Creating a Chronotopic Ground for the Mapping of Literary Texts: Innovative Data Visualisation and Spatial Interpretation in the Digital Medium

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: English and Creative Writing

Abstract

This project is about the visualising of literary place and space, using the digital medium in a way never before attempted to advance spatial understanding and interpretation of literary texts for a range of users. We view space and time in literature as a central element of the understanding and interpretation of texts, but one that is often overlooked. Literary mapping has the potential to bring it to the fore and allow it to be understood and appreciated in new ways.

Conceptually the project is concerned with solving a deceptively simple problem that restricts spatial exploration of literature, particularly in digital space, the problem of how to generate the "base map". Where a text is set in a space that appears to correspond to the real world (e.g. London in a Dickens' novel) this appears unproblematic, but where a text creates a world with no direct correspondence this becomes a major problem since there is nothing on to which to map textual elements. Our ground-breaking project aims to solve this problem by creating the base map out of the text itself, using place-names and other toponymic elements to generate map representations. Structurally, we will establish five core spatial genres for Literary Studies and create models of interpretation at multiple levels for a range of texts within each genre. Our innovative approach will enable a major step forward in the understanding and analysis of the spatial and temporal (chronotopic) dimensions of a literary work, with the potential to be relevant and of interest to academics and the wider public.

We will interpret texts and images by an iterative structure (returning upon itself) that connects visual and verbal representations and moves between them. So, a text is analyzed; maps are produced and the fictional world visualised; then there is a return to the text in the light of such spatialisation for in-depth analysis, enriched and deepened by the act of visualisation that mapping has given us. We are also interested in adapting gaming engines to the exploration of space and place in canonical literary forms, creating a range of maps and full 3D visualisations for different kinds of imaginative terrain and mapping at different scales. Our project will significantly enhance knowledge and understanding of digital tools for the spatial humanities, for literary mapping and for spatial approaches to the analysis and interpretation of literary works.

A brief explanation of how the project might work may be helpful here, taking Treasure Island as an example. At a macro-level the novel will need to be mapped in terms of three distinct time-spaces: England (home); The Voyage/ The Ship (transition); The Island (the "other" space of conflict and death). The first of these maps onto "real-world" geography (Devon), the second reduces space to the extent of the ship in motion; the third is set in an entirely imaginary (though authorially-mapped) place. These space-times (or chronotopes) exist sequentially within the narrative but also overlap and bear upon each other (e.g. the boy narrator, Jim, projects an imagined version of the island forward from home that the actual island confounds entirely). If we focus purely on the first of these we can see how ordinary everyday life at The Admiral Benbow inn is interrupted by the intersection of this world with that of the pirates and how Jim is sucked out of one kind of timespace or chronotope (safe, secluded, the space of childhood) into another far more exciting, but also threatening, one. In the case of Treasure Island, an authorial map is also given alongside the text so that the map is both inside and outside the narrative, functioning like a chronotopic beacon -- an object of power calling out to be claimed and reclaimed and shaping the narrative around it by manipulating through desire. Full visualisation of different chronotopes will allow us to respond more deeply to the rich complexity of such a text.

Planned Impact

Impact is a core element of the project since it is concerned with bringing about a transformation through new tools and methods in terms of a particular academic field - spatial humanities - and with communicating new ways of understanding and exploring literary place, space and time to as large an audience as possible.

Who might benefit?
The project is of use to the following groups:
- Primary school teachers and pupils
- Secondary school teachers and pupils
- Universities in a range of Humanities disciplines
- Libraries and special collections
- Heritage organisations
- Museums
- Literary Societies
- Literary Houses
- Tourist Boards
- The National Trust
- Local communities
- The wider public visiting regions, interested in writers, using digital media
- International visitors and tourists

Impact is targetted towards three main non-academic groups:

Educational Beneficiaries
The project builds upon work already undertaken with schools in The Lakescraft Project by Bushell and Butler. This provides an existing network of schools in the North West region and beyond. For this project we will use the same structure for schools of creating worksheet materials to use alongside 3D visualisations and gaming platforms since this worked successfully before. We will establish a core team who are willing to work closely with us on the development of the materials and to work with the BL learning team (connecting to London schools). In Lancaster we will work in the first instance with Dallas Road Primary School and Lancaster Royal Grammar School for Boys where we have existing links. We will develop materials with the aid and advice of four teachers, bringing them onto campus for 2 day-long sessions in computer labs in Years 1 and 2. We will develop one set of materials for Primary school children aged 8-11 (centred on Treasure Island) and a second set for GCSE students aged 14-16 (centred on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Lord of the Flies). The PI is also a fully trained secondary school teacher with previous experience of teaching in schools.

