Amy Spencer

Authoring the Uncontrollable

As works of ambient literature respond to the presence of a reader to deliver story, a sense of unpredictability is inherent in this new literary form. Neither the world, nor people, always behave in predictable ways and this is a feature of this type of situated literature. In a work of ambient literature, the reader must be present in a physical location and if, for example, they are prompted to explore a city street then this location becomes an integral part of the narrative. However, this is a part of the narrative that the writer cannot fully control. It is part of their authorial territory but, as they might not know exactly what the reader sees in front of them, uncontrollable elements may become unexpected features of the story. I recently experienced Experiment II, a piece of ambient literature developed by Tom Abba for the Festival of Ideas in Bristol.…

Locating the Literary

Examining ambient literature as an emerging literary form led me to “Screening the Literary: Writing Quality on the Web,” a workshop held at Lancaster University in October. Run by the Authors and the World Research Hub, an AHRC-funded collaboration researching the position of the author as both cultural artefact and producer of literary texts. This one-day workshop brought together researchers working in several fields, from French studies and contemporary arts to computing. There was an emphasis on examining the book as a cultural form and the shifting position of the author in digital spaces. Erika Fülöp, workshop convenor, recognises that although the potential death of the printed book has been debated since the 1990s there are still questions to be asked about applying the term “literary” to digital texts, particularly considering they can take various forms, and include multiple elements, such as audio, images, and video. The workshop asked, “How…

Exploring the Field

Following on Jon Dovey and Tom Abba’s reports from last week’s ambient literature research meeting, Amy Spencer gives an account of where ambient literature can be situated within a field of other works and research. * * * Knowing where you are not can help you find out what you are. For the past few weeks, I have been exploring the field of ambient literature. I have followed ideas through the writing of countless writers and researchers, trying to see what lies around us as we build our understanding of this new literary field. To guide me, I have been imagining ambient literature as being at the centre of a map. Around us are fields such as locative storytelling, psychogeography, games, spatial theory, site specific art, performance and the history of the book. I am trying to find the points at which these overlap, where the ideas and practices blur…

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