Poetry Centre

Avant-Gardes and Speculative Technology

  • The Avant-Gardes and Speculative Technology (AGAST) Projectrecreates the inventions of experimentaltwentieth-century writers and artists using Augmented Reality (AR), an emergentmedia technology that mixes digital data and real time video.



    Founded by Eric White and John Twycross in 2014, AGAST crosses disciplinary boundaries to interrogate the relationships between people, technology, the creative arts and the environment. We have created and exhibited two outputs so far: TRAAK!,an AR re-imagining of an early Futuristmusical synthesiser device; and The Reading Machine, an AR headset that recreates a prototype electronic reading device developed by the American expatriate writer Bob Brown in 1929.


    AGAST is an interdisciplinary collaboration based at Oxford Brookes with strong links to local, national and international partners. We are part of the University’s Poetry Centre and Performance Augmentation Lab (PAL).
    • Eric White , Senior Lecturer in American Literature
    • John Twycross , Senior Lecturer in Digital Media Production
    • Fridolin Wild , Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Performance Augmentation Lab
    • Mike Blow , Lecturer in Interactive Media, School of Art and Media, University of Plymouth
    • Iain Sinclair , Writer and Filmmaker, London UK

    The Reading Machine

    The Reading Machine re-imagines a prototype electronic reading device developed by the American expatriate writer Bob Brown in 1929. Drawing on Brown’s utopian vision for a ‘revolution of the word’, our version seeks to disrupt the age-old tension between the linearity of text and the multidimensionality of space. Our headsets feature animations of specially-commissioned 3D texts by Iain Sinclair erupting from various landscapes in Oxford and London, and a prototype has been exhibited at Outburst! 2016.

    The Reading Machine launch will take place at Oxford Brookes' Special Collections Archive in the John Henry Brookes building on Tuesday 24 January at 5pm. The Special Collections room is in the basement of the Main Library (a map can be found on the Brookes website).

    The event is free to attend but due to significant interest registration is required. Please email Eric White as soon as possible to register your place. Registration closes 20 January 2017.

    The event will feature a presentation by Professor Craig Saper of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, a reading by the acclaimed British author Iain Sinclair, who has produced specially-commissioned texts for our Machine, and animations by AGAST co-founder John Twycross. This AGAST installation is an augmented reality version of a 1930 Reading Machine invented by the American modernist writer and publisher Bob Brown, an optical poet and 'grandfather of the e-book'. Previously forgotten by literary history, Brown has been rediscovered by scholars of modernism and media theory interested in his visionary machine and 'the readies' he designed for the device - a media ecology which Brown hoped would become as ubiquitous as the 'talkies' in cinema. Prof. Craig Saper is the world authority on Bob Brown and has played a major role in bringing Brown's innovative poetry back into print. Iain Sinclair's texts re-imagine the readies by exploring the appropriation of public spaces in Oxford and London using Augmented Reality, a technology that blends real-world environments and digital animations in real time. The event coincides with the Augmented Reality Winter School hosted by Dr Fridolin Wild, Director of Brookes' new Performance Augmentation Lab (PAL. The event is sponsored by the HSS Faculty, Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, and PAL.


    Taking its name from an onomatopoeia from a Futurist manifesto as well as the tracking software used in the device, TRAAK! re-images futurist instruments known as ‘noise intoners’. Users ‘play’ a series of specially-designed cubes from which abstract 3D sculptures emerge, producing asymphony of sound and colour, and exploring the sounds of a potential future city in the process. Featuring sculpture and original sound art by Mike Blow, TRAAK! has been showcased at Audiograft, Brookes Live!, Media City, and other events in 2015.