Blog

North Lancashire Business Expo, 23 Sept 2018

The team were invited to present on Litcraft at North Lancashire Business Expo by the Business Gateway team, as a wonderful opportunity to engage with the local community and demonstrate the sort of work we are doing that is accessable, interesting, and of direct (potential!) use for everyone. We were effectively representing the university – and thanks to the great organisation by Mark Bowen – the event was a huge success.

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Dozens of people we chatted with had already heard about Litcraft – through various channels (Sally did an interview with BBC Radio Lancashire last month – I shall try and upload the audio when the site redevelopment is finalised); but better still, were the number of teachers who approached us, and asked if we could formally run sessions at their schools, from all around the region. We are delighted to be able to build on our network of affiliated schools – for which future resource developments undertaken by Lancaster University teams will have an immediate contact – and help further bridge the instituion into local communities.

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Shiny new banner! (it was painful to pin it to the table)

This was the second year for the event – held at Lanaster Brewert – and was extremely well-attended (and filled with exhibitors handing out loot, so much sugar in one place!). We had a great day, which resulted in a good number of immediate contacts with Sally confirming a desire to run Litcraft, building our local contact-base significantly. We hope we did LU proud – just as we continue to be proud of the research and development opportunities the university is allowing us, thanks to its skilled and passionate outreach teams.

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Right next to an unsealed tent flap on a crisp autumnal day!
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Litcraft in a Box – Libraries Initiative, 18 Sept 2018

After several months planning, the team is proud to announce that – thanks to Lancaster Universityy’s HEIF funding pot to support additional streams of research impact and especially in developing ties with external organisations – we have been able to expand Litcraft in a bold and exciting new way : Litcraft in a Box!

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We have been working with two library authorities for a time, following our successful venture to the ASCEL digital training day back in March, with the idea of making our resource available in a ready-to-go, easy-to-transfer package to be gifted the central library so it could be passed around the individual libraries under their remit. Leeds (the hosts of that event) and Lancashire (our local authority) were the two initial partners, but Westminster and Tri-Borough contacted us after seeing our report in The Guardian, and we were able to include them in our initial foray. A few weeks later, Devon got in touch, and were able to attend the training day – which will hopefully lead to us being able to work with them closely with a (fingers crossed!) wave two release. And of course – the big handover (tempered somewhat by the fact two of them had to be carted cross-country by train, and we jam packed them with additional copies of the two books we used for this first wave – but no-one was complaining)

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The day saw representatives from each authority come together for a run-down of Litcraft, future plans, the feedback we need to generate from the resource (closely aligned with their own requirements), and as a means of getting to know how they each plan to roll out the box across their services. We are very excited to be able to make Litcraft more widely available to the public – as well as spread awareness of the digital innovations being wrought here at Lancaster University – and believe this has been a fantastic means of doing so.

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And it seems the resource is first being demonstrated at Garstang library.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Be the first to try <a href=”https://twitter.com/Chrono_Carto?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Chrono_Carto</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Litcraft?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Litcraft</a&gt; at <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Garstang?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Garstang</a&gt; Take on the classic adventure of Treasure Island using <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Minecraft?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Minecraft</a&gt; at our <a href=”https://twitter.com/FunPalaces?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@FunPalaces</a&gt; event on Saturday 6th October. Session starts at 10.30am, arrive early to guarantee a space. <a href=”https://t.co/tCaEQqQej5″>https://t.co/tCaEQqQej5</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/GarstangLibrary?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#GarstangLibrary</a&gt; <a href=”https://t.co/9fLB5L4ruz”>pic.twitter.com/9fLB5L4ruz</a></p>&mdash; Lancashire libraries (@lancspublib) <a href=”https://twitter.com/lancspublib/status/1045957448824213504?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 29, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Work has already started on the next phase of Litcraft maps… watch this space!

First Project Symposium, Lancaster Uni – 06-07 Sept 2018

Has it really been a year already? Such was the incredulity of the project team and potential partners as we all met (several for the first time!) at Chronotopic Cartographies’ first annual project symposium.

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The final session of the day – everyone is ready for a beer or three!

Sally devised a fantastic schedule for the first day, breaking the event into 4 distinct section (the coding, the ontological breakdown, visualisation, and Litcraft) with each team member – which is now complete with the addition of our tech RA, who will hopefully write an introductory post soon – taking charge of their pertinent component. Within each session, the relevant Co-I’s introduced themselves, discussed their experienc,e and proposed aspects that they would like to see developed during the course of our work. There was lots of extremely stimulating discussion, but everyone was pleased at the progression we have made – even if Litcraft has dominated (far exceeding all our expectations).

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JR’s sublime ‘… and by islands I mean paragraphs’ – digital remix poetry truly at its finest

One thing reiterated throughout the event was just how innovative (and nigh Herculean) our task is – we still have a lot to do, but as we are breaking entirely new ground in DH coding and literary analysis, the careful and considered approach we are taking is absolutely the right was to proceed.

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Gavin Inglis demonstrating his mental-map/action-sequence inspired model of writing  introductory tabletop roleplaying game modules – which James can testify is no easy task!

The second day saw colleagues, friends, and people of great interest we have met during this first year brought together, to give them a greater sense of what exactly we hope to achieve with our work, and to try an establish just how we might develop professional partnerships (assuming we scared no-one off, of course!). We had the pleasure of inviting J. R. Carpenter, Gavin Inglis, Adam Clarke (thecommonpeople) to present, and over several courses of delicious flapjack worked out some great little side-projects that we hope we can explore throughout this next year.

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Adam Clarke (aka The Wizard, partner of Stampy Cat) demonstrating just what can be done with Minecraft if one has the imagination

Now the team is fully established, and Becca has been brought on full-time.moved up to Lancaster, it is time to roll up our sleeves and start producing great content – so please, watch this space!

