Oral Traditions and Electronic Ambitions: The Trajectory of Flight Paths in a Plugged-In World

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Janet Murray writes, “The kaleidoscopic powers the computer offers us…might also lead to compelling narratives that capture our new situation as citizens of a global community. The media explosion of the past one hundred years has brought us face-to-face with particular individuals around the world without telling us how to connect with them” (282). This assertion points to the transforming effects digital media are now having on the ways that we experience representational arts following the advent of digital technology, and points to some of the potential setbacks that Internet-based narrative might embody. This paper will investigate these implications as they relate to narrative trajectory and possibility through analysis of Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph’s networked novel Flight Paths (2009).

One of the greatest assets of using Internet-based technologies resides in the potential for these technologies to expand the possibilities for action and interaction among people disbursed through time and space. Flight Paths hearkens to the beginnings of a return to the notion of reading and writing as a social activity and the reestablishment of literature to historical “oral” traditions. In this presentation, I will identify the implications of communal narratives developed via digital means, exploring the potentials of networked narrative spaces as they apply to the larger field of narrative. The potentials for this and other socially generated electronic texts collapse time, space, or both through the instantaneously reciprocal possibilities inherent to works that exist within the digital realm. The Internet and its instant communication possibilities allow for a further change in digital narratives that return us to some of our earliest narrative roots.

This return to early narrative traditions is perhaps one of the most important ways in which narrative is becoming increasingly mimetic in the wake of digital technologies, pointing to the ways in which electronic literature may be positioning itself to become a hyperreal cultural stand-in for real-life narrative exchanges. Flight Paths is a text that connects global readers and allows for continual streams of data incorporation into the narrative. Many other authors are pursuing this trend through Web 2.0 technologies like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, illustrating a drift towards collaborative, continually updated narrative strategies that are further pushing us towards Baudrillard’s conception of the simulacra as indicative of our 21st-century reality. If fictionalized narratives can convincingly-enough simulate real-life experiences of their content, while simultaneously replicating interpersonal exchanges of said narrative and further overstepping the limiting possibilities of the tangible world through digital means, what is to stop them from assuming the revered place of the hyperreal that our culture already so highly values? This paper will connect these seemingly contradictory threads, asserting that Flight Paths and other similar works are moving us in two directions simultaneously – towards a group-centered oral culture of the past that is likewise a marker of the hyperreal ideals of the future.

(Source: Author's abstract for ELO_AI)

Platforms referenced:

Title Developers Year initiated
Facebook 2004
Twitter 2006
Flickr 2004
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Audun Andreassen