An interactive digital fiction for building body image resilience. Hayley hates her body and struggles with negative self-talk. Her friends, a diverse group, have issues of their own but they all try to support each other. Despite living in a culture that contributes to so much body dissatisfaction, Hayley and friends find ways of building body image resilience. Voices is an outcome of an international research project. We collaborated with a group of young women and non-binary individuals from diverse backgrounds to co-design the digital fiction.
Presentations & exhibitions
Some of the places where Voices has been exhibited, presented or performed:
The Writing New Body Worlds research project & Voices
Body image concerns affect the well-being of a generation, coming of age immersed in digital culture. Writing New Bodies: Critical Co-design for 21st Century Digital-born Bibliotherapy is a research-creation project, led by Dr Astrid Ensslin, that addresses these issues by developing Voices, an interactive digital fiction for body image bibliotherapy (the practice of reading for mental health and well-being). Christine Wilks is the researcher-creator on the transdisciplinary team, responsible for writing, designing and developing the digital fiction, with the critical co-design participation of a group of young women and non-binary individuals (aged 18-25) from diverse backgrounds, who are representative of its intended audience. With accessibility in mind, Christine has built the digital fiction on and for the open web platform using a mobile-first, responsive web design approach for the greatest reach.
The main character of the digital fiction, Hayley, has body image issues relating to her size and shape. This becomes evident from her negative self-talk; she describes herself as fat, flabby and repulsive. And yet, in our interactive text-based fiction, where the reader-player makes choices on Hayley’s behalf that can affect her body image, there is no narratorial voice to authoritatively describe her body and none of the characters are ever depicted in mimetic visual form. Therefore Hayley’s body is open to interpretation, open to (re)construction. This openness is a deliberate strategy to make the therapeutic benefits and socio-political commitments of the work as fluid and widely accessible as possible.
We propose that the specific affordances of a choice-based interactive narrative that situates the reader-player in the mind of the protagonist, may lead to enhanced empathic identification and agency and, therefore, a more profoundly immersive and potentially transformative experience. Our digital fiction will encourage the reader-player to reflect upon, and perhaps subtly alter, their own body image.
Read more in our original research article: Developing a Choice-Based Digital Fiction for Body Image Bibliotherapy, published in Frontiers in Communication (Jan 2022).
For a full list of the research project outputs see the Writing New Body Worlds website. My contributions are listed below.
- Nair, Karuna, Astrid Ensslin, Carla Rice, Sarah Riley, Christine Wilks, Hannah Fowlie, Lauren Munro and Megan Perram (forthcoming 2023) “Contemporary Critical Bibliotherapy and Its Uses in Creative, Digital-Born Body Image Interventions”, in B. Thomas et al. (eds) Routledge Companion to Literary Media.
- Wilks, C., A. Ensslin, C. Rice, S. Riley, M. Perram, K. A. Bailey, L. Munro and H. Fowlie (2022) “Developing a Choice-Based Digital Fiction for Body Image Bibliotherapy”, Frontiers in Communication, 6.
- Ensslin, Astrid, Carla Rice, Sarah Riley, Christine Wilks, Megan Perram, Hannah Fowlie, Lauren Munro, and Aly Bailey (2021), “Bodies in E-lit”, in James O’Sullivan & Dene Grigar (eds), Electronic Literature as Digital Humanities. New York: Bloomsbury. Open Access.
- Ensslin, Astrid, Carla Rice, Sarah Riley, Christine Wilks, Megan Perram, Hannah Fowlie, Lauren Munro, and Aly Bailey (2020), “‘These Waves…:’ Writing New Bodies for Applied E-literature Studies,” electronic book review, April 5th.
- Perram, Megan, Astrid Ensslin, Carla Rice, Sarah Riley, Christine Wilks, Hannah Fowlie, Lauren Munro and K. Alysse Bailey (2020) “Writing New Bodies in Digital Fiction,” First Person Scholar, March 25th.
- Wilks, Christine (2023), “Voices: an interactive digital fiction for body image bibliotherapy”, ELO Salon (online), 8 August.
- Wilks, Christine (2023) ”Voices: An Interactive Digital Fiction for Body Image Bibliotherapy”, ELO 2023 Conference, “Arborescent || Resistance” Exhibition, University of Coimbra, 12-15 July.
- Wilks, Christine (2023) “Writing New Body Worlds digital fiction, ‘Voices and Choices’” Digital Literature for Social Good Unconference (online), Bournemouth University, 17-18 January.
- Wilks, Christine (2021) ”Developing a Digital Fiction for Body Image Narrative Therapy”, MIX 2021 Conference, “Amplified Publishing” (online), Bath Spa University, 6th July.
- Wilks, Christine (2021) ”Open to Construction: reading and writing bodies in digital fiction and the open web platform”, ELO 2021 Conference, “Platform [Post?] Pandemic” (online), Aarhus University & University of Bergen, 27th May.
- Ensslin, Astrid and Christine Wilks (2021) “Posthuman Healing and Critical Digital Fiction Co-Design”, 15th SLSAeu Conference, “Literary and Aesthetic Posthumanism”, Bergen, March 4th. Keynote lecture.
- Ensslin, Astrid and Christine Wilks (2020), “Creating Digital Fiction for Body Image Interventions,” Electronic Literature Organization conference (online), University of Central Florida, July 18th, 2020. (Full roundtable video available here)
- Ensslin, Astrid, Christine Wilks, and Megan Perram (2020), “From Feminist Participatory Co-Design to Research-Creation: Developing a Digital Fiction for Body Image Bibliotherapy,” Canadian Society of Digital Humanities conference (online), June 5th.
The research team
- Principal Investigator: Dr Astrid Ensslin (Regensburg / UAlberta)
- Co-Investigators: Dr Carla Rice (Guelph) and Dr Sarah Riley (Massey, NZ)
- Post-Doctoral Fellow & Digital Fiction Designer: Dr Christine Wilks
- Graduate Research Assistants: Megan Perram (UAlberta), Hannah Fowlie (Guelph), Lauren Munroe (Guelph), K. Alysse Bailey (Guelph)
- Interns: Antonia Mann (LMU Munich), Karuna Nair (UWE Perth) and Natali Panic-Cidic (RWTH Aachen)
Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada