Electronic Literature Organization
Porto, Portugal
20 July 2017

The Convergent Evolution of Hypertext: Democratizing effects of open-source platforms and marginalized communities
Literature arises from a "maker" culture: the basic skills required to consume and create literature are ubiquitous in modern literate cultures. From schools to book clubs to writers' workshops, literary fiction is consumed, examined, and created. Digital literacies, however, are not yet ubiquitous, as technical and monetary barriers to entry remain: software is expensive and often requires advanced skillsets. Without a commercial driver to encourage mainstream uptake, digital fiction has remained largely within the academic and avant garde realms of experimentation. Open source platforms, also embracing that "maker" ideology, have produced digital fiction in a process of convergent evolution: Inform7's interactive fiction, Ren'Py's visual novels, and Twine's hypertext "adventure games". Twine's success, in particular, is driven by its community and its discourse, as it has been embraced by a community that feels "marginalized" (Bernardi 2013; Friedhoff 2013; Harvey 2014; Kopas 2014) by the white male dominated game developer community (Edwards, et al. 2014; Salter 2015). This community is motivated by a desire to exchange personal narratives and engage in shared creative activities, rather than focusing solely on the experimental opportunities nascent in the form. The platform's "maker" approach (open source, free, easy to learn, and mod-able) enables its community to advance beyond creative experimentation, and to use those creative activities to engage in discourse on and within minority cultures. Twine's accessibility and facility, combined with its enthusiastic adoption by underserved creatives, has democratized (O'Reilly 2007; Jenkins 2006a; b) hypertexts and literary gaming. Far from being "dead" as a genre, hypertext in the Twine community is playing a significant role in cultural discourse, pushing into the literary mainstream. This paper will explore Twine texts that have emerged into the popular consciousness, as well as the author's own practice-based engagement in the community and the form.
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MIX Digital Conference
Bath Spa University
9-12 July 2017

Creative Hyperlinks: Writerly and readerly effects of links in hypertext fiction
Reader response studies propose that digital fiction readers employ specific cognitive strategies to parse fictional narratives from nonlinear sequences presented in ergodic narratives such as hypertext; few empirical studies, however, have been conducted. Likewise, composition scholars continue to have "little disciplinary understanding of how writers write…within technologically-mediated literate practices" (Takayoshi 2015, p.2). This presentation presents results from a study designed to examine the types and effects of hyperlinks used in hypertext fiction. While most hyperlinks that appear on the web and in electronic documents are semantic, in that they usually indicate to the reader their purpose and directionality, many hypertext authors employ non-semantic links. These have been categorized in various ways, from their effects on the reader, to their mechanisms as narrative structures. The purpose of this study was two-fold: to conduct practice-based research on how a digital writer may employ these varying types of links in fictional narratives; and to conduct an empirical investigation into the cognitive effects of hyperlinks in digital fiction on the reader. In order to explore these topics, Skains (a practicing digital writer) created a purpose-built hypertext fiction incorporating all categories of hyperlink identified for digital fictions, exploring the practice and use of links from a writerly perspective. This hypertext (The Futographer) was then used as the basis for empirical observations of readers' experience and strategies in reading hypertexts. This presentation focuses on the practice-based insights, but will also discuss initial conclusions gained from the reader response study. The context of this study is our AHRC-funded "Reading Digital Fiction" project (2014-17) (Ref: AH/K004174/1), which aims to develop new empirical literary methods to examine reader engagement and interaction with digital fictions, to produce new readings of digital fictions against a cognitive narratological backdrop, and to open digital fiction to broader readership through various public events in England and Wales.
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Style & Response Conference
Sheffield Hallam University
11 November 2016

