This month I returned to Mansfield College, Oxford, where I studied for my BA about sixteen years ago. It felt like travelling in time, though I’m not convinced I enjoyed being reminded of being 18 again!
I was there to present a paper at the 2016 Writing as Spaces Conference. As this was an Interdisciplinary Conference, it was a great opportunity to meet and discuss ideas with architects, theorists, journalists, philosophers and educators, as well as other writers.
I talked about how digital spaces allow writers to reconsider the process and reception of writing. Traditionally, form shapes the way that writing is both transmitted and received: a sonnet or haiku will dictate the structure and composition or a poem, while the physical manifestation of a book signals to the reader the structural limits of the story. I argued that it is exactly the same with digital writing: Twitter chain-stories, Instagram narratives, and podcasts each present a model as distinct and formally challenging as a sonnet or novel.
We talked about how both practitioners and instructors might respond to the new constraints of online environments to find new solutions to old problems.
It was a great opportunity for me to bring together two of the things I love: the work I do in the classroom teaching students to use writing as a form of exploration, and my own writing projects – particularly #5MinuteStories. This work will soon be published as a chapter in a forthcoming book.
And of course, it wouldn’t have been a complete trip back in time to Mansfield without a trip to the Turf Tavern afterwards…