Category Archives: web literature

Mobile and Location-based Narratives


Mobile Narrative and Location-based Narrative

As prevalence of mobile and tablet devices, text and narrative have been embedded into urban cities via location technologies.  In the early stage,  from the end of 1990s to the early 2000s, mobile narrative represented potable narrative using mobile devices such as portable audio devices.  Most of these mobile narrative were prepared by creators, and they didn’t allow users to interact with the stories even though they could choose the fragment of the stories.

After the invention of smart phone, location-based narrative using GPS (Global Positioning System)  technology appeared.  The new generation narrative become more interactive because location awareness application allows people to attach their contents to particular locations as well as read information attached a place.

Audio Talks : “The Missing Voice” (1999)

Janet Cardiff, who is well known for her audio talks, strayed around London city with her voice recorder in 1999.  She recorded her voice at several locations.  According to Cardiff, the story was influenced by detective series and mystery novels.  The mobile narrative prompts users to trace her trajectory and mysterious story with a CD player.  The work is linear narrative, which requests users to follow creator’s navigation.

Janet Cardiff “The Missing Voice” :

Also, there are hybrid of audio talks and GPS technology.  They are called mixed reality performance.

  • Blast Theory and The Mixed Reality Lab”Uncle Roy All Around You” (2003)
  • Blast Theory and The Mixed Reality Lab”Can You See Me Now?” (2003)

 “Murmur” (2003)

Shawn Michallef, James Roussel and Gabe Sawhney created a mobile storytelling performance “Murmur, collection of secret histories of the cityscape via their cellular phone.  In Toronto, there were [murmur] signs at several spaces such as a restaurant and cross-point.  Furthermore, the project expanded to other cities including Sao Paulo (Brazil), Geelong (Australia) and Dublin (Ireland).  The project is similar to audio talks in terms of prepared stories, but there is a difference that other people such as local people and participants created stories for the project.  In other words, the project is more open to public than previous audio talks.

Shawn Michallef:

“Yellow arrow” (2004-2006)

“Yellow arrow” is similar project to “murmur” created by the members of Counts Media; Michael Counts, Christopher Allen, Brian House, and Jesse Shapins.  Participants got a yellow arrow sticker which was marked by unique code from the project’s website, and placed it wherever they want to tell a story about the place.  Then, they sent a text message with the single code.  Each sticker and message were linked each other using the single code.  Other participants could get a story if they sent the unique code via their cellar phone.

Yellow Arrow project photos(Frickr) :

“CitySpeak” (2006)

Jason Lewis and Obx Labs at the Concordia University created a “Cityspeak”, which is a public installation using mobile devices and a big screen in a city.  The project focus on converting private communication to public displays at a particular location. Participants use their mobile phones to send their message to the common server.  The messages people sent via their mobile phone appeared on a public screen with other messages as a text stream. The text is processed using the NextText text visualization software. NextText references real-time data from the location to output visual behaviors of the text. :

Also, “TXTual Heading” by Paul Notzold is similar interactive textual installation using a screen and mobile phone.

TXTual Heading:

“Urban Tapestries” (2002-2007)

“Urban Tapestries” is “Public Authoring in the Wireless City” project using location technologies developed by Proboscis, which is an independent artist-led creative studio.  The Urban Tapestries software platform enabled people to attach text, sound and video to locations using GPS technology.  There were two functions to weave tapestries, pockets and threads.  Pockets were stories connecting to specific locations.  Threads showed the thematic relationship between pockets and locations.

Urban Tapestries website :
Urban Tapestries Research :

“Rider Spoke” (2007)

“Rider Spoke” by Blast Theory and The Mixed Reality Lab is similar to “Urban Tapestries”.  People cycled through the streets of the city, equipped with a tablet device.  The tablet showed a map of the city and the locations people can access and upload information. During cycling, a narrator told stories about the city via a headphone.  The project allowed people to explore the city freely.  There were no fixed route like early audio talks.

Rider Spoke :

“7Scenes” (2009-)

“7scenes” is a mobile storytelling platform that provides tools to develop scenes.  People can drop and drug their information easily on particular locations with signs.  The platform provides the interface to create scenes without programming knowledge.  The apps optimize GPS technology and smart phone’s functions.


