The DRIVE project (Digital Reading for Inclusivity, Versatility and Engagement) was funded by the UKRI under its Digital Innovation for Development in Africa (DIDA) strand. Full details of the project can be found here. The second phase of this funding has been withdrawn following the UK Government’s revision of its ODA budget.
The project was led by BU Professor Bronwen Thomas, and Jess Ruddock (a PGR from FMC) was appointed as a Research Assistant from January onwards.
The project had to be substantially revised due to the COVID crisis. This meant all project meetings had to be held online but perhaps the biggest impact was on the digital storytelling part of the project. Initially, the plan was for DigiTales, a participatory media company based in the UK and Portugal to deliver a workshop in Nairobi, with 10-12 participants. Instead, we redesigned this part of the project, providing training for three Kenyan based facilitators to deliver the workshops in three different regions of Kenya – Nairobi, Chavakali (close to the Ugandan border) and Loita (home to Maasai tribespeople). Jess Ruddock also took part in the training. Following this we held three workshops in the different locations, producing 13 stories in total. The stories can be viewed on the project website. They represent a wide range of experiences, from Alan’s account of the stigma he suffered as a child in literature classrooms because of his visual impairment, to Faith’s account of the impact that the book Blossoms of the Savannah had on her as a young Maasai girl facing the prospect of female circumcision. In addition to learning how to create and produce digital stories, the participants were also given training on accessibility tools for the iPads that they received
Nalotwesha and Faith on a zoom call in Loita
Blog posts from one of the Nairobi participants, Alan Hebert, and from the Chavakali facilitator can also be found on the website, along with Jess Ruddock’s account of the training.
The Chavakali team
In addition to the digital stories, the project team produced a Toolkit for remote delivery of digital storytelling, co-authored by Kelvin Gwuma, Joseph Odhiambo and Scola Leuka, the three newly-trained facilitators. The Toolkit is available to view or download from the project website here along with video case studies produced by the facilitators. The website also features a preliminary project evaluation reflecting on the main findings and impact of the project so far, and how we managed to meet our objectives despite all the obstacles we faced.
Professor Bronwen Thomas, head of the Narrative, Culture and Community Research Centre was a keynote speaker at a Digital Humanities conference hosted by the Basel/Zurich cluster of the Swiss National Science Foundation Digital Lives project from 23-25 November. Bronwen’s paper was on lockdown reading, and explored the various ways in which readers used lockdown to take stock of their reading alongside many other aspects of their lives, and included discussion of online reading events, bookstagramming and digital author Michael Joyce’s bedtime reading.
The conference, which took place online, featured papers on contemporary digital reading, writing and evaluative practices and methodologies including computational approaches, distant reading, video ethnography and corpus linguistics. The conference made use of Slack, a messaging app for group discussion, and participants were also able to take part in a virtual tour of Basel.
The conference was originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, and so had to be redesigned for the online format. While nothing can compensate for the chats over coffees and dinner at conferences, the organisers did a really good job of creating a convivial atmosphere, as well as ensuring that the programme provided a fascinating insight into the latest cutting edge research at the intersection of linguistics and the digital humanities.
Funded by the EPSRC under the Digital Innovation for Development in Africa GCRF scheme, Digital Reading for Inclusivity, Versatility and Engagement (DRIVE) is one of 24 networks looking to maximise digital technologies to address development challenges including health, energy and accessibility to online resources. Due to COVID, we have had to rethink some of our intended activities and we have faced a number of delays, but the project is now underway. Key partners include the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Chuka University and Worldreader, an NGO working across 46 countries to increase access to reading materials.
This is the fourth UKRI funded project on digital reading led by Professor Bronwen Thomas from the Faculty of Media and Communication. In addition to addressing many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the project also aligns with BU’s SIAs through its focus on assistive technologies for reading. Phil Wilkinson from FMC is one of the network members, and Charlie Hargood, Professor Wen Tang and Julie Kirkby (FST) and Isabella Rega (FMC) are on the project’s Advisory Group.
