Alastair Horne

Image of Alastair Horne recipient of British Library Mobile Fiction CDP

Alastair’s AHRC funded collaborative PhD with the British Library and Bath Spa University explores how mobile phones are changing storytelling. His research subjects range from the Japanese keitai shousetsu of the early 2000s to the location-based work of the Ambient Literature project.


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Working with the British Library has enabled me to get my research out there beyond academia.

Key points

  • Alastair’s research explores new opportunities for storytelling created by mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
  • His creative work – a mobile audio fiction set in Brompton Cemetery – complements his scholarly research by offering new insights into the challenges involved in writing for mobile devices.
  • The British Library has opened up a wealth of opportunities for Alastair to share his research, leading to talks in London, Boston Spa, and Settle.

How are smartphones and tablets changing the way we tell – and talk about – stories? My research explores how the affordances of mobile devices – the things they can do, from knowing where we are and responding to our input, to playing different kinds of media – enable us to tell stories in new ways.

The stories I’m researching range from keitai shousetsu, the cellphone novels that were written and read by Japanese commuters on the very basic feature phones of the early 2000s, to the works produced by the Ambient Literature project, which combine location and technology to tell stories that build upon, and change, the reader’s relationship with the world around them. I’m exploring how smartphones can recreate communal reading experiences through serialisation, and how works like Inkle’s interactive 80 Days can offer opportunities to reinvent old stories.

My academic research is complemented by a creative project that explores mobile storytelling from a practitioner perspective. I’m writing and producing a mobile audio fiction set in London’s Brompton Cemetery, where the listener plays an active part within a story that features several of the cemetery’s permanent residents. Like libraries, cemeteries contain thousands of stories, and I’m working several of these true stories into my own. From February 2019, I’ll be looking for people to test the work. Please watch this short trailer and get in touch if you’d like to be involved

It’s important to me to that my research engages with the world beyond academia, and working at the British Library has helped enormously in making that happen. In addition to speaking at academic conferences on technology and writing, and even crime fiction, I’ve also I’ve spoken at the Settle Stories festival in Yorkshire, been interviewed on local radio, and given a public talk at the British Library as part of the Feed the Mind series – and many of these opportunities have come about through the connections I’ve made by working here.

Posts by Alastair about his research

Keitai shousetsu: the first mobile phone fictions (July 2018)

The World is Your Playground: Interactive Fiction, Place, and the Internet of Things (March 2017)

Alastair also blogs about his research, and publishing, at www.pressfuturist.com.

Brompton Cemetery British Library

Brompton Cemetery. Photo by Alastair Horne.

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