The Book Machine was the idea of Ian Billings. Ian is an ex-juggler, pantomime writer, actor, TV extra, theater technician, university lecturer, and model. He has also written episodes of BBC TV's Chuckle-Vision.
Ian approached us with an idea that he had come up with to offer schoolchildren the chance to craft their own stories. The stories consist of 8 chapters and each week children are giving the opportunity to vote for how they wish the story to go. At the end of each week, the votes are counted and the winning option is then written into the next chapter. The previous chapter is then added to an archive.
The website itself is made up of several different interactive elements, including a video, the chapter content as text, and sounds added to the buttons and page loads. There is also a countdown timer to the next chapter.
The artwork has been produced by professional cartoonist Hunt Emerson. Hunt was closely involved with the Birmingham Arts Lab of the mid-to-late 1970s, and with the British underground comics scene of the 1970s and 1980s.
One of the biggest challenges for this project was giving Ian the ability to update the video, chapter text, and voting system himself. We developed a CMS for Ian to access, once in there he is able to easily update any of the changing content himself. We also faced the challenge of only allowing one vote per computer, not the IP address for the voting system. With some clever coding, we were able to overcome that challenge too. The finished website is an engaging, interactive experience for many school children to enjoy and develop their creative skills.
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