Sunday, 28 November 2010

jQuery and Digital Fiction

Changed, a digital fiction project for desktop and iPad

Dreaming Methods is concerned as much with the visual appearance and manipulation of its digital words as their actual meaning. For us, being able to apply graphical styles and time-related effects to the very writing we produce is of extreme importance, which is why we've started building up an interesting toolkit that explores what it's possible to do with jQuery  - an open source javascript framework - when it comes to creating digital fiction.

We've been using jQuery in commercial web design projects for a long time now, but it's only recently with our experimental move towards developing a 'web app' for the iPad that it's come into our minds as one potential solution to creating electronic literature.

Basic jQuery and HTML/CSS isn't rocket science. Although it requires learning some syntax and 'going under the hood' rather than clicking a few buttons in a visual editor, it's a long way from deliving into hardcore programming and you can see quick, rewarding results with very little effort.

Example scripts and tutorials are everywhere on the web. There are 'extensions' galore available - most of them free to download - and, in contrast to working in Flash, there is no compile/publish procedure required to generate an end result. jQuery is free; no 3rd party plugins are needed; it's generally cross-browser friendly; and it even works, with some processing speed limitations, on the iPad.

So far, through pure experimentation and using a combination of relatively simple jQuery and HTML/CSS, we've managed to achieve the following:

- blurring of text, either static or over time
- glowing text effects, static or over time
- narratives that trigger others to appear or disappear 
- click (or touch) areas to show/hide narrative segments 
- slow fading of narrative segments over time 
- transformation of sentences (adding or removing words) on click/touch
- draggable graphic or text objects

- rotatable graphic or text objects (via jQuery Touch; iPad only)
- plugin-free video and audio playback 

Whilst the above may seem like a relatively simple technical checklist (almost all of it is incredibly easy to do in Flash), it is in fact an indicator that the Dreaming Methods 'canvas' onto which we can write purely digitally - outside of Flash - is being slowly primed.

Once we have built up our skills and resources enough produce work in an environment that takes our existing techniques and principles further (rather than forcing them backwards), we will undoubtedly start to assemble new stories in this manner.

Should any digital writers be interested in mixing their own work with the same kind of approach/technology, we would be happy to share our findings and, who knows, maybe even strike up a collaboration.

It would be good to create forum/hub for digital fiction writers - particularly those interested in breaking away from their central reliance on Flash into open source technologies - where discoveries such as these can be posted and scripts and tutorials sought and freely downloaded.

Please do contact us if you think this is a good idea. If we had enough interest, Dreaming Methods would be more than willing to open up some kind of 'digital fiction writers resource' for all to share.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Digital Fiction on the iPad

We're currently working on a new digital fiction project outside of Flash which targets the iPad as well as regular web browsers - using open source web technologies.

'Changed' based on a script by Lynda Williams features a heavy mix of audio, text and video woven into a Web App via HTML5 and CSS3, bypassing Apple's App submissions policy and Flash CS5's App export option. It will be possible to 'bookmark' the work and add it to the iPad's home screen where it can be launched - like a native App - at maximum resolution.

Whilst the creative restrictions of HTML5 and the iPad have been apparent - both showing an incredible desire to divide rather than mix multiple forms of media - we have bypassed almost every barrier to create an atmospheric work that follows the thoughts, experiences and memories of a girl who has been recently attacked and is hiding and reflecting beneath a roadway tunnel.

As previously mentioned, the piece will not be exclusively iPad-only. Standard cross-browser desktop versions are also under development which will utilise enhanced javascript code and take advantage of high rather than low powered processors.