October 17, 2018
Ambient literature is changing up the reading experience
by Alyssa Monera
The digital age has brought with it a bunch of new ways to read a book, but ambient literature might be the first step toward an entirely new way to experience a book.
First launched in 2016, the Ambient Literature Project came out of a collaborative digital storytelling project across the universities of Bath Spa, Birmingham, and the West of England. What is ambient lit, you ask? As reported in Metro, it’s a style of literature that is “read on a mobile electronic device which uses data about location, weather, time… to personalise the reading experience.” Essentially, these stories use data from your specific location and adjust accordingly and take the reading experience to another level. For example, if it’s raining in real life, it’ll rain in the story, and if you’re out in the city then the story will take place there as well. These tailored details put the reader at the very heart of the story – sometimes quite literally
For example, in It Must Have Been Dark by Then by Duncan Speakman, mixes in narration, music, with field recordings from Louisana, Latvia, the Tunisian Sahara. Or, the ghostly tale Breathe by Kate Pullinger, features spirits who will “haunt” the reader just like they do to Flo, the story’s narrator. Other narratives utilize geo-located applications to develop a story, as James Attlee did in his work, The Cartographer’s Confession. The story is set in London and the arc unfolds as readers travel to various locations set in city. As the plot develops, video, vintage photographs, 3D soundscapes, illustrations, and music weave throughout the story.
For those who crave fiction that will transport them to new landscapes, this emerging genre of literature might feel a bit pointless. For some, this project marks a step towards a fully immersive reading experience while exploring the relationship between technology and storytelling.
Alyssa Monera is an intern at Melville House.