“The Reader as Narrator: Transmedia and Ergodic Storytelling,” is a paper that was presented as part of a panel on alternative storytelling methods at the College Book Art Association Conference in Nashville in January 2016.
Artists and writers have been experimenting with creative projects that utilize alternative media and active participation to directly affect the narrative. The ability to create fluid, interactive content opens up exciting possibilities in the realm of book arts by encouraging multiple reads to garner multiple outcomes. SKIN is an ongoing project by Shelley Jackson where volunteers tattoo on their body one word each from Jackson’s yet-unrevealed novel, thereby bringing the text into existence by becoming the text itself. Because the narrative is reliant on participation by the reader and vice-versa, the story is no longer autonomous and can only exist in the state of being interacted with. Similarly, Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) use transmedia methods to create interactive, collaborative stories, creating a hybrid of fiction and reality. Pieces of the narrative are scattered across multiple platforms, requiring that players uncover and collect information to progress. The story must adapt to the participants’ interaction with the game and with each other. More examples of ergodic, interactive hypertext can be seen in works such as House of Leaves by Danielewski or S by Dorst, where the narrative is revealed through a non-traditional structure and self-referential marginalia. The rules to reading such a format must be uncovered by the reader from within the text itself, allowing for multiple trajectories and sequencing. The author/artist creates a basic trajectory by establishing a set of rules which the reader/participant must follow in order to progress in the story, however, how the story develops is ultimately reliant on the participant’s decisions.