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New collaboration receives funding to merge books, print and technology

Press release issued: 9 January 2013

A University of Bristol project is one of eight new collaborations exploring books and print as historical, contemporary and future phenomena to receive funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The collaborations between creative economy partners and academic researchers will engage with the history and concept of the book and aim to ensure the act of reading remains exciting through the use of new technologies.

Each collaboration will receive AHRC funding of £50,000 for the academic partner, including up to £10,000 to the creative economy partner and will be developed at the Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed, Bristol.

The University of Bristol project, entitled The Next Time(line), brings together Dr Bradley Stephens, a lecturer in the School of Modern Languages and Alex Butterworth, founder and managing/creative director of Amblr, a developer, producer and publisher of location-based experiences.

Timelines offer readers a way to explore historical, biographical and contextual information about an author or book, but at present the timelines used in literary apps offer little more than their paper counterpart.  Using data visualization and the affordance of the touch screen, Amblr and Dr Stephens will work with three classic literary texts to create a more dynamic, malleable and compelling form of timeline for the digital world.  The project links in with Dr Stephens's research on how texts adapt across time, culture, and medium (including digital technology).

The commissions come under the banner of Books and Print Sandbox, produced by iShed as part of the Sandbox Programme and funded by the REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub for the Creative Economy.  REACT will provide three months funding to each of the eight projects to enable the development of a ground-breaking prototype.

As well as the funding, Sandbox will offer assistance on the projects’ development through a community of potential collaborators for current and future projects.  There will be a structured innovation lab process featuring research blogs, showcase and feedback events and technical support.  A panel of leading industry advisors will also provide mentoring in the development of ideas and potential routes to market with the aid of a business development consultant.

Books and Print Sandbox is part of REACT, led by UWE Bristol (the University of the West of England), one of four UK knowledge exchange hubs.  REACT supports innovative products and transformational services by bringing together companies and academics through game-changing collaborations using the sandbox model.

Executive Producer Clare Reddington said: “I am incredibly excited by the Books & Print Sandbox projects, which include a rich mix of ideas, technologies and subjects.  In a time when the publishing industry continues to be put under pressure to change because of new creation and distribution channels, the strength of the collaborations and the focus on narrative and writing within the group is particularly rewarding.  Over the next three months, these projects will explore the many opportunities for the written word in a digital age and I can’t wait to see what they will produce.”

Find out more about the programme and its 2013 commissions here.