Maarja Ojamaa, Peeter Torop (University of Tartu)

Cultural Heritage And Digital Reading: Between Book And Platform

Traditionally, books have been considered as one of the most valuable elements of culture (see also Kroó 2019, Torop 2019). Mediating unique literary/artistic texts, they also appear as models of culture. The book as a model of culture represents the readiness to understand culture as a whole and the same attitude is echoed within the digital book. The digital environment allows to overcome spatial limitations of the pre-digital media and highlight the heterogeneity and fluidity of literary experience. Providing almost unlimited storage capacities, it also brings into question the principles of selection and organization of the material, raising new theoretical problems for textual analysis, from the unit for textual analysis to the boundary between text and context, etc (see Bolin 2010:74). We suggest that digital reading is reading, watching and listening a conceptualized whole on a platform, where primary and secondary texts (and/or their fragments), interpretations, intersemiotic translations and instructions for users exist together. This conceptual whole has a transmedial nature.

The Lotmanian notion of the text with its characteristically dynamic concept of boundary renders this flood analysable. The multi-, inter-, cross-, transmedia framework enables us to note some pertinent, but hitherto often unacknowledged, aspects of contemporary literary texts (Ojamaa 2019). The crossmedia aspect hereby refers to the way the publishing of a literary text is increasingly accompanied by other (online) texts that together make up a relatively coordinated whole. In most cases these are compressed and fragmentary versions of the core text such as book trailers, book covers featuring a still frame from a cinematic adaptation, social media profiles, etc. Thus, the crossmedia aspect consists in a pragmatic communicative strategy directed towards the receiver and the target text. The transmedia aspect concerns the spontaneous pulverisation of a text into a diversity of texts in different media. The spontaneity refers to the relative unpredictability of the artistic language of the authors of these new texts, which can appear over a very long period of time as we have seen in continuing adaptations of canonical texts. This is in contrast with the coordinated manner in which most crossmedia texts enter culture over a much more limited time frame. Another distinction between the two is that the transmedia process is dominated by the source text as the individual parts are not coordinated mutually.

A clearer understanding of how to reach balance in educational context implies a clarification of the terminological field. The core of the notion of cultural literacy is close to that of transliteracy as conceptualized by Sukovic (Sukovic 2017), because both proceed from a symbiosis between new and old media, formal and informal education, analogue and digital culture. The notion of transliteracy can, but should not be confused with that of transmedia literacy, framed by Scolari and his colleagues (Scolari 2017, Scolari et al 2018, Ciastellardi, Di Rosario 2015) as: “a set of skills, practices, values, priorities, sensibilities, and learning/sharing strategies developed and applied in the context of the new participatory cultures” (Scolari 2017: 126). The context of transmedia literacy has thus decidedly been digital environment of mediation, but the tools offered within this framework can clearly be put to use in order to cultivate also traditional literacies (for understanding and holding dialogues with analogue culture, too).


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