Tag Archives: Multimodality

A New Literacy: Inanimate Alice

            Of the two pieces of e-lit this week, I have to admit I loved Digital, A Love Story. I haven’t finished the story yet, so I am not sure how it ends, but I really enjoyed the mystery of it and the format of it being transported back in time to an 80’s interface. One thing that quickly got old though was getting so many messages and emails – it was a little too much like real life. So though I felt a little burnt out by the time I stopped, it was still a neat format to create multiple storylines at once. All of that said, I am not going to write on Digital (at least directly), I want to instead look at Inanimate Alice.

            Unlike Digital, I wasn’t super into Alice. Not that it wasn’t also mysterious and intriguing, it just felt kind of tedious. As I was moving through the game, following a disembodied arm and ghost boy through a warehouse I was trying to escape from, I found myself asking once again, is this really literature? There were literary elements to it like the narration and plot, but the piece felt more like a game with pretty pictures and simplistic dialogue. The story is from a 14 year old girl’s perspective and it sounds like a 14 year old is writing it – which made it feel a little too young for me. When I reached the end I felt like I was missing something about the piece that made it special, so I decided to do some digging to see what I could find about it.

            As I dug into the creators behind Inanimate Alice, I discovered an article called “The Compelling Nature of Transmedia Storytelling: Empowering the Twenty First-Century Readers and Writers Through Multimodality”. The article uses Inanimate Alice to discuss and research the changing understanding of literacy that has been brought about by our digital age. Initially, when I read the article, I was taken aback at the idea that literacy was something beyond simply reading. I know about other forms of literacy, but in my mind they seemed to be distinct from each other, with some overlap here and there. As I continued to read, I discovered that there is a movement in education to teach students how to read and write in new ways that align better with this digital age we live in. According to the authors, their idea of literacy now, “…is increasingly recognized as a social practice, a perspective which draws on the idea that literacy is a human activity shaped by tools unique to the community in which it is practiced” (Hovious, Harlow Shinas, Harper par.7). This means that because our society uses so many different forms of creation and communication, literacy extends to just about every sense of the body – sight, smell, touch, hearing, etc (par.7). The authors throw around the words “multimodality” and “transmedia” to describe the literacy that is needed in classrooms to engage the students of today (par. 9). These days, students have to not only being able to read, but be interpreters and co-creators; not only this, but the tools they use to do this are more than just the paper and pen. The tools of the literate student today can encompass film, photographs, sounds, coding, etc (par. 9). The reason why Inanimate Alice is special is because it is one of the main pieces of electronic literature that is being used right now as a way for teachers to start teaching this new version of literacy.

            When I began to look at Alice through the lens of it being part of a new type of literacy, not just literature, it seemed astounding. Up to this point, e-lit has seemed like an avant-garde art form that has its niche, but I didn’t see its application beyond the e-lit world. What Alice and this article did for me was connect e-lit to what I have been exploring in ENG5020 – the idea that the old ways of creating, writing, reading, consuming, etc. are over. At this point, everything has to be processed through the lens of what the writers of the article described above as “a social practice.” Because our world has become so intricately interconnected through technology and the internet, everything we do is on a social level. When we log in and post something, look something up, or share something, we are being active participants in a larger collaborative meaning making society that literally encompasses the world. What is interesting about Inanimate Alice, is if you look on the website, it is used all over the world to teach students this new “transmedia” literacy that is now needed.  

From the website inanimatealice.com – A map of where Inanimate Alice has been taught or used for research purposes around the world.

The article that I found is a great window into this new world and though I was left with a lot of confusion and questions after reading it, I was excited to understand how e-lit connects to the bigger picture of our role as writers in society. Inanimate Alice, on the surface, at first didn’t seem like anything exciting. But after reading about the implications it has for students learning new a literacy, I am intrigued and excited by the possibilities it offers for the future.

Works Cited

Alice’s Map. Inanimate Alice, 2020, https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1-8EPgaFNDi8rw9GaS0n6gToEvFo&ll=21.373813254507102%2C-35.859375&z=2. Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

Hovias, Amanda, Harlow Shinas, Valarie, Harper, Ian. “The Compelling Nature of Transmedia Storytelling: Empowering twenty-first century readers and writers through multimodality.” Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 11 March 2020, paras. 1-52.