playful cubes for storytelling, brainstorming ideas or playing games in three dimensions

Community & Events

Diffusion engaging with the community, online and out in the world.


an ongoing programme enabling residents at Proboscis studio to create eBooks and StoryCubes for their own projects.

Learning, Schools & Education

eBooks & StoryCubes created for learning and educational purposes


Browse the collection of Diffusion Shareables: eBooks & StoryCubes

Articles tagged with: Generator

Home » Publishing on Demand
10 Years of Diffusion
Submitted by on September 17, 2010 – 1:10 pm4 Comments

10 years ago this month we published the very first series of Diffusion eBooks, Performance Notations, launching our particular brand of hand-made hybrid digital/paper publishing on an unsuspecting public. Over the past decade we have followed that series with several others of our own (and a few by partners and collaborators) such as : Species of Spaces, Liquid Geography, CODE, Short Work, Topographies and Tales & Transformations and published well over 400 eBooks (and nearly 200 StoryCubes too). In 2002 we published the design schematics allowing others to create their own Diffusion eBooks (with recent updates for all 4 design variations and right-to-left reading too) and followed that in 2006 with the first version of our online web application for creating eBooks & StoryCubes, the Diffusion Generator. Hundreds of eBooks and StoryCubes were created (not all published here) by its users over a two and a half-year period. For a more in depth history of Diffusion read this post from 2007.

In 2008 we won a small grant from the Technology Strategy Board to build a new prototype service that would be vastly more powerful and flexible than the old Generator – what eventually became The alpha version was launched at the end of September 2009 and we now have several hundred users who have created almost one thousand eBooks and StoryCubes with it during its first year, including some in languages such as Arabic and Hindi. In the past 6 months we’ve rolled out lots of new features, such as new sizes, customisable front covers and our exclusive Publish & Print On Demand service. We have also created a crowdfunding scheme for collaborators, partners and friends to support bookleteer’s technical development, Alpha Club. We’ve run a series of events, Pitch Up & Publish, introducing bookleteer to new users – both in our own studio in Clerkenwell and around the country with the Empty Shops Network.

To kick-off Diffusion’s next decade we’re devising a new series of events, Pitch In & Publish, and adopting a new model of participatory publishing for our curated series. Rather than selecting individuals to create eBooks as we have done for previous series we will host events where people can collaborate in designing and creating a series of publications with others. Proboscis will define the series theme and individual topics for each issue, which will be put together during a one-day event. We will be publishing the collaborative publications (which could be an eBook or a series of StoryCubes) on this site and we will be inviting the participants to use bookleteer to create their own personal contributions to the series. A limited edition run of the publication will be printed using the PPOD service for participants. Pitch In & Publish will launch in October 2010 with the first series, City As Material. Topics will include: river, streetscapes, skyline and underside.

Details on dates, guests, topics and how to participate –

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Home » Community & Events, Events, Publishing on Demand
Pitch Up & Publish
Submitted by on September 21, 2009 – 12:41 pm4 Comments

Starting in October we will be running regular informal evening workshops for people to literally pitch up and publish using Initially these will be held at our Clerkenwell Studio for up to 15 participants – all you need is a laptop and some content (text /photos/ drawings etc) you’d like to create and share as eBooks or StoryCubes (shareables). We will provide free user accounts to bookleteer and guide you through the steps of preparing and generating your shareables to share online, via email or as physical publications. Once created you can publish them on your own website or, if appropriate, we can publish them on Diffusion.

The first workshop will be held during the week beginning October 12th 2009 (date tbc) between 6.30-9pm.
To reserve a place please email us at diffusion (at)
Participants will be asked to make small donation to cover materials and refreshments.

Click to continue reading “Pitch Up & Publish”

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Home » Publishing on Demand
Diffusion Generator: latest news (May 09)
Submitted by on May 19, 2009 – 7:07 pmNo Comment

Last month we completed our Feasibility Study for the Technology Strategy Board to investigate the potential for third parties to use Diffusion Generator to create and publish eBooks and StoryCubes via an API. As part of this process we developed a completely new platform for the Generator which makes it much more flexible – the prototype now includes numerous new features:

  • creation of portrait and landscape eBooks
  • use of both ‘classic’ andbook‘ binding methods for eBooks (see our design schematics)
  • creation of single and double sided StoryCubes
  • offline content design ability for eBooks & StoryCubes (via PDF upload)
  • ability to flow HTML content into eBooks & StoryCubes
  • Unicode support for non-Roman typefaces for languages such as Chinese, Arabic, Cyrillic, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew, Aramaic and many others
  • eBook templates supporting right-to-left languages (e.g. Arabic)
  • support for personalised/branded eBook & StoryCube templates
  • support for future shareable designs to be incorporated into Generator

We have been testing the system since late March and shortly will publish some eBooks created recently using the new Generator to demonstrate some of the new formats (e.g. landscape and ‘book’ binding options). Meanwhile we are fundraising for the next stage of development to build a web interface for individual access, as well as some demonstrator projects with 3rd party partners (a museum, a university, a data aggregation platform, a visitor attraction centre) exploring how institutions might use the Generator to offer “tangible souvenirs” of digital experiences.