Writers Reading Digital Fiction: An Empirical Study of Digital Writers' Response to Ergodic Texts
This paper presents findings from an empirical study of writers creating digital fiction, and specifically reports on data regarding participant responses to reading digital fiction. This study was conducted as part of the AHRC-funded "Reading Digital Fiction" project (2014-17) (Ref: AH/K004174/1), whose primary purpose is to introduce readers to digital fiction, and to investigate reader response to digital fiction using cognitive and empirical approaches. Few empirical studies have been conducted on digital fiction reader cognition, though the works collected in three Electronic Literature Collections and the Twine "storygame" community indicate continued growth of hyperfiction. Previous studies proposed that digital fiction readers employ specific cognitive strategies to parse fictional narratives from nonlinear sequences presented in digital fiction, and that these texts offer varying types of pleasure depending upon cognitive engagement (Douglas 1992a; b; Douglas and Hargadon 2000). The literature identifies a level of reader frustration due to the unfamiliar medium and its divergences from conventional narratives. As part of this project, an undergraduate module in writing digital fiction was designed and taught to creative writing students; data collected included module assessments, questionnaires on the students' reading and writing habits, student-maintained research logs, and instructor observation notes. Initial findings indicate that doing (writing, designing, creating) digital fiction changes participant expectations for reading digital fiction. The increased familiarity and practice-based intimacy with digital works results in an increased proficiency in reading and interpreting digital fiction, and a deeper appreciation for ergodic works in general. This paper will review these findings, and discuss the implications for reading and writing digital fiction.
 

Shankland Lecture Series
Bangor University
8 November 2016

Putting the "E" in "e-books": Exploiting the digital interactivity inherent in dedicated e-readers
A lecture given at the Bangor University Library as part of their public Shankland Lecture Series, focusing on e-books, e-publishing, and the possibilities for digital fiction commercialization through the native interactivity offered by hyperlinks in e-books.
 

The Future Space of Bookselling Conference
Bangor University
3-4 June 2016

Digital Marginalia: Discourse or Gimmick?
Writing in other people's texts is a centuries-old habit, from monkish scribblings on scripts to student notes in library books. Marginalia has been studied as discourse, as historical documentation, and as evidence of reader response. Recent studies on digital annotation have labeled it "digital social reading", as readers can share their annotations, and read others'; some authors are experimenting with this function in creative texts. As many academic texts are now available electronically, from online journals to e-books, it seems a natural step to incorporate the interactive functions of the Web 2.0 — comments, annotations, shares, likes, and even new marginalia tools such as ReadSocial, etc. — into a digital discourse occurring on a source text itself. Yet despite scholars' natural tendencies toward discourse in both print and verbal forms, the practice has not caught on: junior scholars are reluctant to risk their future prospects by disagreeing with a senior academic on the paper itself; mid-career academics have little time to contribute to activities that are not "REF-able"; and much of the interaction that does occur is dominated by scholars who are pushing their own agenda rather than actually engaging. So how can scholars use digital tools for interaction and marginalia to foster discourse, a key element in any research field? This paper will explore the experiments that have been tried, in both academic and creative contexts, and propose some options for publishers and authors.
 

Invited Presentation
University of Sheffield
1 February 2016

Play/Perform: Gender Identity in Online Spaces
An overview of gender identity in online environments, using Gamergate as a case study.
 

Electronic Literature Organization
University of Bergen, Norway
August 2015

The Practice of Research: A Methodology for Practice-Based Exploration of Digital Writing
This paper proposes a specific methodology for the practice-based study of digital writing. "Practice-based" connotes a focused project, a creative experiment designed to answer questions about the process and results of the practice itself: "it involves the identification of research questions and problems, but the research methods, contexts and outputs then involve a significant focus on creative practice" (Sullivan 2009, 48). The proposed method aligns foremost with Sullivan's conceptual framework of practice-based research, in that the creative undertaking is an attempt to understand the artefacts themselves. As such, it incorporates ethnomethodological (Garfinkel 1967; cf. Brandt 1992) observation of writing activities, maintaining notes, journal entries, comments on drafts, and other relevant, observable paratexts to the composition, in order to "make continual sense to [the writer] of what [the writer is] doing" (Brandt 1992, 324). These notes and paratexts are later analyzed, placing them within the context of composition cognition (Flower & Hayes 1981), and post-textual, media-specific analysis (Hayles 2002) is conducted on the narratives that result. In this manner, the various strengths of practice-based research, ethnomethodology, cognitive process, and post-textual analysis are combined into a robust, widely applicable method of evaluating the activities of the practitioner/researcher.
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Stories About Science
Manchester University
June 2015

