Saturday, 24 February 2007


I caught up with an old friend, Nigel, last weekend. Nigel is a genius of sorts. I'm not saying that flippantly; he learned computer programming in the 1980s at age of seven, back when almost no one had computers at home. I went to high school with him, and had enormous affection for him, in part because of his blinding brilliance in math, sciences and computing, and in part because he, myself and a sweet girl named Adelheid were the shortest kids in high school for the our first four years there. For most of those cold Bowral days, Nigel wore a six foot long striped scarf like Doctor Who, and carried around Sci-Fi novels, which he read voraciously.

I caught up with him last weekend for Yum Cha, and to talk about our respective projects. I'll stick to the conversation relevant to my project. And that relevance is? Well, he's into gaming technology and programing these days, and we had an opportunity to talk about the generational phase, and what my hopes were for the 'omnimedia' part of the production. I explained to him that a physical book, even taking the form of an old-fashioned Boys Own or Girls Own Annual was part of the plan, but I was thinking about ways to update the medium, make it relevant, and excite the end user.

He agreed that too much of kid's entertainment these days is passive, and that even games give an illusory sense of choice and self-determination which while sharpening the reflexes and the thumb muscles (very important in life) really don't enhance a child's inner life, creativity or imagination. We had a great conversation, as it is always possible to when you are talking with someone who ammicably agrees with all of your principals, but comes at the problems from a completely different angle. It was a very left-brain, right-brain conversation, he the mathematician, me the humanist.

We talked at length about my desire to make the book an option, because of the lack of tactile things of this kind available - things which could really fire up the imagination. I have a vision of the book being something which is packaged almost as a kit, within a bag, containing elements of all sizes which can be folded out, poster-like plans, stencils, stickers, and other elements tying into the project. Physically interactive from the very first instance, because of the need to extract all the elements out of the bag, and to make sense of them. To engender exploration. Whatever can be produced in the most creative way imaginable, yet still be published to a high standard without being prohibitively expensive.

He said to me, "Are you going to use web accesibility in your book?".
"There will be a website, supporting the book, or interacting with the book by providing further projects, templates, maps, plans... is that what you mean?"
"No, no', he continued, 'have you thought of making the book remotely connectable to the internet"
"The what now??"
"Haven't you heard about the new circuitry paper and cardboard innovations? They're amazing, but really only in the earliest stages, and probably expensive at this stage, but won't be by the time you go into production"



"What?! Really?!... what part do you plug in - is it like I would provide a sort of USB port with each bok?"
"Nah.. it'd be remote, you know? It would communicate with your web page. The circuits are compressed into, say, the cardboard back of your book. It looks like an ordinary book."
"I can add a bit of magic, or for more of an educational stance, empowering girls with technology in a new way by not making the process mysterious, but fully disclosed in some way. So I could make each consumable unique, and be acknowleged as unique by my web portal?"
"...and I could thereby limit the progress through the book, by limiting the content through time, to make the Annual truly annual?"
"No problem."
"...could book owners interact with other book owners? Could it require problem solving to progress? Could it form a project, in itself?"
"Yep. The web can also inform changes to the book... you could have electronic paper within the book, capable of modifying it's own text. You could also introduce sensory elements, such as warmth, movement, scent..."

Oh my god. I think I actually felt the need to fetch a cool drink and lie down, I was so excited. God bless the techies of the world. Nedless to say, I can see endless possibilities for this medium crossover in my project, but I will elaborate on them once I have given them more thought. I will stay abreast of the progress on this technology. Michael, can you see the potential for animation to be integrated INTO THE BOOK? Just imagine, the inside back cover say, acts as a portal, and an animated character appears there at intervals dictated by the technological possibility, to further the story, or prompt certain actions on a project? It would be so unique and amazing.

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