The INTRE:FACE Digital Conference (06.02.2016-07.02.2016), organized by Katharina Deloglu and Tom Bresemann, hosted by Andreas Bülhoff, tackled many important questions regarding digital literature. In a series of articles we bring you the speeches and discussions held at the INTRE:FACE Digital Conference, dealing with problems regarding digital literature and different tools used to construct it, for example how can digital tools be used to offer new approaches to production, what digital tools already exist and how are they structured, to more applied problems, such as how can literary activists use digital means to connect with one another, how we can make most of digital material and many other interesting topics.
Mika Tuomola joined us online and Rasmus Vuori on location, to talk about their tactile poetry app Antikythera:
Rasmus Vuori: In the app [Antikythera] you have 6 chapters, which you can change by rotating the moon on the screen, the chapters, or collections, each contain 32 poems, when you read them you have a traditional presentation of the poems, but in this application there are also added dimensions – the poems react to different parameters in the reading process. With the butterfly poem we can see some poems also have animated parts, while the soundscape and visuals change according to different collections. An interesting thing is that the visual designer Shakti Dash was from India and didn’t understand Finnish, so he had to collaborate intensely with the poet and lead concept designer Saila Susiluoto and audiovisual production director Mika ‘Lumi’ Tuomola. You basically rotate the wheels to decide where you’ll go. In the beginning only certain poems are available and the more you read, the more you can unlock. The app reacts also to the movements of the iPad device. You can of course read the poems in a traditional way, like an e-book, but you can also read it with the added features.
I want to make four points for the kind of discussion you have now in CROWD about new platforms and ways of publishing literature on them. First something about the content: on tablet computers, it is important to think about reading poetry as a tactile experience. The idea of a storyworld – that there is a feeling of a navigable space and time – for the interactive reader of application and its content, is a fruitful one. What’s exciting for poets and writers is that interactivity puts weight on reader’s choice, making the reading device an existentialist medium: choice matters, that which poems you choose and how you travel from poem to poem. The third thing is the generative nature, as there are mechanics that change the poetry every time you read it anew – every reader creates a new path: besides the device being a medium of choice, it is also a medium of chance. It’s a medium of collaborative narrative between author and readers, who can also share viewpoints from many different journeys. The fourth point is that it is a globally shared medium: in the storyworld you can also share parts of it and your own literary experience, while having it, online.
We have about 300 million tablets in the world, so even if only one percent purchases your app, you already have sales of 3 million copies. So to conclude, I would like to read you Juhani Lidholm’s English translation of Susiluoto’s “VARDØ, 1621” poem from the Witch [Noita] storyworld – and if anyone is interested, we’re looking for translators and publishers in English or German or any language, really, to publish the app in that language too. In the last verses I read from the poem, the last two lines change constantly from “free lines” in the database, and they can also become a “daily advice”, which you see right when you open the app: the chance element is not based only on your touch, but also on astronomical time. <Reads:>
“You never know who someone is, not your friend, not even your child
a white ball kicks you in the eye, the navel of the day
the sea is hot and gentle
a gilded ship glides into the harbor
the street windy and deserted, its gaping mouth waiting
a few spirits on the flowering field, Simpsons clouds
an abandoned movie theater, a musty curtain, seagulls
as a child, I drew homes for small animals in a hole in a tree
they always had it so nice and warm, their small fireplaces and chimneys
even though it rained outside and the forest was filled with sorrow”
Malte Abraham: I’m interested in how you collaborate with the poet?
Mika Tuomola: If we go to the very beginning, 3 or 4 years ago, Saila Susiluoto approached me about the matter. She had previously, in 2003, published a book [Huoneiden kirja (A Book of Rooms), Otava] of poems written on the random reading principle of I Ching, The Book of Changes, so she proposed we do something like that in digital format, but didn’t find an appropriate, interesting and original way to do that: we wanted something new. So she came to me a year later with the poems that are now in the app. The visual design and production then took 9 months, a team of 8-10 executed the audiovisual production, Rasmus did the information architecture of the app, and we got also funding to hire the professional mobile media production company Taiste. We got 80 000€ [from Kone Foundation & AVEK The Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture], and in Finland we have the lovely Arts Council, and the poet was supported for 5 years by them as well, so the money from the funding mostly went for programming and audiovisual design. If this had been a commercial project, we would probably be talking about double the amount.
How many people have actually bought the app?
Mika Tuomola: I don’t know the new statistics.
Rasmus Vuori: I also have no numbers; so anything I’d say would be a guess.
Mika Tuomola: At the time of newspaper reviews, there were may be several hundred purchases, and a few months after, when another review came out, the app was also selling quite well. What we decided to do regarding the copyrights, as the Apple App Store takes automatically 35%, was that the publishing developer Taiste took 35%, and for the rest of the artistic team we kept 30%.
Nikola Richter: Is there a need to update the app, once the iOS also gets updated, and how does the sharing possibility in the app work?
Rasmus Vuori: Updates are in the responsibility of the publishing app developer and the sharing is implemented with the sharing API native to iOS. This might change if Apple changes the API used for sharing, but that’s a different story.