This article explores the role of interactivity in a “natively” digital life story. The human-computer interaction is an essential component in these life stories. Phenomenologically, interactivity permeates the user’s experience of the life story, potentially integrating the semiotic modes, such as color, text, and sound, into a coherent, unified whole. Whether this unity of experience is achieved so that the life experience is effectively conveyed depends on how interactivity is employed and to what extent it works with other semiotic modes. The article posits that interactivity does not affect all works the same way, but manifests characteristics according to authorial design and the content and form of each work. Through a close reading of three digital life stories which employ interactivity differently—a web comic, a clickable scrapbook, and a narrative video game—this article explores ways interactivity facilitates meaning making. In particular it explores the contribution of interactivity and its relationship with visual and/or auditory elements to convey a lived experience. This article presents an initial enquiry into the role of the interactive feedback loop in digital life stories and suggests further research into multimodality’s and interactivity’s possibilities in creating compelling life story experiences.
Multimodality and Interactivity in “Natively” Digital Life Stories
Evelyn Chew is an interdisciplinary researcher whose interest in the human condition lies at the intersection of narrative, psychology, and interactive media. Having recently obtained her PhD in the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore, she continues to be intrigued by life stories, especially those in interactive digital media. Her articles on empathy and truth claims in interactive life stories have been published in Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies, and in DIEGESIS: Interdisciplinary E-Journal for Narrative Research. Her most recent publication is the book chapter “‘As Only a Game Can’: Re-creating Subjective Lived Experiences through Interactivity in Non-fictional Video Games,” (in Subjectivity across Media: Interdisciplinary and Transmedial Perspectives, edited by Maike S. Reinerth and Jan-Noël Thon) with Alex Mitchell (2016).
Alex Mitchell is assistant professor in the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore. His current research investigates various aspects of computer-based art and entertainment, focusing in particular on games and interactive stories. His recent publications include “Making the Familiar Unfamiliar: Techniques for Creating Poetic Gameplay” (2016), “Making It Unfamiliar in the Right Way: An Empirical Study of Poetic Gameplay” (2017), and “Antimimetic Rereading and Defamiliarization in Save the Date” (2018). He is a member of the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling Steering Committee.
Evelyn Chew, Alex Mitchell; Multimodality and Interactivity in “Natively” Digital Life Stories. Poetics Today 1 June 2019; 40 (2): 319–353. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7298578
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