The Catastrophe of Science Fiction Since 1950:
The Role Reversal of Science & the Supernatural in 20th-21st Century Narratives In 1945, post-Hiroshima and Nagasaki, science in fiction began to evolve into the monstrous, and magic into a comfort. Pre-1950s, science was a source of hope, capable of triumphing over time, space, and death. The threat of nuclear war, however, heralded decades of fiction portraying science as a source of destruction. Despite wondrous advances in technology and medicine, fiction continues to see the end of the world in artificial intelligence, alien contact, and influenza. And while evangelists continue to burn the Harry Potter books as blasphemy, fiction by and large has done an about face on the supernatural: wizards are heroes, vampires are love interests, and werewolves are people living bravely with disabilities. This paper explores this reversal between the portrayals of science and the supernatural in fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries, and how these portrayals influence public perception of science and its role in our lives.

Computer Gaming Across Cultures
New Delhi, India
January 2014

Coding Creativity:
Creative Writing in Code Environments

Electronic Literature Organization
Paris, France
September 2013

The Materiality of the Intangible:
Literary Metaphor in Multimodal Texts
In presenting her theory of the technotext, Katherine Hayles argues that it is the conjunction of the physical embodiment of technotexts (whether semi-tangible in digital form, or as fully physical as a book) with their embedded verbal signifiers that constructs both plurimodal meaning and an implicit construct of the user/reader (2002, 130-1). This paper seeks to examine the dynamic on the other side of technotexts: that of the creator and the text. Specifically, this paper examines how the materiality of digital media contributes to a layered metaphor that delivers meaning, reflects on the cognitive processes (the writer's and the reader's) of navigation, and generates a dynamic narrative structure through user interaction.
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MIX Digital
Bath Spa University
July 2013

The Fragmented Digital Gaze:
Effects of Multimodal Composition on Narrative Perspective
Emerging technologies have historically had various impacts on narrative fiction, from the emergence of mimetic narratives in novel form, to the camera's influence on techniques such as flashback, and character gaze and perspective. These technologies can be seen to engage in an authorial partnership with the composer, "collaborating to create new media" (Weight 2006, 415), new narrative forms and practices. The specific affordances of digital media introduce multimodality, polylinearity, and reader/player interaction to fiction; the practice of composing such multimodal works affects narrative perspective, leading to fragmented and layered narration, metalepsis, and "unnatural narrators" (Richardson 2006). This paper presents research based in the practice of creating a multimodal project, Færwhile (in preparation), examining the progression of narrative perspective from mimetic to unnatural, analysing the various narrative perspectives. While Richardson (2006) argues that the postmodern narrative perspective (utilizing contradictory, permeable, and dis-framed narrators) leads to "postmodern unreliability", this examination of the Færwhile multimodal narrative will argue that a cohesive voice and its communicated metaphor can be created from the layering of disparate narrative perspectives.

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Gaming Across Cultures
Bangor, Wales
May 2013

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic...and Programming?
Game-coding as Educational Platform

Material Meanings Conference
University of Kent
September 2012

The Material Trace in Electronic Technotext
   

Electronic Literature Organization
Morgantown, WV
June 2012

Fluid Texts and Implicit Collaboration in Electronic Narratives
Digital technology enables artists - photographers, musicians, writers, filmmakers, illustrators, animators, etc. - to place their work not in a strictly definable where, but effectively everywhere (everywhere, that is, where infrastructure and access are available). Where once the lines between author, text, and reader could be drawn with linear vectors, digital technology and their increasing availability and accessibility bring author, text, and reader into a potentially endless cycle of narrative creation, wherein the roles are fluid and the text may never be fixed. Because of this capability, Astrid Ensslin argues that the idea of a literary canon must depart from "its traditional self-contained, closed, and rigidly exclusive connotations. Instead, an inclusive, open concept has to be adopted, which works in terms of a continuous process of integration, modification and discharge" (2006, n.p.).

With the emergence of Creative Commons licensing, particularly the licensing of derivatives, art can no longer be considered "fixed", no longer capable of canonization as the literary world has come to define it - possibly no longer attributable to a defined creator or author. Ensslin's "inclusive, open concept" is already emerging amongst writers and readers, in the forms of online fan fiction (Thomas 2007), author-led reader-text engagement (Skains 2010), online collaborations (from collaborative wiki-novels to hitrecord.org's crowd-sourced multimedia projects), and, perhaps most subtly, in work benefiting from the implicit collaboration made available through Creative Commons derivatives licensing.

