In Chapter 9 of The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media, Bryan Alexander argues that mobile devices “may become the ultimate digital storytelling devices” (139). One reason for this is that people throughout the world are consuming digital content at an ever-accelerated rate due to the accessibility of smartphones. While many Americans may not have reliable access to a personal laptop or desktop, they are increasingly likely to carry a mobile device. Alexander explains that this has been one of Web 2.0’s greatest challenges because Web pages for digital storytelling need to be restructured to conform to small, narrow screens; menu options need to be condensed to serve a mobile platform. Yet mobile devices have played an essential role in making traditional forms of storytelling digital. The most successful examples of this include E-Book apps like Kindle and Podcast apps like This American Life, which offer access to written and oral forms of storytelling on any smartphone.
In addition to increased access, Alexander argues that mobile devices have the power to create new forms of digital storytelling. The medium of a mobile, handheld device lets amateur and professional digital humanists write stories in unique contexts. One does not need to sit at home with their laptop to tell a digital story anymore; one can write and instantly share stories on the train, walking down the street, or waiting in line at a coffee shop. An example of mobile storytelling is the Japanese cellphone novel, called keitai shosetsu, which is written entirely on a mobile phone. The cellphone novels is divided into short chapters of usually around 100 words and is written in fragmented, informal prose. Some are structured in stanzas similar to poetry, others read like text messages. Thus this storytelling genre is shaped entirely by the medium of a mobile device. The following is a chapter from the cellphone novel “Rays of Sun,” which won the 2015 Editor’s Choice Award on textnovel.com:
“That concludes today’s lecture. Please remember that the
exam is a week from now. Study guides will be posted online.”
The gentle shaking of my shoulder woke me from my half daze.
“Did you pay attention at all Mitsue?” Shiori scolded.
I couldn’t help but smile. “I know the test is soon.”
She shook her head. “That’s not enough!”
It has been two months since we started dating. That
winter we spent together seemed unreal, like a dream.
The routine had set back in, a collage of classes, and
work. Shiori had brought colour into the otherwise dull days.
“I need to go see the professor about my past assignment.
I’ll meet you at your place when you get off from work?”
I nodded. “Yeah, see you then.”
According to the journalist and poet Dana Goodyear, keitai shosetsu is “the first literary genre to emerge from the cellular age.” As smartphones become more prevalent and take on more diverse roles in our daily lives, other forms of mobile digital storytelling are bound to emerge.