Museums / Cultural Heritage
We will create interactive interfaces that enable adults and children to play with the tools in the museum space and that engage people with literature who might not otherwise be interested. Working with The Wordsworth Trust and The British Library we will create a suite of training materials for librarians and other professionals relating to the online tools (also freely accessible) and run a Digital Scholarship course hosted by the BL. We hope that our tools will be adapted and used by those in the third sector, as well as by academics.

The General Public
The public will have direct access to the digital tools that we develop through the project website which will be designed for maximum appeal and reach. The digital tools themselves will also be designed as toolchains of existing tools to maximize flexibility and re-usability. There will also be directly interactive elements on the site for users to engage with.

How might they benefit?
We believe that mapping and visualizing literary space and time opens up new ways of analysing literature, and thus of understanding spatio-temporal representations and the spatial nature of our own existence more fully. This is of benefit to all, in different ways. The first level of impact is conceptual and intellectual to fellow academics working in this field and related disciplines whose own work can be advanced and taken in new directions by it. The second level is for those working in the third sector for whom the tools may be developed towards as yet unforeseen ends. A third level of impact occurs in schools where we seek to open up the experience of literary texts through spatial and visual means to the next generation. Finally, even those with digital mapping as a hobby can use our tools and share ideas with us and others.
 
Title Litcraft world builds 
Description It is an original world build in Minecraft - a digital 3D product. We have Litcraft builds for: Treasure Island; Kensuke's Kingdom; Robinson Crusoe/Swiss Family Robinson and The Boy Who Climbed into The Moon. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact See other partnerships and projects linked to Litcraft 
URL https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/chronotopic-cartographies/litcraft/
 
Description The primary aim of the original project was to solve the conceptual problem of how to map imaginary worlds in literature that have no grounding in the "real" (i.e. do not correspond to places on earth). This problem was solved primarily through the creation of a bespoke spatial schema that is used to generate visualisations that effectively "map" the text. Our spatial schema in XML is run through Python and Gephi to create topological graphs which function as "maps" of the text and allow us to visualise spatial meaning in any text. For this scoping out project we sought to explore the value of such maps in relation to analysing and exploring literary space and place across five different spatial forms for literature with different relationships to mappable space (correspondent places; non-specific/indefinite spaces; nested worlds; fantastic worlds; spaces of exile). We generated a map series for a wide range of texts to illustrate the effectiveness of our tools fully and by the end of the project the tools that we have used with full guidelines will be freely available from the website.
Exploitation Route The whole purpose of the project was to create tools and a method that can be used by others. All of our maps are really examples of what the tools can do. The model has great potential for any Humanities subject that involves multiple narratives over time. So although it was created in relation to literary narratives it could be used very effectively in disciplines such as History or Law.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

URL https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/chronotopic-cartographies/
 
Description The Impact project itself - Litcraft - has been extremely successful as a kind of spin-off. This has been used by schools and libraries to re-engage reluctant readers with reading as play and with the library space. Impact from the main project and the tools created is likely to be far slower to build momentum. Here too we were unable to get out and about internationally in Year 3 of the project to international conferences because of the effects of COVID.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description ESRC Impact Acceleration Award
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation Lancaster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2019 
End 09/2020
 
Description ESRC Impact Acceleration Award (Funds handled internally by Lancaster University)
Amount £10,500 (GBP)
Organisation Lancaster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2019 
End 09/2020
 
Title Graph generation for Literary Analysis (Literary Topology) 
Description This is a digital method created by our unique spatial schema which allows us to generate a topological graph (map) out of any text. It uses existing free programmes to do this in order to be easily accessible to others. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact We are still developing the guidelines/ troubleshooting etc. so the site and tools will not be fully live until September 2020. 
URL https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/chronotopic-cartographies/
 
