04/17 Locative Storytelling

This paper explores the frontiers and connections between literature, locative storytelling and digital books, presented at Child and the Book 17, Valencia, Spain.

Locative Storytelling - Child and the Book

Locations have always inspired literature, ranging from Milne's stories about Winnie-the-Pooh, set in Ashdown Forest, in Sussex, to Homer's Odyssey, following Odysseus on his way back across the Mediterranean, from Troy to Ithaka. Today the relationships between literature and location also comes into play in areas where books and digital mobile devices share mobility as an important common feature: both being small enough and portable enough to be brought to different places. Thereby they provide a new potential to enhance and/or emphasise the affordances and qualities found in a given environment.

Location-based mobile technologies have already had significant impact on how young people access, navigate and experience physical places, reconfiguring their perceptions of, and interactions with, locations. Mobile devices are in the hands of most children – at the age of 11 more than 80% owns a smartphone in Norway, increasing to practically everybody a few years older. This means that children have direct access to technology capable of facilitating both reading and producing of multimodal texts. In what directions may the book evolve under such circumstances?

Under the Erasmus-project Mobilising and Transforming Teacher Education Pedagogies (MTTEP) I have investigated what is called locative storytelling, which is texts produced on location with mobile devices. This paper presentation looks more closely into how complex multimodal stories are made in direct relation to specific places, exemplified with a teacher training students case study. The students would find a number of outdoor places with a potential for children's play. Based on this they would produce several multimodal texts, including animated stories, to be read by children and thus encouraging them to play at the given locations. The stories are produced to be experiences through a walk from location to location. In order to create a coherent text universe the stories included a common visual character, a fantasy monster that was used in different ways in the various texts. The stories were published through a mobile device app that made the texts accessible solely at the given locations.

Based on the case study the paper discusses the potential of locative storytelling. The reader as well as the author of such a text will have to literally walk the story, implying a close connection between the narrative itself and the corresponding physical environment. An interesting question is how locative storytelling may be developed and refined into narrative techniques that utilise the literary potential known form locative games, and maintaining the core qualities found in traditional storytelling in children’s books.