On Sun, Dec. 16, 2007 the Philadelphia Enquirer (online) ran this story:

“Art, film or game? ‘Inanimate Alice’ redefines ‘publish’

There’s a question that sometimes comes up in conversations about interactive fiction: Is it literature, or a game?
I’ve wondered myself, as I’ve joined animated characters on their journeys and tried to fit their narratives into a preexisting slot in my mind. But recently, as I watched Inanimate Alice – an adventure story told through a series of 10 Flash-animated films – I began to think there might be a better way to look at it.

Alice’s story begins when she is 8 years old and living in a remote part of China with her parents (and her imaginary friend Brad). The second and third episodes are set in a villa in Italy and an apartment in Moscow, and in each place Alice finds herself alone, thinking her way out of a scary situation or just keeping herself company. It’s a sophisticated piece of storytelling that makes use of digital imagery and sound, haunting electronic music composed by cocreator Chris Joseph, and of course interactivity. The viewer is also a user, who participates by making the stories move forward and by solving puzzles as Alice introduces them. The third chapter gives users the option to only watch and read the story, or to “play” it.

As the story progresses Alice will grow up to be an artist who, in a nice bit of self-reference, designs characters for a computer game company. The series is still in creation by Kate Pullinger and Joseph, who both teach in the area of digital media arts at De Montfort University in Leicester, England. The fourth episode is due out this month.

Such digital fictions – whether they’re experimental or take a more traditional approach – have tended to be of interest to a somewhat narrow audience. But Alice has found reception in different realms. The available episodes have been translated into Spanish, Italian, French and German, and currently Alice is a featured project in the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008 (http://www.interculturaldialogue2008.eu/). It has been exhibited as a piece of digital art in several countries, and also screened at film festivals.


Pullinger, who has published novels and collections of short fiction in addition to creating other digital pieces, said she and Joseph did not set out to make Alice a children’s story. But the first several episodes take place during the character’s childhood and adolescence, and the series’ producer, Ian Harper of the Bradfield Co., saw the potential for Alice to be used as an educational tool.

He hired Jessica Laccetti, who did the story’s Italian translation, to create supplemental educational materials, which are available on the site (http://www.inanimatealice.com/education) as a free download. The idea is that pieces like Alice could both engage reluctant readers and acclimate students to “reading” within digital formats – as well as help teachers and parents get a feel for the kinds of technologies their kids are using.

“Teachers have responded incredibly well to Alice, but as with any new form, it’s difficult to find and expand the audience – [though] this is changing already,” Pullinger said.”

Read more here.


Today at the EU Commission Building in Brussels at 11:20 GMT marks the launch of the Inanimate Alice Education Portal!

Right now we’re in the throws of conducting a pilot project looking at Inanimate Alice in the classroom. Thanks to a group of teachers we’ll soon be sharing their experiences and feedback here on this blog.

“Today we seem to face a quandary. On the one hand there are anxieties about the reliability of internet sites and concerns of how to educate students to make informed online decisions. On the other hand we have the National Curriculum in England and Media Literacy outcomes in Canada as evidence of the important role technological skills play in all sorts of learning environments. But how can teachers successfully integrate new media literacies into classrooms? I have found Inanimate Alice as an exemplar new media fiction that is easily assimilated into learning environments. With its use of multimodality (images, sounds, text, interaction) students have the opportunity to see storytelling in a new, multisensory light. Being able to interact with the fiction and explore and critique how all the modes interact has given students an opportunity to develop their new literacy skills. As one of my students said after reading Episode 1 for the first time: “Inanimate Alice is a very innovative way of telling as story.” In my teaching experience Inanimate Alice has proven to be an excellent new media fiction which allows students to develop multiple literacies (literary, cinematic, artistic, etc…) in combination with the highly collaborative and participatory nature of the online environment.”

iTeach Inanimate Alice pack - cover

iTeach Inanimate Alice Education Pack

Teachers who are interested in using Inanimate Alice in their classrooms are invited to download an education pack full of lesson plans and student resources. Register here and then download.

Come back soon.