Ink: designing for performative literary interactions

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In this article, we present the interactive literary installation Ink, an experimental installation displayed at the Roskilde library, and the Roskilde Festival, which is designed to prompt public reflection on the nature and role of digital literature. By manipulating three books embedded with sensors, and watching text visualized on a 55” screen, members of the public select from a range of predefined sentences, previously created by a Danish author, and stored in a database. Squeezing the books alters each poetic line by degrees. The final poems print onto a library receipt for their producers and upload to a blog for public viewing. We present (1) design challenges to an installation meant to persuade people to engage affectively with the ergodic nature of digital literature and (2) an in-depth analysis of the empirical findings from the installation studies at the Roskilde Festival. In particular, we highlight the broad, rich range of performative interactions facilitated by the interactive setup. This analysis examines the performative writing and reading achieved by the public through interaction with Ink and also with the resultant poems. From this exploration, we discuss general tendencies when designing affectively engaging literary interactions at the edge of art and design.

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    The project was called “Litteraturen finder sted” (Literature Takes Place), included the libraries in Aarhus and Roskilde and, was supported by Styrelsen for Bibliotek og Medier (the Danish Agency for Culture) and took place 2010–2013. See (in Danish).

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    [VIDEO 1].

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    For present purposes, we have focused on findings from the Roskilde Festival, but we plan future studies comparing the receptions in the various library spaces with the festival setting.


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Ink (Tilfældigvis er skærmen blevet blæk/Accidentally, the Screen Turns to Ink) is created within the project Litterature Takes Place (Litteraturen finder sted) by Roskilde Bibliotekerne and Participatory Information Technology Center, Digital Urban Living, CAVI, Aarhus University. 3D programming and sound design are supported by Jonas Oxenbøll Petersen, Janus Bager Kristensen, Rolf Bagge and Rune Wehner, respectively. This research has been funded by the Aarhus University’s interdisciplinary research center Participatory IT, PIT.

Author information

Correspondence to Søren Bro Pold.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

VIDEO 1 – Vestergaard, L. (2012) Presentation of Ink: (MP4 759826 kb)

VIDEO 2 – Lucas, M. (2013) Observations of Ink from the Roskilde Festival: (MP4 136154 kb)


VIDEO 1 – Vestergaard, L. (2012) Presentation of Ink: (MP4 759826 kb)


VIDEO 2 – Lucas, M. (2013) Observations of Ink from the Roskilde Festival: (MP4 136154 kb)

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Fritsch, J., Pold, S.B., Vestergaard, L.S. et al. Ink: designing for performative literary interactions. Pers Ubiquit Comput 18, 1551–1565 (2014) doi:10.1007/s00779-014-0767-2

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  • Affective engagement
  • Digital literature
  • Ergodic reading
  • Public displays
  • Performative interaction