Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

Geolocated literature: A new genre?


Much is to be anticipated this summer in the world of enhanced serial novels with the approaching release of the The Silent History on the iPad and iPhone by publishing house Ying Horowitz & Quinn.

According to the Buzzfeed article, “The Future Of Digital Publishing: A Book You Need To Read On The Street,” the concept approaches a cross between an Oliver Sacks’ style medical mystery and Children of Men’s dystopian vision. The plot of the book focuses on an entire generation born without the ability to speak, children who “don’t create or understand language. At first, they are thought to be nothings, blank slates, vegetables but eventually it’s discovered that they are much more than that,” explains Eli Horowitz, one of the creators.

In terms of format, The Silent History is a mobile serial, which readers will experience through an iPad or iPhone app. The story will launch in late August with daily releases of fictive “testimonials”— ten- to fifteen-minute oral histories that document the eerie phenomenon. The creators have planned for the serial to span an entire year.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this project is the geo-tagged “Field Reports.”

According to the article, these reports “can only be downloaded when the reader is standing in a specific place, as shown by the mapping interface on the app. Currently, there are between 300 and 400 Field Reports written for locations around the world, but that will grow as readers add their own stories.”

Apparently this idea draws inspiration from tours like the Sex and the City bus tour that juxtapose reality and fiction for traveling fans of the series. The Harry Potter London bus tour and The Shadow of the Wind walking book tour in Barcelona also fall within that category.

While we have yet to see whether or not this kind of “geolocated story” will be successful, the technology itself holds promising literary (and nonliterary) applications. A travel guide bubbles up in my mind as one of the more obvious uses, but the bibliophile in me would like to see this genre raise literary tourism to new heights.

Many works of fiction and nonfiction already provide maps to provide readers with a geographical sense of where the events of the story are transpiring. Literary geolocation is simply a nifty reversal of the scheme, superimposing a narrative context on specific sites where the reader is present.

But why limit ourselves to location? Consider a book app that not only functions by logging the reader’s location, but also takes into consideration the current weather conditions and the time of day. Sometimes it’s just that much better to read a story which takes place on a balmy summer night in a Buenos Aires café when you’re actually experiencing it yourself.

One comment on “Geolocated literature: A new genre?

  1. Pingback: The NOOK gets street smart « appazoogle

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This entry was posted on July 26, 2012 by in Technology and tagged , .

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