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The Evolution of Transmedia Fiction

The next speaker in this AoIR 2015 session is Linda Kronman, whose interest is in transmedia storytelling. She organised the Re:Dakar Art Festival, which emerged from a scam invitation to an "art festival" in Dakar – Linda and colleagues created fake characters who corresponded to the fake characters created by the scammers, and the interaction between them became a form of transmedia storytelling in its own right. Linda and colleagues created fake Facebook pages for their characters, as well as artworks which incorporated the material created by the interactions.

Transmedia storytelling itself emerged over the past decade or two, driven especially also by a number of major movies and other events; but the definitions of such approaches are still varying widely. Some of it links back to hypertext storytelling and digital fiction research from one perspective, hypertext fiction evolved into hypermedia fiction, cybertext fiction, and finally social media fiction. Recent social media fiction projects include The Big Plot and Grace, Wit & Charm, for example.

Reading social media fiction also raises some interesting questions, and may require different reading practices. Can social media fiction be understood as a live performance, or do we read the content as an archive? The former requires a self-reflexive mode of reading, and enables the reader to engage directly with the fictional characters; readers thus also become co-authors of the story, but this also requires a certain amount of effort.

By contrast, engaging with the fictional story in its archive stage the reader assumes a semantic orientation, aiming to understand the text from the textual traces available – and reading then often stops when an understanding is reached. This is much more similar again to early hypertext fiction. In the case of the Re:Dakar Art Festival, only the Senegalese scammers were (unwitting) live readers – most others were archival readers.