Authoring uncontrollable narratives: literary unpredictability in ambient experiences

Spencer, A (2017) Authoring uncontrollable narratives: literary unpredictability in ambient experiences. In: SHARP 2017: Technologies of the Book, 9 - 12 July 2017, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada.

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As works of ambient literature respond to the presence of a reader to deliver story, a sense of unpredictability is inherent in this emerging literary form. For example, a reader may be prompted to explore a city street and the urban fabric of this physical location becomes an integral part of the narrative but one which the author cannot fully control. This paper explores the nature of this unpredictability, examines its temporal frame, questions the nature of ambient authorship and asks whether an uncontrollable narrative can be a literary form. As a situated literary experience, a work of ambient literature does not need to be bound by a material form, such as a book. Without such a framing device, and with its position embedded in the physical world, the boundaries of this narrative form are in flux. It can shift and respond to the presence of the reader and its beginning and ending can become blurred. It takes on a temporal form with similarities to features of performance art. Ambient authorship requires an author to relinquish a degree of control over their narrative and leave room for external features, such as the influence of the physical environment and chance encounters. This process involves a shift in the understanding of authorship and a recognition of the need for adapted writing practices. An author must leave space for the world to enter the narrative in often surprising ways, I.e through situations that a reader may encounter through a situated literary experience that are not directed or controlled by the author. Such emerging writing practices will be explored as authors must attempt to write for spaces which cannot be fully controlled. In doing so, notions of fixity and fluidity and the tensions between control and freedom in a narrative will be examined. Parallels will be drawn to participatory art forms. Ambient literature challenges the concept of a literary form and this paper questions whether it can be defined as literary. It requires an author to write for a physical and temporal space open to often unpredictable experiences. Specific creative works will be examined to reach an understanding of how they maintain a sense of the literary despite harnessing unpredictability and temporarily.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Chancelry and Research Management
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 17:15
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:53
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