WG4: Societal Context

WG4: Societal Context

Chair: Cláudia Silva


Working Group 4 (WG4) of the Cost Action on Interactive Narrative Design for Complexity Representations focusses on societal contexts in order to better understand the connections between contexts, IDNs, and complexity. In more abstract terms, WG4 examines the relationship between IDNs and their external environments. Thereby, WG4 aims to refrain from privileging particular contexts over others and to transcend traditional binary divides that are made, for instance, between micro and macro levels of narratives and between their discursive and material elements. At the same time, WG4 aims to attend to the intersections between different contexts in order to prevent myopic viewpoints or polarization.


Interactive digital narratives (IDNs) operate within a variety of societal contexts. These contexts give IDNs meaning and can serve to legitimate or resist them or to rearticulate them in new ways as well as to also materially enable or disable them. Further, IDNs elide these societal contexts or are made visible in them. Context is provided to these narratives by societal fields such as journalism, the arts, and the cultural industry, all of which at least in part have their own systemic logic.

These contexts position an IDN as being irrelevant, obscure, innovative, or as the normal state of things in the future. IDNs themselves extend into these heterogeneous and complex social contexts. IDNs give meaning to social contexts by (over)simplifying their complexities, or alternatively by thematizing contextual complexity or even celebrating it.
Different types of contexts will be distinguished without creating a restrictive list. The following types of contexts will be considered as part of the WG4’s remit, with more to follow:

  1. Conceptual contexts that give meaning to IDNs;
  2. Discursive contexts that give meaning to events, processes, people, objects, places, etc.;
  3. Normative contexts and the ideological agendas behind them concerning social change;
  4. Communicative and informational contexts, e.g., the contexts of media systems, journalistic fields, etc.;
  5. Contexts that are created by social structures and practices. These include cultural identities, community hierarchies, etc.;
  6. Political and regulatory contexts. This includes societal conflicts, power dynamics and, the in/exclusion of the IDN in a variety of societal fields;
  7. The material contexts of practices, networks, the production of place and space, technologies and infrastructures, etc.