Today@Sam Article

Poetry Partnership Creates Free Interactive App

Feb. 21, 2022
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

Dr. Ginger KoSam Houston State University Assistant Professor of English Ginger Ko recently released a new book of poetry titled “Power On.” The book combines elements of new media, interactive storytelling and digital humanities through the use of a free interactive smartphone app meant to be used as a companion to the reading experience.

Ko, who joined the Department of English in 2020, began working on poems that focus on the proliferation of technology in society as part of her dissertation at the University of Georgia and is excited to present this book that represents her first book publication as a faculty member at SHSU.

“I have always been interested in pushing interactions with the audience, and the poems explore the topic of technology while also being a part of the topic by being on an interactive app,” Ko said. “I hope that the project as a whole and all of its different aspects lead users to think about the role of technology in their own eyes.”

Power On Screenshots

Ko focused on inclusive design for each poem in the app and included accessibility features such as a voice recording by the author, timed captions that follow the voice recording and an opportunity for users to create their own background media for the recordings and captions by uploading their own images or videos. These elements create a collaboration between the artist and the reader.

“Users can create an entire soundscape or mediascape for each poem,” Ko said. “They can play around with which elements they would like to have included by uploading their own video and having the captions appear, or only use my voice with no text.”

While the idea for pairing the smartphone app with the book came before most people learned what Zoom ever was, the burnout of constant online meetings over the last several years has led Ko to push interactivity with her publications and classroom activities at SHSU.

“We are all Zoomed out. When I have been doing readings for this book, I have been sure to incorporate different videos, slideshows and sound elements, and that has carried over into my teaching too,” Ko said.

ShawnWhen the idea for pairing poems with an app began, Ko knew that some of the technical process would be out of her area of expertise. As luck would have it, she also knew someone very close to her with experience in that field, her husband Shawn Staudaher.

As a data scientist at SHSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, Staudaher focuses on improving data management, building data dashboards, and researching new ways to use data for administrative and educational purposes. He explained that this unique interdisciplinary project allowed for more creative coding and expanded his knowledge of the app creation process.

“It was nice to collaborate with Ginger for the first time. We are kind of in opposite fields. I never even imagined that we would be working together in the first place,” Staudaher said. “It was a challenge because there are a couple of books that pair with apps, but not too many. She did a great job writing a design document for me to follow along with while building the app.”

Ko enjoyed the partnership with her husband during the creative process and says she picked up a lot of media creation skills through working on this project. 

“I always tried to be open to his feedback as to what he thought would and would not work,” Ko said. “We challenged each other. We made each other grow. I’ve never done anything like this before for a book, but I’ve incorporated these artistic strategies in newer work that I am currently creating.”

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