Digital fictionality: possible worlds theory, ontology, and hyperlinks

BELL, Alice (2019). Digital fictionality: possible worlds theory, ontology, and hyperlinks. In: BELL, Alice and RYAN, Marie-Laure, (eds.) Possible Worlds Theory and Contemporary Narratology. Frontiers of narrative series . Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 249-271.

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Digital technology has allowed narrative experimentation to expand beyond the page and into an entire network of linked media. Hypertext provides a structure within which chunks of text can be connected in both linear and multilinear configurations; the Web, as an ever-expanding hypertext system, allows digital texts to be linked to other digital texts, both fictional and non-fictional. In this chapter, I explore recent experiments with hyperlinks in digital fiction and argue that hyperlinks offer authors a medium-specific (Hayles 2004) means of playing with the ontological boundary between fiction and reality. I propose a method for analyzing the ontological function of external hyperlinks in web-based fiction by developing possible worlds theory for its application to digital literary fiction. Rather than offering a purely philosophical or abstract account of fictionality (e.g. Lewis 1978) or a transmedia approach to fictionality (e.g. Zipfel 2014; Ryan 2006, 31-58), this chapter contributes to the development of possible worlds theory as a transmedial approach to fiction, fictionality, individual fictional texts and, in this case, digital fiction. I propose that some texts use hyperlinks to create flickers between worlds which require the reader to recenter into two different modal universes simultaneously or else rapidly toggle between them - a process that I define here as doubly-deictic (cf. Herman 2002) recentering. I then show that how external links can be used to create a denouement which relies on the reader completely revising their perspective of the fictional world. Finally, I show how digital texts can use external links to cause unmarked ontological merges between the actual and textual world worlds so as to create an emotionally immersive experience. I thus provide a typology of ontologically playful hyperlinks. I end by suggesting that the use of hyperlinks in digital fiction is part of a more general artistic trend in post-millennial fiction, that of "Remix" (Navas 2012) and that the texts also embody post-postmodern (McLaughlin 2012) thematic concerns.

Item Type: Book Section
Page Range: 249-271
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2019 12:23
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 06:36

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