The Medium is the Message: What’s yours?

During his keynote speech at the 2010 Writing Industries Conference, Graham Joyce warned that writers would need to be more flexible if they wanted to carve a successful (paid) career as writers. The days of a large advance to pen your magnum opus were becoming more infrequent and so it was time to consider other formats and mediums such as mobile phones, gaming platforms and podcasts.

Fundamental to his call for versatility was technology and how this is radically transforming every aspect of lived experience. Fast forward eleven years and his advice has become more prescient. Social media platforms function as mini-publishing studios that can be monetised and immersive technology, such as augmented reality and A.I, are transforming how we tell and experience stories.

It’s with this in mind that I’ve been developing new modules at Nottingham Trent University to help equip emerging writers with the skills and knowledge needed to flourish in this ever-changing digital landscape.

One such module is Digital Storytelling, currently available to 2nd year Creative Writing students. This is very much built around experimentation, with students asked to adapt their story to fit the grammar of different platforms and mediums. It quickly becomes apparent that what works well as interactive fiction on Twine does not translate well to a visual medium like Instagram. Understanding the relationship between technology, audience and story is vital if you are going to produce engaging and innovative digital work.

Another benefit of this module is the practical skills it provides. The visual essay at the top of this article was produced using the Werner Moron ‘real-imaginary’ path (you’ll have to join the module to learn more about this method). The visuals were sourced from copyright free material and produced using free online tools. In creating a visual essay for YouTube, students learn to write a script, record audio, select images that reinforce the narrative, upload, tag, publish, share and promote. This provides a broad range of skills, all of which go some way towards helping them kickstart their digital writing careers.

The appeal of digital storytelling is the challenge of having to constantly adapt your writing to fit a medium. From interactive fiction on itch.io to Twitterature, each medium has its own form of constraint. A limited word count forces you to think carefully about what you want to say whereas interactive fiction places greater emphasis on the experience of the reader (user). Constraint is fundamental to creativity which is why I love jumping between mediums and platforms. It’s what maintains my motivation to write.

To see what other types of writing are going on in Nottingham and at Nottingham Trent University see nottinghamcreativewritinghub.com

Further Reading

D.H. Lawrence Memory Theatre project launch on Lawrence’s 135th birthday



For the last five years, Paul Fillingham and I have been working on a digital project to celebrate the life of D.H. Lawrence. We’ve done this without any funding (because we haven’t had time to apply) filling up every spare second of our evenings after a hard day’s slog. Our intention is simple, to bring Lawrence (kicking and screaming) into the 21st century. We don’t claim to be Lawrencian experts and fully expect some of our suggestions to be ripped apart. So please do tell us when and where we have got something wrong and we will consider revisions (although not biases). Our memory theatre will contain the good, the bad and the ugly: the complexities and contradictions of a human life.

It’s taken five years because this is how long we’ve needed to immerse ourselves in Lawrence’s phenomenal literary output – and we still haven’t touched the surface. Lawrence once chided Mabel Dodge Luhan that, ‘You don’t know your floor until you have scrubbed it on your hands and knee’. We’ve taken this attitude with the memory theatre. We don’t know Lawrence until we’ve read every word written by him or about him.

Representation of any author’s work is a challenge because there are so many interpretations of their work. This is particularly true for Lawrence who has been reviled and loved across the decades.  We understand how important it is to get things right. This means reading, reading, reading. Lawrence is a complex beast who can easily be misinterpreted. He can be infuriating and unbearable. Then profound and evocative. One thing he is not is mediocre.

To help challenge and cement ideas, the Memory Theatre project has been a dissertation option at Nottingham Trent University for the past four years. This has given me time to select and curate various aspects of Lawrence’s work, to identify recurring themes, and, more importantly, to understand what these themes mean to younger, digitally literate audiences. His ideas on money, industrialization, rananim, and the environment seem increasingly more relevant.

Paul has been constructing the website and coding for the project, thinking about the way the Memory Theatre can be accessed via different devices, developing the logo and branding, and visualising how the artefacts will appear. Due to Coronavirus, the memory theatre will have to be digital for now and so we need this to look right. This takes time.


Our intention was to launch the memory theatre in 2019 to mark the centenary of his self-imposed exile. But instead we are doing this today, on his 135th birthday, where we have our first artefact: Mr. Muscles. This is in recognition of his incredible work ethic, and the good spirit in which he approached life. Juliette Huxley said Lawrence cooked ‘as he did most things, with a radiating creativeness which was contagious. Even washing-up had its own charm, enriched with the satisfaction of putting everything back in its chosen place, glowing with fresh cleanliness.’

Lawrence constantly reminds us that we are transmitters of life and what we transmit has an impact on the way we perceive the world as well as the way we make others feel. Paul and I have given the memory project every ounce of our being. We hope it ‘radiates creativity,’ by pushing the boundaries of digital literary criticism and as an alternative to the linear biography.

You can visit the project website here and read the opening artefact essays using the links below.

Artefact 1: Mr. Muscles

Essay 1: A model of Neatness and Precision

Essay 2: Loves the Jobs you Hate

Essay 3: Roadmap to Happiness

Essay 4: We are Transmitters