Saturday, 12 November 2011

New Wave

2012 will see a new wave of Dreaming Methods projects that use the developing technologies of HTML5 and WebGL to create cross-browser (and increasingly cross-device) experiences that do not require plug-ins.

Our current projects include creative video trailers and educational resources for the ground-breaking transmedia work Inanimate Alice; an experimental fiction piece called 'R' (pictured above) which incorporates a sprawling 3D labyrinth with text, audio and photography, as well as beautiful digitally-generated imagery from Jim Andrews' Aleph Null; and a nail-biting cross-platform digital fiction thriller - code-named Duel - which will be the first collaboration between Dreaming Methods' Andy Campbell and novelist/digital fiction pioneer Kate Pullinger. 

To keep up with what we're doing, follow us on Twitter, or check out exclusive previews/screen shots of new work on our Facebook page.

Andy Campbell will be at the Narrative Futures event at FACT, Liverpool on 17th November presenting/talking about Inanimate Alice as well as at the Award Ceremony for the New Media Writing Prize 2011 at Bournemouth University on November 23rd. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Ebb & Flow


We’ve just finished working with Kate Pullinger on a new website called Ebb and Flow, a showcase of work that is the result of a collaboration between five Ipswich secondary schools, five digital writers, USC, and artsroute, an arts-in-schools project based in Ipswich.

Teachers, students and writers (Kate Pullinger, Tim Wright, Chris Meade and JR Carpenter) all worked together to create a large body of fantastically colourful and ambitious ‘new media stories’ which Dreaming Methods’ Andy Campbell then took away and wove into an interactive website.

The site was built using a mix of HTML, Javascript, Flash, jQuery and Google Maps. There are stories and poems embedded inside rubber ducks floating down the River Orwell; an interactive hand-drawn map littered with visual poems and dark fairy tales; a mouse-responsive 'Gazette' newspaper containing embedded video news reports and animations; and much more. This is a great project that we've thoroughly enjoyed working on.

Check out the kids' creativity on your desktop computer - or sample it on your smart phone - by visiting http://www.ebbflow.co.uk

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Digital Fiction Desert


A friend of mine recently described the e-literature/digital fiction scene as a ‘small and marginal field with active people spread across continents.’ This was in response to a rather miserable message I sent to her about feeling – sometimes – like I was ‘working in a bit of a desert’. 

The e-lit scene of course isn’t a desert at all, as a quick glance at this impressive list of authors demonstrates http://elmcip.net/author. There is a lot going on (albeit slowly) and I enjoy regular communication via email and Twitter with a number of brilliant people in the field. My comment was more aimed at the lack of a sense of a central community; of sharing ideas, source code, work in progress and development techniques; of why there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go to experience that on a wider scale.

Having recently switched from producing digital fiction in Flash to developing it using open source technologies like jQuery and HTML5 – a move largely triggered by Apple’s banning of Flash from the iPad and iPhone platforms  – I can see why words like small, marginal and desert might sometimes ring true to others working in this field: creating digital fiction in Flash used to be hard enough in itself, but now the visual tools that at least held some sort of hope seem to have disappeared – as has the consistency of knowing that one file, thanks to the magic of Flash, will look pretty much the same across all Flash-enabled browsers and devices. Now it’s down to hand-coding; back to the unpleasant fundamentals.

Although I haven’t been put off by this adjustment, it does make me feel very sad that the majority of writers without a strong background/intense interest in technology wouldn’t even entertain trying to create work in this way; you’d have to be pretty obsessed (like I am unfortunately) to even begin to tackle the technical barriers. And that’s a great shame, because creating this sort of digital fiction can actually be very exciting.

