What makes a good digital text? The Electronic Literature Organization defines electronic literature as “works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer” (2015). This definition generates a further question; what are ‘important literary aspects’? To be more than just literature in a digital environment, a good digital text must supersede the conventions of text alone (Simanowski, 2011). James and De Kock refer to the capacity for tablets and new devices to amplify the reading experience and provide a greater depth of insight (2013). Considering this capacity, a good digital text is one where navigation is logical and seamless and the reader is able to experience the story or information in a digitally enhanced, rich media format (Sadokierski, 2013). As with its print counterpart, a quality piece of digital literature should be enjoyable and engaging; but should add an immersive, sensory experience not afforded by a print version, making use of technology to enhance the reading experience (Jabr, 2013). Our definitions of good digital literature and consideration of its affordances should be fluid as it continues to evolve (Ciccoricco, 2012).

My personal experience of reading digital content as opposed to printed text has evolved over time and aligns with Jabr’s assertion that the human brain’s capacity to cope with digital content will adapt depending on factors including experience (2013). As my experience and exposure to digital text has increased, I have become more adept at both reading and working with digital content. I am hopeful that my brain is making the transition defined by Maryanne Wolf from a reading to a digital brain (Cull, 2011). However, the experience of owning texts is nostalgic and important to me as to many others (Sadokierski, 2013), leading me to buy a printed copy of the Shaun Tan book, Rules of Summer (one of my three reviewed examples of digital literature) in addition to the iPad application.

The iPad and iPhone application, Rules of Summer is the text that most engaged me in the process of my reviews. As discussed in my Part A review, the application provides a platform to explore visual communication without an overload of text in a manner that directs and extends the user’s immersion with the content beyond the print counterpart. The custom-composed audio soundtrack and subtle illumination of some elements add to the multi-sensory experience, and a sense of anticipation and suspense is generated by viewing the lines of text prior to opening their visual accompaniment. The capacity to zoom in to the detail of the artworks and examine the additional content extends the application’s affordances. Whilst the teachers’ guide indicates use with a young audience (Rules of summer, 2013), the implied themes are quite dark and so the text may be best suited to a teenage audience. Although limited by its Apple only edition, Rules of Summer has considerable capacity to be explored and analysed in the middle school curriculum, particularly for subjects including English, visual arts and media arts.

I intend to use this resource with my Year 8 Media Arts class. The Australian Curriculum Media Arts Achievement Standard for Years 7 and 8 requires students to explore the representation of values and points of view in media artworks and to explore media conventions and symbolism to create meaning (Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2015). Ideally a comparative exploration of the printed text with the iPad application will allow students to scrutinise the different versions (Darnton, 2009) and develop their own understanding of the capacity for a digital media product to enhance the representation of ideas and viewpoints. This may form an inspirational preliminary study for students to create their own digital story, using a combination of selected image, text and audio to communicate ideas and create meaning in their own work. There is sufficient scope provided by the open-ended nature of the text for what Margaret Mackey terms, “Phase Space” (Unsworth, 2006, p.29) activities; where students may, for example, create their own ‘rules’ story or prepare content for an imagined sequel. The price of the application, whilst not high in itself at $7.49AUD, could prohibit purchase for a school library or network; however, in iOS or Mac OS contexts, the app could be purchased for a set of devices and rotational activities to compare to a print edition would be a viable curriculum option.

Creating their own digital stories makes use of platforms that are familiar to most young people (Edmondson, 2012) and allows learners to take ownership and represent their identity using multiple senses; thus transforming what was once a ‘broadcast technology’ into an ‘everyday technology’ where creative possibilities and new ways of thinking emerge (The new literacies, 2013). It is also a valuable opportunity to develop skills in discerning the value of their own created content in the editing process (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, 2007).

 

References

Australian curriculum and reporting authority (ACARA). (2015). The arts. Retrieved from australian curriculum: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/the-arts/introduction

Ciccoricco, D. (2012). Digital fiction : networked narratives. In J. G. Bray, The routledge companion to experimental literature (pp. 469-482). London: Routledge.

Cull, B. W. (2011). Reading revolutions: online digital text and implications for reading in academe. First Monday, 16(6).

Darnton, R. (2009). Chapter 2 the information landscape . In R. Darnton, The case for books (pp. 21-41). New York: PublicAffairs.

Edmondson, E. (2012, March). Wiki literature circles: Creating digital learning communities. English journal, high school edition, 101(4), 43-49.

EDUCAUSE learning initiative. (2007, January). 7 things you should know about… Digital storytelling. Retrieved from Educause: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7021.pdf

Electronic literature organization. (2015). Retrieved from http://eliterature.org/what-is-e-lit/

Jabr, F. (2013, April 11). The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific american. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/

James, R., & De Kock, L. (2013). The digital david and the gutenberg goliath: the rise of the ‘enhanced’e-book. English academy review, 30(1), 107-123.

Learning 2030: From books to screen. (2013, October 4). Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=215NPpHsQPk&feature=youtu.be

Rettberg, J. W. (2012). Electronic literature seen from a distance: the beginnings of a field. Retrieved from http://www.dichtung-digital.org/2012/41/walker-rettberg.htm

Sadokierski, Z. (2013, November 12). What is a book in the digital age? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/what-is-a-book-in-the-digital-age-19071

Simanowski, S. (2011). Digital art and meaning : Reading kinetic poetry, text machines, mapping art, and interactive installations. University of Minnesota Press.

Tan, S. (2015). Shaun Tan – rules of summer. Retrieved from http://www.rulesofsummer.com.au/

The new literacies. (2013, September 27). Retrieved from ForaTV: http://library.fora.tv/2013/09/22/the_new_literacies

Unsworth, L. (2006). Learning through web contexts of book-based literary narratives. In E-literature for children: Enhancing digital literacy learning (p. Ch. 3). Oxford UK: Routledge.