The “tangible souvenir” concept has been developed by Proboscis over the last couple of years based on our own experiences of creating projects that engage people with digital technologies (e.g. Urban Tapestries, Snout, Feral Robots etc) but which require digital technologies (e.g. a web browser) to review. We frequently find that people want to refer back to an experience with others but are often in a place (the pub, a cafe, over the dinner table etc) where they don’t have access to a suitable screen or fast web connection for showing what they experienced. The idea behind “tangible souvenirs” is simply to create physical outputs culled from digital assets created or engaged with during a ‘digital’ experience (such as using an interactive museum guide). A personalised eBook or StoryCube is then provided which can be kept in a pocket, passed around, given away and re-created as often as the person likes.

More updates next month…

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Home » Publishing on Demand
Generator developments
Submitted by on January 16, 2009 – 3:34 pmNo Comment

In Autumn 2008 Proboscis won a Feasibility Study grant from the Technology Strategy Board to investigate the potential for third party sites to add access to our Diffusion Generator online software to their systems, enabling their own users to be able to create and publish eBooks and StoryCubes directly from their sites. Over the next couple of months we will be developing a re-engineered prototype of the Generator designed to allow 3rd parties to hook into it through an open API (Application Programming Interface) and offer their own users eBook and StoryCube creation. 

As the popularity of Diffusion grows – we have now passed an average of 110,000 downloads per year – Proboscis needs to develop sustainable revenue streams (e.g. from licensing the API to 3rd parties) to keep Diffusion going, and to create successful and meaningful partnerships with potential users (museums, galleries, universities, companies etc) who wish to add this unique publishing system to their own sites. The feasibility study and the re-engineered Generator will enable us to model these potential revenue streams and demonstrate a functioning service to other potential partners.

Later this year we aim to unveil the new Diffusion Generator and welcome expressions of interest from organisations and institutions who would like to test the API. I’ll be at BookCamp on January 17th and would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in working with us.

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Home » Publishing on Demand
Diffusion Shareables Film
Submitted by on April 11, 2008 – 8:50 amOne Comment

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  • JoycMAjiski
    Hey yu guys I am at a friends place using his computor with most recent flash viewer and a…
    Comment posted on 4-27-2008 at 02:46

Home » Publishing on Demand
Publishing as a conversation
Submitted by on March 6, 2008 – 12:53 pmNo Comment

One of the most transformational aspects of Diffusion as a platform for publishing-on-demand is our ability not only to commission and publish new writing and ideas, but to enable other people to participate by creating their own eBooks and StoryCubes through the Generator and have them included alongside commissioned authors; publishing as a conversation rather than a privileged monologue.

We have been interested since the late 1990s in utilising network technologies to create alternatives to the traditional ‘centre to the margins’ nature of the media; the broadcast and publishing model sustained since the 19th century and only beginning to be seriously challenged in the late 20th Century through the rise of the internet and its distributed network structure. We have been exploring how, through concepts like ‘public authoring’ and ‘cultures of listening’, we can create new ways for people to participate more widely in the creation of the cultures and societies they live in – such as in our Urban Tapestries project and Social Tapestries research programme, as well as our current Anarchaeology projects (with Render in Canada & ICE in Australia).

A key feature of future series of Diffusion commissions will be this conversational aspect – where we will be inviting the public to participate in the series by using the Diffusion Generator to create eBooks & StoryCubes of their own – the best and most relevant of which we will include in the series alongside the authors we commission directly. This will be different to the kinds of conversation that happen through blogging and commenting – creating an eBook or StoryCube is a much more considered affair, requiring time and reflection to create what is, after all, a publication that exists not only on the web but as a physical entity too.

The first of these ‘conversation series’ will be Transformations – we will be announcing the initial commissions in April and publishing the outcomes later in the year, inviting contributions from the public once the first 3 or 4 are available. Watch this space.