Title Tools Created for Chronotopic mapping of space and time in Literature 
Description One major aim of the project was to create easy-to-use and free-to-use tools to allow others to generate their own maps. These are all hosted by us on the website via a link to GITHUB. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Too early to say. 
URL https://github.com/chronotopic-cartographies/visualisation-generators/
 
Description Litcraft Testing: National Literacy Trust 
Organisation National Literacy Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We designed and created the original Litcraft worlds and all the linked educational resources. We trained the teachers who were going to deliver the resource.
Collaborator Contribution The National Literacy Trust identified schools around Bradford in which to test and trial the resource in relation to reluctant readers. They then handled the data and wrote a report for us.
Impact ESRC bid results from all Litcraft work but NLS feeds most directly into it. We also aim to partner with them again on this bid if successful.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Litcraft: The Boy Who Climbed to the Moon 
Organisation The National Centre for Children's Books
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have partnered with Seven Stories to make a bespoke Litcraft build for them using the book of local author David Almond with his permission. The build recreates the East of Newcastle and the Byker estate which is close to Seven Stories, in Minecraft, and has activities linked to a giant tower block. This will be used with children living in the estate and tower block to connect them and bring them into Seven Stories.
Collaborator Contribution Seven Stories are working with us to take the resource out into local schools and to work with children on the estate.
Impact Feeds into ESRC bid for Litcraft.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Litcraft: Wordsworth's Spots of Time 
Organisation Wordsworth Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are partnering with The Wordsworth Trust to make a play/literacy resource called Litcraft: Spots of Time. This takes a Minecraft map of the Lake District and embeds the reading of poetry and the re-enactment of early experiences within the landscape in that world. It will be located in the museum and be directly connected to items in the collection.
Collaborator Contribution The Wordsworth Trust has adapted a corridor in the middle of their new museum build design to allow for this resource to be integrated.
Impact I am putting in a major ESRC bid to research immersive reading/ play and empathy - this comes out of all of the Litcraft builds though not just this one.
Start Year 2017
 
Description British Library: Discovering Literature 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We wrote a number of new pages for the British Library's Discovering Literature website which has a rough user base of 500,000 per month.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.bl.uk/discovering-literature
 
Description Digital Conversation at The British Library 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The British Library hosted a Digital Conversation centred upon the Litcraft project and myself as PI on 4th November 2019. This was entitled: Games, Literature and Learning.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bl.uk/events/digital-conversation-games-literature-and-learning?_ga=2.24547002.100668721...
 
Description Discovering Literature 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Working as partners with the British Library we are adding a series of new entries to their Discovering Literature website. These are texts which also feature in our main project (Chronotopic Cartographies) and which add a spatial dimension to their website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2019
URL https://www.bl.uk/discovering-literature
 
Description Events at the British Library 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We frequently work with Stella Wisdom at the British Library to co-host events that showcase LITCRAFT as one of their flagship digital projects. E.g. we have run workshops for London Gaming Week each year. In January 2019 Sally Bushell went out with Alex Whitfield (Head of Learning at the BL) to Hong Kong for the SPARK festival run by the British Council and co-presented at this.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Libraries using the LITCRAFT resource 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We have set up LITCRAFT in Libraries in the following library regions: Lancashire; Leeds; Westminster; Devon; Somerset. A box containing iPads and all the resources needed to run LITCRAFT sessions circulates across the library system and is used in a wide range of ways in each region - events in school libraries; events in local libraries; as part of reading festivals etc. We have a full audit trail for all use of the resource with questionnaires and feedback forms returned to us. The aim is to encourage children to re-engage with literature and to use libraries more.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Litcraft: Treasure Island / Robinson Crusoe/ Kensuke's Kingdom 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We made a series of Litcraft world builds in Minecraft for three literary islands. Each of these involves an accurate scale-model of the island in Minecraft with linked educational resources that tie in-game challenges to the reading of the text. This has been trialled and tested in over 50 schools through partnership with the National Literacy Trust and also rolled out across the library systems of Lancashire and Leeds to over 1000 children. All the world builds are freely downloadable from the project website.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020,2021
URL https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/chronotopic-cartographies/litcraft/
 
