Publishing's Future Freshman Class
News of Boulder Digital Works, or BDW (bdw.colorado.edu), came by way of a project the program launched to reignite interest in author Terry Southern. Right now BDW is a 60-week certificate program in media and business design at the University of Colorado, Boulder, overseen by professor (and former advertising professional) David Slayden. At SXSWi, Slayden explained that BDW, which graduated its first class of 12 in December, is about "developing leadership teams for the creative industries." BDW's Web site terms the program—which Slayden said will soon be established as a graduate track—"an integrated projects-driven" learning experience. In other words, its goal is to train students to think about the multimedia world we live in, and how to apply that to companies working across the entertainment/popular arts spectrum, ranging from music to advertising, publishing to design.
So what is the Terry Southern project? Working with Southern's son Nile, who lives in Boulder, the BDW class is attempting to take someone who was once famous and make him famous again. Southern, who wrote a handful of novels (most of which are out-of-print) as well as iconic screenplays like Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider, died in 1995. With a Web site currently called reddirtcollective.com (named after one of Southern's best known novels, Red-Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes), the BDW students are launching a number of efforts, both online and off, to draw readers to Southern's work. (At SXSWi, for example, BDW organized flash mobs at a number of events that left behind cryptic information about the Web site.) Although BDW is looking to reignite interest in Southern, its focus is not on selling books. Grove published Southern, and Slayden said BDW has not been in close contact with Grove, since the goal is not on bringing Southern back into print, just back into the consciousness.
Whatever the future may be for interactive storytelling, you can bet that AVadventure, a performance group in both Williamsburg, Va., and Washington, D.C., will likely be a part of it. Eccentric and highly interactive, AVadventure (theAVadventure.com) produces complex, interactive group events that can engage a handful of people in a single room or hundreds on the Mall in Washington, D.C. (which they did with their comic epic, Declaration of Codependence, held this past February). The group creates narrative, musically driven events combining meticulous scripting and wacky improvised performances. Powered by mobile devices—participants have already downloaded an audio or video file to their iPod that directs their participation, cued to start at a precise time—an AVadventure combines comic, experimental, or history-based narratives, crazy props and costumes, actors, and unsuspecting passers-by, as well as a live Web community (using Twitter and texting) that can cue and skew the action in unpredictable and entertaining ways.
Founded in 2007 by Adam Stackhouse and Kelly Quinn, AVadventure began as a hybrid mix of performance art and flash mob; it's now grown into creatively rowdy multimedia group events for kids, adults, or both. Stackhouse said that AVadventure has grown into a flexible "product"—the group commissions original music, everyone is paid, and they have clients—that offers "entertainment, education, or promotional" events tailored for a corporate retreat, a college campus, or a wedding reception. "Working with a publisher would be a dream come true," said Quinn during the q&a at the SXSWi session. "We'd love to work with authors to adapt their works." Publishers, take note.
Beam Me Up: Teleportal ReadingsTake You Away
"A reading shouldn't be an afterthought held in front of five people," said Jess Sauer, cofounder of Teleportal Readings (Teleportalreadings.org), who launched the Austin nonprofit with cofounder Morgan Coy in 2009. TR combines video, animation, and live performances to turn literary readings into eye-popping and fun multimedia events that pack the house. "We use technology to make readings as cool as possible," she said. The original plan was to shoot video of authors—from Austin and elsewhere—reading against a green screen and essentially, "teleport them," Sauer said, to virtual locales far away from Texas. But during one reading, the animator went off-script and created a dynamic animated background; the crowds loved it, and TR began commissioning animators to do ever more inventive backgrounds. TR videos present new and notable writers—among them Dan Chaon and Eileen Myles—reading against video backgrounds that explode in vivid color, strange locales, and scenes or comic typographic flurries, in sync with the author's voice. Irresistibly visual and perfect for promoting a book, author, or publisher, the TR video program is funded by co-sponsors and out of the founders' pockets. TR is a barebones operation ("we're looking for funding," said Sauer), with a growing reputation; it has partnered with Wave Books, McSweeney's, Melville House, Ratapallax, and Electric Literature to produce 10 videos (and 12 more are being animated). They're currently shooting Venezuelan writers in preparation for the first multilingual TR event. "We've mostly worked with indie presses, but we're open to large publishers," said Sauer.
I Can See Your Facebook Profile from Here
In the future, you'll put on stylish glasses, walk into a bar, and if anyone there is on your Facebook friend list, you will see their most recent tweets and status (dating; or married?) suspended above their heads. It's called augmented reality—"a virtual layer of data placed over physical reality," said the SXSWi presenters—and the aforementioned scenario is more grounded in fact than you might think. AR is already used through smartphone apps that allow you to peer through the camera phone and see real estate listings, restaurant reviews, and pricing suspended over locations.
In a SXSWi presentation called "Augmented Reality for Marketers," presenters Lynne d Johnson and John Havens asked: "Is AR really ready for mass adoption?" and surveyed its development, from "gimmicky" webcam holograms to apps like Yelp Monacle and Ebay Classifieds, which layer handy information and advertising over your camera phone's view of the world. AR is projected to be a $1.5 billion market by 2015, and apps like Google Goggles (take a picture of anything and Google search will instantly identify it) and Word Lens (aim your camera phone at foreign language text and it's translated) will be the reason why. The presenters said they also expect legal battles when virtual ads are plastered over real world advertising. And thanks to the rapid development of facial recognition and eye tracking technology, both a hot dating scene and ominously efficient policing can be expected, with AR goggles that scan crowds for "potential" lawbreakers. What does all this have to do with publishing? It seems publishers better be working right now to find out.