Thanks to the fantastic efforts of Peggy Riley at East Kent Live Literature, I had the rare chance to run a ‘digital fiction workshop’ for interested writers this month. Spanning two days, the workshop included a brief introduction to the concept of electronic literature before moving on to accumulating resources, finding free (and not so free) software and even attempting to hand code a simple open source page of digital writing. The final few hours were not for the faint of heart: having downloaded my new Digital Fiction Boilerplate (a resource aimed at simplifying things for writers with a bit of scripting knowledge), the group then opened HTML and Javascript files in bare-bones text editors and modified the syntax to achieve minimal but gratifying results. I remember thinking how fantastic it was that these writers were getting their hands dirty and having a crack at this – but also thinking why the hell does it have to be so complex?

Of course, there are many visual tools available for designing web pages. You can also freely build stories online using blogs, content management systems, social networking and online media creation tools – all without touching a line of code. But what about realising imaginative ideas that don’t fit into any of these pigeon-hole software packages or highly branded services? What about trying to create truly hybrid forms of fiction that place the written word onto a new kind of canvas compatible with any sort of popular device or platform? There doesn’t seem to be much out there for that.

For Lyle Skains, a PhD researcher exploring multimodal creativity through print and digital stories and a participant on the workshop with strong technical knowledge, the session was “the first time I've gotten to actually sit down with anyone else who writes this stuff”. On her blog entry Thoughts on @dreamingmethods’ Digital Fiction Workshop’ she continues “I don't know why everyone doesn't do this. This kind of work isn’t going away. These workshops need to happen WAY more often.” 

It would be great if they could. Once the tough curtains of web technology have been poked open a little, it’s not hard to get writers excited by this new form of literary expression. It’s a shame though that there’s no globally compatible drag-and-drop tool for creating imaginative digital fiction, one that would cut out the dreadfully off-putting need to know the HTML code for embedding video or the commands required to make text move, transform, or appear and disappear. This, along with a central community and resource, might form a valuable oasis as it were, where writers relatively new to the practice could freely experiment, see instant results, get a leg up over the technical barriers and truly start to make some digital fiction inroads.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Hypnagogic Trenches

"Dreaming Methods is a creepy excursion into the hypnagogic trenches: part waking, part wonder, part abyss. It is also an exercise in sustained stylistic grace and a profound engagement with digital literature. Over a decades`work, Andy Campbell has succeeded in developing a signature that combines sophisticated coding, narrative torque and aesthetic fastidiousness... The work aims not to sell or to shock but to shelter in homage, lost memories, latent dreams, bits and bandwidth, esoteric audio-visuals and intricate code. Swaying between being lost and feeling loss, it iterates (and exits) loops both computationally and emotionally."

Reflections on Dreaming Methods by multimedia poet David Jhave Johnston -
http://glia.ca/conu/digitalPoetics/prehistoric-blog/2011/02/13/2000-dreaming-methods/

Dreaming Methods Labs now open

Nightingale's Playground available in HD resolution
Dreaming Methods Labs is an experimental site which showcases new in-progress works of digital fiction from Dreaming Methods. As well as offering intriguing glimpses of our latest work (currently including Changed and a special edition of Nightingale's Playground at high definition resolution) the site also features free source code (both Flash and open standards), links to a wide range of resources across the web, plus number of bizarre 'lost' projects that never quite made the final grade.

http://labs.dreamingmethods.com

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Dreaming Methods Reloaded

Screenshot from the new look website
We've just uploaded a new front end for Dreaming Methods that better reflects the type of fiction/media projects we've been developing for the last ten years.

The re-design sees a return to our customary darker colours and offers links to all our main work up-front as well as showcasing our latest adventures in a wide banner area. A short trailer featuring speedy screen captures is also accessible from the homepage.

We're now offering a more honed-down selection of resources including self-executable versions of some of our projects (Windows only so far), the original scripts from The Virtual Disappearance of Miriam and a 10mb ZIP file containing our entire Amiga archive for use with an emulator.

Within the next week or so we'll be launching Dreaming Methods Labs where our latest experiments can be freely downloaded and explored.

www.dreamingmethods.com