Interstory – I Make Up Words for Research Sake

One thing I’ve always loved about the English language is how relatively easy it is to make neologisms. I love to make up words and Spanish is, it’s always seemed to me, a slow developing language, at least at the institutional level. For as wonderful as the Royal Academy of Spanish (Real Academia Española in the original) is, it is usually very slow to welcome neologisms into its dictionary. The Academy itself has made efforts to address this, and in partnership with EFE (a Spanish language press agency) and BBVA (a global bank) came up with an “Urgent Spanish Foundation” to help tackle the need for the myriad of new words coming out of mostly new media. The result is, in my opinion, a rather conservative lexical corpus that still tries to normalize the use of the Spanish language in new media.

Having said that, in this post I will be proposing an English neologism myself: interstory.

In previous posts I have discussed the term intermedial text. After a couple of months of further research and intense writing, I have come to the conclusion that the phenomenon I’m trying to describe is much more specific than I anticipated. Thus, I’d like to propose interstory – and, I have to admit, abuse the prefix inter a bit – to comprise a set of qualities:

1) Intermediality and Convergence. I take intermediality as used by Marie-Laure Ryan, “the medial equivalent of intertextuality [covering] any kind of relation between different media” [2010, 3]. I have chosen the term intermediality over transmediality for two reasons that will become clear below: first because of its resonance to intertextuality and interactivity; and secondly because it has been used to refer to the proliferation of semiotic medium: image, text, etc.

Henry Jenkins’ notion of convergence goes alongside with this as: “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want” (2006, 2). For Jenkins’ convergence is also about a “cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content” (2006, 3).

From here, interstories are stories published in several media, in more than one platform, and likely involving various devices. These might come as text, pictures, videos, audio and in digital form: blogs, apps, social media, websites, or print materials. Interstories require involved readers that will bring all of the media content parts together into the one story.

2) Intertextuality and self-referentiality. For interstories to make sense and form a coherent (sort of) whole, a self-referential apparatus is necessary. Interstories link their non-sequential development referring to parts of themselves on different media, platforms or devices. Reference to other texts, in literary theory, is commonly termed intertextuality. Nevertheless, in the case of interstories, the textual reference is to the same story, the difference is in media, platform or device. Intertextuality is, in these stories, self-referential.

3) Interactivity and forward looking narration. Developing in several media, interstories have at least one interactive component. Through commenting tools and other forms of feedback to the author such as social media, readers get a saying, or at least the illusion of a saying, in how the story is to continue. The implication of this is that interstories are not finished, but as Tom Abba would have it “forward-looking” (2009, 65). This newly-gained power for readers is cause of further involvement and participation. There is a strong social component to the putting together of interstories.

I argue that these threads characterizing interstories lead up to metafictionality. The intricate play of inter-referential cues, by highlighting the presence of the story in any given media, the story’s artifactual nature comes to the fore. The constant involvement of the reader in bringing together the different contents manifests their role in the building of the story. Furthermore, this process becomes physical as readers move from one platform or device to the next, and navigate the story literally in different spaces. Likewise, the participatory environment and forward-looking progression of interstories showcase their story in the making. Although it’s not an exact match, the idea of metafictionality is something that Bryan Alexander hints at as well in The New Digital Storytelling, as “a nascent metafiction subgenre, a body of stories about new digital stories.”

The result, I suggest, is an organic story emerging from a social process that is only possible in our current media ecology facilitating the engagement of readers. So there, I made up a word, added some research based meaning to it and I present it to you.

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