Intimate digital ghost story written by Bath Spa's Kate Pullinger


Ambient Literature research project culminates with launch of Breathe – a digital ghost story

Monday, 29 January, 2018

Bath Spa University’s Director of the Centre for Research in Cultural and Creative Industries, Kate Pullinger, has released digital ghost tale, Breathe, as part of a two-year Ambient Literature research project into location-based reading experiences. 

Devised and created in collaboration with Editions At Play, an initiative between Google Creative Lab Sydney and London-based Visual Editions, the digital book places readers at the centre of the story, using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and context recognition to personalise each read. 

Breathe tells the story of Flo who has the unusual ability to talk to ghosts. As Flo struggles to communicate with her mother, Clara, who died when she was a young girl, other voices keep interrupting. The ghosts that disrupt Flo’s search for Clara recognise the readers’ surroundings and begin to haunt them in the same way as they haunt Flo. Breathe also tells the story of Flo’s best friend, Rifat, a Syrian refugee living in London whose mother has also died, though in very different circumstances.

The twist? Breathe responds to the presence of the reader by internalising the world around them. It uses place, time, context and environment to situate the reader at the centre of Flo’s world as the book changes in ways that are both intimate and uncanny.

Ambient Literature is a research project between Bath Spa University, the University of the West of England and the University of Birmingham to investigate the design and delivery of location-based reading experiences, which are fast becoming popular ways of consuming literature. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the project is testing out new literary forms, looking at how literature can make use of novel technologies and social practices to create evocative experiences for its readers.

Kate Pullinger is one of three authors commissioned to create a work of dynamic literature for the project. Kate said: “The Ambient Literature project is producing a range of innovative publications, from a how-to toolkit for writers and makers to a scholarly book co-written by the research team. As a creative writer it's been fascinating to work on Breathe, which is the last of the three creative works commissioned by the project to be published. With Visual Editions and Google's Creative Lab Sydney I couldn't have asked for a better team of collaborators to bring this personalised locative ghost story to life.”

Visual Editions creates narrative-driven story experiences in the form of books, apps, URLs, events and installations.

Anna Gerber, Creative Partner at Visual Editions, added: “Full of haunting interruptions, Breathe is a story for anyone who wants to know what it’s like to read and experience a personalised book. Here, the book knows where readers’ are, the street names around them, the cafes nearby - and will give them a chill when they see their digital and real worlds combine. Breathe plays with readers’ minds as it explores what books can be like when you marry technology, literature, readers’ physical spaces and their everyday worlds."

The Ambient Literature project, which began in May 2016, also includes work by authors Duncan Speakman (It Must Have Been Dark by Then) and James Atlee (The Cartographer’s Confession), who have both created interactive literary worlds that connect readers to the world around them.

Breathe, a 15 to 20 minute reading experience, is available for free as part of the digital book space, Editions at Play, and can be read on mobile devices at www.breathe-story.com.

More information about the Ambient Literature project can be found at www.ambientlit.com.


Kate Pullinger

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