Reading in the future: Story+

What sorts of stories are we going to tell in the future? And as the digital world allows storytelling to become more interactive, how will we tell those stories? These are the questions I’ve been thinking and writing about recently, and they were also the topic of last week’s Story+ conference at the Brisbane Writers Festival.

The event was put together by Kate Eltham, Director of the Brisbane Writers Festival, and until last year, CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre. While at QWC she founded if:book Australia, a centre dedicated to asking what is narrative media at the intersection of design, data and technology. Story+ is a natural extension of what if:book Australia does and the best bits of the event were when we confronted that central question head on.

The day began with a keynote from UK writer, artist and technologist James Bridle. He talked about technology trying to speak the world back to us and in doing so letting us know what it is to be human. He told us about the New York Times haiku bot that identifies the haikus NYT writers have unknowingly written within their stories. It’s a bot that reveals our poetry to us.

In a pre-recorded video, US publisher Richard Nash asked can a novel be an algorithm and can narrative be a process by which we process data. Christy Dena, holder of Australia’s first digital writing residency (at QUT’s The Cube), spoke of writing monologues for robots and Jason Nelson, poet and artist, showed us how poetry can also be a video game.

Simon Groth, manager of if:book Australia, talked us through last year’s 24-hour book experiment, Willow Pattern, and how QUT students are now looking at the data behind the book (the snapshots that were recorded of every revision to and autosave of the chapters) to see what creative expression they can derive from it.

And UK author and games writer, Naomi Alderman, appearing via a pre-recorded video, talked about how digital media is the best place to represent choice. The Sliding Doors scenario, where we come to a fork in the road and one choice or circumstance leads us in one direction and the other leads us to another doesn’t just have to be passively watched, digital media allows us to create those different experiences.

Hopefully Story+ will be back at next year’s Brisbane Writers Festival. Conversations such as these are happening all over the world now and interactivity across different media is not just a theory.

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