Month: August 2015

Digital Literature Review PART B: Critical Reflection of Digital Literature Experiences

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).



Australian curriculum and reporting authority (ACARA). (2015). The arts. Retrieved from australian curriculum:

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:

Electronic literature organization. (2015). Retrieved from

Jabr, F. (2013, April 11). The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific american. Retrieved from

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:

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

Sadokierski, Z. (2013, November 12). What is a book in the digital age? [Web log post]. Retrieved from

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

The new literacies. (2013, September 27). Retrieved from ForaTV:

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.



Digital Literature Review: Rules of Summer

       2015-08-29 16.53.12

Rules of Summer is an application currently priced at $7.49AUD on the AppStore on iTunes and is designed for iPad and iPhone. It is a ‘digital derivative’ (We are wheelbarrow, 2015) of the printed book created by renowned Australian author and artist, Shaun Tan, available in eleven languages (Rules of Summer application, 2013). The application was released alongside the print edition and was created by the Australian-based production company, Wheelbarrow.

This application is not overloaded with hyperlinks or embedded content that may distract (Lamb, 2011) and prevent true immersion (James & De Kock, 2013); rather its simplicity allows a fluid combination of text and artwork to create a cohesive, multi-sensory digital literature experience (Simanowski, 2011, p.28). Navigation through the app is relatively simple, although the prompts are visual rather than textual – a leaping graphic must be tapped to enter a page – consequently readers must decipher the visual cues to navigate. These elements align with the story, where one must self-navigate both the space and interpret the underlying themes and intentions.


Screen shot from Rules of Summer – text page

The digital application affords considerably more than the printed counterpart alone. The print version involves a double page layout with text on the left and image on the right, where the application enters an immersion into the image pages after their text counterpart. The creators have directed each page to open at a selected zoom, directing the viewer to encounter one element of each page in closeup, before the choice to scan the remainder and pinch out to view the page in its entirety. The capacity to pan and zoom in and out of each image allows an interaction with the original artwork that might otherwise only be possible in a gallery context. In contrast to the concerns expressed by Ziming Liu that screen reading reduces a sustained interaction (2005), the slow reveal of a Rules of Summer page may encourage a deeper interaction with the visual narrative than the printed counterpart.

IMG_0069  IMG_0067  IMG_0068

Screen shots from Rules of Summer – text page (with links to other pages), opening zoom and full image

Each page features a subtle soundtrack composed by New York composer Sxip Shirey. The composition is described as ‘otherworldly’ (We are wheelbarrow, 2015) and is an eerie accompaniment to the uncertain story that each page involves. Some pages include an illuminated digital element, the flashing of a red rabbit eye, a blinking robotic light, flashing light from a television screen all add a further surreal, digitised element to this version.

Tan did not originally design his content to be a linear story; rather, in a seemingly reversed process from other narratives, he produced a series of artworks that he later sequenced to form a series of associated concepts (Rules of summer, 2013). The titles of the paintings have become the text for each page, providing opportunities for reverse exphrasis (Skaines, 2010) whereby images give meaning to words. The lack of linearity lends itself to the structure of a digital text, where although it is composed in a linear sequence, the app allows the reader to choose pages with which to interact from a menu of icons that pop up at the base of the screen.

The Rules of Summer application is extended by additional content; including a sketch edition and journal gallery, revealed once the initial interaction is complete. The unanticipated extra content seems like a privileged insight into the creative process of the author and artist in the production of his work. Following this investigation, it is also possible to reset the application and enjoy the revelation of the content in its entirety again. An extensive website supports this text and includes a series of interviews with the author as well as a teacher’s guide. The website is a useful resource and the video interviews shed significant light on Tan’s creative genius; however, it is designed to support the text in general rather than specifically the application.

IMG_0072  IMG_0073

Screen shots from Rules of Summer journal – full screen and zoom

Ambiguity about Tan’s target audience is a factor questioned by reviewers including Catherine Ford (2013), although Tan himself has indicated his texts are not designed with children in mind (2015). The teacher guide (Rules of summer, 2013) indicates use with a young audience; however, the dark themes, series of ominous warnings, overwhelming spaces and eerie soundtrack may make this text more suited to a middle school audience. Study of the text using the application would be most suitable for English, visual arts and media arts, as it affords an extensive investigation of visual communication and literacy. Although access to the application is limited by its availability through Apple devices alone.

The Rules of Summer application is a visually sumptuous digital text, easy to navigate and for which all elements interrelate cohesively (Lamb, 2011) to provide an immersive, enhanced, multi-sensory experience.


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.

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from

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.

