Fluid Texts and Implicit Collaboration in Electronic Narratives

Electronic Literature Organization Conference
Morgantown, West Virginia, USA
June 2012

Click image for PDF of presentation.

Later published as a journal article: Skains, R. Lyle. 2016. “Creative Commons and Appropriation: Implicit Collaboration in Digital Works.” Publications 4 (1). http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/publications4010007.


Digital technology enables artists – photographers, musicians, writers, filmmakers, illustrators, animators, etc. – to place their work not in a strictly definable where, but effectively everywhere (everywhere, that is, where infrastructure and access are available). Where once the lines between author, text, and reader could be drawn with linear vectors, digital technology and their increasing availability and accessibility bring author, text, and reader into a potentially endless cycle of narrative creation, wherein the roles are fluid and the text may never be fixed. Because of this capability, Astrid Ensslin argues that the idea of a literary canon must depart from “its traditional self-contained, closed, and rigidly exclusive connotations. Instead, an inclusive, open concept has to be adopted, which works in terms of a continuous process of integration, modification and discharge” (2006, n.p.).

With the emergence of Creative Commons licensing, particularly the licensing of derivatives, art can no longer be considered “fixed”, no longer capable of canonization as the literary world has come to define it – possibly no longer attributable to a defined creator or author. Ensslin’s “inclusive, open concept” is already emerging amongst writers and readers, in the forms of online fan fiction (Thomas 2007), author-led reader-text engagement (Skains 2010), online collaborations (from collaborative wiki-novels to hitrecord.org’s crowd-sourced multimedia projects), and, perhaps most subtly, in work benefiting from the implicit collaboration made available through Creative Commons derivatives licensing.

This last form of fluid text – that of the implicit collaboration – is of extreme interest to my work as a practice-based researcher examining the effects of writing fiction in multiple modes and multiple media on the author’s writing process and the final(?) narratives themselves. Whereas many collaborative artists are either working in a single form (as with fan fiction or wiki-novels) or approaching a project as a coordinated team (from the highly coordinated collaborations of film to the decentralized world-building created by online author-led communities), implicit collaboration arises in a more palimpsestical or collage form as one author uses resources made accessible and available by digital technologies and Creative Commons licensing.

This paper will examine two creative texts, “Awake the Mighty Dread” (interactive fiction, forthcoming), “Lost, Seeking Found” (Flash fiction, forthcoming), presenting an insight into their composition through the use of implicit collaboration with other artists, as well as analysis of the narrative effects of these “found” resources on the final artifacts. The paper will also reference examples from other openly or implicitly collaborative electronic texts such as Andy Campbell’s Nightingale: Consensus Trance, the wiki-novel A Million Penguins, and hitrecord.org’s Morgan M. Morganstern’s Date with Destiny.

Related blog entry: http://test.wonderbox.digital/2011/08/18/found-art/

Cite as: Skains, R. Lyle. 2012. “Fluid Texts and Implicit Collaboration in Electronic Narratives.” In Electronic Literature Organization, West Virginia University, June 2012. Morgantown, WV.

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