Jill Walker Rettberg's picture
Eivind Senneset
  • E-mailjill.walker.rettberg@uib.no
  • Phone+47 55 58 84 31+47 416 38 670
  • Visitor Address
    HF-bygget, Sydnesplassen 7
    5007 Bergen
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7805
    5020 Bergen

Jill Walker Rettberg is Co-Director of the Center for Digital Narrative (CDN), a Norwegian Center of Research Excellence that has received a €15 million grant from the Norwegian Research Council. She is also professor of Digital Culture and Principal Investigator of the ERC project MACHINE VISION: Machine Vision in Everyday Life: Playful Interactions with Visual Technologies in Digital Art, Games, Narratives and Social Media. The main goal of this five-year project is to develop frameworks for analysing how contemporary visual technologies such as facial recognition, deepfakes and image filtering affect our perception of and relationship to the world. 

Rettberg's first research interests were storytelling and self-representation in social media, building upon a foundation of digital art, electronic literature and digital humanities. Narrative remains a key interest. In the Machine Vision project, Rettberg's team studies how machine vision technologies are represented in art, games and narratives. She has a particular interest in how narrative develops in new genres, like blogging, Snapchat, online diaries or even self-tracking apps. A recent paper in the Journal of Popular Culture explores the development of we-narrative (the third person plural voice) in the popular TV show SKAM, which integrates social media as a key element of its narration. Looking forwards, she plans to explore the intertwining of algorithmic systems with narrative, both as authors experiment with machine learning, and as digital media increasingly use algorithms to generate and assemble content. 

Professor Rettberg's book Machine Vision: How Algorithms are Changing the Way We See the World is forthcoming on Polity Press in 2023. Her previous book, Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves, was published as an open access monograph by Palgrave in October 2014, and can be freely downloaded. Her book Blogging was published in a 2nd edition by Polity Press in 2014, and she has also co-edited an anthology of critical writing on World of Warcraft (MIT Press 2008).

Jill Walker Rettberg has shared her research in social media since October 2000, when she started her still-active research blog, jill/txt. In 2016, she began making research stories for Snapchat, which you can follow by adding jilltxt on Snapchat, or you can see an archive of selected Snapchat Research Stories on YouTube. Rettberg's pioneering use of Snapchat was written up in the Chronicle of Higher Education in April 2016, and was awarded the John Lovas Memorial Award by Kairos Journal in June 2017. Rettberg is also an active participant in debates on Twitter, Facebook and in Norwegian newspapers, and is a frequent expert source in Norwegian media. 

Maskinsyn is a dissemination project connected to the MACHINE VISION research project where we have made an exhibition in collaboration with the University Museum (open to the public 18.03.2021-29.08.2021) and are developing a live action roleplaying game (a larp) called Sivilisasjonens venterom that will be held in November 2021.

Rettberg won the Meltzer Foundation Prize for Excellence in Research Dissemination in 2006 and the John Lovaas Award for Research Dissemination in Social Media in 2017.

Course development and teaching 

Jill Walker Rettberg has been responsible for developing and teaching courses at the undergraduate and graduate level on games, electronic literature, digital art, social media, critical digital culture theory, web design and machine vision.

PhD Supervision

Rettberg is currently the main supervisor for one PhD student, Henning Skarbø, who was recently awarded a public sector PhD. His project is a collaboration between Digital Culture at UiB and the hospital, and will develop a conversational app for chronic patients, combining humanistic theories of digital culture with human-computer conversational design. 

She is also co-supervisor for Elisabeth Nesheim here at UiB, who is writing a PhD on haptic interfaces in digital art, and is a dissertation committee member for Sara Raffel, who is writing her PhD on storytelling in virtual reality, at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Rettberg has been an opponent at three PhD defences, at the University of Copenhagen, Tallinn University and the University of Stavanger. She was a mentor at the Doctoral Consortium at the 2015 Association of Internet Researchers conference, and in 2017, she was a jury member for the Association of Internet Researchers' prize for best PhD dissertation.

