease of accessibility) that such resources need to break through. Lots of feedback was received that highlighted one key potential issue: a potential reliance on pupils having a broader knowledge of the software than the teacher could. Of course, teaching method varies from teacher to teacher, and some argued for the benefit of allowing pupils to direct lessons, and this very concern formed one of the core approaches for the project – that it could be used to encourage peer-to-peer learning.

This feedback has highlighted the need to provide a greater degree of instruction in the core software control schemes – as was pointed out, given the immense popularity of the game, pupils *would* have that knowledge and assist one another – which is encouranging a focus on group-based lesson plan activities rather than purely as solo activities.

The core concept of Litcraft – allowing those of weaker literate ability to interact with a literary environment in a novel manner, and come to discover the texts through a whole new (visual , active, and task-based, rather than purely textual, passive, and narratised) direction – was incredibly well-received, with a number of participants expressing an interest in directly trialing future iterations in their classrooms. Minecraft is becoming an important part of the modern classroom, and Litcraft is wonderfully positioned to pioneer digital literacy education in a new and exciting direction.

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Flint’s Pointer – to a digital classroom

If anyone else would be interested in discussing opportunities to host a trial event at a school, library, or any other event – please do not hesitate to get in touch.

The project begins – first engagement event – so much reading

Hello world. (apologies… I have always wanted to start off a research blog with that iconic phrase)

A month in, and work is progressing well. We have already demonstrated the first of the Litcraft resource designs at the International Games Week event held at the British Library on November 4th.

[image – J coding – right down to the wire]

Sally and James attended with the Treasure Island Minecraft and card game designs and Swallows & Amazons Minecraft task; with a great location on the first floor mezzanine, and beautiful posters acquired just in time, the project saw a lot of interest from visitors. It was an ideally-sized event to trial our project iPads and unveil the research goals to members of the public – several of whom worked with libraries across the country – we hope to remain in contact throughout the course of our work with everyone who we met on the day!

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Sally instructing Litcraft – in French, no less!

The children really took to the Minecraft – especially Sally’s treasure-hunting and in-game map-reading  tasks. We were delighted by how many people fondly remembered Ransome’s work (again, they very much enjoyed building Wildcat Island – with some very creative interpretations of the map), and were encouraged when several parents said they were going to try and find a copy to read to the children at night. That is exactly what we were hoping for.

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Not so subtle a nook (not pictured, the coffee shop round the corner!)

It was a long day, but extremely productive. Our thanks again to Stella Wisdom for inviting us to attend – we very much hope to return next year, with a whole array of Litcraft resources.

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Obligatory event selfie

Work continues on determining the final few texts that would complete the corpus, and make it as representative as possible – no easy task when we haven’t set ourselves any era- or genre-based boundaries, and indeed need to demonstrate the coding is so versatile in can apply to all manner of texts. There’s worse ways to spend time than browsing bookstores, both virtually and in person, making copious excited notes, and discovering some unconsidered gems. If only we had funding for five years so as to have enough time to work on triple the amount of texts. But one step at a time…

(anyone reading this – if you have a suggestion you strongly believe would be an ideal fit the the chronotopes discussed under the Corpus page, please get in touch – we always enjoy considering new material)

 

-J

 

Links of interest:

BL Blogs – Games Week