July 17, 2012

A new digital reading project inspired by “The Wire”


The internet is bulging with apps and platforms hoping to offer new ways of reading online, but every so often one comes along that seems genuinely interesting.

The former publisher of McSweeney’sEli Horowitz, along with Russell Quinn, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett have a new digital reading platform called The Silent History, which is designed with the circumambulatory nature of story-telling in mind, more so than a straight-forward linear format.

Per Reyhan Harmanci on Buzzfeed, the app will be a

“geo-located mobile serialized story…a two-pronged approach to narrative: readers download an app and then receive daily doses of fictive oral history (“Testimonials”) that they can read wherever. This is where the main plot unfolds. But the real innovation comes in the related, secondary piece: the geo-tagged “Field Reports” that can only be downloaded when the reader is standing in a specific place, as shown by the mapping interface on the app. Currently, there are between 300 and 400 Field Reports written for locations around the world, but that will grow as readers add their own stories.”

Its indie cred comes complete with a trailer voiced by no less than Ira Glass and Miranda July.

According to Horowitz, their work was particularly inspired by the television show “The Wire,” for its seasonal narrative arcs.

“‘I got to thinking about new storytelling experiences — what can these things do, what can these things lead to,’ he said. ‘The other thing was seeing that the rise of the e-books was being dominated by the platforms — the storefronts, and the programmers, and the distributors — which reduced it to an economic model rather than having the actual writers and creators at the lead.'”

The sentiments are certainly admirable, and it will be interesting to see if readers take to receiving content in this way.


Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.