‘Friendship isn’t an emotion fucknuts’: Manipulating affective materiality to shape the experience of Homestuck’s story

  • Kevin Veale
  • Convergence The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, June 2017, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1354856517714954

How "Homestuck" uses its textual structure to shape the experience of its story in distinctive ways.

What is it about?

"Homestuck" is an online serial story constructed so that different pages of the story might be primarily a comic, or a videogame, or written text, or music and video - or a combination of many different kinds of media. Each section uses the different chosen media to tell the story in distinctive ways because of how the readers engage with them. Additionally, readers are encouraged to fall into predictable ways of thinking about the story because of how they engage with the different media forms that "Homestuck" uses, in order for the story to then upset and subvert those expectations. This article explores how "Homestuck" manipulates the reader's experience of the text by using their familiarity with the wider media landscape as a storytelling tool in itself.

Why is it important?

Storytelling experiences have always been shaped by the ways that people engage with the content of a story through the form of media that holds it: for example, simply knowing how far through a book we are changes how we anticipate what will happen next in the story. However, often the ways that different kinds of storytelling media shape our experiences of fiction - and the ways that the people telling stories *already* make use of that fact in telling their stories - isn't something we notice. Understanding how the processes we go through as we engage with fiction are shaped by storytelling media, shaping our experiences of the stories told through those media in turn, will show insights into how people have been telling stories for a long time. This article explores "Homestuck" as a case study because it tells one story across many media forms within a single 'text,' - making comparisons between the different media easy - and without becoming an example of transmedia storytelling. Instead, the article introduces the term "transmodal engagement" to explain how "Homestuck" carries readers across the kinds of engagement associated with different storytelling media as part of shaping their experience of its story. It also introduces the term "metamedia storytelling" to describe the way "Homestuck" uses the reader's own practiced negotiation with different kinds of storytelling media as a way to manipulate their experience of its story. These terms and the forms of analysis presented in the article will be helpful for understanding the effect the media has on storytelling.

Perspectives

Dr Kevin Veale
Massey University

(The version of the article that was accepted for publication, and NOT the published version, is freely available here: https://mro.massey.ac.nz/handle/10179/11524) "Homestuck" is in many ways a perfect example to look at how media platforms shape our experiences of storytelling: it's one single story that uses techniques I've looked at separately in the forms of hypertext fiction, videogames, webcomics, Alternate Reality Games, and many others. As an additional bonus, it's something I really enjoy. I'm delighted to have been able to work on it, and think it offers great opportunities to think differently about how the media shapes storytelling. I can already see ways of using the terms I introduce here to apply usefully to games like "Undertale," so they're going to be useful tools going forward, as well.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354856517714954

The following have contributed to this page: Dr Kevin Veale