To me digital literature is similar to multi-modal art, a unique perspective perhaps from my own studies of art throughout my schooling and continuing to pursue it as a hobby. When I look at many examples of interactive digital literature I see the authors as curators of a story or purveyor of information, similar to how an artist seeks to convey meaning through feeling and immersing the viewer in their own imagination, digital texts are becoming a more immersive environment where we no longer need to rely solely on our own imagination. This should not be such a surprise as writing is in its own way an art form using words instead of images. The digital environment lends itself to using a wide variety of modes to convey meaning and why shouldn’t the literature environment take advantage of that.
Firstly, we must decide what a digital text is. To me it is clear that what a text is has changed significantly in the last 50 years from purely written information such as poetry, information reports and novels to something a bit more post modern. That is “a mixing of different artistic styles and media” (Oxford dictionaries, 2016). The Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2016) defines a text as “a means of communication”, by this definition nearly anything can be a text and the same can be said for a digital text, assuming that it is in the digital landscape. When choosing my texts for this assignment to analyse I was of two minds about my second text, SciShow Kids (2015), as to many this would not seem a suitable e-literature example. However, it is by this definition. It is communicating information in the digital space and includes some interactive elements while exhibiting literary features of non-fiction texts. In fact by this definition, games, e-books, apps, artworks, plays, videos, multimodal websites, normal websites, blog posts… and really anything can be an example of digital literature.
So, what makes a good digital text?
In many ways digital texts can be evaluated the same as physical ones. They must still be engaging, durable, have a purpose, have strong content and literary features. However, we must also borrow critique from other fields such as games and art to judge these texts, are they widely available for use, are they simple enough to convey their meaning to the average user, are they interactive and reusable. The best way we can do this is to make comparisons with other texts.
What purpose do these texts have?
Personally I find e-literature uncomfortable and clunky at times but technology continues to develop and change and it is my hope that many of the things I find uncomfortable about e-literature will be refined. Nevertheless these texts have a place and scholars agree (Hahnel et.al, 2016; Davidson, 2009; McDonald, 2013) that we need to be teaching our students how to navigate the digital environment and therefore we need to be teaching them about digital literature. Digital literature requires a slightly different set of decoding skills to print literature (Lamb, 2011) and this is something that needs to be taught explicitly. There are many benefits to using digital texts and many arguments to do so, such as, environmental conservation (Hickman, 2010), ease of access; though debatable, increased engagement and greater interactivity between people reading the texts.
Reading digital texts and print texts can be two very different things. Beginning with standard e-books that are simply scanned versions of the print text it can seem very similar but already we loose a certain amount of nostalgia, tactile enjoyment and often the pleasure of keeping the book on our own shelves to keep forever. There are some benefits to e-books however, they are often cheaper and enhanced e-books allow more interactivity e.g. dictionary functions, hyperlinks. Interactive e-books again offer even more interaction with built in games, animations and videos. Although these things can often be engaging they can sometimes come across as gimmicky and over hyped. (Sadokierski, 2015) E-book creators need to keep in mind their purpose for using these tools and evaluate whether they are in fact useful to the reader. More complex e-literature such as multimodal texts and some interactive e-books can often become confusing and difficult to navigate if not well constructed.
Although much of this may sound negative towards e-books, I think there is great potential for digital literature. To me the biggest concern with digital literature is the lack of unity between publishers and platforms. During this assessment I found it difficult to find free examples, a passion of mine being equity, I like to use free resources where available so that all students can access them. Very few good free examples were available for primary aged students. There are many fabulous examples of free literature for adolescents and adults, for example, Pine Point (2011) and The Lizzie Bennett Diaries (2013). I would like to see publishers and authors exploring many of the same interactive themes and digital spaces explored in children’s literacy and in the free market so that all children can enjoy their wonderful creations. Finally I think we are just beginning to develop these technologies and the freedom the digital space gives us to explore how we as humans communicate and create meaning.
Out of my three resources my favourite was ABC Splash (2012). The accompanying website and solar system guidebook was an amazing piece of interactive gaming, it was easy to use and well put together. It would easily integrate into any classroom in Australia aiming to do a science unit on space. In a library setting this could be used as an example for an online guidebook or for finding non-fiction information and research.
ABC Splash. (2012). Solar system and space exploration. Retrieved from http://splash.abc.net.au/home#!/digibook/618096/solar-system-and-space-exploration
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA]. (2016). English Curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/english/curriculum/f-10?layout=1
Davidson, C. (2009). Young childrens engagement with literacies in the home: pressing matters for the teaching of english in the early years of schooling. English teaching: Practice and critique. 8, p. 36-54. Retrieved from http://bilby.unilinc.edu.au:1801/view/action/nmets.do?DOCCHOICE=28235.xml&dvs=1472416636266~578&locale=en_US&search_terms=&adjacency=&VIEWER_URL=/view/action/nmets.do?&DELIVERY_RULE_ID=4&usePid1=true&usePid2=true
Green, H & Su, B. (2013). The Lizzie Bennett Diaries. Retrieved from http://www.pemberleydigital.com/the-lizzie-bennet-diaries/
Hahnel, C; Goldhammer, F; Naumann, J; Krohne, U. (2015). Effects of linear reading, basic computer skills, evaluating online information and navigation on reading digital text. Computers in human behaviour. 55, p486-500. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0747563215301734
Hickman, L. (2010). Are ebooks greater than paper books?. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/green-living-blog/2010/oct/05/ebook-printed-books-kindle-environment
Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning & leading with technology, p.12-17. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e92c00cc-8c10-4332-adc8-95b4ff223f9c%40sessionmgr4006&vid=1&hid=4204
McDonald, P. (2013). Teaching digital texts: a multi-modal approach. International proceedings of economics development and research. 62, p22-26. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/docview/1522277813?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo
Oxford Dictionaries. (2016). Postmodernism. Retrieved from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/postmodernism
Sadokierski, Z. (2013, Nov 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
SciShow Kids. (2015). Worms are wonderful. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-zc_1vjLnI&list=PLw2cuKNQvZ2d9b3Wqhu32dkjX28qokaiA&index=26
Shoebridge, P & Simons, M. (2011). Pine Point. Retrieved from http://www.interactivedocumentary.net/2011/03/01/welcome-to-pine-point-2/