Thursday 18th December 2014

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MacGuffin: A jukebox for fiction and poetry

Jim Hinks

Digital Editor, Comma Press

At Comma Press, we’re building a big jukebox for fiction and poetry. Not a physical jukebox (though wouldn’t that be fun?), but a website and app to host user-generated literature. It’ll be free to use, and all content will be in both text and audio form, so users can stream readings on the go, by smartphone or tablet.

It’s called MacGuffin, and it aims to solve a fundamental discoverability problem: readers want to find writing that chimes with their particular interests and tastes; writers want to find a readership that gets their work. Matching them up is the tricky part.

To do this, we’re going to apply the ‘broad folksonomy’ end-user hash-tagging behaviours of social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr, and bookmarking tools like Delicious (and latterly, the excellent Archive of Our Own). On MacGuffin, readers themselves will participate in content curation by adding hashtags to other people’s work, grouping it into genres (e.g. #spec-fic), memes (e.g. #sundaysonnets), reading lists (e.g. #claireskafkaesquereads); or simply adding tags to describe the content (#bears #porridge #woods #dangerousblondes). A writer can use multiple tags to target work at readers with specific interests (e.g. #post-colonial #apocalyptic #antarctic) and a writing group can use a tag to share work-in-progress (e.g. #leedsuniwritersyear3). Read more »

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Digital Literature Pioneers: Michael Joyce on early Hypertext Fiction

TLP Interview

Michael Joyce is a professor of English at Vassar College, NY, USA. His work afternoon: a story, 1987, was among the first works of hypertext fiction. The New York Times called Michael Joyce’s afternoon “the granddaddy of hypertext fictions,” while The Toronto Globe and Mail said that it “is to the hypertext interactive novel what the Gutenberg bible is to publishing,” and Der TAZ in Berlin termed him “Der Homer der Hypertexte.” afternoon has been translated into Italian, German, Polish, and French.

TLP: Your work afternoon, a story (1990) marks you as one of the early pioneer of electronic writing/ storytelling, can you tell us a bit about your work, what inspired it and what you were trying to achieve with projects such as afternoon?

MJ: I fear I’ve too often told the story of the writing of afternoon in 1987 (not 1990), which I actually began writing in late 1986 and distributed at the first ACM Hypertext meeting in 1987 at Chapel Hill NC where Jay Bolter and I also presented a paper “Hypertext and Creative Writing.”  Your date of 1990 marks when it was published by Eastgate but by then it had been widely distributed and written about (and at least one dissertation about it, by Jane Yellowless Douglas, was underway). Suffice it to say that Jay and I had met through the Yale Artificial Intelligence Lab where we each were visiting fellows albeit in successive years, each interested in new ways of storytelling, but neither of us, or much of the world, having heard the word hypertext (which, coincidentally, Ted Nelson first was quoted as using, albeit hyphenated, in print here at Vassar in 1965. Interested readers looking for the full genealogy can read my chapter, “What I Really Wanted to Do I Thought” in Of Two Minds (University of Michigan, 1995 or, better still, Belinda Barnet’s wonderful Memory Machines: The Evolution Of Hypertext (Anthem, 2003). There to Belinda I summarized our early work on Storyspace and my work on afternoon by saying  “I wanted, quite simply, to write a novel that would change in successive readings and to make those changing versions according to the connections that I had for some time naturally discovered in the process of writing and that I wanted my readers to share.”

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