For more information about the project, please visit the project website , follow the project on Twitter (@DriveNetkenya) or visit the BU project page
The latest NCCR seminar took place on 15 January when we welcomed the Head of the Comparative Politics and Media Centre, Professor Darren Lilleker.
Professor Lilleker’s talk drew on analysis of the lexis used on social media to argue that an embedded underlying myth of Britishness informed much of the debate around the EU Referendum. The Leave EU lexicon was characterised by terms such as ‘free’ and ‘rule’, with words such as ‘traitor’ and ‘betray’ attached to Jeremy Corbyn by the Brexit Party. Links with traditional British anthems such as ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, and ‘Rule Britannia’ were explored (alongside reference to ‘Jerusalem’) and analysed against a model of British particularism (Dowling) which privileges qualities such as strength, superiority, benevolence, and exceptionality. The way that this set of qualities is reinforced through British secondary school curriculum (textbooks such as Crowther, The History of Britain) was discussed, noting that the GCSE history curriculum is fragmented and one-sided, with key moments in British history being explored devoid of context, and framed to sustain a view of empire (such as Henry VIII who ‘freed us from the Church of Rome’, Elizabeth I who ruled the waves, or the Pilgrim Fathers who established the USA). Without linkage or linearity, British schooling thus provides a selective view of its history. Similarly, the adoption of an ‘Anglo Saxon’ origin excludes all the other nationalities that form the British ancestry, and allows for clear linkages to be made with Germany (relevant to the British Royal family) as well as oppositions with countries such as France. These elements sustain the presence of myths of empire, particularism, and power.
The session was very well-attended and produced some thoughtful discussion, which explored various definitions of myth (Barthes, Levi-Strauss) and its role as a mediating narrative or therapeutic alternative to history, debated why people might feel compelled to identify with these (dignity, history), noted the essential nature of a mythic past to fascist ideology (Stanham), and the consistent recirculation of such myths (e.g. in war films), the relevance of the manner in which an empire ends and the subject status of British citizens, the role of the literary market in selling textbooks that must appeal to the buyer, and reflected on the etymology of ‘Great’ Britain, which in other languages also carries traces of particularism, such as Chinese where it is directly translated as ‘brave’.
To celebrate the achievements of several Centre members who have had books published over the last year, we are holding a Book Launch next Wednesday 11 December in Fusion F104 from 4-6. Authors will be on hand to introduce their work and there will also be an opportunity to find out more about the work of the Centre. Refreshments including mince pies will be provided.
The final NRG talk of this academic year will take place on 29 May 2019 in F307 4-6 p.m.
Dr Lisa Gee will speak about the thinking behind, and the process of making the interactive biography – or “zoeography” – of William Hayley (1745-1820), created for her PhD in Digital Writing by Practice at Bath Spa University with developer Michael Kowalski.
- Why didn’t she just write a book?
- What were the challenges she faced in developing the narrative and designing the reader journey?
- How did the collaboration work?
She will also discuss her work at the Fitzwilliam Museum, where, with a fabulous team of colleagues, she’s working on Most Sacred Things: a pilot digital edition of Hayley’s correspondence.
A short video introduction to HayleyWorld can be found here.
Lisa Gee is Post-Doctoral Research Associate on the Ego-Media Project in the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College, London, External Research Consultant in the Department of Manuscripts and Printed Books at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, and a freelance writer, editor, facilitator and videographer. She is the author of Stage Mum, Friends: Why Men and Women Are From the Same Planet, and the editor of Bricks Without Mortar: the selected poems of Hartley Coleridge. She judges the New Media Writing Prize, and the Association for Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) Awards for Excellence for Diversity & Inclusion and for Best Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative.
