Porous Does Not Mean Leaky

As we approach (more or less) the half way point in our research project, something other than the passage of time and available funding has been on our minds. Something more fundamental to the project itself. Duncan Speakman’s It Must Have Been Dark by Now launched last week (and, all things being equal, will be coming to a library near you sometime in the next six months — details to follow) and we held our mid-point Symposium.

What was on our mind was stating, or trying to state, what it was we meant by Ambient Literature. We’ve been necessarily vague about this in the last year, partly because of the nature of a project that knows it draws on an existing canon of work (which means we’ve been careful about the borders of our study) and the uncertainty about what we mean by this. Is it a genre? A narrow form? Does it mandate audio as a delivery medium? Can we include printed works alongside digital media?

We’re not any nearer definitive answers to those questions, and I hope that stays that way for quite some time to come. We need porous borders. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, after all. Nevertheless, we thought it was time to draw some lines in the sand, and make some statements we could stand behind. These were created imperfectly, by a collaborative process amongst the project team that drew on as much of the interdisciplinary resource at our disposal, and then were filtered through my particular penchant for complex, signiconic1 typography.

The result of this is a kind of Manifesto for Ambient Literature. It took the form of a card box, in which were a detailed classification of our field that bordered on the parodic, and 22 footnote cards that provided semi-tangible examples of each point that classification was making. Somewhere, between these two elements and each reader, is what we were trying to articulate. Is what we are still trying to articulate as we move beyond the midpoint point for our project. It’s available for download — just right click on the two links below. And let us know what you think of it. Especially if it’s useful.

Defining Ambient Literature

22 Footnotes for Ambient Literature

— Tom Abba

  1. dues paid to Mark Z Danielewski: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/05/mark-z-danielewski/393035/ ↩︎


  1. Lucy Frears Reply

    Dear Tom/ all,

    Thank you for inviting me to come to the Ambient Literature Symposium, I am still thinking it through. If I cite a card or a section of a card how would you like that to appear?

    Yours Lucy

  2. Dear Mr Abba, I very much enjoyed reading rue définition of Ambient literature with the 22 footnotes, as i studied narrative journalism and litterature. How could i affiliate to your site once i launch an enriched ebook, that I edited for creating a relation with the readership.

    Sincerely, Isabelle rieser

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