Upcoming Paper for AOIR

I forgot to tell you about a paper I’ll be delivering at the Association of Internet Researchers Conference: Internet Research 7.0: Internet Convergences in Brisbane late September this year. The paper is titled: How the Internet is Holding the Centre of the Narrative Universe, and the abstract is online.

The Internet is an undisputedly influential force in changes to the way entertainment is conceived, produced, distributed, experienced and critiqued. With the proliferation of technology we have a wide range of production devices and distribution models that, along with cultural and inter-disciplinary cross-fertilisation, inspire media-specific poetics and genre hybrids. To name a few that have emerged within new media arts alone: advertainment, email fiction, interactive comics, mobile art, hypertext fiction, wikifiction, botfiction and blog fiction. Conglomerate media ownership and franchise management encourages the shifting of audiences across platforms, within a branded universe. Years of television programming, competitive industry, networked markets and indie-publishing has facilitated episodic aesthetics and distribution. In the age of cross-media production, stories are no-longer delivered at a single-point in time; they are remediated, adapted, serialised, appropriated and distributed across media. Cross-media entertainment encompasses a range of genres that include pervasive gaming, franchises, alternate reality games, transmedia storytelling, mobisodes, episodic gaming, extendable reality games, tie-ins and so on.

The relationships between these “texts”, between components of a storyworld, are not addressed in the notions of intertextuality, hypertextuality, dialogism and heteroglossia, assemblage, intermedia, open work and relational aesthetics. These works are emerging forms with poetic and cultural ramifications theorised by researchers in media studies, literary theory and semiotics: “second-shift aesthetics” (Caldwell), “digitextuality” (Everett), “transmedia storytelling” (Jenkins), “entertainment supersystem” (Kinder), “transmedial worlds” (Klastrup and Tosca), “inter-media world franchises” (Lemke), “new intertextual commodity” (Marshall), “neo-baroque aesthetics” (Ndalianis), “distributed narratives” (Walker), “networked narrative environments” (Zapp).

Sympathetic to Richard Wagner’s “gesamtkunstwerk” (“total work of art”) these works are viewed through the romantic lens of Ionian Enchantment (Holton), universality (Andrews) and consilience (Wilson): they are reframed as polysystems within which a variety of clusters of entertainment forms co-exist and inter-relate. This is a somewhat turbulent narrative universe of original, commissioned, sanctioned and unsanctioned producers; long-form, short and micro narratives; linear, interactive, generated and emergent narratives; push and pull content; mono- and multi-modal media; fixed, mobile, converged, networked technology; public, private, mass, remote, virtual and personalised address; traditional, hybrid and emerging genres; literary, popular, marketing, anarchic and pedagogical rhetorics; fiction, nonfiction and alternate realities; real, virtual and augmented realities. How do audiences navigate such a dynamic narrative universe? The Internet.

This paper argues that the Internet is the binding agent of cross-media entertainment. A narrator with all the answers, a signpost to the everything, the Internet acts as site-map of continually updating components of a cross-media universe and its meta content. Rather than the artwork being the source of all information about a storyworld, the Internet acts as a neutral mediator of the various instantiations. Through a content analysis of cross-media productions and consideration of audience usage of media, an overview of the various functions the Internet currently plays, and could play are proposed.