The next NRG seminar will take place at 5pm on Wednesday 13th March in F108, where Dr Matthew Freeman (Bath Spa) will be speaking on ‘Transmedia Historiography as Educational Practice: Narrativising Colombian Cultural Memory Across Media’. Abstract and biography are attached below. All welcome. To find out more about NRG please visit https://research.bournemouth.ac.uk/centre/journalism-culture-and-community/
Dr Matthew Freeman is Reader in Multiplatform Media at Bath Spa University. He is Deputy Director of the University-wide Centre for Cultural and Creative Industries, Co-Director of the Centre for Media Research, and leads the University’s Communication, Cultural and Media Studies submission to REF2021. His research examines cultures of production across the borders of media and history, and he is the author/editor of seven books: The World of The Walking Dead (2019), Transmedia Archaeology in Latin America(2018), The Routledge Companion to Transmedia Storytelling(2018), Global Convergence Cultures(2018) Historicising Transmedia Storytelling (2016),Industrial Approaches to Media (2016), and Transmedia Archaeology (2014). He has also published over 30 journal articles and book chapters, is Series Editor for the Routledge Advances in Transmedia Studies book series, and sits on the editorial board of the journal Convergence. He is the co-founder and co-editor of the International Journal of Creative Media Research, a new journal which aims to push forward the potentials for publishing creative and practice-based research.
People now engage with media content across multiple platforms, following stories, characters, worlds, brands and other information across a spectrum of media channels.Yet both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for understanding transmediality – itself the use of multiple media technologies to tell stories and communicate information – is the sheer breadth of its interpretation. Though primarily still seen as a commercial practice, this talk explores the application of transmedia practices to the communication of history across multiple media platforms, questioning what this approach means to our understandings of transmediality. More specifically, the talk furthers discussions of the contribution that transmedia storytellingcan make to educational practices, identifying new strategies for how transmediastorytelling is now being used to capture and narrativize historical memories, as media-based educational resources. To do so, the talk focuses on the Colombian armed conflict and the Desarmados project, for which I served as a member of the project team, and for which in this context to theorise how transmediality can work as socially progressive and emotionally supportive form of historiography. Desarmados is an internationally-funded research project which aims to harness commercial ideas about digital platforms and transmedia storytelling as tools for documenting the Colombian citizens of Medellín and for narrativizing their memories of the Colombian armed conflict as an educational resource. A transmedia project supported by the Colombian Ministry of Culture and the Colombia Government, Desarmados seeks to reconstruct the cultural memory of the Colombian armed conflict, and develop workshops with secondary schools in Medellin to help test out new transmedia materials as modes of social enterprise between survivors and civil society.
As such, this talk will interrogate not the history of transmedia storytelling, but rather how the working practices of transmedia storytelling can deal with history, creatively and socially. Desarmados, I argue, exemplifies not only a new way of experiencing and remembering Colombian history, but as that which reshapes said Colombian history for the better.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Reading on Screen project held two workshops recently; one at the University of Brighton (22-24 September) and one last weekend (14-15 October) at Sheffield Hallam University.
At Sheffield we were fortunate to be included in the programme for Off the Shelf, a literary festival that runs throughout October in the city featuring some high profile authors, including this year Robert Webb and Henry Blofeld. We also took part in Brighton’s Digital Festival, showcasing some of the stories and also featuring some of our storytellers in a lively discussion about the future of reading in the digital age.
The stories produced in the workshops are now available for viewing on the project website and we welcome comments!
An exhibition of the stories is planned for December 15 in Brighton’s Media Centre. Here we will be featuring the stories we are producing based on photographs and audio recordings captured during the workshops. We will also be hearing from some of the storytellers from all three workshops (Bournemouth, Brighton and Sheffield) about their experiences of the workshops and how this opportunity has opened new doors for them.
It was my great pleasure to take part last week in a conference organised by the Stylistics Research Group at Sheffield Hallam Style and Response. My paper reported on the activities of our two BU based AHRC funded projects, and on the ethical and methodological challenges of researching readers and reading online. The conference was an important opportunity to disseminate the work of the existing projects and to further extend our network of scholars researching reading in the digital age. It was also an opportunity to discuss what will hopefully be the next stage of this research, as our application for Follow on Funding to the AHRC is currently being finalised….