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Home » Community & Events, Events, Publishing on Demand, Residencies
Diffusion Discussion Day, 30/11/2007
Submitted by on December 18, 2007 – 10:15 pm3 Comments

On Friday 30th November, an informal evaluation of the Diffusion Generator Case Study Residency programme took place at the Proboscis studio. Those who participated included Bev Carter, artist and community development consultant; Paul Goodwin, a writer, curator and urban researcher; Andrew Hunter, artist, writer and the Director/Curator of RENDER, University of Waterloo, Canada; Michelle Kasprzak, curator, writer, artist and the Programmes Director of New Media Scotland and finally Tony White, a writer – author of novels including Foxy-T (Faber and Faber), and the non-fiction work Another Fool in the Balkans (Cadogan). They were hosted by Karen Martin who facilitated the residency programme, Phil Ayres, an architect, programmer and lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture (programmer of the Generator), Giles Lane, Alice Angus, Orlagh Woods from Proboscis.

The day began with an informal look at the different approaches and processes taken by each of the participants in the residency programme, exploring and sharing how they each used the Diffusion Generator to create and publish eBooks (as well as the occasional StoryCube). These included two way communications between children in the UK and Nigeria, a way to collate research for a book creatively, as a means to document an exhibition and research programme, as a visual journey through the city, as a series of interviews with curators and as a storytelling device.

In the afternoon, several other people were invited to take part in a larger discussion to explore other ways the Generator could be used. Among our guests were Linda Doyle of Trinity College Dublin, Michael Bhaskar of Pan Macmillan, Ellie Smith and Charles Beckett of Arts Council England, London.

Some of the various ideas for future uses of the Shareables and Generator included:

  • as an evaluation tool for conferences or events
  • within galleries or museums as interpretation tools
  • for community engagement projects
  • for internal marketing within organisations
  • as a brand consulting tool
  • to collect conversations and feedback dialogues
  • for a short story competition
  • to promote emerging writers alongside mainstream first publications
  • for sampling ideas
  • for rapid publishing of poetry slams
  • and as educational tools

A more detailed evaluation will be published as an eBook in the new year.
Diffusion Discussion Day Diffusion Discussion Day Diffusion Discussion Day
Diffusion Discussion Day Diffusion Discussion Day Diffusion Discussion Day

3 comments - Latest by:
  • Biogeek29
    yo, I LOVE BIOLOGY! especially diffusion. like biology is totally an art, if i could i would…
    Comment posted on 1-11-2010 at 16:37
  • Biogeek29
    well i wish i was there and i love talking about diffusion. tell me when the next one…
    Comment posted on 1-11-2010 at 16:34
  • Michael Bhaskar
    Thank you for having me over; it was an extremely enjoyable afternoon. I wrote on our blog how I thought…
    Comment posted on 12-20-2007 at 12:28

Home » eNotebooks, Learning, Schools & Education, Publishing on Demand
eNotebooks: learning diaries, field notebooks and evaluation tools
Submitted by on November 22, 2007 – 5:36 pmNo Comment

In addition to using the Diffusion eBook format to publish essays and artists books, Proboscis has also been using it to create notebooks for specific activities and projects. The eBook format allows us to design and distribute a notebook that participants in a project or workshop can fill in by hand (writing, drawing or adding stickers as they wish) which can then be scanned and turned back into a PDF file for sharing – either within the group or more widely. This ‘virtuous circle’ moving from digital to material to digital is at the core of the ‘Shareables’ concept. We have designed the Shareables so that they can be used without always needing a computer, but still providing a path for capturing and sharing digitally.

Proboscis has successfully used ‘eNotebooks‘ in our schools projects as learning diaries (e.g. Sound Scavenging, Everyday Archaeology and Experiencing Democracy) and, in our community projects as a simple means of gathering local knowledge and information (e.g. Robotic Feral Public Authoring, St. Marks and Conversations and Connections).

Diffusion eNotebooks

Learning Diaries
The eNotebooks have been very effective for the schoolchildren participating in our projects, giving them a single place to record and reflect on what they have learned from the different activities and how they are integrated into everyday learning. Over the three years we have collaborated with the Jenny Hammond Primary school on Social Tapestries projects, we have worked ever more closely with the teachers to use the learning diaries to make the bridge between the activities of the workshop and what the children are learning as part of everyday school. The diaries themselves are also an invaluable tool for the teachers and us to gauge each child’s engagement with the project and its concepts – some children choose to do the minimum whilst others spend considerable time and effort embellishing their drawings and writings. This serves an additional function in helping to assess the impact on learning that the workshop has had – the diaries show how the children are absorbing new ideas, vocabulary and improving their spelling as the project progresses.

