New pace approaches for digital storytelling: a practical case

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One of the new developments under digital storytelling is about the control of the story pace. Within the interactive media such as the multi-touch devices, a series of new ways for the story flow are …

One of the new developments under digital storytelling is about the control of the story pace. Within the interactive media such as the multi-touch devices, a series of new ways for the story flow are emerging where the reader is an active part of it. This reading experience will bring new ways to conceptualize a story given the new dimensions available such as the animation, interaction and sound.

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  • 1. New pace approaches for digital storytelling: a practical case 1 Humberto Neves 1 Ardozia, Portugal Abstract. One of the new developments under digital storytelling is about the control of the story pace. Within the interactive media such as the multi-touch devices, a series of new ways for the story flow are emerging where the reader is an active part of it. This reading experience will bring new ways to conceptualize a story given the new dimensions available such as the animation, interaction and sound. A more collaborative work between authors, designers, illustrators and developers will be demanded where each one knowledge of the other ones areas plays an important role to get an aligned digital story. A current under development digital story for children will be used to illustrate some concepts, issues and trade offs assumed. Keywords: digital storytelling, reading pace, interactive books, iPad.1 IntroductionOn a printed picture book for children, words and illustration must work seamlessly inorder to delivery a great story, a story that resounds. On interactive books, as the wordsand pictures relationship is increasingly being challenged, the same should happen alsobetween interaction and the rest. The introduction of interactions within the story, insome way, determines the pace of reading. So, the more fluent and creative theserelations are developed, the more interesting could be the interactive book. The ideal isto obtain a global result greater than the sum of the parts, words, pictures andinteractions. Introducing interaction and animation normally brings some life to the static qualitiesof a printed book and at the same time represents a set of tools to explore the storyworld during the reading experience. But the interaction shouldnt only bring life topictures and words, it should also reflect and expand the meaning of both fillingseamlessly the gaps, conducing the pace of the story. This paper presents a case studyexplaining how the interaction was applied and explored on a childrens interactive book. 1
  • 2. 2 Stories on the digital eraDigital stories are not new. What is really new is the development and growth of mobiledevices, their capabilities and the multiple uses people are making of them. Anundetermined set of pathways are yet to be discovered, we are at the beginning of theexploitation of theses devices as tools and medium for storytelling. All this is newness.New combined technologies, new platforms, new audiences, new ways to engage, newsways to tell stories and new perspectives about learning and apprehension processes.We have decades of thinking on books like we have them today, we are not used to thinkbooks given the possibilities the digital can offer. We are assisting to an explosion of e-readers and the unleash of an increasingly number of children stories under aninteractive foundation. The major of them are print titles that are being translated intodigital using a variety of solutions, but mostly a quasi direct translation from what wehave inside printed books. If this can work well on fiction and romance, on childrenpicture books it can be of little value compared to print versions.To explore new perspectives for telling stories, express new artistic forms and news typesof connections between readers and authors [1] it is important to be aware of thetechnologies inside these new mobile devices.One of the critics being posted about digital interactive books for children is that theyoffer to much distraction, something that can lead us to ask if we’re building interactivebooks or distractive books. A recent study about print vs. digital reading and co-readingshows an higher level of engagement on digital books compared to printed ones, but onthe other hand it found an information retention level higher on printed bookscompared to digital [2]. Nowadays we are faced with a lot of technologies that demandus processing a lot of information, leaving less time to think, as said Carlyle [3] "it is nowscientifically accepted that the strain of processing so much data means we are becomingdisconnected from other people.”. It is publishers, producers and developers role to behave with responsibility buildingcontent on this multi device era, and introduce mechanisms that kept the desired level ofthough but also take him to other levels of a reading experience. We believe the interactive dimension of digital books have an huge impact on thepace of the story, playing hence an important role on the children reading experienceand story apprehension [3]. An example is the way multi sensorial approaches are puttedtogether along the story and illustrations. Words, pictures, music, sound effects, dynamiccharacters and objects, all together should be expressed consistently, avoiding thetendency to use technology just because it is available and makes something possible.Other way we are building distraction points. Next, we’re presenting a case studydescribing the solution founded for pacing the story on an interactive book for children. 2
