Bristol City Council have commissioned a redesign of the Missorts website, which has just gone live. Missorts is my immersive soundwork for Bristol. The project was launched on 20 November 2012, on the anniversary of Thomas Chatterton’s birth. Missorts was originally designed as a GPS-triggered smartphone app that activated automatically in the Redcliffe area of Bristol, and could not be accessed anywhere else.
The work features ten original and interconnected short stories by Sara Bowler, Holly Corfield Carr, Thomas Darby, Jack Ewing, Katrina Plumb, Jess Rotas, Hannah Still, Helen Thornhill, Isabel de Vasconcellos and Sacha Waldron. In the original app, the stories unfold each in their own specific location as you walk around Bristol Temple Meads and Redcliffe, near Thomas Chatterton’s birthplace, and are accompanied by – or embedded within – the Portwall Preludes, a series of striking new musical works specially composed by Jamie Telford for St Mary Redcliffe’s Harrison and Harrison church organ. Stories and music could be listened to in any order. This new browser-based version of the project means, further, that stories and music can now be listened to anywhere. I’m interested to see how an audio work designed for a particular location in Bristol might sound in other locations, including those with their own radical literary histories.
The redesign extends the life of the project and makes it available to wider audiences – and includes director David Bickerstaff’s short documentary. Whilst the app did enable an incredible degree of automation (and using GPS to trigger the stories in the places where they’re set, and allowing users to mix between stories and music in real time and space was an integral part of the work), backwards compatibility has proved a challenge, and the fact that users needed to acquire an app in the first place was a frequent obstacle. User experiences that are echoed by Futurebook’s Molly Flatt, writing in The Bookseller this summer about browser-based vs app-based reading experiences:
From a reader’s point of view, downloading an app is a surprisingly big barrier to entry. From a publisher’s point of view, producing and distributing content via an app is a total pain […] working with frustrating external shopfronts such as the Apple Store. In other words, our innovative new solution was… a website.
On this same subject, I was also interested to note that one of my favourite digital literature experiences of 2017 – Joanna Walsh’s mesmerising Seed (from Editions at Play) – was purely browser-based.