New app takes readers on a literary tour of Edinburgh with 50,000 excerpts

New app takes readers on a literary tour of Edinburgh with 50,000 excerpts

FROM Sir Walter Scott to Dame Muriel Spark, Ian Rankin and many others, the city of Edinburgh has inspired countless writers over the centuries.

Now students, visitors and readers around the world will be able to explore the capital’s literary highlights via a free interactive app containing a staggering 50,000 book excerpts.

The app guides users to 1,600 locations in the city made famous by writers from Robert Louis Stevenson to Irvine Welsh, then highlights what they wrote about these parts of the city.

The resource, called LitLong, has excerpts from classic and contemporary texts so users can experience the Unesco City of Literature’s attractions.

It includes work by celebrated authors through the centuries all the way to present-day fiction writers such as James Robertson and Alexander McCall Smith.

The app has been jointly created by two of the city’s universities. Literary experts and computer scientists at the University of Edinburgh and Napier University used text-mining technology to source references to an interactive city map.

Literary experts worked with developers, designers and publishers. They accessed digital collections from all over the world for the project – including works held by the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, and Project Gutenberg – an archive of digital and cultural works.

The app has been launched as part of Being Human – the nationwide festival of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) that aims to engage the public with innovative research taking place across the humanities.

On Saturday, author Kaite Welsh launched LitLong by inviting people to join her on a tour of Edinburgh as seen by Sarah Gilchrist, the main character in her crime novel Wages Of Sin.

On Friday the second half of the launch will take place when a Wikipedia “editathon” at 50 George Square will let guests create and improve Wikipedia pages for overlooked authors.

The project has been funded by the AHRC as part of its investment in big data – the collecting, organising and interpreting of large sets of digital information. It is supported by the Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature Trust and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Project director Professor James Loxley says LitLong is a resource that could be adopted by other cities with a rich literary heritage.

He said: “Edinburgh has a unique literary heritage. Its streets echo with the voices of countless authors and their characters. This exploration of the possibilities offered by big data for digital literary research means writers’ references to locations throughout the city can be found at the tap of a screen, or the click of a mouse.”

Source: The National

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Christiana Polycarpou

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