Trails and Trials of Composition: Children as Writers and Readers of Electronic Literature

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Children are growing up in a reading ecology unlike any that has come before them. Although this can be said of every generation, today’s children are exposed to responsive texts from any early age. They are presented with touch-screens as their first tutors and explore apps on iPads alongside board and chapter books. In these handheld media, a child’s relationship to stories is intimate and consequently formational. As a writer and scholar of children’s electronic literature, I am interested in role of the persistent transcript in children’s interactive stories. Transcript here refers to record of the text or tale produced by the child’s choices. In 2016, Maria Goicoechea and I argued that transcripts in interactive children’s writing serve as what Winnicott calls “transitional objects” because these transcripts offer them some measure of security in the more ephemeral reading conditions of interactive literature. In this paper, I would like to put those ideas to the test in an examination of writing and reading practices of electronic literature for and by children. 

The first part of the paper will examine the reading records from one corpus of electronic children’s literature. For the past four years, I have been collaborating with my own children to write a series of interactive stories entitled “Mrs. Wobbles and the Tangerine House,” featuring a magical foster care home. Each of those stories contains decision points that report back anonymously analytic data on which choice has been selected. For this presentation, I will analyze reading logs from the Mrs. Wobbles stories, specifically comparing choices made when the persistent transcript was present and after the transcript was removed, as the authoring software offered the ability to wipe the slate clean after transitions. These stories have been featured in past ELO conferences, including ELO 2017 (Porto), 2016 (UVic), 2015 (Bergen). 

Drawing upon my work in composition instruction, the second part of the paper will examine how this notion of a persistent record affects authorship of interactive digital texts. In addition to my collaborations with my children, I have developed a writing exercise that teaches how to write a choice-based texts. Just as the persistent transcript affects the choices of readers, knowing that a work will or will not have a persistent record affects authorship. In this section of the paper, I will offer analysis of the stories written using this exercise across a series of platforms, including Undum and Google Forms. 

Ultimately, the question is how do persistent transcripts impact writing and reading in electronic texts written for and by children. This work dovetails with the research Maria Goicoechea is conducting in Spain (which she is proposing to present in a separate paper submission for this conference) on the role of persistent transcripts of children exploring electronic literature.

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Record posted by: 
Jana Jankovska