Critical Reflection of Digital Literature Experiences

My reviews can be found at the blog post Experiencing Digital Literature – Reviews

Assessment Item 2  – Part B:

In today’s reading landscape the definition of the book is constantly changing. “The book as a physical object with paper pages is now only one version of what a book might be” (Hancox, 2013, para 7). Digital or electronic literature emerged on the web in the 1980s with hypertext fiction (Rettberg, 2012) and further innovations in digital literature are redefining reading and literacy (Liu, 2005). Readers are expecting and demanding greater interaction with books, authors and other readers (Warner, 2013).

Digital literature is available in many different formats using multiple devices. According to Unsworth (2010) digital narratives fit into three categories. Electronically augmented texts enhance and extend the printed book with additional electronic resources. Re-contextualised takes literature that has already been published as a book and re-publishes it in a digital format. Stories that have only been published digitally constitute the third category of “digitally originated literary text” (Unsworth, 2010, p. 65).

Many readers are incorporating digital forms into their reading schema (James & de Kock, 2015), while others are overwhelmed by the complexity that surrounds this ecosystem. New kinds of literacies are required to experience digital books (Hancox, 2013). Devices must be mastered, accounts created before dealing with new visual, sensory and kinaesthetic features within the story. Motivated individuals can overcome these challenges but they are more problematic for others (Doiron, 2011).

Hypertext and interactive fiction allows readers to access “nonlinear narratives through various hotspots or links online” (Lamb, 2011, p.15). This dynamic format began by leveraging the emerging web environment in the 1990s. The trend towards e-readers and mobile devices has extended the reach of hypertext and interactive texts. It is argued that more cognitive effort is required for reading hypertext and that multitasking using a screen can hinder comprehension (Cull, 2011). However “individuals living in the digital world are becoming accustomed” (James & de Kock, 2013) to stories delivered this way.

Interactive storybooks have been available since the 1990s when publishers collaborated with software companies and the multimedia industry (Herther, 2011). “Multimedia allows users to learn via seeing, hearing, reading, doing and simulating” (James & de Kock, p.119). Careful selection using existing criteria for good literature and additional criteria for digital storybooks is essential for pedagogical application. “Overall, there needs to be an aesthetic synergy between the technical features, the artistic creation of the text and the ideas within it” (Walsh, 2013,p. 187). Apps for mobile devices are now a common platform for interactive storybooks and require a critical eye.

“Transmedia storytelling involves a multimodal, multimedia story with nonlinear, participatory elements” (Lamb, 2011, p.15). Readers are invited to “seek out, evaluate, and integrate information conveyed across different media” (Jenkins, 2010, para 4). Stories are moving beyond the page and reading is becoming a social and participatory activity amongst teenagers (Kasman Valenza & Stephens, 2012, p. 78). Whether this type of reading enhances or distracts the reader is a concern amongst some educators. (Lamb, 2011, p. 17).

Digital media is contributing to a “transformative shift in reading” (Liu, 2005, p. 701) that has advantages over the print environment with “interactivity, non linearity, immediacy of accessing information, and the convergence of text and images, audio and video” (Liu, 2005, p. 701). People read for enjoyment, to be entertained, to obtain information and to learn. Today “a tremendous amount of reading takes place in non-book forms” (Warner, 2013, para 6). Some stories may be better suited, enhanced, amplified and augmented by multimedia and multimodal formats. “When handled intelligently and sensitively – there are instances in which the embedded media are capable of creating a heightened sense of immersion and engagement” (James & de Kock, 2013, p118) that print cannot.

Print books are easy to navigate and have a topography that is absent with most screens (Jabr, 2013). E-readers have attempted to replicate the look of a book to overcome this issue however many people prefer print for concentrated reading. Attitudes will likely change over time with younger readers influenced by electronic media (Unsworth, 2008). Rather than debating the advantages and disadvantages of print versus digital, perhaps the story experience is the critical factor rather than the reading experience (Bowler, 2012, p. 44).

The natural environment is a topic studied by Geography students undertaking their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). Firestorm has pedagogical potential suited to this level. The personal story in conjunction with the factual information around bushfires is ripe for discussion and further exploration on how humans and the natural environment coexist. Firestorm is freely available online with a web browser so it could be projected to a class using an interactive white board. VCE students all have iPads so a flipped learning scenario could also be used.


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Herther, N. K. (2011, June). From CD-ROMs to Ebooks. Searcher, 19(5), 12+. Retrieved from

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Liu, Z. (2005). Reading behavior in the digital environment: Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years. Journal of Documentation, 61(6), 700-712. Retrieved from

Rettberg, J.W. (2012). Electronic literature seen from a distance: the beginnings of a field. Retrieved from

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Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (pp. 181-194). Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia. Retrieved from

Warner, M. (2013, May). Welcome to the Hybrid Age of Reading. Retrieved from

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