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Bite-sizing digital literature in the twenty-first century

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>4/08/2023
Issue number2
Number of pages22
Pages (from-to)116-137
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The bite-sizing of fiction and poetry on twenty-first-century digital platforms constitutes a mode of adaptation that not only adapts literature to new technologies, economies, and modes of production and consumption but also adapts discourses of literary time and space and longstanding metaphors of literature as ‘food’. This article’s central argument is that digital literary bite-sizing, a combination of byte-sizing (digitizing) literature and bite-sizing literary portions for consumption simultaneously compresses and expands literary space and time and literary consumption. It is well documented that digitization, itself a technology of ‘byte-sizing’, has compressed literature into the tiny spaces of globally portable, hand-held devices, and reduced the time taken to access literature, paradoxically generating an exponential increase in the number of literary producers, products, and consumers. This essay considers how a concomitant bite-sizing of literary content on twenty-first-century digital platforms produces a further paradoxical compression and expansion of literary production and consumption. The adaptive dynamics are by no means homogenous, but amid a variety of producer reasons for bite-sizing literary portions, the sizes of portions nominated ‘bite-sized’, and consumer responses to them, the dynamic of compressed production to foster greater consumption remains, where ‘greater’ is not always a matter of quantity but in some cases a matter of quality. Although bite-sizing digital literary portions represent a literary adaptation not only to new technologies, platforms, and but also to digital bite-sizing more pervasively. Conversely, bite-sizing adapts to specifically literary practices and tropes that depart from discourses of bite-sizing other digital content.