The first day included a fascinating panel on Digital Fiction, particularly focusing on immersion and showcasing different methodologies including the Think Aloud protocol and participant interviews. The case studies discussed in this session included Dreaming Methods’ Wallpaper (Alice Bell), videogame Zero Time Dilemma (Jess Norledge and Richard Finn) and The Princess Murderer (Isabelle Van der Bom). After lunch, I switched between panels to catch Sam Browse’s entertaining paper presenting an ethnographic study of a group of local Labour party activists, followed by Lyle Skains’ paper reporting on how her creative writing students responded to reading digital or ‘ergodic’ fiction, and how they felt this influenced their own creative practice.
It was great to see diversity throughout the programme both in terms of methods and case studies. One of the takeaways from day one was a strong preference for mixed methods, and there was a very lively discussion following the closing plenary (presented in absentia by Ranjana Das) about the extent to which exploring new approaches and methods from different disciplines can be managed without diluting or compromising the skills and expertise that we have as researchers primarily trained in critical analysis and close reading.
I delivered the opening plenary on day 2, followed by a fascinating panel on Attention, with an insightful paper on cognitive approaches to re-reading from Chloe Harrison and Louise Nuttall, and a very informative and interesting paper on eyetracking and onomatopoeia in manga from Olivia Dohan.
The afternoon sessions provided further innovative approaches to media and new media texts and cultures. Isabelle van der Bom and Laura Paterson reported on a corpus linguistic study of live tweeting of Benefits Street, which provided depressing but fascinating evidence of the ways in which the ‘echo chamber’ of social media is nevertheless shaped in interaction with other media (tv, the tabloid press). It also raised questions about the extent to which empirical and particularly quantitative approaches can tell the ‘whole story’ when it comes to a discourse where there may be just as many silent witnesses as participants.
Alison Gibbons’ paper on JJ Abrams’ S offered a fascinating account of the novel as part of a transmedia universe, and reported on her attempts to get ‘real readers’ to create and insert their own marginalia alongside that provided by the novel’s creators. The closing plenary was an energetic and engaging discussion of persuasion and transportation by Melanie Green. As well as transporting us to another world by reading us a story, Melanie’s paper left us with some important insights into the power of stories to change minds for good and ill.
Many congratulations to the organisers of this event for producing such a stimulating couple of days. It was wonderful to see that the study of readers and reading is attracting some innovative work from within the field of stylistics, drawing on a long tradition of focusing on the empirical, but also demonstrating breadth of engagement with terms and methods from multiple disciplines.
This summer I visited the Faculty of Media and Communication (Bournemouth University) as a Visiting Scholar for the second time for a period of three weeks (July-August 2016) to continue the research on Language, Communication and the Mass Media that I had started in 2015. During my second research stay at BU, I conducted research on the topics listed below:
- English as the global language: namely, its distinguishing features and its influence in other languages (mainly Spanish);
- The phenomena of culture and identity (heterogeneity vs. homogeneity);
- Transnational relationships;
- The specific language of different media spaces (mainly, advertising).
What I have learnt in these two research stays at BU forms the basis for the research project entitled Lenguaje y medios de comunicación: relaciones interlingüísticas e interculturales ingles-español (Reference: FFI2016-74858-P) (Language and the Mass Media: English-Spanish interlinguistic and intercultural relationships), for which I have applied for funding from the Spanish Ministry for Education and Innovation. Dr. Bronwen Thomas, Associate Professor at BU, will take an important part in the project, if approved and granted, thus helping to establish some institutional links between the University of Bournemouth and the University of Huelva.
Apart from the aforementioned research project, I am working at the moment on a scientific paper which analyses Spanish advertising, a particular means of communication almost completely unknown to me before my two stays in Bournemouth. My paper will have a special emphasis on the influence English advertising has – graphically, socially and linguistically.