Rules of summer. (2013). Retrieved from Hachette children’s books:!home

Rules of Summer application. (2013). Retrieved from iTunes:

Shirey, S. (2010). Sxip Shirey. Retrieved from

Skaines, R. L. (2010). The shifting author-reader dynamic: online novel communities as a bridge from print to digital literature. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 16(1), 95-111. doi:10.1177/1354856509347713

Tan, S. (2015). Retrieved from

We are wheelbarrow. (2015). Retrieved from




Digital Literature Review: How Far We’ve Come

HFWC cover page

How Far We’ve Come entry page screenshot


How Far We’ve Come is a website produced by SBS in partnership with the Refugee Council of Australia for Refugee Week, 2010. The site was designed by Mathematics and built by GEA-Interactive. It includes a series of nine stories, for which SBS housed archived footage. The archived stories relate to the original settlement of a series of unrelated individuals and families, seeking asylum in Australia from a range of nations. Each story contains ‘then’ and ‘now’ content, using old footage to show the historical setting for each story and give context to the original plight of each person as they transitioned to life in Australia. The title of the site is one that emphasises hope, pride and triumph over serious adversity.

HFWC screen1   HFWC home page

How Far We’ve Come  homepage story screenshots 

The How Far We’ve Come homepage links to the nine featured stories; a rollover of each icon provides a visual and auditory preview. It also includes links to varied additional material designed to further educate about the enormity of the asylum seeker dilemma. The site makes extensive use of multi-sensory elements, including video, audio recording, photographs and illustration. It also includes textual information to support the primary evidence of the personal stories. Visually, the site is designed to look as though created by hand; the type, illustration and crumpled paper background adding a further sense of authenticity to the personal nature of the storytelling.

Lamb contends that non-linear engagement with content can compromise comprehension (Lamb, 2011). In this instance, the homepage does not indicate an obvious linear modality; site users may be most likely to start with the story for which the preview is most personally meaningful. However, the individual story pages are visually composed to suggest an ordered investigation; text hyperlinks are usually weighted by position and size, making it more likely (but not necessary) for users to start with ‘then’ and progress to ‘now’ before viewing the factsheets. The site layout is well-ordered and movement around the various aspects is user-friendly. These considerations afford a meaningful investigation of the content to enhance comprehension.

HFWC screen2    HFWC then now.fw

How Far We’ve Come  full story page and close-up screenshots

There is significant value in this example of digital literature as an educational resource; the content aligns with Lamb’s proposition that today’s learners want information they can see and hear as well as read (2011). The site layering provides choice, affording the user ownership of their own learning (Learning 2030: From Books to Screen, 2013). Superficial investigation is possible, however the multi-sensory preview for each story sparks curiosity to delve further. Sufficient depth of information is supplied to inform the user about the refugee experience, as well as the historical context and modern day situation of the subject’s people.

The use of the archived footage set in a new context provides new life for the original stories, allowing preservation and a review of an older resource (Darnton, 2009). The blend of a range of text types (video, photograph, text, audio, illustration) and the reality inherent in the video footage as a primary source (Fuhler, 2010), allow users of the site to engage empathetically, where perhaps the alternative of a printed transcript would be unlikely to elicit the same response. It may also be more accessible for students challenged by reading, as they may interpret meaning through the video and images (Fuhler, 2010).

Leu identifies that adolescents can lack the skills to find and evaluate quality sources (2011). The use of an online source is a good opportunity for students to consider source validity. Student investigation of SBS, their market, sponsors and potential bias would form a valuable counter-discussion to the believable nature of the content. Critical reflection may assist students develop their digital and media literacy (Mills & Levido, 2011).

The site is freely available, making this content broadly accessible; however, the use of Flash and motion graphics is not supported on mobile or tablet devices. Consequently, the use of the resource may be limited and digital preservation of the content may be compromised as Flash is phased out across many device platforms (Albanesius, 2011). Where use of the resource is afforded, How Far We’ve Come has significant potential for use in a range of curriculum areas. It is relevant for studies including (but not limited to) the humanities and social sciences, English as well as visual and media arts. The content in some cases is confronting and may therefore be best suited to a student audience of Year 9 and above, although it is in no way indicated that the site is designed for, or limited to, use in a formal educational setting. It may be just as useful to a broader adult audience as a resource to raise understanding and empathy.

Darnton contends that the feel of a book can indicate its status and value (2009); likewise the sophistication of a digital resource can testify to its quality. How Far We’ve Come is a well-designed and comprehensive digital resource, offering a unique insight into the refugee experience over time.


Albanesius, C. (2011, November 12). Apple’s rejection spurred demise of flash player for mobile web. Retrieved from PC mag:,2817,2396314,00.asp

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

Fuhler, C. J. (2010). Using primary-source documents and digital storytelling as a catalyst for writing historical fiction in the fourth grade. In &. D. B. Moss, Teaching new literacies in grades 4-6: Resources for 21st-century classrooms (pp. 136-150). New York: Guilford Press.

