made in collaboration with Samantha Gorman

Proof of Concept

Penumbra is a hybrid art/literature application in development for the iPad. It expands “ebook” conventions by carefully integrating video, illustration and fiction. These media work equally together to inform the total reading. Tablets are a promising literary medium with the potential to redefine our reading practice beyond a simple emulation of print on screen. Increasingly, ebooks could represent a growing platform for the consumption and dissemination of media art: a platform that is inherently interactive and readily mobile.

Investment in actively reading the interface relies on our experience with interaction design; the goal is to implement touch-screen gestures in service of the story’s content. Touching and tilting the screen places the reader in the position of the main protagonist. The reader can use the interface to decide how long the protagonist focuses on his external vs. internal world. The duration of focus changes the parameters of the next available scenes. Scenes follow a modern retelling of “the Book of Judith” as told from Holofernes’s perspective. His perspective is represented in two worlds: the protagonist’s internal world of floating text, animations, video flashbacks and the external world of video detailing the protagonist's day-to-day experience. These two worlds become increasingly conflated as the story progresses and the reader depletes the protagonist's ability to view the external world. Allowing the reader to switch worlds at will permits them to engage in an exploratory reading, while still situating the story in an overarching narrative. Penumbra addresses an essential quality of media art: ephemerality. Within the tablet's screen, the story modifies itself even as it is encountered.