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A Box of Delights

Oxford ASPIRE has just received funding from the Arts Council's Grants for the Arts scheme and the Oxford City Council's Culture Fund to pilot the develop a new geo-locative mobile app for the city.

From May 2013 we will be working with digital innovator and artist Alex Butterworth to create "Box of Delights" (working title): a mobile digital platform that will imaginatively engage Oxford audiences with the city's musuem collections and the City's cultural lanscape through a non-linear narrative and augmented reality.

Lewis Carroll, Max Beerbohm, Penelope Lively, John Masefield, Philip Pullman.  For generations Oxford storytellers have spun tales of transformative devices: bottles of poison, tambaran, boxes of delight, alethiometers.  Those who dare use them ar drawn into fantastical new worlds, often stranegly layered into everyday reality.  This project will recast the Smartphone as an instrument of enchantment and, blurring the lines between the real and the imagined, it will draw the user into a coherent but non-linear narrative set around the interplay between reason and fantasy across Oxford's history.

From May to November 2013, working as an artist in residence Alex Butterworth will work with the Oxford University Museums to develop an original narrative suitable to the platform, and a limited iOS prototype to test key technical issues,  This will provide proof of concept to hopefully leverage further investment to build a sophisticaled multi-platform mobile app which will engage a broad audience with Oxford's rich history and culture.

Alex Butterorth's creative work has been diverse, ranging across media platforms, but has consistently focussed on innovation and narrative experimentation.  Graduating from Oxford University with a first degree in English, he went on to study screenwriting at the National Film and Television School, and interactive media design at the Royal College of Art in the 1990s.  He went on to write for stage and sreen, including the first drama-documentary co-produced by Channel 4 and HBO, and worked as story-engine designer, writer, producer and dramaturge on a number of ground-breaking digital projects.  He has also published two acclaimed works of narrative history: Pompeii: The Living City (winner of the Longmans History Today New Generation Book of the Year) and The World that Never Was, a history of the late nineteenth century seen through the prism of terrorist attacks of the 1890s and the consequent birth of the international secret services.

Since 2009 Alex Butterworth has focused on the creation of innovative narrative and dramatic experiences using digital technology, developing new platforms for popular engagement with cultural history.  His company Amblr LLP has developed a locative media platform for the creation of GPS-triggered experiences delivered by Smartpone.  Early Amblr projects include Hackney Hear, an immersive audio-only experience created in collaboration with The Hackney Podcast producers (winner of the Prix Europa for Innovation), and Magic in Modern London, a London-wide game experience conceived of by Alex and produced by Almblr for the Wellcome Trust: part game, part audio-book, part visual documentary, it takes the user on an amulat seeking quest in the compnay of twentieth century folklorist Edward Lovett.

Read the first in our series of Box of Delights blogposts: Delighting in Oxford.

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