Interpretive Strategies for Analyzing Digital Texts

Interpretive Strategies for Analyzing Digital Texts

Sheila Petty (University of Regina, Canada) and Luigi Benedicenti (University of Regina, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4062-7.ch004
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This paper brings together the disciplines of media studies and software systems engineering; it focuses on the challenge of finding methodologies to measure, test and decode meaning in digital cultural objects. The authors draw on a variety of examples: interactive online digital art projects; an interactive, immersive screen-based art installation; re-mediated digital art installation; a videogame; and a medical interface example, in order to determine if it is possible to map interpretive strategies that include a blending of old and new criteria, but ultimately promoting an equal partnership between artist and audience, and thus, a community of co-creators.
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Background And Literature Review

In the move from the material object to the information object, debates have abounded around the nature of exact replication and reproduction and whether or not it is possible to represent the “real” in its constitutive form. For example, Stuart Hall (2000, pp. 52) argues that a “‘raw’ historical event” is impossible to portray in visual media in its pure state because such media (cinema, television and web-based products) must encode the events within the aesthetic and discursive parameters particular to the media involved. As a result, the very act of documenting the “real” alters it in a perceptible manner, creating a new version of the real event that may be similar to but is not wholly representative of that event. The French semiologist Jean Baudrillard, for example, advanced the concept of the “hyperreal,” in which the simulacra no longer reference origin or reality because the real is now produced “from miniaturized units, from matrices, memory banks and command models” (Baudrillard, 2001, pp. 169). Given that it can be reproduced indefinitely, signs are substituted for the real, thus undermining concepts of truth and veracity, and “leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and the simulated generation of difference” (Baudrillard, 2001, pp. 169).

Movement into the digital age has further complicated the debate. Digital texts present unique challenges for current methodological processes, primarily because they are inherently interdisciplinary and convergent. By combining wide-ranging media strategies from photography to video streaming, to print text and beyond, these digital artworks demand new approaches for analysis. Genre theory is considered to be a solid method of analysis for understanding the function of story, plot and character in literature, cinema, digital literature and computer games, etc. Simanowski (2010) argues that concepts germane to classical rhetoric such as allegory and rhyme could also be deployed and “adapted to describe the stylistic devices of digital literature and art.” He proposes the animation of words to foreground “relationships between the elements of a kinetic text” (Simanowski, 2010). Simanowski (2010) also explains that although these discussions are occurring within the auspices of digital humanities forums, “scholars also must concentrate on the aesthetic aspects of digital media.”

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