Examples: Sound Scavenging, Everyday Archaeology, Experiencing Democracy

Field Notebooks
We have also used the eNotebooks in community-based projects and workshops to record knowledge about places and communities. The eNotebooks offer a familiar ‘interface’ and technology (paper and pens) that is very inclusive and engaging – allowing people to write, draw or stick photos into them. In communities and situations where access to computers and broadband internet was not possible the eNotebooks allowed us to design a simple and effective means of asking open (but targeted) questions and enabling people to complete them there and then or post them back to us at their leisure. We see many other possible uses of this kind of eNotebook for researchers in the field doing ethnographic or anthropological studies.

We have also speculated on using the Diffusion Generator in brainstorming activities, where the eBooks are used to create iterations or snapshots of the process in situ. This would both provide an immediate outcome to the activity, but also document the creative processes along the way.

Examples: Robotic Feral Public Authoring, St Marks, Havelock Community Mapping

Evaluation Tool
Proboscis has begun to experiment with creating structured notebooks for people to give feedback and evaluation on an event (such as a conference or workshop) or project. The StoryCubes have also been used in this way – at the Enter Festival in Cambridge (April 2007) conference delgates helped create a landscape of ideas, images and themes relating to the event. Futurelab also used the StoryCubes to engage delegates at their Why Don’t You… conference (October 2007) in mapping and exploring ideas relating to new education practices and uses of innovative technologies in schools and learning. Proboscis also uses the StoryCubes as a notetaking tool (instead of taking minutes) for its own advisory group meetings, enabling us to combine the questions and observations that the group members note down in an ever-growing and evolving landscape.

Examples: Enter Conference,

Other Ideas
One of our key aims for Diffusion is to explore its uses in places (such as developing countries) with poor access to publishing technologies (both traditional print and electronic). A Diffusion eBook can, of course, be made with nothing more than some blank sheets of paper which can then be written and drawn on – or even have sections of typwritten text pasted onto them. Once made, these unique handmade books can be scanned and turned into Shareable eBooks (PDF files), endlessly reproducible and distributable through email and web downloads.

Examples: we plan to make some illustrative examples available soon

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Home » Publishing on Demand
New! Improved!
Submitted by on November 10, 2007 – 1:50 amNo Comment

Welcome to the new look Diffusion website. This blog will track all of the various projects, publications, authors and collaborations which take place around the DIFFUSION eBooks, the DIFFUSION Generator and the StoryCubes. On this site you will find posts about each eBook we have published (and in the future StoryCubes too), posts about the authors as well as the various series of eBooks we have published over the years. The site also has a page with details on how to make eBooks and StoryCubes, as well as the Library listing all the published eBooks in a single, browsable page. There is also information about Proboscis’ DIFFUSION Generator – a prototype publishing-on-demand service we are currently testing (examples of which are listed on the blog), with details about how to join our private beta trial.

We are also inviting people to add reviews of their favourite eBooks as comments to individual posts, as well as comments about how people are using them; for instance we know of one example where the Performance Notations series was used as a ‘set text’ for students at an art school. As we add new eBooks and StoryCubes to the site we hope that it can become a more useful forum for sharing ideas about how they can be used as well as a site for downloading the publications themselves. Enjoy…

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Home » Publishing on Demand
A brief history of Diffusion
Submitted by on November 10, 2007 – 1:10 amOne Comment

Diffusion began life back in 1999 as a response to the increasing difficulty that I was having in distributing the books and journals I was then publishing – both for Proboscis and for the Royal College of Art‘s Computer Related Design Research Studio. The bookselling world had been changing rapidly in the previous few years – from the collapse of the net book agreement to the increasing consolidation of bookshops into chains and closure of independent outlets and distributors. These shifts affected the practice of bookselling too – large chains became less willing to stock niche publications and ordering became computerised across the chain rather than by buyers in individual shops with responsibility for specific subjects. In short, our publications were becoming harder for our readers to find and more expensive to print, warehouse and distribute.

Working for an interaction design research lab and having previously investigated the nascent printing-on-demand systems then available, it occurred to me that it would be possible to create an ‘eBook’ that could be downloaded from the internet and printed out on home printers to be folded into a paper book format. I was also skeptical that electronic books would take off in the form that was then being touted – who would want an ugly device with a small screen and poor resolution costing hundreds of pounds, and then have to pay for the ‘books’ to read on it? It seemed so odd considering the obvious pleasure and tactile enjoyment that people derive from handling physical books, as well as their relative low cost, to replace them (as was being widely prophesied) with a much poorer experience.

