Sophie Transcript

One of the amazing things about writing is that you come to ideas as you’re writing. You start writing, and things happen that wouldn’t happen otherwise. And with Sophie, the same thing happens, but you’re working with media.

So you’re thinking through writing, you’re thinking through images, and you’re putting it all together in play in this space.

Sophie is software for reading and writing interactive books, articles, and essays. Sophie is free, it’s open source, and it’s super-easy to use. You have your video assets, your sound assets, and your text. You put them into Sophie, and then you start playing, and you start mixing things around. You can very easily drag and drop. You sort of click on arrows, and you kind of progress through page by page. A lot of other software applications are much more difficult to use. This lets you jump in and begin working immediately.

It’s fairly intuitive for anyone who’s used YouTube or, you know, any of the browser-based applications, and in fact, one of the new things about Sophie is that it will be browser based, or you’ll have the option of having it be browser based. You don’t need years of programming skills. You don’t need to go to a special class to learn elaborate technical skills. You just start playing.

Sophie was invented by [Bob Stein] from the Institute for the Future of the Book, and it grew out of a longer research project that he’s been working on to really rethink the book in the 21st century.

Sophie invites you to rethink text as movie, so text becomes time based. It’s not static anymore. So what does it do in terms of your imagination of what text is when you start thinking about it as a movie? I think it’s really a new way of writing, and it’s writing with images, and it’s images with writing. It’s really a new rhetorical form that we can’t imagine yet because we haven’t really done it.

Part of what this allows you to do is think about curating as an artistic form, and I don’t mean curating in the sense of the gallery or museum but curating media objects, bringing them together in a space, and saying, “I brought these very dissimilar things together. What happens when you put them together?”

I think one of the hardest things about writing journalism, especially about the arts, is that you often don’t have the object to — you can only describe the object, and if you’re describing a film scene, you are stuck with words, or you might have an image. Sophie lets you bring that film scene into your review or your essay. It lets you bring that material there so that the viewer gets the full sense of what it is that you’re talking about.

And you can do comparative analysis. You could say it’s like this symphony is like this symphony. You can bring the two things together and really create an experience where the reader really gets a sense of what it is that you’re referring to.

Design is very much in the foreground of our culture right now. People are attentive to design and to issues around design. Everything that you look at is designed, even a piece of paper with black text on it. That font has a history. It has ideological constraints. And design is not something that we’ve been asked to think about as writers, and as Sophie makers or producers, you need to think about design. How does the text and the image and the video go together? What is the relationship?

We had a group of 12 faculty members and graduate students take their research and try to manifest it as a media-rich object, and the outcome of that workshop was really the tension between gathering all of your material together in an easy-to-use form versus composing in a new way.

Sophie’s both an aggregator, where you can gather a bunch of things and show them, and it’s also a way of transforming how you author. So there are sort of two approaches, and both are really fantastic.

Best experimenters with Sophie tend to be kids. They’re not as kind of stuck in tradition as we are. They’re much more able to kind of be fluid with it. We’ve also seen it used in classrooms for middle school students, where you’re working on poetry, maybe doing analysis of a poem in English and a poem in Spanish and comparing the translations, so things like that, and where you would have the sound of the reading of the poem in addition to the poem and then maybe a video. So we’ve seen lots of different groups use Sophie.

One of the exciting things is how easily people take to it. With Sophie, often there’s a sort of ah-ha moment or epiphany where it’s all working and you realize, oh, the possibilities here are incredible.

I think journalism is experimenting with new forms, and I think this is a tool that will allow that experimentation to really flourish.

2 comments
Alex -- September 8th, 2014 at 6:40 am

Wow this comment made my head spin beusace you just butchered the English language. How can you respond to an article about grammar with horrible grammar? Number one: it’s you’re, as in you are, and a lot, as in two words. You also chose to avoid using punctuation correctly, so your comment looked like you just threw up on the screen as opposed to putting together any logical thought. I understand it’s not always essential to write perfectly online, as I am part of the information generation after all, but you just exemplified this writer’s grievances. And finally, were you kidding by writing gud and nd?? I just didn’t get it. I hate to be so brash but come on, you just assaulted this article. And yes, I meant assaulted, not insulted.

online cialis -- November 24th, 2014 at 1:59 am

You’re the one with the brains here. I’m watching for your posts.

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