There’s nothing worse than leaving a good party early, but (sigh) that’s exactly what I had to do with the Electric Bookshop’s 4th birthday party in Edinburgh. However, what I did catch in those two hours was different, interesting, and has revitalised a love of clicking I haven’t seen since that website that was literally just digital bubblewrap.
I first encountered the Electric Bookshop not long after I’d decided to apply for a publishing Masters and started following some new places on Twitter and thought it looked interesting. Turns out, it is! If you’re interested in the future of books, it has live interactive debates, pioneering projects, skype guests and products that are revolutionising the book and written word, to name but a few things.
Kate Ho was the first speaker, dubbed the game geek of Edinburgh or something similar (and equally brilliant), and she discussed a few projects that retell poetry and classic stories in completely different ways. One took a poem that deals with an incident with an abortion and turns it into an interactive game – as the player (a kid dared to walk through the spooky, deserted hospital where this occurred) crosses certain points, quotes are read out that tell the story. It’s quite freaky by the time you reach the third level, but a really interesting idea.
In passing there was talk of recreating Romeo and Juliet via Twitter in real time, lasting a week, which led nicely into Alan Trotter’s talk about some of his interactive work. One of which documents the story of Detainee063 in Guantanamo, whose records of interrogation were released. Rather than simply produce them verbatim, he’s given them a chronology to show the monotonous and relentless nature of their torture, to highlight how it can actually be rather than the glamourised, 24-esque torture scenes to move the plot along.
Then comes his own website. Though he describes it as rather self-indulgent to talk about a website about himself, it’s the most fun thing to take away from the evening (before writing this I clicked for a good few minutes). His site is plain with three simple lines. Some words are underlined. You click them and they unravel a few more words or a sentence. It goes on and on, and a story unravels along the way. Human nature seems to love clicking, so it’s an oddly therapeutic way to toy with the evolution of a narrative. If you would like to click away to your heart’s content, then look no further.
Sadly, I had to leave early. Though this is my first non-Twitter encounter of Electric Bookshop and what it does, I hope it’s not the last. Just the two people I caught were ridiculously interesting and innovative (like, seriously, the clicking is just so fun and I will finish that story somehow), so if that’s just a snapshot into what they do, then everyone should check out Electric Bookshop, on Twitter and Facebook too. Happy 4th birthday!