If, like Emily Short, you’ve been lamenting at the lack of decent iPhone creative apps having been made to date, despair no more.

Aya Karpinska has finally had her iPhone / iTouch app – the children’s story “Shadows Never Sleep” accepted in the Apple apps directory.  This, to my knowledge, is the first piece of interactive fiction which makes use of the iPhone’s multitouch technology in a non-trivial way – i.e. it relies on the technology to produce readings and experiences in terms of the device’s capabilities, rather than being a case solely of remediation from what would then be a more practical paper-page.

“Shadows Never Sleep” at Aya’s website (includes link to App at iTunes Store)

Admittedly, Karpinska’s use of a somewhat expensive device (with currently pretty much exclusive technological capabilities) for children’s stories throws up a few problematic questions which I needn’t go into here.  More important for this project, I think, is the conceptual step of producing literature in ways which are exploiting such capabilities.  Her ‘zoom narrative’ takes advantage of the gestural features of the iPhone in which direct contact brings the body into a more transparent reflexivity with the device. From the dissertation:

Large digital projections can be shown on any surface: the wall of a room, a building façade, or a sidewalk. This presents interesting opportunities for digital storytelling, but the scenario of laptop plus digital projector lacks some of the small screen’s key strengths, such as the intimate scale, portability, and the ability to be viewed even in bright light conditions. With the iPhone, I had access to an important feature: the multi-touch screen. No mouse, no pointer, no buttons needed to make a story go. Just fingertips. I was particularly interested in the ability to pan and zoom within the display—left and right, up and down, in and out. The iPhone screen is flat like a page, but unlike a page in that its surface can be flicked and pinched to reveal unseen spaces beyond what is immediately visible. New kinds of writing emerged with the transition from scrolls to books. What if turning pages becomes zooming into surfaces and walking your fingers across a screen?

If you are not a child with an iPhone, you can check out the video of the work and a web instantiation of it here.

3 Responses to ““Shadows Never Sleep”: The First Innovative iPhone Story App?”

  1. hey, thanks for the post! the criticism re: expense of iphone is a good point. however an iphone or ipod touch can be considered more accessible than a desktop or laptop computer. relative to a computer, the iphone/ipod touch has the advantage of small size, portability, lower price, limited functionality (i think this is a plus – less barrier to knowing how to use the technology), simpler interface. this project is still a design for the moneyed elite, nonetheless mobile devices have far more potential for getting into the hands of economoically disadvantaged audiences. these mobile devices won’t be iphones, but they still introduce important creative constraints on artists and writers.

  2. Hey Aya!

    I totally agree – and hopefully my post made it clear – that this tends towards the interactive specificities of the medium in interesting ways and that this is the primary concern. The accessibility point was not meant as a criticism of the work, but as a preempting of an issue which I suspect would cross some readers’ minds when putting iPhone and children in the same sentence when they read this post. It’s not necessarily a negative point either. The iPhone has indeed set a precedent, as you say, which is likely to find its way into creative and hopefully pedagogical spheres before too long, probably at low cost. It’s important, therefore, to see artists using technologies early and in interesting ways, to show how new ways of intereacting with device can bring about new creative challenges – presentational, conceptual and compositional.

    The important thing is that such devices and their unique abilities are being used to create works of art which require the technology, rather than make superficial use of it – which I think is what your work is doing!

    Cheers – hope you’re well


  3. Hi John, I’ve posted a thought on Openned. Would be interested to hear what you think in response.