How Far is Up? the functional properties and aesthetic materiality of children’s storybook applications

Sargeant, B 2015, How Far is Up? the functional properties and aesthetic materiality of children’s storybook applications, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Media and Communication, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title How Far is Up? the functional properties and aesthetic materiality of children’s storybook applications
Author(s) Sargeant, B
Year 2015
Abstract This study centres on a project, a children’s book application titled How Far is Up? This artefact is an interactive, narrative-based digital book containing written text, animation, video, audio narration, music and sound effects. Book applications have become a new format for the picture book. Printed picture books are used to teach children literary and social skills; they are cornerstone tools in early developmental education. Increasing numbers of children now read digital books and engage in literature via digital devices. Given the crucial educational and social role that picture books have played in Western cultures, it is timely that we investigate how this medium has changed due to digitisation. This research evaluates the design of book applications and the educational and social implications of remediating the picture book.

Theorists of children’s literature and cognitive science suggest the need for a more comprehensive set of principles aimed at guiding book application designers. In particular, there are concerns relating to the design of interactive, animated activities within these artefacts. Evidence shows that these features may distract users from a story. Further to this, existing applications commonly contain an audio narrator who ‘reads’ the written text aloud. An adult is not required to read these items with a child. This is despite the clear educational and social benefits associated with shared reading.

My results demonstrate new insights, focused towards three main areas. Firstly, my findings show how designers can apply a counterpointed triad formed from typographic text, imagery and audio, alongside the alluring qualities of animated and interactive features, in order to form a richly described narrative environment. In presenting a refined level of visual movement, designers can direct users’ attention towards narrative detail. Animated interactive activities may also help users to imaginatively engage in application content.

Secondly, as a result of deploying my counterpointed triad technique, whereby typographic text, imagery and audio each impart separate narrative messages, the narrator in How Far is Up? does not ‘read’ the written text; the narrator supplies additional story information. In order to comprehend this application’s textual content, a pre-literate child will need to engage in shared reading. Participant studies show that young children can understand and enjoy the How Far is Up? story when they read the application independently. My findings also show that children enjoy reading this application together with an adult, and that this shared reading activity may invoke deeper narrative comprehension and it may support the formation of close social bonds. This application’s design encourages intergenerational social interaction to occur over a shared mobile device.

Finally, this research uncovers connections between material practices and social and experiential activities. By extending the counterpointed triad technique, I form a connection between digital and physical environments; highlighting the ways in which functional and aesthetic practices can lead to usable artefacts existing in social and physical contexts.

This project contributes to the fields of digital humanities, education and human-computer interaction, and to the disciplines of interaction design, digital design and picture book design.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Media and Communication
Keyword(s) HCI
Children's Literature
Interaction Design
Children's Interaction Design
Human-Computer Interaction
Picture Books
Narrative Theory
Digital Humanities
Digital Design
Digital Media
Book Apps
Storybook Applications
Children's Book Apps
Mobile Apps
Social Interaction
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Created: Fri, 23 Oct 2015, 12:26:58 EST by Denise Paciocco
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