This evening we are presenting our final conclusions at the International Arts and Ideas Festival in New Haven, Conn., as part of a panel discussion on the intersection of arts and science. Carl Zimmer, a New York Times and National Geographic columnist and featured speaker at universities and on radio programs worldwide, will be moderating the talk. We hope to educate the audience about using literature as a way to explore place and to give people the opportunity to use their collective knowledge to help them and others appreciate their communities, both real and imagined.
But this is not the end of Placing Literature. It became apparent throughout our time working with the web-based app that other people—book lovers, researchers, educators—would be interested in populating and expanding our database of literary scenes. We publically launched the site this morning, so now anyone with a Google login can enter scene information into our database or explore the literary scenes that take place in their community.
We have lots of ideas about how PlacingLiterature.com can be used. Imagine a tourism agency creating a walking tour of scenes that take place downtown. Or a library forming a reading group focused on local literature. Or a business highlighting its role in the latest spy thriller. Placing Literature helps people see their community in a new light, recognizing the uniqueness of the places we know while building an appreciation for that place. We see the possibilities of creating communities based on literature—through common reading experience, promoting local authors and creating local knowledge.
And because we are gathering the data from the community, we’ll be sharing the data with the community. Anyone can explore our map, click on a scene or download the entire database to an Excel file. We’ll also be creating education programs for teachers and reading groups to help others explore places in their books. Our imagination is limited, so we’re really excited to see the creative ways that the community is able to use our data.
We will continue to update PlacingLiterature.com with new features as the database grows. However, bells and whistles only go so far. In order to let the places be the center of the project, the site will remain simple, clean and intuitive while enhancing our users’ experiences. One of near-future plans is making the data more searchable, so stay tuned on that front.
The person who is going to take us there is Steve Young, the brilliant software engineer who built the Placing Literature app. He has joined us as a co-founder and our chief technology officer. We’re looking forward to working together to bring PlacingLiterature.com to the next level.
Instead of looking at tonight as the end of a long journey, we’re seeing it as the beginning of an exciting adventure. Please join with us as we explore the intersection of place and literature together.
-Andrew and Katie