Touch Screens and Fiction

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Now that iPhone has potentially settled the issue of reading and navigating with a generous small screen via touch, it might be good to think about to how to write, design, and export Storyspace, Tinderbox, and other hypertext environment experiences to these and other devices. Peter Brantley reports, in a different context, on the popularity of short-form downloads onto mobiles in Japan, so we know the habit can grow.

I had the opportunity to play with the iPhone a few days ago and in manipulating images it suddenly struck me that the interaction surface of the device will be an amazing place for which to write and design alphabetic and icon-based material. The screen is rich and the size is deceivingly huge and like a book it has an intimate feel. And there have been rare times when I wanted to turn my laptop screen to get a better view of something. There much more to say here, perhaps even the context that Peter Brantley goes into in his piece on reading.

The screen starts with “The” . . .
The user turns the screen to landscape mode and “The” fades and the word “Abrasion” appears creating the potential for an interesting sequence of experiences. Stretch text comes with a separation of the fingers. Reading spaces are tailored for small screen manipulation and experience.

What about poetry? Scroll, tap a link or an arrow, turn the device. Shaking, Wii-like, could scatter or rearrange the stanzas, or not.

This is not a post about quality fiction or poetry, but it encourages serious approaches the reader/writer environment.

Just a Note: I never trusted a Harry Potter effect. I’m hearing a lot about that. Again. The key to less and less novel reading will be about abundance. There’s no scarcity of things to read nor a presumptive “value” to any one form. I always considered reading pretty tough work, anyway, not something associated with pleasure.


2 responses to “Touch Screens and Fiction”

  1. gibb says:

    If something like Storyspace were integrated into the iPhone, along with a word processing program, I think its usefulness to a larger audience would be obvious. There’s no way I could see something like Adobe Premiere or an animation (which is where my head’s at now) program being easily maneuvered within the screen size–even with the zoom and stretch abilities of iPhone, but the writing ability would indeed be a biggie and its appeal would entice even me.

    On your closing note, I never felt reading was tough in any way, except perhaps upon going into close reading and even that becomes easier with practice. Unfortunately, without that inspiration to read the practice isn’t there to make it easier. Faulkner was work; after the first fifty pages he became pure pleasure.

  2. Mary Ellen says:

    I love the part in the Times article where our esteemed reporter says the “excited adult” pointing out the next great book should be in the classroom. What happened to parents? Are they all watching Lost and Grey’s?