viernes, 17 de febrero de 2017

Mediating digital narratives: An analysis of the animated short The Memory of Fountain.

   Image: Earth Design Works.

Carmen Rosas Franco is a graphic designer and has a Master’s degree in Art Studies at the Universidad Iberoamericana (Mexico), with focus on Arts and Education. She writes for blogs and magazines on art and literature, teaches courses in Communications, Graphic Design and Animation and has collaborated with public and private institutions in the management of cultural, educational and scientific projects. Currently, Carmen conducts research on digital narratives in children’s and young adult fiction from the perspective of visual studies, reception theories and transtextuality. She has given lectures on digital narratives in congresses in Mexico, Cuba and Argentina.  The following article is part of Carmen’s thesis for the Masters in Art Studies entitled “The digital image in relation to the development of imagination and creativity. Analysis of the animated short The Man of Water[1],”  Mexico: UIA, 2016.

     In the digital universe there circulates content in which the concept of narrative can be recognised as both literary and artistic, changing its traditional form and structure. These works have surpassed the book as receptacles of narrative , adjusting to the mediums that young readers are accustomed to.
     Stories that are based not only on the written word present new ways of “reading” and of “seeing;” they are forms of fiction that integrate into the cultural and communicative paradigm of society today. The analysis of the animated short The Memory of Fountain aims to answer the question: what do digital narratives offer readers in terms of development of perceptive abilities and the creation of a significant aesthetic experience?
    Technology and the emergence of digital mediums at the end of the twentieth century changed the modes of creation and reception of works, shifting them to digital formats that are accessed by means of a screen.
     In cities, children and young adults are immersed in electronic devices through which they have access to an infinity of content and information. These narratives tell stories by combining text, images, movement and sound, elements that come from the visual arts and its technological evolution. A relationship exists between the visual, auditory and textual elements and the narration, which creates an aesthetic and reflective experience in children and young readers.
In contrast to the popular views on the presence of technology - that it distracts children and young adults from reading - this investigation proposes that digital narratives can be used to develop skills for aesthetic appreciation. Furthermore, aesthetic experiences are often tied to museums, galleries, or theatres, venues that have been canonically designated for the enjoyment of the arts. In the 21st century, and despite advances in all areas, there still exists a lack of acknowledgment of the benefits that technology offers in the transmission and enjoyment of cultural manifestations.
     From the comfort of our home, these immersive experiences bring us closer to the arts, including literature.
     Technologies are a new meeting space for the arts (contextually, not physically), where aesthetic experiences are generated that can deepen the reflections of the problems of our surroundings and daily life.
     Access to these new modes of seeing, listening and feeling reinforces the idea that art is not a thing of the last century, is not something that occurs in different epochs, in other places or to other people; we can access art with a single click or the swipe of a finger.
     The short animation The Memory of Fountain was selected out of a corpus of children’s and young adult digital narratives. Its analysis comprised dimensions of both the formal (what is seen) and the conceptual (what is understood) – a methodology used in visual studies to analyse works of art, especially pictorial ones. After a breakdown of all the elements (text, sound, image, movement), a relationship was drawn between these and the narrative.
     Once the analysis was complete, I detected that few methodological frameworks exist that indicate what reader-spectators appreciate in the digital narrative or how they establish links between the elements and their meanings. It is worth noting that frameworks about the meaning of pictures do exist, but these pertain to picturebooks rather than digital contexts.
     Thus, a proposal was created for mediation, a tool that takes key points from arts programs aimed at working with the public, in museums and schools, and that are intended to develop abilities for aesthetic perception.
     From amongst these we took Abigail Housen’s Visual Thinking Strategies (1970), applied in schools and museums across the United States. Other theories used to develop abilities were also consulted, such as those of Parsons (1987), Aguirre (2000) and Bloom (1956). These theories became the backbone of the mediation process with digital narratives, which is roughly comprised of the following steps:
1.    Presentation
2.     Exhibition of the digital narrative
3.     Directed questions[2]: what is seen? What is heard? What is understood? What is felt?
4.     Group discussion
5.     Closure
    After carrying out the mediation with a group of children (5, 7 and 14 years old), it is confirmed that these narratives promote learning and reflection. The following are some of the answers that emerged from the discussion.

