Jon Dovey

7 Types of Digital Ambiguity

I want to pick up on a discussion I started in February of this year that explored my attachment to the idea of ambiguity in the context of ambient literature. It’s clear that the category of the ambient has lack of definition, a certain fuzziness as a key quality: flat fields where figure and ground merge and distinctions are dissolved. I want to make a move here from this lack of definition – understood as either aesthetic advantage or critical problem – from fuzziness to ambiguity, where ambiguity is understood as an aesthetic tactic in interaction: a central quality of the appeal of what we propose as the new field of ambient literature experiences. The ambient is here is far from a retreat from discursive production, it’s a deliberate creative strategy of ambiguity drawing readers/ listeners users into an interaction and awareness of the systems that they inhabit and co constitute…

Are We Not Locative?

I recently fell on the new Narrating Space/Spatializing Narrative (Ryan, Foote, & Azaryahu, 2016) as a key book for our project. And indeed it does have lots of really useful frameworks when it comes to reviewing space and place in narrative. The chapters on street names, maps, and landscape help us make our case for the significance of situation, context, and place as already powerful but critically overlooked determinants of narrative pleasures. But this is not a book report — more a specific response to one section. The chapter on “Space Narrative and Digital Media” pushed me into considering again why our term ambient literature is appropriate for the practices that are the object of our research. The authors deal principally with locative media and alternate reality, and in so doing construct them as the identifiable genres where narrative intersects digital. So why are we not a locative media research…

Baking in the Knowledge Exchange

One of the ideas behind this research project has been to have a dialogue with mainstream cultural industries about practices that until now have existed in heritage or experimental media art spaces. As researchers and artists we’re pretty good at getting on with making extraordinary things and, occasionally, having brilliant ideas, but we’re traditionally not so good at giving them wings in the world beyond the academy. Long experience of what used to be called “knowledge exchange” teaches me that for it to be effectively achieved you need to bake in partnership from the start of a project. You don’t wait to find some results before you take them out to road test, its much better to co-design them along the way with the people who might have a use for them. On this project part of our research problem is how to scale work that already constitutes a field,…

Ambient Tensions

As part of our second research seminar on September 22 (which, by the way, was an excellent conversation between the whole team and their deliciously complementary approaches), I wanted to surface some tensions in the concept of ambience that I hope we can work through in our research programme. We might begin from the everyday use of the idea of ambience, as something like atmosphere, a quality of place that is sensed and felt as a background quality. That is not to assume that an ambience is passive; a cathedral, a dancehall, or a shopping mall will all have distinct ambiences that will produce different repertoires of embodied behaviours. Most commentators also point out that the term derives from ‘ambire,’ the Latin for to ‘go around.’ So an Ambient Literature might be a literature that ‘wraps around us’ like an ambience. A literature that has a background quality. But how…

Ambient Book History

Below is Jon Dovey’s response to the first ambient literature research team meeting. Tom Abba and Amy Spencer also provide reflections on the meeting. * * * At a meeting at the Pervasive Media Studio yesterday, Ian Gadd gave us his first overview of how his particular field of research touches on the Ambient Literature project. Part of Ian’s research profile is into the history of the book – he introduced Leslie Howsam’s (1) idea that a book is how people give material form to knowledge and history. He offered Howsam’s excellent framework as a way that we might be able to test our ideas about how Ambient Literatures are constituted. Taking Howsam’s aspects of the book, Ian ran through several great historical examples that made this connection explicit: To start, books can be understood as a text, which may have specific relationships to place, such as John Stow’s 1598…

Navigate