Cell phone fiction: Serial poetics and platform vernacular

Jakob Isak Nielsen, Henrik Højer

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Abstract

Norms and conventions for cell phone fiction have been in the making for a long time without being clearly codified and established as commercially or critically viable mainstay phenomena. This paper explores new manifestations of the emerging poetics of cell phone fiction, meaning the narrative and stylistic principles by which audiovisual short form serial narratives are constructed with the cell phone as intended user interface. We analyze and discuss cell phone fiction developed by two commercial players, Quibi and SnapChat. We have chosen as our main cases two serials that are generically alike but nevertheless demonstrate significant differences of style and narrative design — When The Streetlights Go On (Quibi, 2020) and Class of Lies (Snap Originals, 2018). The main differences can be understood in relation to diverging forms of “platform vernacular” (Gibbs, et al., 2015). Despite its so-called turnstyle functionality, Quibi’s When The Streetlights Go On is shown to embrace the stylistic and narrative design of long form media, whereas SnapOriginals’ Class of Lies opts for a ‘vertical only’ platform, a hyper emphatic style as well as going a long way to accommodate its users and the vernacular of cell phone practices and practices associated with Snapchat as a social media application.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFirst Monday
Volume29
Issue5
Number of pages28
ISSN1396-0466
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

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