Crime fiction in digital ethos: legal and ethical challenges in e-lit

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

It is well known that any formulaic genre has a predictable story and a conventional meaning, nevertheless what makes each story unique is the ethos, that is to say the relationship between characters and environment. When the environment is digital, new media renegotiate traditional formulaic features, as is the case with detective stories and crime fiction in e-literature. The paper illustrates how digital ontology shapes the relationship between the ethos and the law. Indeed digital technology determines not only the criminal deed and the method of investigation, but it also highlights how the perception of the crime and the resultant moral or legal responsibility are more and more undetermined in social interaction. For Christie’s inter-war fiction or in American hard-boiled literature, the issue of social order was crucial, but contemporary aporia calls into question the happy ending of the investigation. We can anticipate that in electronic crime fiction the final social order and the need for penalty measures are not part of the storytelling. A brief overview of electronic detective stories will be given, even if particular attention will be paid on Elliot Holt's #TwitterFiction Story Was it a suicide? A homicide? Or an accident? Read and decide...1. In the latter, Miranda, the victim, is the product of digital media communication, and as any other digital object she is ontologically abstract. She simply exists in the relationship between digital subjectivity (communicated via social media by the other characters of the story) and a hyper-real objectivity made of binary code. Technically speaking she is a sequence of 0 and 1 or, as John Searle would say, she is syntax. Holt creates a character who is exiled from the objectivist system, although she exists in a social network for the followers and the readers. Somehow she is locked into some tweets, but beyond the real world. How can a police investigation cope with this? Now social media communication seems to undermine or dispossess reality of the concepts of “reference” and “referent”. The risk to overlap what is inside or outside the digital world, is truly existing, as the murder committed in Cleveland in 2017 to be posted on Facebook suggests. If in the past, a writer gave the reader a criminal case to solve within the rules of law, nowadays a digital writer gives his readers an experience. Actually, readers are no longer asked to share the detective's acumen and insight, but to participate to the criminal case. Today the anticanonical digital detective fiction does not merely tell stories of crimes and justice, but they put on stage how the Law does no longer play its role in society. Nowadays law tries to codify online and offline behaviours, rights and duties, but the more the relationship between these two realities are undefined the harder it is for the law to be effective and incisive in its goal. A more general difference between good and evil seems to be enough for the public of eliterature. Considerations about the Ethics Guidelines For Trustworthy AI, released by the the European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group On Artificial Intelligence, will be taken into consideration.

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Vian Rasheed