Description Litcraft: Wordsworth's Spots of Time 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In partnership with The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere we used a base Minecraft map of the Lake District (generated from O.S. maps by The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford) and built Dove Cottage and other key sites of significance to Wordsworth into the world with in-game activities. These link the reading of poetry about Wordsworth's childhood adventures to in-game challenges. This digital resource will be available at the centre of the Trust's new museum build (opening April 2021) and at the education centre in Grasmere as well as being taken out to schools around Cumbria.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/chronotopic-cartographies/litcraft/
 
Description Litcraft:The Boy Who Climbed into the Moon. Minecraft Worldbuild for Seven Stories, Newcastle 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This activity involves the creation of a scale-model of a literary world in Minecraft with linked educational resources. In this case we took an accurate model of the centre of Newcastle in Minecraft (generated for us by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford) and built an accurate model of the Byker estate and Seven Stories building with a giant tower block coming out of the site around which in-game activities linked to reading the text take place. We trained up the educational leaders at Seven Stories and they then took the resource into local schools. NOTE: The category we put this into above is that of website but it is not a website it is a fully playable downloadable game world.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020,2021
 
Description Main Website for the Project displaying maps and providing tools 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I'm not sure where else to put this - the main website for the project. This is a fairly important resource in its own right. We display a wide range of maps from the texts that we have generated and also provide full training guides and tools for others to use.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020,2021
URL https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/chronotopic-cartographies/
 
Description Media Coverage: National News 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have had a lot of media interest in the project but the most significant was a major article in The Guardian which then was picked up by numerous other newspapers worldwide. Article in The Guardian by Alison Flood and Sian Cain: "How Minecraft is helping kids fall in love with books: Wednesday 11th July, 2018.
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jul/11/how-minecraft-is-helping-kids-fall-in-love-with-books

The article also appeared in the South China Morning Post International Edition and has been translated into French (Actualitte.com), Spanish and German for other websites.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jul/11/how-minecraft-is-helping-kids-fall-in-love-with-books
 
Description Minecraft Day at Lancaster University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact For 2018 and 2019 we have hosted and run a Minecraft Day event at Lancaster University. We contacted around 15 schools and invited 70 pupils in 2018 and we are targeting Widening Participation schools for 2019. The day involves different teams from across the University who use Minecraft for various activities and the children circulate in groups of 15 around each different activity across the day. We had a very positive response from pupils and teachers last year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Podcast for the BBC 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact New Thinking Podcast made with the AHRC /BBC in celebration of Wordsworth's 250th Birthday year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://ahrc.ukri.org/innovation/new-generation-thinkers/bbc-new-thinking-podcasts/
 
Description Podcast with The British Library (Anything but Silent) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed for a podcast as part of the British Library's "Anything But Silent" series that seeks to make clear the many different kinds of activity that go on in the library space. This related directly to the Litcraft project (the impact part of the main bid).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2020
URL https://www.bl.uk/news/2019/october/anything-but-silent
 
Description Project Conference: Mapping Space Mapping Time Mapping Text (2020) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I have put this event here because I can't find any other place to report on it. We were meant to hold a major conference at The British Library in summer 2020 but this was cancelled as a result of COVID 19. We re-determined the nature and format of the event, however, in order to be able to host it virtually in September 2020. We ran a conference in a format that allowed people from different time zones around the world to participate across the day with different live and recorded elements.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description School visits and trials of the resource 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We offer the LITCRAFT resource to schools via teacher training days. We currently have 4 school trials happening; Primary school trial with 60 pupils; three Secondary school reading intervention groups with 15-20 pupils. We fully audit all events with pre and post questionnaires and pre- and post- reports for the interventions.

The purpose was to trial and test the resource feeding into ongoing development. However, the highly positive nature of the feedback received also drew our attention to significant future research potential.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Young Researchers:Robinson Crusoe 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact For 9 weeks we ran a weekly workshop with the Learning Team at The British Library as part of their Young Researchers programme, designed to make their collections more accessible. We worked intensively with a small group of Year 8 pupils from a deprived London school. They first read Robinson Crusoe, then worked through our Litcraft resource build before going on to write their own "robinsonade" and create world-builds for their stories in Minecraft designed for younger children to play. The final session was a showcase and test of their games.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://www.bl.uk/learning/tarea/teachers/students/youngresearchers/researchers.html