The Times – They Are A-Changin

guitar chordSwedish scientists are getting creative about their research papers. They’ve gone all Dylan-esque, according to Lost at E Minor or the Guardian.

They are racing to produce the most published articles with a Bob Dylan line in the title such as:

‘Nitric Oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind’
‘Blood on the Tracks: A Simple Twist of Fate?’

treble clefBut . . .


time passes slowly
there must be some way outa here
sign on the window says
one more weekend
if dogs run free, then
what must be must be

(apologies to Mr Dylan)



Academic boredom – a creative consideration

Academic wisdom - a burrowing owlNow this is a good reason to encourage creative teaching and scholarship: to reduce the prevalence of academic boredom in seminars. We are all guilty of it and/or well acquainted with it. Seminars that go on and on forever, and ever and ever . . .

But Amir Baghdadchi has studied this phenomenon in great detail. He argues that by making heaps and heaps of rigorous arguments in your presentation and boring the pants off everyone, you reduce the risk of anyone in the audience ever asking awkward, challenging questions for which you have no answer. Great paper. A must read. (See my page for a sample, or go to the publisher for the paper – you’ll need library access to get it for free.)

Image: Burrowing owl, Wikimedia Commons


Creativity, place and time

I’ve often thought about the importance of place for writing – as both something to write about and something that affects how you write.  But what about the importance of place for someone directing a play? What does place mean in that context?

In the clip below, director Sam Strong talks about the process of imagining the play he’s about to set before a live audience.  It’s an Australian play, The Floating World, by John Romeril, which deals with racism and the effects of war (WWII). For Strong, place is very important to the process of imagining theatre. He says he goes into the theatre and  sits in the front row before working with the actors. That’s his creative space. Right up the front, there he is, almost on the stage. One step removed from where the actors will soon inhabit the space, with their own interpretations of the words, the ideas, the emotions, and the actions of the script. Soon the ideas of one will be the ideas of another and then the whole company, continually being shaped back and forth between players, director and playwright (via the script).

What an incredible chain of connected creative moments the playwright has set in motion.

From the author’s head, heart, body and soul, onto the page, out of the page, into the collective heads, hearts, bodies and souls of the director, the actors, the stage manager, the lighting director, the stage designer, and back again into your head, heart, soul and body when you see the production as it all comes together on the night.

But then that’s not the same version that you’ll see if you go tomorrow night. It’s all continually evolving. Where did the author’s ideas come from in the first place anyway?

Getting a bit existential I know, but what is this thing called a play? What is the space in which it exists at any point? There’s certainly the production itself, but think about all the creative moments around that. The threads, the lives, the processes that lead to and from it. The play is certainly the thing, as Mr Shakespeare said. A profound creative thing. It’s not the end point of creativity though, it exists along a continuum of time past, present and future.

(Aaahhh – where have I gone with this. Must be Dr Who time. Call the Tardis.)

Sam Strong, director of The Floating World, by John Romeril

The story’s the thing: Digital fiction

Canadian author and educator, Kate Pullinger visited my university last week, and since then I have been thinking about ‘the book’ and where it is going in the digital future.

Pullinger says that stories are an important teaching tool for teachers of all subjects. How true. As a writer and lecturer in creative writing and new media at Bath Spa University in the UK, Pullinger believes that ‘the way that we read and interact with text and stories may well have changed fundamentally in 20 years’ time’ (1) , and that the ebook is only a small change in that evolution.

Digital fiction

Pullinger has written traditional fiction like The Mistress of Nothingfor which she won the Governor-General’s award in 2009.

However, her experimentation with digital fiction and the future of the novel is of increasing interest. Her digital works include, e.g. Inanimate Alice  and Flight Paths . The text is sparse and the format relies on the integration of text, image, sound and animation.

Flight Paths: A Networked Novel


Her work with digital story telling and school students is clearly influencing the direction she is pushing the traditional novel. For example in 2011 she was involved with 5 secondary schools and 5 digital writers in a collaborative arts-in-schools project called Ebb and Flow.

And an interesting outcome of her digital story venture, Inanimate Alice, is that school students are now adding to her published ‘novel’ online. She is intrigued herself that students at a US school began adding a fifth chapter to her four-chapter, pre-teen/teenage digital work. The students’ classroom teacher encouraged the kids to contribute text and images to the story and create a new adventure for Alice, which they loaded up onto the Internet, challenging notions of authorship, and demonstrating that fiction can evolve imaginatively, textually and collaboratively. Teenagers are reading books after all.

Live creative writing: ‘Memory Makes Us’

While in Brisbane, Pullinger also took part in an IF:Book Australia event, on 9 July at the State Library of Queensland. The project was called ‘Memory Makes Us’ . Pullinger explored memory as a collaborative and creative event, connecting and combining memories contributed by members of the public with her own experience to create a new work. This included text and images. As she wove together her own and others’ stories, the creative work was streamed live on the Internet and broadcast on the big screen at Federation Square in Melbourne.

Strange as it seems, to me it was more exciting to know that as the story evolved it was projected live into a living breathing city, than that it was simultaneously projected on the Internet. Why? What is the difference? It’s all out there. Is it because I can imagine Federation Square and people reading the screen as they pass by? Is it that I can imagine the particular but imagining the complexity of worldwide participation is too much? Does knowledge of a place make up for anonymity of place?


(1) Pullinger, Kate. (2011). Education: Classroom innovation: Strategy/Comment: Comment: Educators need to utilise the explosion in digital writing. The Guardian, London, UK, 11 Jan, p. 5.