  • 3. 3 Case studyThe case study is based on a book app under development by Ardozia, that is a set ofsmall stories, where each one creates an imaginary world or environment mixing the realwith the impossible. The story sentences have a natural balance and progression thatraises something being constructed. Heres an excerpt from one of the stories, Uma cafeteira velha sem pega é um vulcão Uma cafeteira velha sem pega, cheia de doce de morango é um vulcão cheio de lava ... For this interactive book we’ve decided to develop a book app and not an ebook, dueto the level of interactions in place. We wanted also to guide the reader exploring theirthoughts about what is reading and not just looking forwarding for the wiggles andgiggles of interactive elements. Weve tried to achieve this by managing the way the paceof the story was translated into the digital media. One tool we found for this is thenavigation mechanism of the interactive book.3.1 Navigation mechanism There are currently a lot of book apps available internationally on the app stores [4],and from the ones weve seen we reached the following types of navigation flow:Back and Next navigation. One of the most closest to page navigation like we haveon physical books. The story is splitted in a sequence of scenes and the reader will haveon the screen some graphical elements or touchable events to advance on the story (Fig.1). Fig. 1. Wrong Side of The Bed book App from See Here Studios 3
  • 4. Viewpoint navigation. Its based on a dimensional space that covers all the story, beingnormally greater than the device screen. The reader navigates the space moving theviewpoint window (the device screen) along it. Its a kind of more exploratorynavigation, used in some digital solutions for cartoons (Fig. 2).Fig. 2. Roxie a-Maze-ing Vacation Adventures from OCG Studios/Roxie MunroInteraction navigation. Invites the reader to interact with the scene in order to advanceon the story. Typically the reader must interpret the scene and after, in a simple or morecomplex manner, build, solve or unlock something in the current scene of the book app.It’s also very engaging for the reader (Fig. 3).Fig. 3. The Gift from Persian Cat Press 4
  • 5. Other types may exist including some combinations of the these previous ones.3.2 Pace of the Story The pace of the story on printed books is mainly conduced by the writer, the way hewrites and develops the story flow, but inside this new media and interactive devices, anew set of possibilities are emerging to control also the pace of the story closely with theauthors, like the interaction and animation. The book used in this case study was built forthe interactive digital media from scratch and we have decided to use the interactionnavigation for pacing the story. Instead of usual next and back touchable elements tocontrol the story flow, we have made it combining the reading with the interaction. Thatway we want the reader to really engage with the story thru the book app experience in acoherent and interactive way. All the interactions are completely connected with thestory, in fact, they are also part of the story. The expected reading process consists on the following two steps approach: 1. Interpret the sentence in relation with the presented illustration (Fig. 4) Fig. 4. Text and illustration presented to the reader 5
  • 6. 2. Interact with the illustration elements (Fig. 5) Fig. 5. Reader takes the action (swipe down) to peel the banana If the reader makes the right interaction the story advances and the process beginsagain. If not, it will be presented a hint about the correct interaction. The figure 6 showsthe screen following the interaction on this scene. Fig. 6. The story advances to the next scene The story begins with the first sentence of the story and some illustration elements.Then, the reader must interpret about what is going on there in order to interact with theillustration on the right way. If the interaction is successfully completed the storyadvances. In the book app for this case study the process seems to work well due to thebuilding blocks nature of the story that is translated also to the illustration. Theinteraction can be of different types, some examples are, touching an element, a swipegesture or a touch move event to drag and drop parts of the illustration. 6
  • 7. We believe that exploring this kind of interaction/navigation relationship we can get amore controlled pace for the story, avoiding some distracting levels caused by animationsand interactions, and using them to be part of the reading experience. The reader isinvited to build the story illustration.4 Conclusions Of course there are some points and questions that can be raised about theinteraction navigation we’ve used. 1. Introducing a non linear flow on the story; 2. The struggle of the reader that does not know how to advance on the story; 3. Its a book or it is a game? As we said before, we have a lot of years thinking a book based on it’s physical form,with their natural navigation based on next and previous page actions. The first point isabout how we react to experiencing a book, or story with a non linear navigation toadvance and backward on the story. The second one is a bit tricky because each readerhas its own perception of the story and illustration and can behave in a different manner.What is being done here is to provide some hints, on demand, to unlock the right way tointeract with the scene. Of course, the level of aid to be given also depends on theauthors mystery level they want to put on the story reading experience. The third pointwe think is not so important, since any children book has games and challenges of ideasand thoughts, like the counterpoints on printed books[5].References1. Chartier, R.: The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe Between the 14th and 18th Centuries, Stanford University Press, (1994)2. Chiong, C., Ree, J., Takeuchi, L.: Comparing parent-child co-reading on print, basic, and enhanced e-book platforms, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center (2012)3. Carlyle, J.: Content, creation and  curation, 2012/03/22/314/#more-3144. Shuler, C.: iLearn II: An Analysis of the Education Category on Apples App Store, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center (2012)5. Salisbury, M., Styles, M.; Childrens Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling, Laurence King Publishers (2012) 7