Vol. 7 No. 1 (2018): Immersion in Digital Fiction

Alice Bell (Sheffield Hallam University), Astrid Ensslin (University of Alberta), Isabelle van der Bom (Sheffield Hallam University) & Jen Smith (Sheffield Hallam University)

In this article, we profile what we define as an “empirical cognitive poetic” approach to immersion in digital fiction by combining text-driven stylistic analysis with insights from theories of cognition and an empirical study. We provide empirically substantiated insights to show how immersion is experienced cognitively and site-specifically by using Andy Campbell and Judi Alston’s (2015) digital fiction installation WALLPAPER as a case study. Our approach is unique in that it marks the first systematic attempt at analysing immersive features in digital fiction using a replicable method and, perhaps more importantly, at empirically investigating these immersive features. While current theories of immersion suggest that it is a completely absorbing experience, we show that immersion is an intermittent process, stimulated by multiple immersive features which interact. We also argue that any investigation into immersion in digital media must address the doubly-embodied nature of that reading experience and propose the category of ‘doubly-deictic I’ to define first-person pronoun use that signals double-situatedness. We empirically verify that immersion in digital fiction can be categorised as either narrative or ludic immersion. However, we also show that spatio-temporal immersion must take place before any other forms of immersion can. We also offer a new analytical method for immersive features in digital fiction by developing deictic shift theory for the affordances of digital media. We add the categories of ‘interactional deixis’ and ‘audio deixis’ to account for the multimodal nature of immersion in digital fiction. We also show how extra-textual features can contribute to or enhance immersion and thus propose that they should be accounted for when analysing immersion across media. While we focus on one case-study in this article, we suggest that the analytical framework and reader response protocol we have developed can be applied to other texts.

Published: 2018-01-29