Digitization has impacted on almost every single aspect of our lives and it has successfully integrated new forms of communication into our daily routines. Not surprisingly, of course, the Digital era of our lifetime has innovatively altered all artistic movements and literature as well. Nowadays, it is quite an ordinary thing to access books via the Internet as many people now seem to prefer the e-version of a text to its ‘old-fashioned’ printed form. We are now witnessing a remarkable shift in the collective attitude towards the quintessential art forms. Hence they are now being transformed into an upgraded interactive form of art which extends the initial opportunities of expression.
The Home Page of ‘InanimateAlice’
A Student exploring an episode from ‘Inanimate Alice’
For instance, the ‘Inanimate Alice’ Project is a good example of how we get to experience the mode of storytelling from a completely different perspective – the creatively constructed digital novel gives its ‘readers’ a chance to interactively engage with the story. However, the most interesting aspect of this project is the fact that it has been designed to serve as an innovative tool for educational purposes. And this is where the actual debate takes place. Should this mode of storytelling be embedded in the National Curriculum? Can students actually benefit from this apparently creative but rather undeveloped way of communicating information? Well, it is definitely an idea that is worth trying.
The episodic digital novel written by the novelist Kate Pullinger and the digital artist Chris Joseph would definitely provide a nice way to include something new and modern to the Educational System. Their innovative digital novel combines a range of multimedia elements such as text, sound, images, videos and - of course - interaction. On the website PUBLISHINGPERSPECTIVES Edward Nawotka writes that the digital novel “can be read linearly or non-linearly; stories can be framed in such a way where action unfolds in different time frames and — here’s the difference — can as such.” Therefore, if integrated into the curriculum this way of communicating information would completely alter the way of perceiving a narrative. Furthermore, students could develop their own artistic as well as creative ideas, prompted by the multimedia experience.
Multimedia Elements are now an archetypal aspect of the digital novel
Enabling students to engage with a story in such a way will not only boost their level of attention but it would also help them in developing the literacy they need in order to use the advancing Digital applications of the Web. Nonetheless, this is one extraordinary way of inspiring pupils to come up with their own creative ideas. This is one of the best features of the Digital arts as they now represent a plethora of various opportunities for creating new and innovative products. Of course, the literacy skills acquired within these Digital features can also be applied to many other fields beyond arts and literature. For example, a marketing expert can only benefit from having mastered such creativity skills as this can only be a beneficial method for designing highly effective campaigns.
In the book Digital Art (2003: 68), Christiane Paul writes that the digital medium is “customizable, adaptable to a single user’s needs or intervention, for example in artworks where the user’s individual profile becomes the basis for the development of and changes in the work.” In other words, such statements suggest that the course of development in the Digital arts is predominantly determined by the creator. However, in terms of ‘Inanimate Alice’ this is not entirely true as the reader of the novel does not have the real chance to actually affect the story’s development. Therefore, we should raise the question: is the non-linear narrative actually non-linear? Would it be still useful, if the interactive elements of the digital novel were only illusory? What can we learn from this experience, if our “actions leave no trace on the work itself” as Tribe and Jana claim in their book New Media Art (2009: 13)?
Another form of a Digital novel – an e-book of the Harry Potter series
We still might not have created the perfect digital novel in terms of graphics and non-linearity, however the concept of this Digital art form is unquestionably a good way of providing an innovative education. Refreshing the old system and adding some new features to it can have a crucial impact on the young generations. In this way, the education system could only benefit from more creatively thinking young people who are going to influence the world one day. Of course, the ‘classical’ e-books as shown above play a huge role in the contemporary society as well. Despite the fact that they do not feature the multimedia elements of ‘Inanimate Alice’, they represent the starting point of this developing digital form.
Finally, digital novels like ‘Inanimate Alice’ can be considered the future of the contemporary novel. The Digital era is continuously affecting more and more professional fields, so it is highly likely that such projects would become a standard method for distributing knowledge and for telling a story. Therefore, it would be highly beneficial if schools introduced the digital novels to their students in advance, so that they could be prepared for the technological innovations of the future.
The Trailer of 'Inanimate Alice'