Observations (of the mediator)
How did you feel when you watched the story?
-        It saddens you because of the music, the main character’s attitude, apathetic, dejected all the time. He has no expressions.

There is a relationship between the formal elements of the narrative and the feelings of the spectator.

-        The cat is deformed because of its head.

Recognises formal elements and relates them to art models.
Compares size and shape.
There is a deduction arising from prior knowledge: what should the shape of real things be?

-        I think that the man is asexual because you cannot see his parts. He is very long.
Makes a gender difference; compares size and proportion.
What is the story about?
-        It is about a man who is made of water and he is trying to help, but nobody listens to him.
Identifies the plot of the story.

-        People are afraid of him because he is made of water and because he is very big, then the bourgeois gentlemen beat him up
Finds the climax or conflict in the narrative.
Other than the images, what else is in the short?
-        There are sounds of music, wind, and water.
-        People talking.
-        No, they murmur, they don’t speak.
Relates the images to the sounds.
What do you feel when you are watching this short?
-        It makes me uncomfortable.
Expresses feelings.
Why does it make you uncomfortable?
-        Because it makes me sad to see what happens, and I do not like to be sad.
Draws relationship between what is seen and what is felt.

-        I know that it has a deeper meaning, a reflection on death. It is also a symbol of discrimination; because he is different from the others, they treat him badly – the character.
Recognizes implicit meanings.
Develops critical thinking.

-        Well not everyone. The children do not discriminate him, because they are less narrow-minded than the adults, because they [the adults] do not feel comfortable with people who are different from them.
Makes own judgements.
Compares and contrasts ideas.
Has something like this happened to you, or to a friend or someone you know?
-        In my school, to some children.
-        It is a common thing, it happens everywhere.
Relate the story to their own experiences.
Compares the story with facts and problems of everyday life.

     The responses show that, in addition to the recognition of formal elements (color, form, size, sound), young viewers decipher the content and meaning of the story; at the same time, an experience is generated that leads to reflection.
     Abilities of perception and construction of knowledge are developed when the three families of signs are combined: the verbal, visual and auditory (Turrión, 2014).

     Mediation of digital stories nurtures creativity in the sense proposed by Morin (2000), Dewey (2008), Aguirre (2006), and Eisner (2002): as an education for the arts that helps in resolving the problems of everyday life, of critical thinking, and the formation of individuals who are more conscious of their social reality.
     Greene (2005: 42) highlights that “when a person has the imagination to conceive new things, there is an unexpected rise in what is apparently possible”, which is how imagination allows the structuring of possibilities that can become actions and which, in turn, transform the lives of children and young adults.
     Digital narratives, in their varied themes, mirror the differences that exist in the actual world, leading their readers to reflection.
The conclusions of the study are the following:
  • Digital narratives in children’s and young adult literature develop a new interaction between the work and the spectator.
  • They appeal to the senses and previous experiences, which are added to the elements present on screen.
  • They imply a greater effort than simply looking at moving images and hearing sounds.
  • The adaptation to screen transforms a work of literature and activates new aesthetic experiences which are different from those presented in traditional formats such as those of the book.
  • Experience with digital narratives can help develop reflexive and critical thinking in viewers.
  • When approaching digital narratives in children’s and young adult literature from an understanding of art, both are seen as constructing meaning and artistic references, and a bridge is drawn between Arts Studies and Literature.
  • Changes across and between mediums lead to new experiences that help us to learn new things.
  • Each text – be it written, visual, or auditory – increases to a large extent our understanding of stories and our enjoyment of the arts.  


