Multi-media publishing

One of the areas of application development that seems most exciting to me right now is the realm of tools facilitating content re-mix, annotation, and re-publishing. We seem to be on the verge of an explosion of these tools, and they stand a chance of re-establishing our ability to create artistic and educational expression.

One example of this is the recent release of the CommentPress 1.0 theme for WordPress from the Institute of the Future of the Book.

I’ve heard of another example which is not quite out yet from the folks at Inanimate Alice (IA), which is produced by the Bradfield Company. I’ve long been interested in IA because it demonstrates the possibility of creating compelling multi-media narratives that help us re-imagine story-telling, games, and education.

IA presents a series of engaging, anxiety producing situations in the life of a young girl in an expat family in multiple locales around the world; the visual media and production quality are impressive, and the stories incorporate an increasing level of user-controlled interactivity. IA has released three episodes, and is on the threshold of releasing the next two, Episodes 4 and 5. In 4 & 5, IA is incorporating original film and digistills. Alice, the main character, is emerging from early childhood, is in middle and high school, and encountering new dilemmas. The game experience is also increasing, with far higher interactivity.

The most fascinating development is the release of a toolset by IA that will allow users to produce their own multimedia creations. The software, called iStories, enables the creation of interactive narratives. A user should be able to import images, music, and sound effects, or those that already exist or have uploaded by others, add text titles and descriptions, and create their own story. The software is purportedly easy to use, and is built around a wizard that guides the content creator through all of the steps. On the downside, the tool is proprietary; IA informs me that it is not Flash-based.

In addition to the pure entertainment value of this story-telling environment, there is a compelling educational angle. Indeed, IA informed me that they are supporting the MA in Creative Writing and New Media at DeMontfort University in Leicester, which will use the tool in the forthcoming year.

IA presents but one example of a burgeoning number of tools that permit the easy creation of rich and interactive content. As these tools mature for story-telling and education, we’ll see a transformation in our ability to craft complex, engaging, structured narratives. Imagining these tools embedded in the environments we use for work and play is an intriguing exercise.