Search Of Oldton
With 'In Search of Oldton', I plan to work together with people
- online and offline - to build up digital evidence of a town that never
I am very keen for the project to encourage as many people as possible
to try their hand at writing in a digital environment and to explore
what it might mean to have a literary experience online.
Please send me texts, pictures, sounds, videos and memorabilia that
I can use to build up a detailed portait of my old home town. The only
rule about submissions is that they must be about a place or a person
that has been lost or left behind.
Already a number of people have posted to the
trAce forum, giving me leads on where Oldton might be,
and what might have caused its disappearance. By email, I have also
received texts, images and sounds that have been submitted to the growing
Please send me your own memories, memorabilia, souvenirs and farewells
from the disappeared town. You can email me, post to my blog or send
items though the post to: trAce Online Writing Centre, The Nottingham
Trent University, Clifton Lane, Clifton, Nottingham NG11 8NS.
ME A POSTCARD
If you'd prefer to collect your thoughts on paper, we have produced
an Oldton postcard. A pack of cards can be sent to you on request. Please
contact Catherine Gillam at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Tel 0115 8483533 for details.
Use the card to write or sketch a short message about something or someoneyou
never said goodbye to properly, and post it to me.
Between March and July 2004, I'll be travelling throughout
the UK, working with the people I meet to piece together the mystery
of what happened to Oldton, my childhood town. Current dates include:
12th May - Lincoln
15th May - Hay Festival
22nd June - MAC Birmingham
6 dates in July - IDEASFACTORY
12th July - Incubation3 Symposium
Dates in Dorset, Tyneside and Norfolk are also in the pipeline. If
you'd like me to come to your town and talk about the joys of digital
writing, click here for
blog I am recording my work in progress: how this story
is emerging, through the gathering and manipulation of assets, the building
of Web pages and the development of narrative through text and voice.
The site itself
currently represents a 'promotional excerpt' from a project that is
due for completion in September 2004. As such I have intentionally designed
it to be circular and self enclosed. The three main sections will become
more discrete over time, but always will remain interlinked. They simply
represent different starting points for what ends up being one big story.
A 90% TRUE STORY
I claim Oldton as my old home town, because it represents
for me two important things that I lost in my own life, things that
somehow still manage to be a significant part of who I am: one is my
father, who committed suicide several years ago, and the other is the
innocent and happy childhood I enjoyed in a secure and peaceful rural
environment in the 'pre-digital' 1960s and early 1970s.
I can never get these things back in real life. But perhaps through
an imaginative act of digital reincarnation, I can come to terms with
my loss. Perhaps a *virtual* return to Eden is possible...
The project is a deliberate confusion of a fictional narrative and an
exploration of my personal life, with the aim of discovering and defining
some kind of emotional truth about my past.
This, to me, seems like a natural way for a digital writer to use the
online environment - to create something of emotional significance out
of the multiplicity of impersonal interactions and chaotic, shared media
that the Web offers.
It is true that when I was six, we left a small village in the country
where I was very happy. It is also true that much later my father killed
himself. In my digital story, however, I have changed the sequence of
events and compressed the period of time in which these events happened
- much as anyone does when engaging with an interactive environment,
whether it be a Web site or a CD ROM or a game.
We chop and change the order in which we look at things. We dwell in
some areas of the virtual environment for longer than in others. Some
areas we never visit at all. I wanted to create a digital story in which
I could do the same kind of thing with my own past. And by doing so,
I'm hoping to reveal something about how digital narratives can unlock
a different kind of 'truth' about common human experiences.
'In Search of Oldton' is also, for me, a modest attempt to
retell the Eden myth at a time of great technological revolution, when
human beings are beginning to wonder what kind of animals we might become
in a 24x7 virtual world, and what we all might lose by evolving in this