Aguirre, Arriaga Imanol. Contenidos y enfoques metodológicos de la educación artística. Conferencia No 4. Universidad Pública de Navarra, España. Consultado en 2016
Dewey, John. El arte como experiencia. Barcelona: Paidós, 2008.
Eisner, W. Elliot. La escuela que necesitamos. Ensayos personales. Madrid: Amorrourtu, 2002.
Greene, Maxine, Liberar la imaginación: ensayos sobre educación, arte y cambio social. Barcelona: Graõ, 2005.
Housen, Abigail. Visual Thinking Strategies, Consultado en enero de 2016.
Morin, E. Introducción al pensamiento complejo, Barcelona, Gedisa, 1997.
Parsons, Michael J. Cómo entendemos el arte. Una perspectiva cognitiva-evolutiva de la experiencia estética. Barcelona: Paidós, 2002 [1987].
Rosati, Ivo, ilust. Pacheco, Gabriel. El hombre de agua, España: Kalandraka, 2009.
Taxonomía de Bloom (2014). Consultado en
The Memory of Fountain (L’uomo d’acqua e la sua Fontana). Dir. Kim, Young-jun. Earth Design Works (2013). Consultado en
Turrión, Celia. “Narrativa infantil y juvenil. ¿Qué ofrecen las nuevas formas al lector literario?”. Tesis de Doctorado. Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2014.

[1] The Memory of Fountain was born from the picturebook The Man of Water; in 2013 animator Kim Young-jun translated the work to a digital format using the original illustrations.
[2] To see the mediation questions and their classification in detail, you can consult the “Masters in Art Studies Thesis: The digital image in relation to the development of imagination and creativity. Analysis of the animated short The Man of Water,” Mexico: UIA, 2016.

jueves, 12 de enero de 2017

The practices of literary reading of adolescents and of the school: tensions and influences

Happy New Year to our readers!

We begin the year with an account of a study by Gabriela Rodella de Oliveira, an insightful piece of research on young people reading in Brazil, with conclusions that remind us of previous blog entries on young people reading in other countries such as Mexico, Turkey and Spain.

We’d like to remind you that you can send us your entry on your study, research or experience with literature and reading. The guidelines are simply to help you structure your entry but they can be flexible. We also remind our readers that we’d love to receive comments on the entries or the blog in general and to know if it is of interest and use for your own study or professional experiences.

We hope you will continue to accompany us in 2017.

Evelyn, Laura, Javiera and Camila

Gabriela Rodella de Oliveira has a Masters and PhD in Language and Education from the Universidad de São Paulo (USP), Brazil. Gabriela carries out research on the reading practices and representations of reading and literature of Brazilian teachers and students. She participates in research groups concerned with the relationship between reading, literature and learning, with a special focus on children’s and young adult literature, subjects on which she has published books and articles. She has led workshops dedicated to the training of readers and teachers, as well as workshops on reading and the production of texts aimed at the general public. She is also author of a collection of Portuguese textbooks for children and adolescents. Currently, Gabriela is professor of Reading and Production of Texts at the Humanities, Arts and Sciences Institute of the Universidad Federal del Sur de Bahía (UFSB), Brazil.


The aim of this doctorate research was to describe, analyze and interpret the reading practices of adolescents who attend school in Brazil. To do so, it was necessary to count on a sample of participants with different profiles. The initial hypothesis states that adolescents read, contrary to that suggested by common sense discourse of parents and teachers which maintains that young adults are not interested in reading.

Context and Methodology

In order to carry out this study, I worked with first year morning school secondary students during the second semester of 2011. Four São Paulo institutions were selected: two private schools and two public schools, three of them located in the capital and the other belonging to the metropolitan area of São Paulo. Two methods of data collection were employed: one survey with open and closed questions, which was answered by 289 students, and interviews with 63 students, which added up to approximately five hours of recording.


The analysis of the data revealed the following:
1)    The existence of a strong attraction to mass culture in the actual reading practices of adolescents from all social classes, who make a decision on their own to read the bestsellers.
2)    Tension between students and readings selected by the school. This tension originates from the obligation to read; from the difficulties arising from the linguistic demands and reading comprehension; and from deadlines and the evaluation of these readings.
3)    The dismissal or lack of interest, on part of the school agents, of the readings that the students engage in outside of the school environment.
4)    The students need an adequate reading mediation for the selection of books required by the school.
5)    The socioeconomic situation and the origin of the families of the students have an influence, in terms of the space and time available, on the reading practices considered legitimate within the literary field.

As an example, below are different extracts have been selected from interviews in which the students talk about: a) required school readings; b) what they like in the books they choose to read; and, c) the results of a well carried-out reading mediation.