Since the Sir Michael Cobham Library is an amazing source of a vast and rich number of bibliographical references related to the topics I am interested in, I hope to return to BU next summer to continue my research. Furthermore, I would take advantage of this third stay to get in touch with some other members of the Faculty of Media and Communication who might be interested in participating in my research project. Anyone who is interested can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Simon Frost and I recently took part in this event organised by an AHRC project based at The Open University which follows on from previous research leading to the establishment of The Reading Experience Database (RED). The event brought together book historians, literary scholars and researchers working on the borders between literature and media and cultural studies to explore a variety of examples of reading communities from Quaker reading groups and records of readers in the borrowing records of national libraries, to online book clubs and LARPs (Live Action Role Playing events).
This was a good opportunity for us to promote the work of the BU based Digital Reading Network, and CsJCC, based in the Faculty of Media and Communication. Simon’s paper reported on the findings of his BU Fusion funded project looking at contemporary book retailing, which was conducted in collaboration with the university bookseller John Smith’s. Simon’s paper provided a fascinating comparison of the retail landscape using past and present photographs of the same Southampton street where Gilbert’s bookshop is based. He boldly proposed replacing the term literary work with ‘Net Work’ to capture the idea of the work as an event which consists of people, places and bibliographic objects. The proposal plays into wider global HE strategies to study English for its social impact.
My paper provided a comparison of two online reading communities. The first, a Jane Austen community called The Republic of Pemberley, brings together devotees of the writer who engage in scheduled Group Reads of her work, using the website to report back and share their reading with other community members. I also discussed how readers use social media platforms such as Twitter to share their reading, for example using the hashtag #mytolstory as they embarked on reading Tolstoy’s epic novel inspired by the recent BBC adaptation. My paper drew on an article Julia Round and I recently published in the journal Language and Literature on online moderators, which was one of the outputs from our AHRC funded projects, Researching Readers Online and the Digital Reading Network.
The day provided an excellent opportunity for us to expand our networks, and establish new contacts. In particular, we were very excited to connect with researchers from the University of Malmo in Sweden whose research and philosophy for teaching English in a media context is closely aligned to our work here at BU.
I have just returned from a conference at the University of Malta organised by the EU COST Action on Cyberparks which I am participating in. The conference was on the theme of the I-city, enhancing places through technology and featured keynotes reflecting on and critiquing the notion of the ‘Smart City’ from different disciplinary and methodological perspectives and with reference to projects taking place across Europe. Valletta, where the conference took place, is going to the European Capital of Culture in 2018 and one of the presentations was from the Foundation team, offering some interesting insights into how preparations would focus on technologically-driven community regeneration.
Discussion in the parallel sessions which followed was organised around three tracks (Digital Methods and Social Practices; Ethnographic challenges; People, spaces and technology) led by COST Action members. The organisers also organised two field visits for us, looking at how technology is being used for the regeneration of public spaces and historical building in Valletta. Following the conference, I also participated in the working group meetings for the project, where discussion centred on dissemination and networking, and plans for future collaborations between members.
This was the second COST Action meeting I have attended so far and it was good to see how the project and collaborations between members are progressing. I have learned a great deal from working alongside colleagues from a diverse range of disciplines and cultures, and hope I will be able to attend the next meeting, which will be in Skopje in Macedonia in October. As well as myself, FMC Visiting Fellow Sue Thomas is also involved in the Cyberparks project and in addition to being a working group member is also on the project’s Editorial Board.
On Wednesday 9 December, the Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community held a book launch to celebrate the work of colleagues who have published monographs or edited collections over recent months. In total we had around 9 books to browse and discuss and it was great to hear of further book projects in development. Books on display included Gothic in Comics and Graphic Novels by Julia Round, British Spy Fiction and the End of Empire by Sam Goodman, The Play of Political Culture, Emotion and Identity by Candida Yates and Narrative: the Basics, by Bronwen Thomas. Edited volumes included Shaun Kimber’s, Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media and Nael Jebril’s Political Journalism in Comparative Perspective. Soon to be published is Chris Pullen’s Straight Girls and Queer Guys, his ninth book so far!
