The Spontaneous and the Literary in Self-Stories Within a Transmedial Environment
Keywords:transmedial narratology, web-documentary, self-stories, social media, “Seven Digital Deadly Sins”
Among the genres that have emerged on the crossroads of narrative and media, the two that appear to need a closer scholastic interest are social media storytelling and web documentaries. While their technological, interactive and design-specific aspects have been widely discussed, their literary-narrative potential has been studied only by a small group of scholars so far. In this paper we draw on Verner Wolf’s 2011 essay “Narratology and Mediality: The Transmedial Expansion of a Literary Discipline and Possible Consequences”. Our purpose is to prove its central thesis, which states that, when approached with the literary-informed reading techniques in mind, social media true stories reveal the traits of near-literary narratives. The test case for the research is presented by a selection of self-confessional stories by ordinary social media users taken from the web documentary “Seven Digital Deadly Sins” (2014), a collaborative project between the Guardian and the National Film Board of Canada. Their qualitative analysis includes the affordances of the documentary’s brilliantly designed interface, engaging the reader-users into the transmedial environment where they are given a chance to take the position of the sinners’ “judges”. The focus, however, is set up on the cognitive nature of the allegedly spontaneous tellability, experientiality and temporality of the sinners’ confessional stories embedded in the interactive design. The results of the analysis show that, in effect, such stories are approaching the qualities of “unnatural”, that is, literary narratives worthy to be seen as a new quasi-literary phenomenon.