“Sciences de l'imaginaire” (Speculative Science) Colloquium

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June 16, 2023
Emmanuelle Lescouet gives a talk titled "Les humanités numériques pour documenter les corpus de l'imaginaire" (Digital Humanities For Documenting Speculative Fiction Corpora) at the "Sciences de l'Imaginaire" (Speculative Science) colloquium hosted by the research group "Identité culturelle, Textes, Théâtralité" (Cultural Identity, Texts, Theatricality) of Avignon Université. Program to come!

Literatures of the imaginary have been able to multiply in various formats and media since the 1980s (Besson, 2015). The popularization of digital technology and the ease of access to many creative tools have allowed readers, gamers, and viewers to participate in the establishment of extended universes (Wuyckens, 2016) beyond the original creations. These additions would not be possible without the intervention of communities of creators connected by common interests (Jenkins, 2006). These individuals are both confirmed artists, paid for this work, and amateurs, more or less experts in their field and in the work in which they participate. How do all these productions fit together to form a coherent universe? What tools and methods can we mobilize to understand them?

The diversity of narrative proposals, from textual fanfiction to fan games, via videos, sound retakes, graphic works, etc., raises the question of a multimodality necessary to understand a fiction. The diversity of media mobilized by the extended universes (novels, films, series, video games, role-playing games, fan fiction, visual novels, audio series parodic or not, plays...) allows us to base our study on a vast corpus that we will be able to study quantitatively as well as qualitatively.

The intimate interweaving of fictional metatext (Langlet 2006) and technologies (Ensslin 2014) leads to habits built on consistent dictionaries of gestures (Masure 2017, Lescouet 2022). For example, the habit of writing fanfiction (Barnabé 2014, Lata 2016) on dedicated platforms, whether blogs, Wattpad, or fanfiction.net, pushes communities to gather in distinct locations. The aim of this research is to question the formal adaptations that are made within the universes to take into account the particularities of the different media, but also to understand how these platform changes feed world building (Saint-Gelais 1999; Brean 2012) by extending it. Finally, we will question their impact on immersion: does the diversity of media and therefore of possible experiences within the same constructed universe reinforce its credibility? Or on the contrary, does this extension dissolve the focus and thus the suspension of disbelief demanded?

For this study, we will start by exposing our example corpus, here the productions related to the Star Wars universe, in the form of an open and semantized database using OmekaS, tagged with a collaborative thesaurus (Lescouet, 2022). Then we will present the trends thanks to statistical visualizations (realized from the API of the database using Python). The account of this experience of applying documentation methodologies from the digital humanities to a contemporary corpus will allow us to address a first methodological proposal that can be transposed to other projects.

Finally, we will draw analyses as to the links maintained between the different media and the fictional entity of the second constructed universe. Thus we will be able to mobilize the theories of the digital literary archive, deepened during our doctoral research within the Quebec Literature Mobile partnership (e.g., the digital writing repertory project in particular), but also to make them meet with the studies of the literatures of the imaginary at the heart of our current research. The mobilization of both literary and videogame notions, transmedia and multimodal, ensures us an integral understanding of our object, while maintaining its material diversity and complexity.

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