Pictured below are Candida Yates, Sam Goodman and Peri Bradley talking about their books.
Peri Bradley’s book on Food, Media and Contemporary Culture features contributions from several colleagues in the Faculty of Media and Communication, while Media, Margins and Popular Culture edited by Einar Thorsen, Jenny Alexander, Heather Savigny and Dan Jackson is a collaboration between CsJCC and the Centre for Politics and Media in the Faculty.
Colleagues attending the event were keen to start reading the volumes on display. All books will soon be available from the library.
The Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community will be holding a book launch on Wednesday 9 December between 5 and 7 in the Global Hub room (DG68) to celebrate the work of colleagues who have recently had books published. Refreshments will be on offer and all are welcome to drop by.
Since the findings in my last publication (Rodríguez Arrizabalaga 2014) have awakened in me, as a linguist, a new interest in the linguistic dimension of the English media, last February I applied for a three-week research visit at the Faculty of Media and Communication (and its Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community) due to its internationally recognised status in this particular field of study.
During my three-week research stay at the University of Bournemouth, I have spent my whole days from Monday to Friday in the Sir Michael Cobham Library, revising and reading a huge number of bibliographical references dealing basically with the topics listed below, which are going to be the main tenets of the Research Project which I would like to apply for to the Spanish Ministry for Science and Education next year:
English as the global language: namely, its distinguishing features and its infuence in other languages (mainly Spanish);
The phenomena of culture and identity (heterogeneity vs. homogeneity);
The specific language of different media spaces (mainly, advertising).
I have brought to Spain with me a huge number of interesting ideas which are going to constitute the starting point for this new area of research in my academic career, which, as such, still require deeper investigation. There have been, however, too many bibliographic references that I have not had time enough to read which I would like to explore next year, if possible, in anoher research visit which I would like to apply for.
Apart from the time I have spent in the library, during my reasearch visit I have have some the opportunity of meeting really nice and interesting people from the Faculty of Media and Communication: Dr. Bronwen Thomas and Dr. Carrie Hodges are two cases in point. With the former I have had several talks about our projects and about the possibility of signing an Erasmus Agreement for Professors and Students between Huelva University and Bournemouth University; and with the latter I hope to co-work in the near future because our teaching and research interests are quite closely related. I really appreciate their time and their kindness with me.
To finish, I would also like to thank the administrative work carried out by Jan Lewis, without which my research visit would not have been possible.
The final talk hosted by the Narrative Research Group this semester will take place tomorrow at 4p.m. in PG10. Our speaker is Dr Tim Hutchings from Durham University. Dr Hutchings is a sociologist and ethnographer of digital religion. His PhD (Durham University, 2010) examined the relationship between online and local activity in five online Christian churches, looking at emerging patterns of ritual, community and authority. His subsequent research has included studies of online Christian proselytism and storytelling (HUMlab, Umea University, Sweden), digital Bible reading (CRESC, The Open University) and contemporary pilgrimage (CODEC, Durham University). A list of his publications can be found here: https://durham.academia.edu/TimHutchings. Dr Hutchings is the Editor of the Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture and Conference and Events Officer for the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion Study Group.
His talk will focus on Bible apps and the impact of digital reading on religious authority. All welcome.
Yesterday we held our final AHRC funded Digital Reading event at the Frontline Club in London, a venue with an interesting history which provided the perfect backdrop for our discussions. The event was designed to bring together fellow academics working on related projects, digital writers, publishers and representatives of reading organisations to explore digital reading from a variety of perspectives.
