Text and audio: use in BoW

The course material described Karen Knorr’s use of image and text to put across a political perspective, and asked me to reflect upon my own use of text in the BoW. I also consider the use of sound (in the ebook form).

One aspect I’m aiming to convey is the stillness of the canal as a contemplative space that underpins a stage for socialisation of a deindustrialised space. To allow for this stillness, I’ve avoided the use of text alongside individual images. However, for A3 I did include a foreword (an artist’s statement) and ambient sound recordings and music alongside the images.

My thinking since A3 has evolved. There are a number of areas:

  • Ebook title: I’d used the title Air Land Water: a canal as a world within a world. The main title connected to graffiti on one image and described very generally the materiality of the subject matter. The subtitle was a working attempt at hinting at the heterotopic qualities of the canal. I think it requires more precision to allow the viewer to know something of what the book is about without being too directional. I’m now thinking along the lines of Leeds and Liverpool: worlds within a world. It seems important to locate the work on this particular stretch of canal as viewers come with their own very different experiences and perceptions of canals, which for some seem to suggest I’m misrepresenting the space of a canal, whereas I’m concerned with a specific canal that travels through some rugged landscape and deindustrialised northern cities. I’m also minded to avoid the use of ‘canal’ in the title for the same reason – in the UK, it is now loaded with connotations of slow boat trips and celebrities on boats. Whereas I’d like to hint at the socialisation of space, without bluntly prescribing ‘the socialisation of a deindustrialised canal’.
  • Sound: Since A3, I’ve invested considerable time and effort in the operation and appearance of sound buttons in the ebook. However, I now feel that they may be a distraction from the work – for much the same reason as I’ve avoided text alongside individual images. I’ve decided to remove sound for now and just use it on a website to complement the book. The website would then also give a different experience to the work, rather than simply reproduce the images and sound already featured in the book. For the piece of music included in A3, I’d use it to accompany a video of some of the images.
  • Foreword / artist’s statement: by including this at the beginning of the book, it risks leading the viewer towards my own interpretation, and interferes with their own shaping of meaning. Therefore, for the next version I’ll move the text to the back of the book and include something simpler at the front, more akin to the text on the inside cover of a paper book.

I realise the importance of considering the specific effect of text and music in an ebook – perhaps for A3 I was more interested in using it to compensate for the lack of tactility in an ebook; to give a different kind of viewing experience. However, I’ve found that the best intentions do not always make to enhance a tried and tested form. There are also practical issues with sound files bloating the size of the ebook and making it difficult to download on slow connections. I’ve concluded that a website is a more appropriate format for the multimedia experience.