Project Narrative will be hosting a talk with a visiting scholar, Inge van de Ven, on Thursday, October 26 at 4 PM in Denney 311.
This will be a hybrid event with the following Zoom information:
Meeting ID: 948 4435 8125
Inge van de Ven works as assistant professor at Tilburg School of Humanities & Digital Sciences. She was Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow at UC Santa Barbara (project TL;DR on reading and attention) and a Core Fellow (2018-'19) at the Institute for Advanced Study in Budapest. She holds a PhD from Utrecht University, where she also completed postdoctoral research on creativity in education. Articles appeared in journals such as European Journal of English Studies, Medical Humanities, Narrative, Digital Humanities Quarterly, Language & Literature, and Journal for Creative Behavior. She wrote a monograph titled Big Books in times of Big Data (Leiden UP, 2019). Her second book, Digital Culture and the Hermeneutic Tradition: Suspicion, Trust & Dialogue (co-authored with Lucie Chateau) is forthcoming with Routledge.
When we are reading stories, how do we know what sources, characters, and voices to trust? How do we know when we should be vigilant for the possibility of being misled? Stories are important tools for making sense of our personal lives and the world we live in. Yet, because of today’s proliferation of often contradicting narratives across different media, deciding what sources and voices to trust and pay attention to, becomes an increasingly pressing matter.
Narratology, the study of narrative fiction across different media, offers an elaborate toolkit for analyzing discordant or conflicting narrative voices, unreliable narrators, ambiguity and irony, and ‘conspiratorial’ storylines. However, these theories have rarely been tested empirically with actual readers. They often pose a general or ideal reader and do not typically consider differences (e.g., age, education, personality traits). I think it is important to take these into account, since readers bring their own conceptual frames to the text, differ in skills like inferencing, in their familiarity with narrative conventions, and proclivity to trust in general. Therefore, I devised a preliminary model for the reception of unreliable narration, including both bottom-up/text-led and top-down/cognitive processes.
In one project, (Dis)Trust in Stories: An empirical-narratological study of readers’ response to unreliable narrators, we use this model as the basis for an eye-tracking experiment to test how readers respond to unreliable narration, including the role of attention, reading strategy, and interpretation. Our 66 participants read the short story “In a Grove” (1922) by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (which was adapted to Akira Kurosawa’s canonical movie Rashomon in 1950). We used a questionnaire to measure engagement with the story, and assessment of reliability, as well as items from the Epistemic Trust, Mistrust and Credulity Questionnaire (Campbell et al., 2021). This way, we hope to examine the relation between (dis)trusting disposition and reading strategy in case of unreliable narration.
In a second project (Telling Stories, Telling Lies: The Role of Narrative Competence in the Detection and Interpretation of Online Misinformation), funded by the Dutch Research Council, I am working on developing a scale for narrative competence to test transferability between these skills and the detection and interpretation of deceptive and persuasive non-fictional discourses online.
Insights derived from these studies will increase our understanding of how trust in a narrator is established. Ultimately, I hope they will help us comprehend how people engage with narrative outside of literary fiction (think of fake news websites or podcasts that spread misinformation), and therefore be of use in media literacy education.