Digital Social Reading

Goal: Understanding how the social dimension of reading on digital platforms and social media influences our engagement with books and stories.

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Project log

Thomas C. Messerli
added a research item
Prominent among the social developments that the web 2.0 has facilitated is digital social reading (DSR): on many platforms there are functionalities for creating book reviews, ‘inline’ commenting on book texts, online story writing (often in the form of fanfiction), informal book discussions, book vlogs, and more. In this article, we argue that DSR offers unique possibilities for research into literature, reading, the impact of reading and literary communication. We also claim that in this context computational tools are especially relevant, making DSR a field particularly suitable for the application of Digital Humanities methods. We draw up an initial categorization of research aspects of DSR and briefly examine literature for each category. We distinguish between studies on DSR that use it as a lens to study wider processes of literary exchange as opposed to studies for which the DSR culture is a phenomenon interesting in its own right. Via seven examples of DSR research, we discuss the chosen approaches and their connection to research questions in literary studies.
Federico Pianzola
added 7 research items
The end of deep reading is a commonplace in public debates, whenever societies talk about youth, books, and the digital age. In contrast to this, we show for the first time and in detail, how intensively young readers write and comment literary texts at an unprecedented scale. We present several analyses of how fiction is transmitted through the social reading platform Wattpad, one of the largest platforms for user-generated stories, including novels, fanfiction, humour, classics, and poetry. By mixed quantitative and qualitative methods and scalable reading we scrutinise texts and comments on Wattpad, what themes are preferred in 13 lan- guages, what role does genre play for readers behaviour, and what kind of emotional engagement is prevalent when young readers share stories. Our results point out the rise of a global reading culture in youth reading besides national preferences for certain topics and genres, patterns of reading engagement, aesthetic values and social interaction. When reading Teen Fiction social-bonding (affective interaction) is prevalent, when reading Clas- sics social-cognitive interaction (collective intelligence) is prevalent. An educational out- come suggests that readers who engage in Teen Fiction learn to read Classics and to judge books not only in direct emotional response to character’s behaviour, but focusing more on contextualised interpretation of the text.
We analyse stories in Harry Potter fan fiction published on Archive of Our Own (AO3), using concepts from cultural evolution. In particular, we focus on cumulative cultural evolution, that is, the idea that cultural systems improve with time, drawing on previous innovations. In this study we examine two features of cumulative culture: accumulation and improvement. First, we show that stories in Harry Potter's fan fiction accumulate cultural traits-unique tags, in our analysis-through time, both globally and at the level of single stories. Second, more recent stories are also liked more by readers than earlier stories. Our research illustrates the potential of the combination of cultural evolution theory and digital literary studies, and it paves the way for the study of the effects of online digital media on cultural cumulation.
It is 2021, the major social media have been around for more than a decade, increasingly being used for reading-related activities, like organizing one’s own bookshelf, discussing novels, and reading book reviews. Still, there is no publication that tried to organize the precious knowledge generated by research about digital social reading (DSR), which is scattered among many volumes, journal articles, and blog posts, intersecting many different disciplines. I tried to do it in this book. Given its broad scope, it will necessarily attract legitimate critics by different parts, from scholars that will think it does not meet specific disciplinary expectations. I think that such an interdisciplinary approach is needed to understand the social, cultural, and pedagogical aspects of DSR. Aware that a synthesis done by a single person can easily overlook even important aspects of a phenomenon, I openly share my work hoping that a community review will help to improve it and make it more useful for other researchers, students, educators, and curious readers. //
Federico Pianzola
added a project goal
Understanding how the social dimension of reading on digital platforms and social media influences our engagement with books and stories.