Wednesday, 20 August 2014

When is it digital literature?

I've been busying myself with looking through a number of different formats of digital texts in order to write some reviews for my next assessment item.  According to the (adapted) criteria of Nesbit, Belfer and Leacock (2004) one can look at (cited in Leacock and Nesbit, 2007):
Category of resource
  • Content quality
  • Alignment with curriculum or program purpose
  • Value of digital affordances for the literature Possibilities for feedback and/or adaptation
  • Intrinsic motivation of the digital environment for users
  • Presentation design
  • Interaction and usability
  • Accessibility and reusability
Today I was looking at a few audio-visual formatted items.  A Calendar of TalesBeowulf in a Hundred Tweets,and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,  Each of these were in different resource categories, however they all overlapped in the fact that I could access and read them on my computer, and with the exception of the first two (Calendar of Tales and Beowulf) involved a greater percentage of looking and watching time than reading time.
I foundCalendar Tales a Calendar of Tales a wonderful selection of stories, and found the concept of basing writing on questions in tweets to be an interesting way of involving the audience.  Neil Gaiman writes very well, and the stories would stand up to literary scrutiny on their own without any digital bells and whistles. 
There was however a considerable amount of redundancy over formats - you could read the story online, you could read it as a pdf, or you could listen to it as an audio file.  So the various formats did not enhance the experience in a new or unexpected way.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 5.48.45 pmAs someone who did not have prior literary knowledge of Beowulf, nor any particular interest in the poem / ancient English language, (shock horror!) I found the Twitter Beowulf to be an interesting experiment, but not one which I wanted to spend any amount of time reading through in detail.  It also didn't pique my interest in the original text.  Which one would hope would be one of the aims of such an endeavour.  I can imagine this had a following and would be a useful addition to a curriculum, and apparently had a very avid following as it unfolded - I think also due to the (academic) authority of the author.

Lizzie Bennett Diaries The Lizzie Bennet diaries have had extraordinary success and won an Emmy Award in 2013- which recognises excellence excellence in the television industry. And that's the point where I start to wonder where the line can be drawn between what is digital literature and what is an audio/visual/digital adaptation of literature.
Prima facie it is a Vlog (video blog) based adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.  The question is what makes it different from say the BBC series Pride and Prejudice, besides being updated to fit current times.

(Lizzie Bennet Diaries:

(BBC - Pride & Prejudice:
The interactive elements of the Lizzie Bennet diaries include: a twitter account and feed;  Facebook accounttumblr account,  google+, and pinterest.  Are these merely marketing devices in order to promote the main product - the videos - or those an integral part of the package?  Whereas one could watch all the videos and not feel a lack for having missed out on the other channels, I doubt the other channels would be equally "stand alone".  However, the series has received some serious academic and literary interest, for example in this article from the Jane Austen Society of North America, as well as being the topic of various theses and a conference presentation.
In her presentation, Marilyn Francus made some interesting points about multiple levels of immersion in a literary work and how the unmediated interactive experience through the social media channels enhanced this immersion. This made me wonder if the experience and engagement is different if one is following and participating in the type of medium as it unfolds versus in retrospect as I have been doing.
All in all it has been an interesting experience and one that has perhaps raised more questions than answers for me.


  • BBCWorldwide. (2008, February 11). Pride and Prejudice: Marriage Proposal. [Video file]. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from
  • Carlson, A. (2014, Spring). Social Media Storytelling in the Classroom: A Re- imagining of Pride and Prejudice in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (Honors Program Theses). Rollins College. Retrieved from
  • Francus, M. (2013, October 22). Pride and Prejudice Goes Interactive: “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” Video presented at the Pride and Prejudice: The Bicentennial, Paper 5. Retrieved from
  • Haag, M. (2013, March 23). Neil Gaiman’s amazing A Calendar of Tales now [Web log post]. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from
  • Leacock, T. L., & Nesbit, J. C. (2007). A Framework for Evaluating the Quality of Multimedia Learning Resources. Educational Technology & Society10(2), 44–59.
  • Pemberley Digital. (2013, March 21). The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Gratitude - Ep: 98. [Video file]. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from
  • Pemberley Digital. (2013, August 22). Emmy Award Winning, Interactive Web Series “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” Immerses Fans into Jane Austen’s Timeless Classic [Press Release] Retrieved August 20, 2014, from
  • Treharne, E. (2014, January 9). Beowulf in a Hundred Tweets : #Beow100Text Technologies. [Web log post]. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from