Emma Whittaker


This thesis is about expanded narrative, a new field of experimental narrative practices that are not represented by single subjects or by categories such as ‘interactive’. It is defined by works that present a challenge to the form, fiction or nonfiction, in terms of the content, structure, style of writing or audience engagement. Extending the cognitive term ‘perceptual multistability’, that refers to switching between interpretations experienced when we look at an ambiguous figures, such as, the Necker cube, this thesis develops the position that expanded narrative practices and specifically locative narrative, a genera of expanded narrative, hold the potential to prompt the experiential effects of multi-stability. The metaphor of multi-stability introduced here stands in for three aspects of experience: language, perception and belief. While ambiguity and misperceptions have been recognised in the literature of experiential narrative practices, further exposition is required. The thesis asks what are the conditions in which the qualities of the metaphor of multi-stability may be prompted and what framework usefully articulates the parameters of experience? Drawing upon the writings of the philosopher William James, subsequent pragmatists, cognitive neuroscience and narratology, it explores how a radical empiricist perspective can form the basis of a non-foundational experiential framework that questions the status of knowledge and the problems of translation between experience and narrative interpretation. It suggests that the subjective classification of imagined and perceptual objects can be affected by the relations between the narrative form, the environment and the participant’s beliefs. The major contributions of the thesis are (1) the development of the Jamesian experiential framework that sets up cross-disciplinary parameters for the thematics of experience to engage with the ontological and epistemological challenges of evaluating and designing for multistability presents; (2) a relational approach to interpretation and coding participants’ feedback of locative narratives; (3) that is employed in the development of a collection of speculative strategies for evoking the effect of the metaphor of multi-stability, based on the development of four published locative narrative apps and ten prototypes. While highly contingent, participant introspective accounts of experience are central here to the methodology, the process of serial hypothesis forming and the iterative development of prototypes and locative narrative case studies. This research does not attempt to draw causal connections from science to that of narrative experience or vice versa. The thesis first considers the field of expanded narrative and the semantic and pragmatic framings of the term narrative and narratological framings of language as multi-stable. It goes on to examine the antecedent and coexistent practices of locative narrative. The epistemological implications for misperception, the function of representation and intentionality in perception are examined in relation to the environmentally situated perceptual, interpretative, aesthetic and emotional dimensions of experience. This research contributes to research in narrative and creative practices. It extends the form of locative narrative with the concept of multi-stability that has a wider application with the field of expanded narrative, creative practice and narratology.

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