Moby-Dick Big Read project: how did i-DAT do it?


Illustration of back-end of Moby-Dick Big Read project

In the spring of 2011, artist Angela Cockayne and writer Philip Hoare convened and curated a unique whale symposium and exhibition at Peninsula Arts, the dedicated contemporary art space at Plymouth University, under the title, Dominion. Inspired by their mutual obsession with the American novel Moby-Dick and with the overarching subject of the whale, they invited artists, writers, musicians, scientists and academics to respond to the theme.  The Moby-Dick Big Read emerged from this and i-DAT has developed the digital interpretation of the novel in partnership with Philip, Angela and Peninsula Arts at  Plymouth University.

Chris Hunt leads the technical team behind the Moby-Dick Big Read, and kindly explained some of the technical aspects of the project.

‘The diagram represents how different platforms receive Moby-Dick content, whether it’s a chapter reading from Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry or even David Cameron.  So far we’ve had over 612,000 visits to the website, about 10,000 arrive every day although at the weekend that amount drops off by a couple of thousand.’

‘Users can access content through the Moby-Dick website which uses WordPress, or through SoundCloud, Facebook or iTunes, and they can receive notification of updates of new content through RSS feeds. The system is automated, which means that it runs at 4am each night and a podcast is then available by 6am.’

‘The way it works is straightforward. The content information is entered into the Google spreadsheet (top left in diagram), so the single spreadsheet holds all the information about all the content, such as the sound-file of Tilda Swinton.  In order to distribute that content to the website, or SoundCloud etc, I wrote a specific programme (middle left in diagram) that sucks the data from the spreadsheet, and then sends that content to wherever it needs to go. My programme acts like a controller, automatically updating interfaces as new readings of chapters are added. Hopefully you can see from the diagram how the different elements connect.’

On Monday 29th October there is a unique evening event about Moby-Dick at Kings Place, CSM’s near neighbour, where Philip Hoare and artist Angela Cockayne will be taking part.


Moby-Dick Big Read

About i-DAT

Christopher Hunt

Kings Place event