New media comes of age
Chris Meade (right) reflects on a prize that "reminds us of the power of our humble laptops"Unlike most literary prizes, the New Media Writing Prize 2012 - now in its third year and awarded last week - features works that can be seen immediately and for free by anyone who clicks on the links (as long as they have the right software installed on their devices of course, digital culture still being prone to glitchiness). So please read on, but also click through to see the actual stuff itself.
And the winner is… Katharine Norman, with a beautiful meditation made by a composer with a love of coding and an imagination that naturally expresses itself in digital, multimedia productions - sadly not yet viewable on the iPad. The term "poetic" in this field can be code for impenetrable, but this really is a multimedia poem of depth and substance, inspired by the work of John Cage. The viewer/listener/reader looks out of a window, hears ambient sound, evocative text, using a slider which makes it possible and pleasurable to move from day to night, to remix the balance of text to sound.
Other personal favourites of mine on an inspiring shortlist were the joyous and addictively clickable A Duck Has an Adventure by Daniel M Goodbrey and Cityfish by J R Carpenter, an elegantly written and designed narrative with video and links embedded in a scrolling wordscape.
At a time when the debate about the digital future of literary creativity has been drowned out by traditional publishers striving to repackage their greatest hits for new platforms, this Prize reminds us of the power we have now to make work on our humble laptops and put it out directly into the world, in full colour, mixing audio and video as we choose, making interactive work for what is now a real potential readership, curled up in their beds with a good tablet, browsing about for quality experiences to have on it.
Panellists in a debate before the announcement at Bournemouh University came from the three worlds rapidly converging around an interest in this kind of work. Sarah Butler is a writer with a track record of collaborative projects - and now a novel to be published in January by Picador and in 14 countries. Louise Rice works at TouchPress making amazing literary apps, some of which generate serious money. Andy Campbell runswww.dreamingmethods, and has been mingling web and text in amazing ways for decades, with little finance but much critical praise. All agreed it’s the time for creative minds to focus their energies on making fabulous work using whichever blend of the current means available seem most inspiring and appropriate to the stories they want to tell. Then business people really will have something worth building a marketing plan around.
For the rest of the fully clickable list, go to www.newmediawritingprize.co.uk
Chris Meade is Director of if:book UK.