eLiterature & Electronic Literature

Andy Campbell

Fabio De Vivo




Digital Fiction and Interactive Fiction

a cura di

Fabio De Vivo

1. What are the effects of Digital Media on literature? And what is the main challenge for literature in this epoch?

For me, although it may sound obvious, digital media has allowed literature to exist in new spaces rather than simply on paper (or on a word processor and then paper). ‘Digital paper’ does not have to be static. It does not have the same kind of boundaries as print. Writing can exist alongside other media and have an effect on that media, as well as the other media having an effect on the writing itself.

The most important additional feature – again, for me personally – is that writing can now move/change over time. Writing not only carries meaning and evokes story and character, it also becomes enhanced both visually and interactively; gains new attributes that can be explored by writers and experienced by readers/users. It becomes liquid. Changeable. Like the way our memories, personal histories and perceptions of the world around us adjust and mutate over time. And it can do it with a sense of immediacy.

I think the main challenge for literature in this epoch is to compete effectively with other forms of entertainment media. Whilst there is a backlash of interest in books since the arrival of eBooks and arguments that novels are the only true personal experiences that require imagination/etc in the current age, writing also, along with all other forms of media, is undergoing a digital transformation in how it is created, disseminated and experienced.

2. What is the digital fiction for you and what do you mean when you use the term “atmospheric” to describe the works of digital fiction collected in Dreaming Methods?

Digital fiction for me is a story told using digital media which includes a written element and/or an audio/story element. Although it is quite hard to define digital fiction due to the sheer range of projects being created, I do think there is a definite scene and some vague boundaries beginning to emerge. As Michael Bhaskar writes in his article ‘New Media Writing and the Mainstream’ (http://bit.ly/ciKjNf), New Media Writing {arguably another term for digital fiction} is a genre and a form, but the boundaries of both are still unclear. It’s much like jazz – you know it right away, even if you couldn’t necessarily describe what makes it so.”

I use the term “atmospheric” to describe the mood and feel that I try to evoke in  Dreaming Methods’ works. This is achieved through a heavy mix of media that tries to form an immersive ‘world’ where lights, shadows, weather conditions, music and text evoke a sense of place/character from the outset.

I would like to think that I try to draw in a reader/user by generating a (usually dark) ‘atmosphere’. I would like the reader/user to forget about their browser and the fact that they are sat at the computer whilst experiencing the work, in the same way they might forget where they are for a moment reading a printed novel when the story totally captures them. I cannot achieve the same kind of immersion as long form text, of that I am well aware; but then, this is largely a different practice and a different kind of experience. I need to form reader/user immersion through other means, other techniques. So building up atmosphere is very important to me, as is making sure that the quality of the work reaches a reasonably high standard.

In some ways I consider myself to be a very traditional, old school digital fiction writer; narratives distributed across social (or other) networks, broken into pieces across websites or connected to geo-locations etc does not appeal to me. I do not wish to allow readers to contribute endings or take over the narrative (although I am happy to give them choices) – despite having dabbled with these things in the past – nor do I want to produce a micro-poem via Twitter or an interpretation of a play through Facebook. If anything, I would say I am inspired by music and cinema more than the internet itself, and I think this is fairly obvious through the work I produce. I am however interested in creating work for mobile devices, particularly the iPad, and some future Dreaming Methods releases will be designed for this format (as well as available for standard web/desktop computers.)

3. What does it change in the writing process of a digital fiction in comparison with traditional print-centric fiction?

Many New Media Writers are artists of another kind (visual, audio, interactive, installations, programmers) as well as writers, which suggests that there is a natural desire somewhere within these individuals to blend their writing with other media.

For me, it feels natural to want to do this. I love writing, and sometimes I am happy to write into a word processor, but I feel compelled that this is not enough for me when I am interested in so many other types of media and art forms and can see so much potential in them. I wish to converge of of these forms together to produce works that include all.

The actual process involves thinking beyond the concept of the “book” or the “sheet of paper”. It requires breaking down the barriers of where writing begins and other forms of media start. It requires experimentation, a lot of work and, I think, inventing ‘stories’ that could perhaps not be told any other way. It is hard to achieve, I feel, and often holds little reward or audience.

4. What are pros and cons of digital narrative environments for the reader in comparison with the traditional ones

It can be difficult for readers/users to know how to approach works of this kind. Sometimes the navigation, technical requirements, and even the concept itself can form barriers. Readers/users generally will still approach eLit works with the book,  paper and a fixed idea of ‘how you read something’ in mind – and this can cause a lot of confusion and frustration. A good level of computer literacy is often needed.

However I do think that this is changing. There is more reading happening now from computer screens and devices than ever before, so the idea of works designed to suit these mediums will eventually not seem strange, and, as digital fiction authors learn more about the nature of their work and their audience, eLit will become more accessible, widespread and, hopefully, accepted.

5. You have created several works that can be defined Electronic Literature, among these the Immersive Interactive Fiction of The Flat, Dim O Gauble  and Nightingale’s Playground. Do you consider them more literary practices or technological efforts?

I consider these works to be forms of writing that use digital technology rather than the traditional printed book-form to create a story. Writing is always there  in Dreaming Methods. The concept of what constitutes as ‘literature’ I think does not interest me all that much. If it they contain writing, and the writing is part of the central requirement for the story, then perhaps yes, they are literary practices. But they are also ‘technological efforts’ too. They are both, then. How about they are ‘technologicial literary efforts’ or, as the UK Time Educational Supplement Magazine put it a few years ago (2007) when looking at Dreaming Methods criticially, “a semi-literary, semi-cinematic blend.”

6. How do you realize a work like Dim O Gauble? I mean, what are the creative processes underlying a work like this? For Example, do you conceive the story before the interface or vice versa?

Dreaming Methods works are born usually out of an equal combination of visual ideas, concepts for a story and pure experimentation. They grow organically. I begin with a visual concept, and a rough idea for a story, and then everything evolves during the process of trying to create this. Dim O’Gauble was written partly in Photoshop, largely in Flash, sometimes in fragments in Notepad, and then all brought together into a final piece and edited within the Flash stage environment. The process is perhaps similar to scrapbooking, with snippets of graphics, code, writing and sound all brought into the same place and blended/edited together to create a work which transcends (hopefully) any particular single component.

7. Some digital works like Nightingale’s Playground can be considered both Game and eLiterature. Do you think it is possible to make a clear distinction between these fields and mostly is it useful to make it?

Nightingale’s Playground’s game-like elements were very intentional because the work itself is about a boy’s obsession with a computer game. So I wanted a game in there as part of the reader/user experience. Most of my other works do not have this. Although I like games, I do not wish to dissolve the written element so much that the reader becomes a player at all times.

There are works, such as Inanimate Alice (Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph) and On Lionel Kearnes (Jim Andrews) which slip in and out of forms of gameplay, but are not games as such. So I would say that digital fiction works can – as they can with any other media – include games or game-like elements.

Is it useful to make a distinction between games and eLiterature? I’m not sure that it is really. A game may include a digital fiction-like sequence that pulls back somewhat on total game-like control for a while; and a digital fiction project may include a game.



Eliterature & NetArt Forum



2 commenti »

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    Commento di Janell — agosto 18, 2012 @ 6:40 pm | Rispondi

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