Minecraft Day 2018, Lancaster Uni – 09 July 2018

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After months of intense planning, Lancaster University’s inaugural Minecraft Day event ran on Monday – to resounding success. Sally and James led a funding bid for the idea of bringing together research from around the university that uses Minecraft in some capacity, and bringing in pupils from a wide range of schools in the area, in order to demonstrate how fun and creative our resources can be. Also to make local schools aware of the support and projects we would like to provide them – the communication of which is always a tricky aspect. 4 separate project sessions, 80 children, and representatives from several potential partners… so much could have gone arwy, but the day ran smoothly, to everyone’s delight.

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We provided a great range of projects, from Science Hunters exploring geothermal physics (and how they correspond to their in-game counterparts), Sarah Twiggs running narrative coding around stories using MC elements, Chris Dixon running a range of things around the measuring and design of the buildings and space ISS’s scaled campus map , and – of course – our very own Litcraft. Several iterations of Minecraft featured, including Education Edition and the Oculus Rift version, providing new experiences aplenty for everyone involved.

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Feedback was resoundingly positive across the board (the teachers were as fascinated with the ideas as much as the children), and many schools are now interested in working with us all further. Exactly the intent of the HEIF funding that allowed us to run the event – this would not have been possible without their support.

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Likewise, the day wouldn’t have run anywhere near as smoothly without the tireless support of Dawn Stobbart and all the assistants involved, on both the individual projects and the English student helpers attached to each grouping. And no-one ended up in the moat with the ducks! (well, James very almost did when taking down the banners, but that’s par for the course really…)

5Here’s hoping for an even bigger and better still event next year!

Continue, British Library – 03 July 2018

The team’s latest showing was once again wrangled through our Co-I Stella Wisdom who graciusly allowed us a portion of time for her discussion of how her role enables her to encourage the use of videogames in exploring cultural themes. The event was an intimate gathering, organised by Alice Roberts, and held at our ‘home away from home’.

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Unfortunately, train timetables and a hotel mix-up meant we missed the morning session which was an analogue gamejam – extremely disaapointing, as this is exactly James’ forte. But we got to sample some of the designs over lunch (we suspect this wasn’t many participants’ first rodeo!)

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Any event that features polyhedral dice has to be a-ok!

Although the crowd was small, interest in Litcraft was extremely high, and we made a number of contacts who were interested in the dataset and schema from the project proper – and it hasn’t even been shown at a DH-dedicated event yet!

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Rightfully welcoming any opportunity to show off Sally’s Minecrafting skills.

Video Games and Literature, St. Andrews – 20-21 June 2018

Half-way through an event-filled few weeks, the entire team was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at an event hosted by the University of St. Andrews (in collaboration with Abertay University and the University of Glasgow).

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For an event that was only 2-days, the organisers managed to pack it full with fun talks, a special conversation with noted games writer Rhianna Pratchett, and a game jam event. This was Sally’s first encounter with the latter – and she embraced it fully! The speakers ranged from postgrads through game designers (introducing the fascinating Austen-centric MMORPG Ever Jane), providing a wide array of perspectives and thoughts on the subject matter.

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One of Sally’s team mates discussing their take on a literary classic

Check out #vglit to see plenty of photos and thoughts from the event

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Someone even managed to capture a decent image of James mid-talk! First time for everything…

James and Becca presented on their side-projects incorporating literature into interactive visualisations, whilst Sally presented on the project proper. We made several new contacts, and swapped ideas, concepts, and thoughts… and sincerely hope some further collaborative opportunites may arise from the event.

The message emphasised throughout the event (and jam) was the broad – mistaken – assumptions throughout the industry that anyone who could write could create, and that narrative and mechanics were disparate parts of the gaming experience that could be entirely separated.

It was fascinating to see other researchers’ thoughts on walking sims (amongst many other game formats), and has certainly inspired us to delve into exploring new ideas for our own visualisations.

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Team photo, on a lovely Scottish summer’s day.

Our thanks, once again, to Prof. Margaret Anne Hutton and Dr Matthew Barr for organising such a fascinating conference – we hope it will be the first on many for our fledgling field.

Narrative Data, University of Sussex – 12-13 June 2018

James was fortunate enough to be invited to an annual two-day event hosted by the Humanities Lab at the University of Sussex – which this year was organised and run by our superb Co-I, Alex Butterworth. The name of the event itself provides so much scope for considering the simple premise of data use that is so easy to accidentally overlook – covering researchers with all manner of thoughts, practices, fields, and approaches – and the days did not diasappoint in the slightest!

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Openly billed as a ‘sandbox forum’, the days were filled with lightning talks (kept firmly in line with a boating horn *honk*), provocation talks, working practice rundowns, and group work to practically design a means of examining how data can be used to present narratives. Or vice-versa.

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Our gracious host – with his not-so-gracious means of keeping time

The cohort was incredibly diverse, covering journalism (The Times), performance design (the RSC), mixed and virtual reality art, and experimental poetry (although the artist may shoot me a wither glare for classing it as such, sorry JR!) and all manner of projects that categorise, tag, and re-shape information into new forms. Audio, visual, tactile, and experimental text formats – all of which fed into our team project design. It was a pleasure getting to work with materials in ways we had never considered before – and really opened our eyes to new approaches to re-presenting materials within the digital humanities.

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All in a day’s work – Team UrbX ftw!  Pictured : Samuel von Ransbeeck, Bob Jarvis, Daniel Chavez Heras, Annabella Massey, and yours truly.

The team would like to thank our gracious hosts – Alex and everyone else from the labs that worked to keep things running smoothly – at the Humanities Lab once more for inviting us down. We made a number of valuable new contacts from the event, that we hope may lead to some interesting developments in the near future…