This last form of fluid text - that of the implicit collaboration - is of extreme interest to my work as a practice-based researcher examining the effects of writing fiction in multiple modes and multiple media on the author's writing process and the final(?) narratives themselves. Whereas many collaborative artists are either working in a single form (as with fan fiction or wiki-novels) or approaching a project as a coordinated team (from the highly coordinated collaborations of film to the decentralized world-building created by online author-led communities), implicit collaboration arises in a more palimpsestical or collage form as one author uses resources made accessible and available by digital technologies and Creative Commons licensing.

This paper will examine two creative texts, "Awake the Mighty Dread" (interactive fiction, forthcoming), "Lost, Seeking Found" (Flash fiction, forthcoming), presenting an insight into their composition through the use of implicit collaboration with other artists, as well as analysis of the narrative effects of these "found" resources on the final artifacts. The paper will also reference examples from other openly or implicitly collaborative electronic texts such as Andy Campbell's Nightingale: Consensus Trance, the wiki-novel A Million Penguins, and hitrecord.org's Morgan M. Morganstern's Date with Destiny.
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Beyond Adaptation Conference
De Montfort University
January 2011

 The Story in the Medium: Reader Responses to Multimodal Fiction NarrativesA novel in hard copy, book form, with numbered sequential pages, bound into paperback. A computer program with clickable links, images, sound, open to multiple nonlinear readings/viewings. How does the adaptation of a story from the conventional medium of a novel to the emerging medium of digital fiction affect the reader's understanding and experience of narrative? This paper explores the results of a classroom-based pilot study surveying readers who were asked to examine both a print novel and its digital adaptation (or vice versa). Readers were asked to read one of two novels and their digital versions (253 by Geoff Ryman or 10:01 by Lance Olsen). Half the readers examined the print novel first, and half examined the digital novel first. After each reading, they were asked to respond to questions based on the narrative and their reactions to each reading. This paper will present the initial results and conclusions of this study, and the potential implications for authors working in multimodal fiction.

My PhD work is a practice-based exploration of multimodal storytelling, specifically in fiction – print and digital. The primary focus of this research is to examine the effects of writing fiction in multiple modes and multiple media on the author's writing process. In my teaching, however, and in reactions from readers of the early drafts of my work, I began to notice interesting reactions to stories depending upon the medium through which they are delivered. These observations formed the basis for this study and the resulting paper.
     

Great Writing Conference
Imperial College London
June 2011

The Medium in the Story:
How the Intent to Work in Digital Media Affects the Writer's PracticeKnowledge of and immersion in the digital interfaces and technologies fundamentally changes the writer's perspective on story structure, character, their relationship with the reader, and the way they write stories. As I have discovered through my practice-based research into multimodal and multimedia storytelling, both the intent to remediate a story into digital media and knowledge of digital fiction techniques and theory alter the shape and outcome of the creative writing process dramatically. A character's voice might change depending on whether they are narrating in print, or communicating through a blog. A once-linear structure might branch out into a web of possibilities – and the author can write and include all of them, rather than choosing one road less traveled. This presentation included readings from several stories, both print and digital, composed as part of this research, which will demonstrate the effects of producing fiction in multiple media on narrative and structure. I also discussed ways in which my writing process evolved as a result of my developing awareness of, and intent to work in digital media.
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Transgression & Its Limits Conference
University of Stirling
May 2010

