Research Statement

My primary research interests lie in the fields of Creative/Professional Writing and Digital Media.  I am a practicing writer, thus my research is largely practice-based.  Specifically, I write and research electronic literature (or digital fiction, i.e., fiction written on and for digital devices), examining it from a writer’s perspective, as well as conducting studies into reader response and textual analysis.  I am interested in the evolution of this genre of fiction as it emerges into the mainstream, approaches to creation for writers/digital artists, methods for encouraging readers to embrace e-literature, publishing models, and adaptation/remediation of works across media.
Current Research
My current research is in pursuit of a PhD in Creative & Critical Writing and Digital Media.  The project is practice-based; the creative elements are a print novella and digital/electronic storyworld which may be read/played on a spectrum of experience from full print immersion to full digital immersion.  This creative project is an exploration of the process of creating stories for multiple media: how writing for different media affects the writer's process and perspective with regard to story.  The accompanying critical dissertation will present an analysis of this process, as well as offering a method for creating stories that co-exist in print and digital media, developing relevant critical theory and insight into the current context of the emerging genre of electronic literature.

As part of this project, I have launched a pilot study building on J. Yellowlees Douglas's 1992 study on reader engagement with electronic literature.  Douglas asked students to read one of two texts, the print story “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges, or Stuart Moulthrop's electronic adaptation of the story; she then analyzed their responses.  My study consists of two readings: readers are presented with both print and digital versions of one story (in print-electronic or electronic-print order), answering survey questions after each reading with regard to their understanding of the narrative and their reactions to the story.  Initial results from a pilot group have proved promising; I expect to expand and refine this study for publication in the next year.

Supplemental to my PhD research, I have collaborated with Dr. Rick Walker of the School of Computer Science to develop hardware platforms for active physical participation in electronic storyworlds.  We have explored the possibilities of using the open source microprocessor Arduino for integration into electronic stories, interactive theatre, and social networking.  This project is ongoing, and offers possibilities not only for the Schools of Creative Studies & Media and Computer Sciences, but also for Pontio; we anticipate applications emerging from this work that could lead to interactive installations and performances in the spaces being offered in Pontio.

I have also collaborated within the School of Creative Studies and Media, working with Amy Chambers on a joint paper examining the use of mise en scéne film analysis techniques in electronic literature.  I am excited to engage with the various disciplines offered in the School, as well as with other contacts throughout the university, including the Digital Economies Cluster and the School of Psychology, and cross-university partnerships.  Toward that end, I have been named as a consultant on a grant with Imperial College London, researching the use of 3D virtual environments (such as Second Life or OpenLife) as teaching tools for educating medical patients.  I have also developed relationships through my work as an editor on the Electronic Literature Directory, and contributions to projects for the Digital Fiction International Network.  These partnerships offer exciting opportunities not only for my own research, but for all schools and universities involved.
Future Research
In the future, I would like to continue both my practice-based research as well as theory-based research exploring the connections between postmodern print fiction and electronic or “born-digital” literature (Bell et al 2010) in terms of perspective and narrative structure.  Examination of electronic “antecedents” in literature and film has led to many postmodern texts, whose experimentation with narrative perspective (pushing beyond the traditional boundaries of first- or third-person perspective) is reflected in many electronic texts that seek to either interact on a different level with the reader/player, to engage in an artistic statement about interpersonal and human-machine connections in the digital age, or both (or none, as the case may turn out to be...).  This experimentation with perspective also opened up new possibilities in structuring narratives (e.g., Kurosawa's 1950 film Rashomon) that have been exploited in electronic forms such as hypertexts and interactive fiction.  I would like to explore these parallels in various storytelling media, how they are connected in particular to the unique forms of which electronic media are capable, and how authorship and readership are shifting due to the evolution of these narratives.  

As a continuation of my current PhD project, I am also interested practice-based research into further studies of multi-authored or community-sourced storytelling.  The electronic story I am creating in my PhD research is structured around the concept of a storyworld; as a created world or universe, the possibilities for additional stories beyond my own are essentially endless.  I anticipate creating a web-based universe for this electronic storyworld wherein readers may become authors themselves, contributing both original print and electronic stories that expand the story's universe – a fiction version of a wiki.  This concept integrates “canonical” fiction and “fan” fiction, allowing the reader to become author in a very real sense.  I am interested in examining how this form of collaborative storytelling engages readers, how it affects the concept of authorship, and how it may be managed as a marketable publishing model.

Similarly, the development of storyworld as a primary narrative tool is an area I'd like to explore.  This idea has antecedents, such as Tolkien's creation of a such a rich storyworld that it could be used in many iterations including film and game.  The use of storyworld as the author's canonical work, and integration of “fan” fiction into the work itself, is a shift away from a canonical text protected by copyright, and toward the open source movement so prominent in digital applications.
Bell, A. et al. (2010) “A [S]creed for Digital Fiction.” Electronic Book Review. [Online] URL: http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread/electropoetics/DFINative

Douglas, J.Y. (1992) “Maps, Gaps, and Perceptions: What Hypertext Readers (Don't) Do.”  Perforations. [Online] 1(3) URL: http://noel.pd.org/topos/perforations/perf3/douglas_p3.html

Kurosawa, A. (1950) Rashomon. Japan: Daiei Motion Picture Company.