[Please note that this information is preserved exactly as presented on the walls of the gallery, so instructions on ‘How to read this text’ refer to the stations as they appeared during the exhibition.]
One of the defining attributes of digital literature is that it is ‘multimodal’. A mode is a channel of communication (for example, speech, writing, image, sound, moving image, or gesture) and multimodal texts make meaning by using multiple modes in combination with each other. They therefore appeal to multiple senses: hearing, sight, and touch. While all of the digital works in this exhibition are fundamentally multimodal, the three works shown in this room are grouped to demonstrate the different ways in which writers have experimented with combining multiple modes and thus appealing to multiple senses.
One station in this gallery shows a digital fiction that incorporates the reader’s bodily gestures in a way that physically connects the reader with the work. Another station features a text which uses image and sound to immerse the reader in a 3D digital storyworld. The third station features a work which utilises oral storytelling and thus returns to but also remediates the oldest of all narrative forms.
Station 10: Gestural Storytelling
In any type of literature, readers must interact physically with the technology used to display the work either by turning a page or clicking a mouse. Reading digital literature is always a very physical and dynamic experience, firstly because of the many different creative ways of using digital technology in connection with the interface space (e.g. clicking the mouse button, double-clicking, right-clicking, holding down the mouse button, moving the mouse with the button engaged, striking one key on the keyboard, typing, etc.), and secondly because these movements, or what we might call gestures, often contribute to the construction of meaning within the text. Thus not only do physical gestures move the narrative forward, but they also work in combination with the narrative to engage the reader within it. Some texts, like the one shown at this station, also utilise the physicality of the reading experience so as to capture traces of the reader within the work itself.
Loss of Grasp, Serge Bouchardon, Vincent Volckaert (2010)
Loss of Grasp is a digital piece about the notions of grasp and control, and it explores the extent to which we all have a grip on our life. Six scenes feature a character who feels like he is losing control of his relationships, his work, and his sense of self. At the same time, his loss of grasp mirrors the reader’s experience of this interactive digital work as we struggle to stay in control of the text and the components that comprise it. The text combines kinetic text, colourful images, speech, sound effects, and moving images. It also asks the reader to use pronounced physical movements to advance the narrative; they must click and hold the mouse button and/or make strong mouse strokes across the screen. Touch and physical gesture are therefore integral to this work. The end of this text also has an interesting surprise for reader/viewers…
How to read this text: Select the language in which you wish to read this text and follow the audio and onscreen instructions. This is a relatively short text which takes approximately 10 minutes to read.
Station 11: 3D Storytelling
Most of us are familiar with 3D environments from commercial videogames. We tend to navigate through them using an avatar (a figure representing ourselves in the gameworld) or in the so-called first person perspective, where we see literally through the eyes of our virtual persona. Some digital writers have experimented with 3D technologies to simulate and evoke complex and mysterious narrative environments that immerse us directly into the storyworld – similar to but not quite in the same way as playing a run-of-the-mill videogame.
Nightingale’s Playground, Andy Campbell, Judy Alston (2010)
It’s raining in 1989. Schoolboy Carl lives with his grandmother on an anonymous housing estate and spends his time hanging out with Alex, an oddball kid obsessed with video games. But when Alex disappears for no apparent reason, things begin to change: Carl’s grandmother hides weird objects in her sideboard, his homework reveals frightening messages, and none of his friends – it seems – even remember who Alex was in the first place.
Nightingale’s Playground is a 4-part digital fiction mystery told through a point-and-click adventure, a virtual book, a short e-book, and an immersive 3D environment. To understand the story in full, all parts should be read, but if you only want to get a sense of how it works, have a quick look at Consensus Trance I and II and then, if you have time, read The Fieldwork Book and the ebook.
How to read this text: There are two icons on the desktop. Click ‘Nightingale’s Playground’ to access the contents of the text. Consensus Trace I, The Fieldwork Book and ebook can be accessed via this link. To access Consensus Trance II (the second part of the text), you will need to return to the desktop and select the ‘Consensus Trance II’ icon.
For Consensus Trance I, pan the mouse around the screen and click to interact.
Consensus Trance II is a 3D environment. Navigate it using your left mouse button (to turn) and your cursor keys to move.
To read The Fieldwork Book, click and drag the mouse to turn the pages.
The ebook can be downloaded and read as pdf, ePub, Kindle or Issuu edition.
Station 12: Oral Storytelling
Oral storytelling is one of the oldest forms of narrative communication. For thousands of years, people around the world have told tell each other stories that have been told by their ancestors – stories that all humans can relate to because they talk about love, life, death and suffering; but also stories that have a distinctly local touch as they reflect the countryside and culture from which they emerged. The digital fiction displayed at this station shows how oral storytelling about a specific Yorkshire-based theme can happen in the digital medium.
Underbelly, Christine Wilks (2010)
Underbelly is an interactive story about a woman sculptor, carving on the site of a former colliery in the north of England, now landscaped into a country park. As she carves, she is disturbed by a medley of voices, and the player/reader is plunged into an underworld of repressed fears and desires about the artist’s sexuality, potential maternity, and worldly ambitions, mashed up with the disregarded histories of the 19th-century women who once worked underground mining coal. Unusually for a digital fiction, the work relies predominantly on oral narrative(s), but it also incorporates still and moving images, text, and film. Following the tradition of oral storytelling, it allows us to listen to voices of actual people telling their stories of working in local coal mines under what we would nowadays consider impossible conditions, and we can find our own way through a maze of wandering images and sounds leading to our personal play with the wheel of fortune.
How to read this text: Use the mouse to explore the work. Hovering over some of the visual objects will advance the narrative, but make sure you have listened to all of the audio before moving on.
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