Faculty of Humanities
Centre of Research Excellence

The Center for Digital Narrative has been awarded the status of Centre of Excellence

The Center for Digital Narrative (CDN) has been awarded the status of Center of Research Excellence. The center will investigate new forms of digital narrative in electronic literature, digital games, social media and AI-driven storytelling.

Jill og Scott Rettberg
CENTER OF EXCELLENCE: Jill and Scott Rettberg are incredibly happy and grateful that The Center for Digital Narrative (CDN) has been awarded the status of Center of Excellence.
Ingrid Endal

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The Center for Digital Narrative will be led by Scott Rettberg, professor of digital culture at UiB. Rettberg said that he is both overjoyed and grateful for the support the Norwegian Research Council has shown by investing in their project.

A powerhouse of humanistic research

“Due to government spending cuts, funding is particularly tight at the Research Council this year. We are therefore both very happy and at the same time humbled that our initiative has made it over the top”.
Scott Rettberg will lead the center for the first five years, after which co-director Jill Walker Rettberg, also professor of digital culture, will take over as leader for the center. With the funding from the Norwegian Research Council of NOK 155 million, they are now in position to develop a powerhouse of research in the humanities.

“The funding from The Norwegian Research Council opens this unique opportunity to build a strong environment based on humanistic research. We have worked so hard for this to succeed for many years, so to finally reach this goal is just amazing!”

Storytelling in changing cultural contexts

The center has already put in place an international team of world-leading researchers in electronic literature, game studies, digital culture and computer programming. The core team includes Kristine Jørgensen, Joseph Tabbi, Astrid Ensslin, Jason Nelson and Nick Montfort. CDN will also partner with researchers at the Electronic Vizualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois Chicago on practice-based research using advanced technologies.

The core team will be joined by international experts in long-term 20% positions: Lai-Tze Fan (Canada), Rafael Pérez y Pérez (Mexico), Doris C. Rusch (Sweden), Lin Prøitz (Norway) and Caitlin Fisher (Canada). CDN will fund PhD fellows and post-docs and will also host guest researchers. 

Together the CDN researchers will investigate how the interactions of human authors with non-human agents result in new narrative forms and contexts, that are reshaping the use and function of digital narrative. They will also look at how digital narratives is shaping the understanding of ourselves and the society we live.

“We are looking at algorithmic narrativity in various forms. Digital narratives range from conspiracy theories on social media to AI programs that are now able to write simple short stories on their own”, Scott Rettberg explains.

It has to do with understanding how storytelling has changed over time, and looking at these changes in various cultural contexts:

“We will look at how storytelling has evolved over time, from oral stories told sitting around the campfire, through to 19th-century novels to digital narratives in computer games”.

The significance of algorithms in storyteling

Rettberg hopes that the interdisciplinary research collaboration, which the center is based on, can open for new ways of applying humanistic research.

“Our goal is to be able to provide a broader understanding of how algorithms change the way we tell the stories that shape our culture”, says Scott Rettberg.

Camilla Brautaset and Ole Hjortland, dean and vice-dean at the Faculty of Humanities, are both very proud of this tremendous achievement. They have believed in the project from the very start. 

“The grant is the result of a long-term and time-consuming effort from sparkling good researchers, and with clear support and anchoring in academic and administrative management at all levels - including the previous dean's office. We are very pleased that all the hard work of so many people has been rewarded at the highest level”.

Important for the humanities in Norway

Brautaset and Hjortland say that this is not just a joyous day for everyone who will continue to work on the project. It is also vital for the standing and importance of humanities in Norway.

“This award shows how powerfully humanistic research and interdisciplinary collaboration can contribute to society”, says Brautaset.

She is grateful that the Norwegian Research Council chooses to invest in a project with such a clear humanistic profile.

“It is a clear message that humanities have an important place in Norway”, Brautaset says. 

She believes that the Center for Digital Narrative will have an impact on both research and education within the digital humanities fields in the years to come.

“Digital culture is among the most popular study programs at UiB. The research that will come out of this Centre of Excellence will benefit our students, in addition to the field of research. We look forward to learning about the results that will come from this world-leading research environment”, Brautaset says.