“CSVNGR” (2009-)

“CSVNGR” is a game using location-based information.  Users go places, find quiz and game, and earn points.  As with 7Scenes, it uses GPS technology and provide mobile apps.



Silva, A.S. 2013. Mobile Narratives : Reading and Writing Urban Space with Location-Based Technologies.  In : Hayles, N. K. and Pressman,J. (ed.) . 2013. Comparative Textual Media Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. Minnesota : University of Minnesota Press.

Raley, R. 2013. TXTual Practice.  In : Hayles, N. K. and Pressman,J. (ed.) . 2013. Comparative Textual Media Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. Minnesota : University of Minnesota Press.


exquisite_code : Python Code and Collective Novel

exquisite_code project

“exquisite_code” is a collaborative writing and coding project by heterogeneous groups of writers.  In each micro session, writers generated prompts and response, and code selected and mangled these text.  Writers continued the micro session again and again during their work, and chunks were piled up to generate “life-novel”.

The project was inspired by conversation between a writer and a programmer.

The writer, after a powerful joint, asked the programmer what it felt like to program. The programmer began to describe the process in language suited to the writer’s experience of writing and the writer began to understand that programming was like writing in many ways and that perhaps the intersection between the two was more creatively aligned than previously assumed.

exquisite_code History :

The project was experimented during 2009 and 2010.

Collective novel session in London

In 2010, seven international writers got together and worked eight hours a day for five days in London.  They created text-prompt, text chunks and edit-software written in Python.  A line printer spit out a stream of the live-novel.  At the end of each session, edit-software selected one line randomly, and the writers wrote next text chunks in six minutes.  Selected chunks were saved to the ‘positive text dump’ , while the rest of them were sent to a ‘waste dump’.  All materials were on public display during whole sessions  via projectors, monitors and output coming from the printer.


Marino, M. C. 2013. Reading exquisite_code: Critical Code Studies of Literature. In : Hayles, N. K. and Pressman,J. (ed.) . 2013. Comparative Textual Media Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. Minnesota : University of Minnesota Press.

Literary High Street

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Literary High Street

Literary High Street is a project led by John Lee, who is a professor of the University of Edinburgh.  The work is a part of work for Literary Edinburgh project by English literature department and Edinburgh College of Art.  This project developed a prototype of mobile app featuring Edinburgh’s High Street and local literature.


Literary Edinburgh Project

Electronic Literature

Ambient Audio:

Traditional walking tour:

Ian Hamilton Finlay:

A Literary Psychogeography of Tokyo & Amsterdam:

Historic maps:


Kafka’s Wound


Kafka’s Wound is a digital literary work produced a novelist and essayist Will Self and The London Review of Books. The website is comprised of more than one-hundred contents including essays, videos, audio, gallery and interactive contents. Will wrote the main essay about Franz Kafka’s story ‘A Country Doctor’, and more than seventy authors researched and published other essays.

Non-linear essay

The author said that “there is no prescribed ‘right’ path” in the essay.  The essay let users read whatever they are interested in like non-linear narrative contents.  Although there is the main essay, there are also various kinds of supplement content and notes such as videos, games and audios woven though it.

‘Kafka’s Wound’, a digital literary essay, has been designed to allow both the text of the essay, and the wealth of additional digital content woven through it, to be discovered and explored by each reader individually; there is no prescribed ‘right’ path.

How to Use This Site:


About ‘Kafka’s Wound’

Using geolocation

Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh

Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin is a Scottish novelist and crime writer living in Edinburgh.  He is well known for Inspector Rebus series and BBC programs such as Rankin on the Staircase.   Also, BBC made  programs “Ian Rankin’s Hidden Edinburgh” and “Ian Rankin Investigates Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” in which Rankin walked around Edinburgh to explore his origin of inspiration.

Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh

ian1 ian2

“Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh” is a Edinburgh guide tour app for Ian’s novel fans.  The app provide a customized Google map of Edinburgh and various kinds of supplement contents related to Ian’s characters and novels.  Ian’s fans can talk a walk using the map and tour route, and check episodes and information whenever they click a pin on the map.  The app includes not only  specific contents about Ian’s novels but also basic Edinburgh’s tour information because most of Ian’s fan have not been Edinburgh.  To achieve the purpose, the app focuses on the quality of photos.

geographical information and literature

The app customized Google map and put pins and information on relevant places.  Some literature has strong relationship with existing places.  For instance, Royal Mile has lot of ghost and scary historical stories, and many guide tours are held.


Ian Rankin’s official website

Rebus’s Tour

Ian Rankin’s Edinburgh

Mapping Literature : W.G. Sebald “The Ring of Saturn”

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LITMAP: Mapping Literature – Barbara L Hui

Litmap is a geological references of  literature using Google Map.  The website shows all places refereed in “The Ring of Saturn” by German novelist W.G. Sebald.

W.G. Sebald “The Ring of Saturn”

After World War II, Sebald moved to England and settled in Norwich until his death by a car accident in 2001.  In “The Ring of Saturn”, a character wanders both real places in Suffork and reminiscent places, related to literature and Sebald’s memory in the World War II.  In other words, the book is an noctambulous travel essay the author is straying around his memory and imaginary landscapes written in literature, he had never been before.

Litmap and “Patience : After Sebald”

The book has fascinated many people, and some of them created fan works.  Litmap is one of the fun works about “Ring of Saturn” by Barbara L Hui.  She checked all places refereed in the book, and added pins on Google Map.  In the book, it is almost impossible to follow his journey because he was straying not only Suffolk (he was there) but also around German, Africa, Poland and France at the same time.  She unveiled his mysterious footsteps by elaborate research.  We can see a episode of the book if we click a pin on the Litmap.

One of the most significant work is “Patience After Sebald”, which is a video directed by Grant Geed.  In the video, Litmap was introduced.

Patience (After Sebald) Full Movie

Non-linear Narrative and Mapping

As seen above, “The Ring of Saturn” is a kind of non-linear narrative.  There are lots of landscapes which seems not to be related to each other.  However, Sebald connect these landscapes within his memory.  He took a walk from Suffolk in 1990’s to Germany under the fire in 1940’s in a sentence.  Litmap sorted out the incoherent narrative order and shows them as a visual.

Word play

Fridge words

Fridge words is a classic game which build a meaningful sentence using word magnets.  For a long time, people play the game with word magnets.  Nowadays, there are fridge poetry website and apps.

Fridge Poetry:

Fridge Poems (iPhone apps) :

Random First Line Prompts


Random First Line Prompts is a website generating a meaningful sentence randomly.  The website was built to give imagination to short story writers.  The code must include several grammatical logic such as verb tense according to count (singular or plural) .

Arty Bollocks Generator: Instant artist statement

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Arty Bollocks Generator generates artist statement randomly as below.

Artist Statement

My work explores the relationship between Critical theory and emotional memories.

With influences as diverse as Camus and L Ron Hubbard, new synergies are synthesised from both constructed and discovered dialogues.

Ever since I was a postgraduate I have been fascinated by the essential unreality of meaning. What starts out as contemplation soon becomes corrupted into a carnival of greed, leaving only a sense of nihilism and the inevitability of a new beginning.

As spatial replicas become distorted through studious and repetitive practice, the viewer is left with an epitaph for the edges of our future.

The generator applies basic templates such as “My work explores the relationship between ***and ***”.  The code adds adjective and nouns to these blanks.

Postmodernism Generator

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Postmodernism Generator generates a thesis about post modern theme randomly.  The generator creates not only a title and sentences but also references links.  Although a generated article is completely meaningless, the word order and formula seem to follow academic writing rules.

Twist Our Words

Twist Our Words is made by Channel4 as online campaign.  Unfortunately, the website has already been deleted.

It is similar to fridge words, but output is video and voice instead of text.  After users create their own sentence using interface like fridge words, the sentences are read by famous celebrities.  Also, the website allowed users to save videos they made.  Each word are pronounced by a celebrity , and a output video combine different words spoken by different celebrities.