This episode in this poetic digital transmedia novel brings Alice to an England that is just as perilous as the other places she has lived in, but in a different way. Now 14 years old, Alice’s own actions, prompted by her friends, get her into trouble and she needs to get herself out of it, rather than depend on outside forces to help her. An intriguing aspect of this episode is its self-referentiality, showing flashbacks to Episodes 1 and 3, but more importantly through Alice’s program “iStories” which help her friends write their own stories by choosing photos and adding text and sounds to them. In a nutshell, this is the method to Inanimate Alice except the text isn’t just placed on the image statically, it is also kinetic in significant ways.
This is a work of fiction told in verse, cinematically, and with video games about the coming of age of a girl named Alice. This novel— self-consciously labelled as such to evoke the original meaning of the term: a new genre— reinvents the genre in digital media for a generation portrayed through Alice.
This serially published novel makes use of a fundamentally poetic strategy: the delivery of language cut into portions for greater impact in their delivery.
In a traditional prose work, the text is a stream of words separated by conventional spacing and punctuation into phrases and sentences, and divided into paragraphs and chapters— the formation of lines is an accident of font, size, paper / screen size, and margins. In verse, language is cut into lines according to different rationales, such as meter, breath, musical phrase, syllable count, or are cut freely depending on the poem’s design. A result of this visual formatting of the poem is usually a tactically scheduled verbal performance of the poem: an experience of layered rather than accumulated language. In this sense, Inanimate Alice is a poem, cutting and scheduling its narrative and dialogue into lines to interact with its nonverbal texts (images, video, sound, games) to produce a truly multimedia experience.
Who reads e-literature? What kinds of audiences would be interested in experiencing multimedia works that take advantage of the potential and genres of digital media? Children, of course. This is a generation raised in a media-rich environment that offers video games, film, television, computers, portable devices, touchscreens, books, and the Web, to name a few. It is therefore fitting that literature written for children integrate these media, acknowledging the value of these technologies. It is also appropriate for traditional genres to begin to blend and reconfigure themselves to take advantage of the capabilities of new media, especially thinking of audiences for whom centuries-old print-based modes of writing must seem very artificial. Case in point: Inanimate Alice. Aptly called a novel, this serially published multimedia work uses games, images, video, and narrative prose cut into portions that use poetic tactics for delivery of ideas and story. And it is beautifully integrated, layer by layer, moment by moment, to deliver a poignant narrative about a girl named Alice who exemplifies her media-savvy generation. Over the next few postings, I will examine this remarkable work to go into detail on its strategies.