The Literary Operator by Jeff Noon and Tom Armitage (2013),  commissioned by Lighthouse. Premiering on 26 September.
The Literary Operator by Jeff Noon and Tom Armitage (2013), commissioned by Lighthouse. Premiering on 26 September.


The Literary Operator


Jeff Noon's writing comes to life through a machine that makes its way into the world during Brighton Digital Festival

The Literary Operator emerges from Jeff Noon's "spores", short fictions written for Twitter. It is based on Spore 50: "After the Babel Towers attack, lo-fi operators worked the edges of the language, forging new phrases from the fragments of literature. They filled boxes with word shards in the hope of recreating lost stories."

The Literary Operator made it’s first public appearance in Brighton at the 2013 Digital Festival. It was previewed at our Improving Reality conference on 5 September, and was unveiled to the public at the Digital Late event on 26 September. It is a collaborative project by Tom Armitage and Jeff Noon, based on Noon’s writing.

In August 2011, Noon began a Twitter account where he posted what he has described as “spores” from the Twitter ID @jeffnoon. These 140 character stories conjure up alternative timelines, worlds adjacent to our own, and enigmatic characters. The stories have been warmly received by both readers and critics alike, Rhizome stating, Jeff Noon’s tweets are reliably among of the best contemporary fiction works today —beautiful stories told over short bursts, each under 140 characters. Lighthouse, together with digital agency Storythings, are working with Noon on a series of projects which bring these stories to life. The Literary Operator is the first of these projects.

The Literary Operator: A History

In the aftermath of the attack on the Babel Towers, language was destroyed or at best fragmented. Books and electronic files were rendered useless, empty of narrative. A few word shards remained here and there, scattered among the debris. Our ancestors built devices to find these intact phrases. We can imagine them wandering at dusk across the desolation of Word Zero, waiting for the telltale glow of the light which indicated that a viable text had been found. However, the explosion infected language at the deepest level and meaning itself had been pulled apart and reformed into new shapes.

Despite these difficulties, the lo-fi operators collected their favourite fragments and slowly pieced them together to make up sentences, and later on, paragraphs. It was painstaking work. They were often of a lowly status, these collectors, designated as scavengers. And yet, slowly, over the decades that followed, whole stories started to emerge once more from the memories of those smoking ruins. Nothing can ever be the same, of course, and the post Babel literature was very different from the one that prevailed before the attacks. One fact remains: that we can speak or write at all today is down to those long-ago pioneers with their lowly, home-made devices.

About Tom Armitage

Tom Armitage is a technologist, writer and designer based in London. He makes tools, toys, and art out of hardware, software, and the network. He has worked on worked on everything from a large-scale website to aggregate UK schools data, to giant, multi-part games that span a Parisian art gallery. Is the maker of Tower Bridge / Making Bridges Talk (2008), Spirits Melted Into Air (2012) and many other works. Until 2012, he was a designer at Hide&Seek. He writes on his blog Infovore about code and play. He has spoken on technology, design, and games at conferences around the world, including at last year’s dConstruct in Brighton, and will speak at this year’s Improving Reality on 5 September.

About Jeff Noon

Jeff Noon is an award-winning novelist, short story writer and playwright whose works make use of word play and fantasy. Noon’s speculative fiction books have ties to the works of writers such as Lewis Carroll and Jorge Luis Borges. His first four novels, Vurt (1993), Pollen (1995), Automated Alice (1996), and Nymphomation (1997) were highly influential works which explored technology, science and near-futures. He is the winner of the prestigious Aurthur C. Clarke Award and the John W. Campbell Award. Channel SK1N is Noon’s most recent novel. It is also an experiment in digital self publishing. Notably Noon has chosen to make this new book, along with the rest of his digital backlist DRM-free.



Sign up to our mailing list to receive regular email updates on exhibitions, events and other news.