Towards Network Narrative: Electronic Literature, Communication Technologies, and Cultural Production

Abstract (in English): 

In recent years literature and communication scholars, publishing industry commentators, and technology journalists have declared the death of print. Anxieties over the future of print generally, and the novel, literature, books and literacy more specifically have become commonplace in the mainstream news media, technology blogs, and academic discourse. Despite these claims, people may read more than ever – if we recognize a more expansive set of textual practices under the rubric of that term. Given the number of emails, text messages, status updates, image captions, RSS headlines, tweets, web pages, and comment threads that are processed in the digital everyday, our experience of the world is arguably more textually mediated than ever. Are these cultural practices compatible with prose narrative fiction? Are they capable of forming the basis for network narratives now and in the future?

In this essay I explore the relationship between the novel and communication technologies and practices. I consider whether ‘born-networked’ prose narrative holds a place within the contemporary digital media ecology. I argue that it does, and that it must if there is lasting cultural value in the deep exploration of character, plot, and description that we traditionally associate with longer prose narrative fiction. However, establishing a place for born-networked narrative within contemporary culture requires substantive shifts in production practices in order to better accommodate additive participation. In support of this claim I introduce and compare examples of electronic literature and network culture in which collaborative cultural production practices challenge normative notions of authorship rooted in print production.

(Source: Author's abstract)

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Scott Rettberg