Diffusion then became a research project to devise a paper folding and layout format that could be used to create small files using Adobe’s PDF file format. A conversation with an officer in the Arts Council of England’s Combined Arts department led to a funding proposal and grant to develop the format and a first series of commissioned publications – Performance Notations. In the Autumn of 1999 Paul Farrington (my design assistant at the RCA) and I set down to develop the format. Over the next six months we looked at a number of ideas before Paul devised the unique Diffusion folding format (experts at the British Library informed us later that they had nothing similar in their collection). The first series of eBooks was completed and published in September 2000.

From this beginning we began to develop ideas for many different uses that the eBooks could have, but lack of time, funding and other commitments meant that Diffusion developed slowly. With further assistance from the Arts Council’s Collaborative Arts Dept, we developed and published the design schematics for the eBooks as a way of ‘open sourcing’ the format in Spring 2002 (with the help of Nima Falatoori). However we quickly realised that very few people would be able to benefit from them as they needed some graphic design skills to interpret and make use of, not to mention access to costly professional desktop publishing software (such as Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress). This meant that very few of the people we thought might make most use of Diffusion could do so, as they would not likely be designers themselves.

So in 2003 I began researching whether we could create our own software application that would enable people to create eBooks simply and without needing graphic design expertise. I discovered the Reportlab open source software solution for creating PDF files and a summer intern from Kings College London’s computer science department (Diab Al-Kudairi) developed a working proof-of-concept prototype for the Diffusion Generator which we demonstrated at the People Inspired innovation conference in September 2003 (held at BT’s Adastral Park research campus). It then took a while to find a programmer who could use the prototype to develop a proper application, and in Spring 2004 I was introduced to Phil Ayres, who was teaching at the Bartlett School of Achitecture and developing a python-based intranet for the school. Phil soon began to develop a framework combining Zope, the Plone content management system and Reportlab. A first stage prototype was tested from March to June 2006, followed by a second stage in November 2006. The current prototype (stage 3) is in private ‘beta’ testing and has been used extensively during the 2007 case study residencies, which have been ably facilitated by Karen Martin, who also developed the new diffusion website.

Our next aims for Diffusion are to advance the Generator from its current state towards being a public online service and to focus on creative projects using it in the developing world.

Giles Lane
London, November 2007

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  • eBook Observer – Diffusion categories | bookleteer blog
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    Comment posted on 10-27-2010 at 09:07

Home » eBooks, Residencies
Ahead in the Line by Tony White
Submitted by on November 9, 2007 – 3:51 pmNo Comment

Ahead in the Line

Download A4 | US Letter PDF 160Kb

About : Ahead in the Line is part of the Balkanising Bloomsbury project for the Generator Case Studies. The story was created by cutting up, remixing and re-narrativising fragments from various sources including the Richard Burton translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and transcripts from the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Ahead in the Line was written for Barbara Campbell’s 1001 Nights Cast project.

Published November 2007

Tony White is a writer. He is the author of novels including Foxy-T (Faber and Faber), and the non-fiction work Another Fool in the Balkans (Cadogan). Editor and co-editor of the fiction anthologies Britpulp (Sceptre) and Croatian Nights (Serpent’s Tail/VBZ). Tony White has edited and published the artists’ book imprint Piece of Paper Press since 1994 and contributed to numerous magazines and journals – he is also literary editor of the Idler magazine. Tony is currently working on another novel and undertaking research into creative writing in interdisciplinary and research contexts which is supported by Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

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Home » eBooks, Residencies
Gobbledegook by Tony White
Submitted by on November 8, 2007 – 3:06 pmOne Comment


Download A4 | US Letter PDF 248Kb

About : Gobbledegook is part of the Balkanising Bloomsbury project for the Case Study Residencies. The story was created by cutting up, remixing and re-narrativising fragments from various sources to tell a completely new story. Sources include Alan Burgess, Lawrence Durrell and transcripts from the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Further titles and the first version of a rolling, iterative bibliography for the whole series will be published shortly.

Published November 2007

Tony White is a writer. He is the author of novels including Foxy-T (Faber and Faber), and the non-fiction work Another Fool in the Balkans (Cadogan). Editor and co-editor of the fiction anthologies Britpulp (Sceptre) and Croatian Nights (Serpent’s Tail/VBZ). Tony White has edited and published the artists’ book imprint Piece of Paper Press since 1994 and contributed to numerous magazines and journals – he is also literary editor of the Idler magazine. Tony is currently working on another novel and undertaking research into creative writing in interdisciplinary and research contexts which is supported by Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

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  • Notebook » Paper eBooks
    [...] author of one of my favourite books, Foxy-T, and literary editor of The Idler, has just published a series…
    Comment posted on 11-14-2007 at 13:56