It Must Have Been Dark By Then

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Selected for The Digital Dozen: Breakthroughs in Storytelling Awards 2017 by Columbia University

“Ideas about maps, memory and environmental change unite the disparate locations of Speakman’s text, as do the reader’s physical movements between smartphone GPS markers. It would be easy for a work such as this to become gimmicky, or weighed down by technical finickiness, but Speakman manages to use the grammar of Google maps as a structural constraint, presenting the reader with a narrative territory both fixed to the world and intangibly layered across it”-Times Literary Supplement

“the most effective new media work shown at Screen City Biennial…As I listened to accounts from the inhabitants of depopulated Latvian towns and of cities with rapidly encroaching coastlines, the voice-over constantly encouraged me to be mindful of where I was, to view my experiences, thoughts and feelings alongside those of others. Isn’t that what empathy is all about?"-Frieze Magazine

It Must Have Been Dark by Then is a book and audio experience that uses a mixture of evocative music, narration and field recording to bring you stories of changing environments, from the swamplands of Louisiana, to empty Latvian villages and the edge of the Tunisian Sahara. Unlike many audio guides, there is no preset route, the software builds a unique map for each person’s experience. It is up to the participant to choose their own path through the city, connecting the remote to the immediate, the precious to the disappearing.


In January and February 2017 Duncan Speakman travelled with collaborators across three countries on three continents, visiting environments that are experiencing rapid change from human and environmental factors. What he created on his return is somewhere between a travel journal and a poetic reflection on connection, progress and memory. The experience asks the listener to seek out types of locations in their own environment, and once there it offers sounds and stories from remote but related situations. At each location the listener/reader is invited to tie those memories to the place they are in, creating a map of both where they are right now and of places that may not exist in the future.

It Must Have Been Dark By Then from DCRC on Vimeo.

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co-development and dramaturgy - Tineke De Meyer

Music - Sarah Anderson, Duncan Speakman, Sean McGhee
and Djamila Skoglund-Voss

Location research and production - Katharina Smets, Sara Zaltash and Elina Ventere

Book design - Krysztoff Dorion

Producer - Tom Abba

Application development - Calvium

Interface design - Tom Metcalfe

Printing - Taylor Brothers Bristol

Created as part of the AHRC funded Ambient Literature research project - a two-year collaboration between UWE Bristol, Bath Spa University and the University of Birmingham, established to investigate the locational and technological future of the book.

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