Interactivity and World in Digital Reading

Abstract: The article presents a study of interactive digital narratives (IDNs) from the point of view of reader-response theory. It argues that IDNs are distinguished from traditional literature by particular characteristics that arise out of their specific uses of digital media. In its first part it assembles a theoretical toolbox, adapting instruments from diverse fields of research, such as science fiction studies, possible worlds semantics, reader-response theory, and others. Then it applies this toolbox to a number of IDNs, which have been selected so as to illustrate the heterogeneity of the field. Even though the narratives are constructed very differently and produce a variety of readerly effects, the article argues that they share a degree of unity at a more abstract plane of analysis at which the field’s inherent attention to issues of interactivity and world building, and to their implementation, comes to focus. Finally, the article argues that IDNs as a field are still in the process of formation, but that they owe much of their innovations to older forms and media, and hence the theoretical instruments for their analysis should also evolve on the basis of existing theories from a wide range of disciplines.

Keywords: interactive digital narratives, digital comics, hypertext fiction, reader-response theory, science fiction studies, possible worlds semantics

Alexander Popov, PhD, is a postdoctoral researcher in computational linguistics at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. He teaches a course on science fiction at the University of Sofia “St. Kliment Ohridski.” His research interests range over computational semantics, literary theory, modern philosophy, utopian studies and ecological criticism.


Alexander Popov – Interactivity and World in Digital Reading (pdf)

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