Dr Alistair Brown (Assistant Professor, Department of English Studies)
Alistair Story Bio
Dr Alistair Brown’s digital story begins in the late 1980s when his dad brought home from work a Sirius computer, as large as a microwave. There was no desktop or mouse, and to get it to do anything one had to type in code onto a green flashing command line, like something from a hacker movie. Since that moment, though, having to learn by playing with his first PC, Alistair has always had one hand on the keyboards of the digital, even as he keeps the other within the pages of books as a literature scholar in Durham’s Department of English Studies. His work between the digital and the literary includes exploring how artificial intelligence is represented in literature, how literary qualities might be found in digital video games, and how we might write digital programs to decode books. As the editor of READ: Research English At Durham he uses social media to tell the story of academic research from Anglo-Saxon poetry to contemporary fiction. And as a teacher he has moved between the cosy classrooms of Durham and the world wide web of learners at the online Open University.
Despite, or because of, all these experiences, Alistair is firmly digitally critical as much as digitally literate. When he thinks back to that old Sirius, he recalls how often it would break down, and that the promise of a blinking cursor in which you could type seemingly infinite commands regularly met the ‘black screen of death’ as the technology failed. It’s a good metaphor for the digital in general, and digital storytelling in particular. The digital promises to be emancipatory and empowering, but turns out to have it limits. Storytelling can seem staid and old-fashioned, but its survival since the dawn of man proves it is limitless. We must bring together the old and the new, the digital and the literary, the cursor and the story, the screen and the storyteller.