Bridging the gutter

Hybrid Storytelling for Digital Readers

  • Caroline Campbell Massey University
Keywords: Screened book, hybrid text, haptic theory, narrative experientiality


The topic of this practice-led paper is a recently completed multimedia design work inspired by my interests in storytelling for young adult readers and graphic narrative for mobile platforms. I reflect on my creative journey as an author-illustrator in creating and producing a hybrid text created in response to the arrival and docking of the Sea Shepherd’s flagship, the Steve Irwin, in Wellington Harbour in 2010, and for which I have coined the term the screened book. I explain how the steps taken in conceptualising and designing this text involved traversing the traditional spatial format and domain of print comic books and graphic novels to production for the sensory and multimodal domain of mobile media. Through case study analysis of the self-authored sequential art and ambient soundscapes created under direction by digital technician and musician Luiz dos Santos, I examine the theory that the screened book created for young adult audiences offers sole and group readers an alternative experience to immersion in the printed book. I discuss how the visual and auditory narratives created for Josie and Whales bridge the gap, the domain interstice that allegedly exists between the tangible materiality of the picture book, comic book or graphic novel on the one hand, and the intangible materiality of digital text on the other. My lens for this self-reflexive unpacking is broad. In addition to encompassing Walter Benjamin’s critical reflection on authorship and production, it encompasses the scholarly interest in the nexus between haptics, reading and hypertext fiction, consciousness and graphic narrative, and mobile media’s agency in influencing contemporary authorial perspectives. In proposing the screened book as the seminal summation of this inquiry, I argue that the artifact is evocative of the notion of narrative experientiality and an educational tool in service of powerful ideas such as conservation, species preservation, the greening of place and coming of age.

Author Biography

Caroline Campbell, Massey University

Dr Caroline Campbell is a practising illustrator and lecturer in the School of Design, College of Creative Arts, Massey University. Her past research applied an illustrator’s lens to critically investigate the representation and mediation of identity, race, gender and war in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Australasian children’s literature against the backdrop of socio-political change and emerging feminisms. Her current inquiry is practice-led and is located in the fields of visual language, graphic narrative and hybrid storytelling for children and young adults. At present she is expanding her recent exploration into haptic theory, immersion and design for the mobile platform. She is in the initial stages of designing and illustrating a second, wordless eco-fantasy for young readers. In addition to exploring the media interface between graphic narrative, continuous sequential art, space and sound, this environmentally informed work will interrogate the spatial dimension of the ancient narrative format, the scroll.

How to Cite
Campbell, C. (2015). Bridging the gutter: Hybrid Storytelling for Digital Readers. The Journal of Creative Technologies, (5). Retrieved from