Invited Transgression Against the Text: Masochism, or an Evolved Perception of Authorship?Digital technology in the form of online sharing and digitized files revolutionized the music industry; forced by consumer transgression on the distribution model, the recording companies began to sell music, rather than CDs or records. The same paradigm shift in the storytelling arts is occurring as digital technology enables similar transgressions on the publishing model, as evidenced in legal battles over copyright and distribution schemes, notably Google Books and Amazon.com. These ongoing issues are driving a worried discourse surrounding questions of copyright infringement, the oft-predicted 'death' of the author, and the continued survival of the traditional publishing model. But rather than blogging about their perceived woes, some artists are embracing this increasingly liquid phase in publishing. Instead of binding their texts in chains of copyright and legal protections, they are inviting so-called transgressions on their works; in the gaming world, these invited (and occasionally uninvited) transgressions are termed 'modding'. The process of including the (eventual) reader in the creation of the story takes many forms, involving reader participation at various stages of creation, with various levels of both artistic and monetary success. All of these mod-projects, however, share an ideal in common: they offer their stories as places rather than objects, as theme parks where readers can play rather than pre-determined experiences with the author's name stamped on every page. This paper examines several case studies, including Robin Sloan's Annabel Scheme project (http://robinsloan.com/annabel-scheme), and the author's own work in digital storytelling, as models for setting new boundaries around the questions 'what is literature?' and 'who is the author?'.
Transgressions
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MeCCSA Postgraduate Conference
Bangor University
July 2009

The Shifting Author-Reader Dynamic:
Online Novel Communities as a Bridge from Print to Digital LiteratureIn this digital age, readers are turning to online outlets in an effort to prolong the experience of reading a beloved novel. This paper looks at the websites created and maintained by the authors themselves, which delve deeper into the world of novel and novelist, offering fans interaction with both the author and other readers, as well as an extension of the novel's world through games and additional materials. These online novel communities are models of a bridge between print and digital storytelling conventions. They create a new dynamic between author, text, and reader; no longer is the communication of fiction a one-way street. Rather, these communities provide a space for discourse between author and reader, opportunities for readers to influence and form the texts the author is creating, and reader-contributed material in the form of fan fiction and games. The digital format of these communities also introduces the print-oriented reader to digital storytelling elements such as online games, multimedia, and hypertext. This paper uses two communities as models: NeilGaiman.com and JasperFforde.com. It examines the discourse between these bestselling fantasy authors and their readers, reader contributions on the sites, the unique author-reader dynamic created through these interactions, and how these sites introduce readers to digital storytelling conventions.
MeCCSA
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Great Writing Conference
Bangor University
June 2009

Inside Out Empty: A Digital StoryThis presentation consisted of a reading of my short story “Inside-Out Empty (Working Title)”, accompanied by a display of the digital adaptation in progress. My doctoral research is practice-led; throughout the course of my studies, I will be writing a novel in the form of interlinked short stories building to an overall climax. I will adapt these stories to digital format, incorporating visual, audio, hypertext, and interactive elements. My final product will be a print book, and a website presenting the stories in networked, interactive, digital format. “Inside-Out Empty (Working Title)” is intended to be a model of the process of adaptation: my PhD project in miniature. The print story presented in the reading will be a complete, polished piece of fiction. The digital version of the story will show elements of my adaptation process, and may include storyboards; small scenes; notes; outlines for networked, interactive, or hyperlink elements; photographs; text; and other planning and adaptation tools. After the reading, should time allow, I spoke briefly on the experience of adapting print fiction to digital format, including problems encountered, strategies, software, and variations required in the creative thought process to move from a linear print story to a networked digital version.
Great Writing '09 Presentation
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Beyond Boundaries Conference
Bangor University
January 2009

Beyond the Novelty:
Creating Digital Fiction for Mainstream AudiencesOver the course of my practice-led research, I will be writing/creating a digital novel, exploring the ways to appeal to a mainstream market. I will focus on the strength of the story in the novel, first writing a traditional print piece, then adapting it to a digital format. Some digital stories sacrifice the writing and story, instead relying on the novelty of the digital format to engage the reader. I feel that while this approach engages the reader's intellect, as games do, it abandons the attempt to engage the reader's emotions, which is a key component in creating a lasting story with impact. My adaptation, therefore, will include hypertext, film, audio, digital art & photography, and interactive components as an 'enhancement' of the print novel, similar to a DVD with extras. Readers will be able to 'play' with the text, writing their own scenes, rearranging others, adding art and photography to the novel's landscape. Finally, they will be able to save the novel at the end in a format they can then experience again, should they choose to, like re-reading a favorite book. Alternatively, they may choose to start fresh again, to form a new experience of the digital novel, as many times as they wish

Beyond Boundaries Presentation
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