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February 20, 2009

The Material Text blog

The Department of Typography is involved with a major research theme at Reading called The Material Text. The aim of the theme is to promote interdisciplinary work in 'publishing and the book trade; the history of the book, printing and typography; and the study of the social and communicative functions of texts, whether written, printed, illustrated, performed or mediated.' All good stuff.

I recently became a contributor to the Material Text blog, and although it is young (too young to share the link? nah!), it is very promising, especially considering the breadth of potential contributions! Stay tuned to see how it develops…

February 13, 2007

Chemical Chaos: the CD-rom review

Ok, I admit that I picked up a box of coco pops for the free Horrible Science CD-ROM 'Chemical Chaos', conveniently positioned in a die-cut out of the front of the box; as Alice mentioned at her Reading seminar, this is some pretty serious brand strategizing!

Now for my amateur review. I should have known better, but I was slightly dismayed that this is a PC only disk, though I managed to open it up, very slowly, on some emulation software.

Having read somewhere around 8 or 9 of this series (no match for Alice, no doubt) I feel quite familiar with the writing and feel of the books, but it hasn't quite come across in much of the CD. It feels mainly like some sort of time warp to 1996 when CD-roms were actually a thing. The interface is fun, especially the sound effects, and there is a lot of information on the disk, though much of the straight text would have been easier to get through in a book.
The quizzes are much better suited to the screen, but the creators neglected to think through the tasks involved from our end, and the result is a very frustrating grind through random selections to find out correct answers!

Interface design is not easy; an interactive environment needs to take into account how users will make their way through a process and build in responses that will be logical, coherent and minimize frustration; but what can you expect from a free disk floating around in a box of cereal.