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Interactivity in picturebook apps

How do picturebook apps engage the young reader?
Child with tablet
© University of York
Are picturebook apps a space for freedom and exploration… or strictly regulated reading?
In her own approach to picturebook apps, Celia Turrión (borrowing terms by Isidro Moreno) discusses the ways in which these works engage the reader’s attention and stimulate their participation. Interactivity in picturebook apps can be characterised by the following:
  • selective participation, in which the user chooses among the options offered by the program;
  • transformative participation, in which the user selects and transforms the contents proposed by the author; and
  • constructive participation, in which the user can select, transform and build new proposals that are not planned by the author.”
But within picturebook apps, that interactivity can be real… or not quite. As Turrión says:
  • Real participation stands for an interactive proposal in which the action of the user works in a necessary cause–effect relationship with the story.
  • Simulative participation occurs when the user’s action produces an effect in the story that would appear equally even if he or she did not trigger the hot spot.
  • False participation refers to cases where the effect of the user’s action is repetitive or meaningless for the development of the story.”
To understand picturebook apps and assess what kinds of literacy they encourage in children, we can look, like Turrión, at how free they leave the young reader to play around with the interactive features of the app.
For each app, we might ask: are the users of this app free, or constrained, in how much they can do with the interface? Is there space for indeterminacy, surprise, and readings that challenge the programmed ways of encountering and engaging with the app?
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Turrión, C. (2014). Multimedia book apps in a contemporary culture: commerce and innovation, continuity and rupture. Barnelitterært Forskningstidsskrift, 5(1), 24426.
Have you ever used picturebook apps? What would you say the experience was like? How did it differ from reading picturebooks on paper? In what ways was it similar?
© University of York
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