Digital fiction study to change understanding of reading

7th May 2014

Experts in digital fiction and literary-linguistics at Sheffield Hallam University have been given funding to study how people read fiction that has been written specifically to take advantage of new technology, such as computers, tablets and smartphones.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has allocated £194,527 to the Reading Digital Fiction project, with the University providing further support, bringing the total project value to £239,930. The study, which is organised in partnership with Bangor University, Sheffield Central Library, Bank Street Arts, The National Library of Wales, and Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre, is one of the first of its kind in the UK. It aims to raise awareness of digital fiction, and understand how readers process fiction in different formats. Dr Alice Bell, senior lecturer in English language and literature at Sheffield Hallam, is leading the study. She said: "Although e-readers are becoming more popular and people are spending more time on smart devices, people aren't necessarily aware of more interactive and experimental forms of electronic literature. "In this project we're looking specifically at fiction that is written for, and read from, a computer. It can be web- or app-based - or accessed via CD-ROMs. Our overall aim is to increase digital literacies more broadly, by encouraging more people to read these digital stories." The study will include a series of digital fiction exhibitions, public educational workshops for readers and writers, and a public lecture as part of the Off The Shelf literary festival. The research team will also commission a series of digital fiction works throughout the study. Along with the exhibitions and workshops, linguists will be collecting empirical data on reader behaviour, including reader-response studies which aim to understand how readers process digital fictions from a cognitive perspective. For more information on the project, including details of the exhibitions and events, visit

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