Do you like to read?
Afonso – Only the books that I like, but I don’t like it when the teacher orders us to read.
Dayane – They are, boring books, like that Dom Casmurro [Machado de Assis].
Cassiana – Because they are boring books!
Afonso - O cortiço (The Tenement)[Azevedo]
Cassiana – Wow…just Jesus!

Why is the book boring?
Cassiana – Because it is exhausting. There is a story and you are asking yourself what is going to happen, what is going to happen and it gets very complicated. It…depends on the book, there are books that say it all, you become hooked, read and don’t feel tired.

What are the types of stories that interest you?
Gabriel – I think more of our time, or something like that…
Adriana – Books that have more to do with people.
Gabriel – More related to our age.
Danillo – I like most those of adventure, like action books. It’s cool that, for example, in each chapter you learn something different, you aren’t left knowing everything at once, that they don’t even tell.
Gabriel – It’s, the same as a novel…
Adriana – The same as a novel!
Danillo – For example, one chapter leaves a mystery, in another it is resolved, or begins to leave it…
Adriana – A novel you even know, you are reading it and there you are in the great final scene, then I say: it’s going to end! It’s said and done: it ends! Only tomorrow…

Beatriz –  The book, for example, is a metaphor, the entire book, do you get it? The other books generally had a plot at least, you know?
Lina – It was more of a novel…
Beatriz – It is more literal…that entire book is a metaphor in itself.
Lina – It’s more different, it isn’t normal, no one writes a book like that. You are not going to take…The books that people had read until now weren’t like that. They were more like a story…
Beatriz – They had a plot. Like in that story…for example, Nação crioula: it is a woman who was a slave…it was all a story, it didn’t have a metaphor.
Lina – You didn’t have to understand something behind the book.
Beatriz – He wants to do that thing about the alienation of society. That’s what is cool about Saramago…
Lina – And then, for example, you finish reading and think…you don’t have to think about what you read, you have to think about what lies behind it.


This study confirmed its expectations: Brazilian adolescents read. They may not read the books proposed by school and they may not read as often as would be desired, but in general, they do read. The students cite their favourite books, have discussions about what they liked in the works; about the readings they do and the books they select. Nevertheless, the ways in which school interferes with the creation of literary readers can also be observed, making it possible to glimpse paths toward the teaching of literary reading to today’s adolescents.

In their discussions, the students report difficulties in handling the Brazilian school literary canon, in understanding “ancient languages” and texts “with a lot of descriptions”, texts that probably answered to expectations of readers from the beginning of the nineteenth century. The students receive those books as mere documents of the era, perhaps useful in understanding the “historical context,” but they do not constitute a literary reading experience. Thus, a revision of the school literary canon is necessary to answer the – very relevant – question posed by one of our research participants: why study these works?

In addition, if we keep in mind that “all reading is comparative reading [and that] it is rare that we read what is unknown” (GOULEMOT, 2001, p. 112-113), it seems important to establish the bases so that these comparisons can be made effectively. Thus, constructing a reading repertoire, considering students as “active receptors” – keeping in mind what they would like to read (ROCCO, 1981)- and working with a “concept of teaching literature deprived of prejudices, far from the tradition of the school and open to the cultural reality of our time” (VIEIRA, 1988, p. 2), seems to be an alternative for young adults to reflect on what they read and to be able to draw parallels with the new readings we want them to do.

Thus, we believe it is possible, through a mediation that includes a revision of the selection of texts worked on in class and of consideration of the works that adolescents opt to read on their own account, to get students from the different schools and social levels to develop the qualities necessary to become literary readers.

Full text:

References included in the text

The analysis of data related to what these young people chose to read in their own time and what keeps them away from reading literary school classics was carried out in light of the concepts of social psychology (S. Moscovici); the history of book and reading culture (R. Chartier); reading sociology (P. Bourdieu, B. Lahire, C. Baudelot, M. Cartier e C. Detrez); literary criticism (H. R. Jauss, W. Iser, U. Eco, S. Fish, J. P. Paes, M. Sodré e S. Reimão) and research on the teaching of literature and literary readings (J. M. Goulemot, A. Rouxel, V. Jouve, M. Butlen, M. T. F. Rocco, A. Vieira, C. Leahy-Dios, W. R. Cereja, M. Z. Versiani Machado, M. P. Pinheiro, N. L. Rezende, among others).


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