Nature Mage #1 – project introduction


Here’s an introduction to the practice-based academic project I’m working on. In short, I’m working with a self-published author on ways to engage creatively with his readers, using serialisation, feedback and co-creation in an online community to experiment with new ways of launching the books and producing digital formats inspired by user-generated content.

This gives you a quick idea of what the project is all about (well, even I have some trouble defining ‘what it’s ALL about’, so good luck! If you can, please leave comments and ideas. I really want to hear other people’s opinions, tips, challenges!


Umbrella project: UNESCO Chair project Crossing Media Boundaries: New Media Forms of the Book”. Co-ordinated by Professor Alexis Weedon, University of Bedfordshire

UNESCO Chair link

Duncan Pile is a self-published author who is writing a fantasy trilogy aimed at young adults. The first two books – Nature Mage and Nature’s Servant – are out on Kindle and print. Now Duncan will be soon be launching Book 3, but in parts,, and initially through Amazon / Kindle.

Duncan’s author page

The books

In the first page of the book Duncan will ask readers to check the NMOnline (Nature Mage Online) website. This is where I come into the story. I’m creating a website / online community / co-creation platform for readers to read, comment, and create stuff linked to, or inspired by, the Nature Mage series. Users will be able to simply explore the content added by other users; leave comments about the books and site content; send their own pieces of story (either looking back at books 1 and 2, or ‘writing the plot’ for the next part of book 3); upload drawings, photos, songs, video re-enactments of the story, or anything else creative to do with Nature Mage! Even a LEGO start-stop animation (genius idea, isn’t it?)

Duncan, the author, will be heavily involved in discussions and replies, and we will also have the collaboration of art and writing students who will also be adding their creative works.

The website / community will probably be built with Ning It’s an online community building tool that’s pretty simple to use, whilst still allowing some customisation, and even programming if you have the skills. It used to be free but now is charged at around £18 / month. Anyone out there who’s tried other good online tools?
We’re also creating some mockups of the website before actually creating it on Ning. I’m using Balsamiq, a really useful, intuitive and complete tool to do website wireframes and working mockups. Yes, working – you use assets (images, buttons, sketches, etc.) to produce different mock pages, and then link them up, as if it were the real thing, but sketchy. I’ll be posting about this separately.

What will we do with the user-generated content? Well, first we have to crack copyright issues… So far, it seems the best option is to use some kind of Creative Commons License (there are many types) where we can use material uploaded by website  users, recognising the producers, but do not own the copyright. It’s more complex than this, have a look in Creative Commons Licenses

The online community is an end in itself, hopefully a site for dialogue and creativity. But we may also use the material – interviews with the author, backstories, alternative plot lines, illustrations, animations, and so on – in a first instance to produce a sort of ‘fan-inspired’ interactive or ‘enhanced book’ where the original narrative can co-exist with the mixing and mashing of readers and contributors to the community. We’re thinking about iBooks, using iBooks Author but also exploring other tools. This tool is free, and looks pretty good in action. Have any experiences to share in this area? Please get in touch!

If you’re a famous Hollywood director, do get in touch, we may consider a motion picture at some stage. Indie documentary maker? We’re available!

I’ll be posting regularly – sort of weekly – with updates. Stay tuned! RSS feed available*

(*Subject to availability; prices from other networks may vary; for full terms and conditions click here) Joking! 🙂