Invited Transgression Against the Text: Masochism, or an Evolved Perception of Authorship?

Transgression & Its Limits Conference
University of Stirling
May 2010

Access presentation here.


Digital technology in the form of online sharing and digitized files revolutionized the music industry; forced by consumer transgression on the distribution model, the recording companies began to sell music, rather than CDs or records. The same paradigm shift in the storytelling arts is occurring as digital technology enables similar transgressions on the publishing model, as evidenced in legal battles over copyright and distribution schemes, notably Google Books and These ongoing issues are driving a worried discourse surrounding questions of copyright infringement, the oft-predicted ‘death’ of the author, and the continued survival of the traditional publishing model.

But rather than blogging about their perceived woes, some artists are embracing this increasingly liquid phase in publishing. Instead of binding their texts in chains of copyright and legal protections, they are inviting so-called transgressions on their works; in the gaming world, these invited (and occasionally uninvited) transgressions are termed ‘modding’. The process of including the (eventual) reader in the creation of the story takes many forms, involving reader participation at various stages of creation, with various levels of both artistic and monetary success. All of these mod-projects, however, share an ideal in common: they offer their stories as places rather than objects, as theme parks where readers can play rather than pre-determined experiences with the author’s name stamped on every page.

This paper examines several case studies, including Robin Sloan’s Annabel Scheme project (, and the author’s own work in digital storytelling, as models for setting new boundaries around the questions ‘what is literature?’ and ‘who is the author?’.

Linked post

Cite as: Skains, R. Lyle. 2010. “Invited Transgression Against the Text: Masochism, or an Evolved Perception of Authorship?” In Transgressions and Its Limits, University of Stirling, May 2010. Stirling, UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *