BreMM17 | Basaraba

Nicole Basaraba
Trinity College Dublin | Ireland

Using Multimodal Interactive Digital Narratives to Inspire Participation in Cultural Heritage

This research will draw upon multiple theoretical traditions and employ a mixed methodology to investigate how a multimodal interactive digital narrative (MIDN) structure can be designed to create satisfying non-fiction narratives that provide a personalized, immersive experience and foster user participation.

Interactive digital narratives (IDN) are stories within a digital medium (e.g., website or mobile application) that allow users to participate in the reading and/or creation of the narratives (Koenitz et al., 2013). Koenitz et al. (2013) explain that IDN “promises to dissolve the division between active creator and passive audience and herald the advent of a new triadic relationship between creator, dynamic narrative artefact and audience-turned-participant” (p. 1). The objective of this study is to inform the development of a MIDN structure for the non­fiction genre by considering the: (1) design and structure of MIDNs, (2) ability to create personalized, immersive user experiences that result in customized narratives rather than a single linear narrative, and (3) ability for users to participate by adding their own narrative(s) and interacting with other users.

A mixed methodology will be used to gather both quantitative and qualitative data on user experience with technology to inform a functional design of a MIDN structure for a cultural heritage application. Three studies – a field trial, semi-structured interviews, and a focus group – will potentially uncover common patterns in user-information seeking behaviour, which factors (e.g., design, media format) assist or obstruct users from achieving a satisfactory and informative participatory experience, and account for the social context, such as cognitive behaviours, misconceptions, or decision-making patterns (Zaphiris & Kurniawan, 2007). The selected population for the study will be cultural tourists in Ireland due to its accessibility and to avoid increased ethical concerns in working with migrant or refugee populations.

This research will test Koenitz et al.’s (2013) proposed theoretical framework for IDNs while drawing upon and contributing to the fields of narratology, communications, digital humanities, game studies, and human-computer interaction. It could fill gaps in the existing literature on user experience testing for MIDNs, and the use of multimodal technologies for non-fiction and user-created narratives. The proposed MIDN structure could be continually developed to preserve local history, uncover lost cultural memory, stories and customs, and allow people to explore their own or other cultures. A MIDN structure would democratize people’s access to cultural heritage and encourage cultural democracy whereby citizens could contribute stories and information about their culture, which may not be captured or expressed by governmental or other official institutions such as, museums (Yves, 1997). A few groups that could benefit from this MIDN are immigrants, refugees, cultural tourists, locals, students, cultural institutions, government, and non-profit organizations.

While this research will focus on cultural heritage, there are several other possible applications for a new participatory MIDN structure. The results could also inform the creation of MIDNs for knowledge management institutions (education, libraries, and other cultural or learning institutions), marketing purposes for companies (B2C or B2B), and civic engagement movements (non-governmental organizations, or lobbying).


Koenitz, H., Mads H., Gabriele F., & Tonguc I. S. (2013). First steps towards a unified
theory for interactive digital narrative. In H. Koenitz, H. Mads, F. Gabriele, & I. S.
Tonguc (Eds.), Transactions on Edutainment X (pp. ß20–35). Berlin: Springer.
Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. UK: Abingdon.
Ryan, M. L. (2002). Beyond myth and metaphor: Narrative in digital media. Poetics Today, 23(4), 581-609.
Yves, E. (1997). Democratizing culture or cultural democracy? Journal of Arts Management, Law & Society, 27(3).
Zaphiris P., & Kurniawan, S. (2007). Human Computer Interaction Research in Web Design and Evaluation. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing.

Biographical Note

Nicole Basaraba is a multidisciplinary PhD candidate at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. She is situated in the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultural Studies and the ADAPT Centre for Digital Content Technologies. Her research focus is on the development of multimodal interactive digital narratives for non-fiction applications such as, cultural heritage. Nicole holds a Master of Arts in Communications and Technology, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Alberta, Canada.