BU colleagues present included myself, Julia Round and Simon Frost, all from the Faculty of Media and Communication. Auguste Janutaite, a research assistant and alumni, helped with the design of our souvenir brochure and took over some of the photographic duties as the discussions got underway.
After a brief overview of the activities and research priorities of the network, we had a stimulating roundtable discussion celebrating the opportunities for creative expression that the digital has made possible, while also recognising the concerns that exist around the ownership and control of the architecture and infrastructures of digital and especially online spaces.
Among the contributions, Laura Venning of the Reading Agency predicted that the divisions between digital and non-digital reading may gradually erode, while Louise Vinter from Penguin Random House reminded us that migration between devices is by no means confined to reading, and that young readers are less concerned about distinguishing between media and platforms when it comes to talking about their enjoyment of a particular storyworld. Louise shared some exciting initiatives with us, including a Voice-controlled Roald Dahl application for Ford cars! Louise reported that while audiobooks is a major growth area, young readers still gravitate towards print even for pop cultural phenomena such as Zoella’s Girl Online.
Joanna Ellis from The Literary Platform offered some interesting reflections on ereaders, pointing out the slowing down in sales and arguing that providers had perhaps been guilty of some strategic oversights in their design and distribution of these new platforms, for example overlooking the fact that teenagers and young children tend not to have access to credit cards so can’t set up online accounts. Joanna also reflected on the dominance of the smartphone for this age group, with many of their cultural experiences being tied to one device.
The discussion continued well into the evening. It was wonderful to be able to discuss our research with colleagues from industry and the public sector as well as with writers and fellow academics. We hope that this will lead to future collaborations exploring the ongoing impact of digitisation on readers and reading.
On 29 October in The Octagon, an AHRC funded workshop brought together international scholars researching digital reading with teachers and students from the locality to discuss what use might be made of digital reading and social media tools in the classroom.
In the opening paper, Joachim Vlieghe and Geert Vandermeersche from the University of Ghent outlined the ways in which the emergence of new platforms and digital tools is offering new opportunities for readers to engage with texts, other readers and authors. They reported on a study they conducted with trainee teachers using Goodreads, a popular book recommendation site with over 30 million members. This research has recently been published in the journal New Media and Society, and offers valuable insights into the potential pedagogical uses of such sites, while also recognising the strong misgivings teachers have about the kind of discussions and interactions that take place in such seemingly free environments.
In the discussion that followed, teachers from local schools and colleges commented that while they found such resources interesting and potentially valuable, the demands of delivering targets and rigidly teaching to the curriculum meant that in reality they had little time to explore or incorporate them into their classes. The discussion also focused on how sites such as Goodreads come and go, or are bought out and commercialised by large corporations (Goodreads is now owned by Amazon), and how they might in fact mimic rather than offer an alternative to the ways in which literature is taught in the classroom.
BU colleagues Julian McDougall and Richard Berger then presented the findings of their AHRC funded project exploring videogames as ‘authorless literature’. The study, which involved lecturers and students on BA English at BU, set out to explore whether the skills typically developed by students of literature could be applied to videogames, with students turning the tables on their lecturers by teaching them how to play L.A. Noire. A study guide based on the project has been produced and is available to download at http://cedare-reports.co.uk/digitaltransformations/
Also receiving support from the AHRC through the Digital Transformations call, Bronwen Thomas and Julia Round reported on the first of their projects to be funded, Researching Readers Online. This project involved an online survey of users of book-related online forums, and focus groups with students, local writers, librarians and members of local reading groups. The project was in part motivated by the desire to explore how teachers of literature might learn from the kinds of discussion and engagement taking place online, but the findings in fact challenged many existing preconceptions about ‘digital natives’ and their reading habits and preferences.
This was the penultimate event organised by Julia and Bronwen as part of their latest AHRC award, supporting the establishment of an international Digital Reading Network. Previous events included a symposium held at BU in June 2014. The final event will take place in early 2015 in London, bringing together publishers, writers, charities and public sector organisations to discuss the issues raised by research in this area.