How far we’ve come. (2010). Retrieved from SBS:

Jabr, F. (2013, April 11). The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific American. Retrieved from

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from

Learning 2030: From books to screen. (2013, October 4). Retrieved from YouTube:

Leu, D. J. (2011). The new literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy and learning curriculum. Journal of adolescent & adult literacy, 55(1), 5-14. doi:10.1598

Mills, K. A., & Levido, A. (2011). iPed: pedagogy for digital text production. The reading teacher, 65(1), 80-91. doi:10.1598/RT.65.1.11

Refugee council of Australia. (2015). Retrieved from

Refugee council of Australia. (2015). Refugee week. Retrieved from



Digital Literature Review: Green Gables Fables

GGF screen1

Green Gables Fables website homepage


Green Gables Fables is an extensive, transmedia project developed by the United States and Canadian team of Marie Trotter, Alicia Whitson and Mandy Harmon. Based on L.M. Montgomery’s 1908 text, Anne of Green Gables, Green Gables Fables exists online as an open website with a Season One link to the series of Video Blog episodes housed on YouTube. Season One was presented weekly on YouTube and paralleled with associated social media profiles, between December 2013 and February 2015. Season Two is advertised for release in September 2015. Each video episode is approximately 4-6 minutes long and features Mandy Harmon, sometimes accompanied by other cast members, in the character of Anne Shirley. Anne engages viewers with the original story content, told within a contemporary context. Alongside the video episodes, the extensive multi-platform social media profile, creates a web of interaction not just between characters, but also with their audience.

Amongst the array of possibilities, users of the Green Gables Fables content may view video, read text blogs, investigate the extensive photographic imagery, experience examples of video poetry readings, links to articles and external online content and piece together banter between characters on social media. This mix of content with Web 2.0 interactive technology may allow users to develop their digital literacy skills (Edmondson, 2012).

The social media platform, which includes Twitter, Blogspot, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook evokes identity, voice and a sense of preference for each of the characters (Valenza & Stephens, 2012). There is a carefully tailored look and feel to the content provided online that is both related to the original text and personalised to further the contemporary characters’ identity. The characters’ social media interactions with each other (now collated on Storify through the site’s transmedia archive page) not only extend the story and lend authenticity, but also encourage interaction and involvement with the audience. Fans may also utilise the GGF Story Club, a Tumblr site on which to ask questions, respond creatively to content and view previous fan content uploads. This capacity to interact and participate in the narrative is appealing to many contemporary readers (Walsh, 2013) and allows the creators feedback to help determine their direction (Skaines, 2010). The audience interaction has had a significant impact in the development and choices for Season Two as well as some aspects of the online content (The GGF story club , 2015). The interactive, non-linear transmedia nature of the narrative may also mirror the real world (James & De Kock, 2013), increasing the sense of reality for the reader.

The weekly nature of the content presentation and the interaction on social media would have allowed a sense of currency whilst the season was in action. In retrospect, the non-linear content may be harder to navigate and put into context as it is so broad and extensive (Lamb, 2011). Attempting to make sense of this multimedia source after its delivery may decrease its accessibility, immediacy and interaction; require sophisticated strategies in reading and interpretation (Skaines, 2010) and could increase the cognitive load for the reader (James & De Kock, 2013). James and De Kock recommend scrutiny of online video adaptions (2013), and with these considerations in mind, it is worth considering whether the extensive nature of the Green Gables Fables content might be best used for curriculum purposes in selected fragments.

Although dependent on internet connection, Green Gables Fables is freely available and does not rely on users owning accounts to view the array of social media. It is also not device dependent. Whilst widely accessible, it is worth noting that filtering of social media is standard in many schools (Ramaswami, 2010) and therefore until refined filtering processes are widely integrated, much of the content may not be accessible within the school context. However, where such restrictions do not apply, Green Gables Fables has suitable application for use in middle to senior high school contexts and relates to curriculum areas including (but not limited to) English, performing arts and media arts. As an extension of reading and investigating the existing content, the resource affords considerable possibilities for “phase space” (Unsworth, 2006) curriculum activities – extending beyond the existing content to write or create an extensive array of related options or potentially to participate in online literature circles (Edmondson, 2012) to extend learning and interaction beyond the immediate classroom.

This modern day adaption of the original text, enlivens the beloved character of Anne Shirley in a contemporary context and makes use of the familiar digital media that teen audiences enjoy (Edmondson, 2012). The fanbase and interest in this adaption of the original text indicate a revitalisation of a beloved classic with its use of contemporary media and the capacity for fan interaction.


AnneWithAnE. (2015). The past: A poem. Retrieved from Youtube:

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

Green gables fables. (2015). Retrieved from Anne of greeen gables wiki:

Green gables fables. (2015). Retrieved from Youtube:

Green gables fables. (2015). Retrieved from Twitter:

greengablesfables. (2015). Retrieved from Instagram:

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.

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from

Ramaswami, R. (2010, June/July). Nothing to lol about. THE journal, 37(6), 24-30.

Skaines, R. L. (2010). The shifting author-reader dynamic: online novel communities as a bridge from print to digital literature. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 16(1), 95-111. doi:10.1177/1354856509347713

Storify Green Gables Fables. (2015). Retrieved from

The GGF story club . (2015). Retrieved from Tumblr:

Trotter, M., Whitson, A., & Harmon, M. (2015). Green Gables Fables. Retrieved from

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

Valenza, J. K., & Stephens, W. (2012). Reading Remixed. Educational Leadership, 69(6), 75-78.

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. In L. M. (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers (p. Ch. 13). Marrickville: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

Wikipedia. (2015). Wikipedia anne of green gables. Retrieved from Wikipedia:



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