I teach in the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford. My research takes an interdisciplinary approach to locating narrative and literary expression within the network media ecology and focuses primarily on how everyday digital communication practices, collaboration and participation, and social media platforms combine in emerging forms of storytelling.
In my research I apply a media-specific method of analysis that combines close reading, network analysis, and narratology. These mixed methods are applied to multiple layers or aspects of digital narratives: the character networks depicted, the narrative techniques employed in the presentation of story as discourse, the interactive architectures that readers use to navigate the work, and the collaborative production models through which readers are invited to contribute to a project.
This multi-layered approach clarifies how aspects of a digital narrative that may have very different topological properties can complement one another to support participation. A participatory digital narrative might involve a highly distributed network of contributors in the production of a story that has an interactive architecture with the topology of a path – a sequence of nodes with no navigational choices presented to the reader other than ‘next’ or ‘forward’ (and therefore not a network at all, with respect to how the term is commonly understood). Consequently, in considering existing and potential uses of network media for storytelling, as discussion turns to the network form, it is necessary to identify the distinct topologies that describe different aspects or layers of the narrative. In this sense, the fact that a digital narrative is networked is less important than how it is networked. Attending to these distinctions contributes to our understanding of how the creators of participatory digital narratives negotiate tensions between immersion and interactivity.