Hello, are you reading in your head?


Inthefifthcenturytherewerenogapsbetweenwordsbecausepeople(mainlyreligiouspeople)justreadaloudandlistenedtowhatwaswritten.Readinginyourheadwasweird. Then there were gaps between words. And then (if not before) there were

paragraph breaks.

At some point there was the invention of the printing press, a montage of significant historical events and finally the Internet. Now we read and write mainly on computers and this technology is changing everything. But even before the web, ways of reading and writing were constantly changing and we were finding them strange and new.

As a design researcher, I'm interested in new and strange ways of reading and writing.

My PhD was about writing games that help small groups tell stories together. What is most important in a writing game: the game - the writing bit - or the story it produces - the reading bit?

Other projects I've worked on recently have looked at other aspects of reading and writing. Is there a better way to find a story you want to read? And how can you remind people to use libraries (for all the free books)?

- David Jackson, Storyjacker


Storyjacker and researching story-writing games

PhD research

For my PhD thesis submission to the Manchester School of Art, I developed two multiplayer games on my story-writing platform Storyjacker designed to encourage players to write meaningful stories in small groups. I followed an iterative design process, using playtesting with Manchester Metropolitan University students to inform development decisions along the way.

At the end of the research, a board of creative writing experts assessed the quality of stories produced to provide insight into how games could be used to create meaningful stories in future.

Go to the original Storyjacker website

Read a summary of my PhD research findings

Play Bamboo story game on the original Storyjacker website (3 players required)

Related presentations, seminars and publications

Showrooming Amazon: Borrow It extension

Storyjacker lab project

Borrow It is an idea that came about when I was asked to present at a workshop at University of Sheffield in July 2015. I came across research on the future of libraries produced by Arts Council England. It found that the general public now has very high expectation of online services provided by libraries, set by online media vendors, such as Amazon, iTunes and Google.

Amazon and other online vendors produce apps that encourage showrooming: review a book in a bricks-and-mortar shop then buy or subscribe for a lower price online.

But what about reviewing online then borrowing for nothing from a library?

The Borrow It extension finds the book title when you’re on Amazon.co.uk book pages and turns it into a book search result on Manchester Metropolitan Uni library's website.

I've worked with the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) libraries to fine tune the project to offer books to MMU students.

Download the extension for Chrome

Borrow It is currently a prototype. The next step is to turn it into a piece of software that public library borrowers can use. Making it work on other book related sites is also a goal of the project.

No cover to judge: DipIn reader app

Project 2014-2016

The DipIn mobile app is a story comparison tool currently in development due for closed beta testing in winter 2016. It offers the reader two short text samples from the beginning of two different novels. The user reads both and chooses the one he likes best to learn more about that story. As the reader makes choices, the app learns about his taste to offer more appropriate story selections. If a reader likes a book he is reading, he can download samples or buy the book.

DipIn won an IC Tomorrow Books on the Move Contest for funding and partnership with the Publishers Association (The PA). Richard Mollet of The PA described the challenge as a way to find a new service ‘to capture the imagination of people who perhaps don’t read a great deal or perhaps don’t read at all and… be encouraged to read books.’

DipIn offers specific features targeted at changing the habits of casual readers and their attitudes to reading. Mainly by making it fun again with game-like features and making the process of starting to read a book easier with small samples.

Related presentations, seminars and publications

Creative writing multiplied by random

Experiment with random text generation

Piece about my random text generator for creative writers (V1 March 2017)

Randomly combining texts together is not a trick of the digital age. The Oulipo movement was sparked off by Raymond Queneau's One Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, originally a flipbook of ten sonnets cut so that each line could go with any other.

One of the many things that make the work interesting for writers and readers is the mixture of both intentional and unintentional semantics in the text. With over one hundred thousand billion poems to be made from Queneau's piece it is impossible to think that he meant for you to come upon a particular combination of lines, beyond the original ten sonnets. However through the poetics of the sonnet - line length, rhythm and rhyme - original compositions occur that seem as though they were specifically designed to be together:

'The gorgeous youth helps Hestia's heart unfreeze
and sniffs the smoke that sets his nose aglow
the Turk you see was deeply mired in sleaze
across the hillocks comes a steady blow ...'

A great affordance of the digital page is the ease with which text can be quickly manipulated and randomised. I've looked around for text generators when I want to mess around with text generation with students or for myself. And their are some good ones - like Orteil's - but none of them were simple enough for what I wanted.

So here's my random text generator for creative writers (V1 March 2017)