Infoscience

Thesis

Narrative Recomposition in the Context of Digital Reading

In any creative process, the tools one uses have an immediate influence on the shape of the final artwork. However, while the digital revolution has redefined core values in most creative domains over the last few decades, its impact on literature remains limited. This thesis explores the relevance of digital tools for several aspects of novels writing by focusing on two research questions: Is it possible for an author to edit better novels out of already published ones, given the access to adapted tools? And, will authors change their way of writing when they know how they are being read? This thesis is a multidisciplinary participatory study, actively involving the Swiss novelist Daniel de Roulet, to construct measures, visualizations, and digital tools aimed at leveraging the process of dynamic reordering of narrative material, similar to how one edits a video footage. We developed and tested various text analysis and visualization tools, the results of which were interpreted and used by the author to recompose a family saga out of material he has been writing for twenty-four years. Based on this research, we released Saga+, an online editing, publishing, and reading tool. The platform was handed out to third parties to improve existing writings, making new novels available to the public as a result. While many researchers have studied the structuration of texts either through global statistical features or micro-syntactic analyses, we demonstrate that by allowing visualization and interaction at an intermediary level of organisation, authors can manipulate their own texts in agile ways. By integrating readers’ traces into this newly revealed structure, authors can start to approach the question of optimizing their writing processes in ways that are similar to what is being practiced in other media industries. The introduction of tools for optimal composition opens new avenues for authors, as well as a controversial debate regarding the future of literature.

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