Well, as Valerie has touched on the app as a whole I won’t delve too deeply into it, except to say that I do agree that it seems somewhat light on content at the moment. How they aim to regularly update an app that focuses on an annual award remains to be seen, but there are some promising signs in what we see before us at the moment. It’s basic and easy to use, the structure is clear, but it could be lacking the pizazz that will see the audiences return again and again. That said, the ‘books’ section, where we see summaries of all the books on previous shortlists (and a few the prize panel wish they’d been around for), is a treat. Judges’ comments, video readings, and in-depth synopses bring the history of the award to life.
But what of the Ali Smith feature? Well anyone who has read Smith’s How to be Both, the prize-winner in 2014, will remember that the book was inspired by Francesco del Cossa’s Fresco, from the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara, Italy. The app brings the text and the work of art even closer together by putting the picture on the screen and linking key sections to sentences and paragraphs from the book. All you need to do is click the little blue icons and a part of How to be Both will appear on the screen, next to the zoomed in section of the Fresco.
Linking two different artistic expressions in this way is a very Ali Smith thing to do, and has been the driving force behind much of her recent writing. And this feature attempts to give us an insight into the working of Smith’s mind, showing us how she went from looking at the picture before her and adapting it to the page.
What might have been even more interesting is to have Smith discussing the process within the app, explaining why she chose some sections and not others. Because at the moment there is a lack of depth in the feature as a whole – many of the sections it links to are too short to get any real excitement from, making the whole thing feel a bit like the beginning of a good idea rather than its culmination.
And that’s maybe how the whole app feels at the moment – potentially fascinating, but lacking that punch to the gut that will keep people coming back for more.
You can find out more about the app itself here.