Jill Walker Rettberg is the author of four books:

Most of Jill Walker Rettberg's publications are open access, and can be accessed either through her Google Scholar profile, her ResearchGate profile or Bergen Open Research Archive

Academic article
  • Show author(s) (2022). Representations of Machine Vision Technologies in Artworks, Games and Narratives: Documentation of a Dataset. Data in Brief.
  • Show author(s) (2022). Algorithmic failure as a humanities methodology: Machine learning's mispredictions identify rich cases for qualitative analysis. Big Data and Society.
  • Show author(s) (2021). “Nobody is ever alone”: The use of social media narrative to include the viewer in SKAM. Journal of Popular Culture. 232-256.
  • Show author(s) (2021). Speculative Interfaces: How Electronic Literature Uses the Interface to Make Us Think about Technology. Electronic Book Review (EBR).
  • Show author(s) (2021). Ask Rosa – The making of a digital genetic conversation tool, a chatbot, about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Patient Education and Counseling. 7 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2020). Situated Data Analysis: A New Method for Analysing Encoded Power Relationships in Social Media Platforms and Apps. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Snapchat Research Stories. Hyperrhiz: New Media Culture.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Seeing Through Algorithms: The algorithmic production of everyday photographs. Norsk Medietidsskrift. 1-20.
  • Show author(s) (2019). Mapping Cultural Representations of Machine Vision: Developing Methods to Analyse Games, Art and Narratives. ACM Hypertext Proceedings. 97-101.
  • Show author(s) (2017). Hand Signs for Lip-syncing: The Emergence of a Gestural Language on Musical.ly as a Video-Based Equivalent to Emoji. Social Media + Society.
  • Show author(s) (2015). The Data Sprint Approach: Exploring the field of Digital Humanities through Amazon’s Application Programming Interface. Digital Humanities Quarterly.
  • Show author(s) (2015). Terrorists or cowards: negative portrayals of male Syrian refugees in social media. Feminist Media Studies. 3 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2014). Visualising Networks of Electronic Literature: Dissertations and the Creative Works They Cite. Electronic Book Review (EBR).
  • Show author(s) (2014). "Angsten for medienes umenneskeliggjørende virkning”: Fremtidsmedier sett gjennom science fiction. En respons til Jon Bing. Norsk Medietidsskrift. 323-340.
  • Show author(s) (2012). Electronic Literature Seen from a Distance: The Beginnings of a Field. Dichtung-Digital.
  • Show author(s) (2009). Blogs, Literacies and the Collapse of Private and Public. Leonardo Electronic Almanac. 10 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2009). 'Freshly Generated for You, and Barack Obama' How Social Media Represent Your Life. European Journal of Communication. 451-466.
  • Show author(s) (2009). "Freshly Generated for You, and Barack Obama": How Social Media Represent Your Life. European Journal of Communication. 451-466.
  • Show author(s) (2007). Litteratur på nettet: en innføring i elektronisk litteratur. Norsklæreren. 59-60.
  • Show author(s) (2005). Weblogs: Learning in Public. On the Horizon. 112-118.
  • Show author(s) (2005). Links and Power: The Political Economy of Linking on the Web. Library Trends. 524-529.
  • Show author(s) (2001). Child's Game Confused: Reading Juliet Ann Martin's oooxxxooo. JoDI: Journal of Digtial Information.
Academic anthology/Conference proceedings
  • Show author(s) (2008). Digital Culture, Play, and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. MIT Press.
Academic chapter/article/Conference paper
  • Show author(s) (2020). Ways of knowing with data visualizations. 14 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2020). Online Diaries and Blogs. 14 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2018). Snapchat: Phatic Communication and Ephemeral Social Media. 9 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2018). Apps as Companions: How Quantified Self Apps Become Our Audience and Our Companions. 16 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2017). The Selfie Course: More than a MOOC. 15 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2017). Self-representation in social media. 14 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2017). Biometric Citizens: Adapting Our Selfies To Machine Vision. 8 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2016). Machine Vision as Viewed Through Art. Hostile Other or Part of Ourselves?
  • Show author(s) (2014). Hoaxes.
  • Show author(s) (2014). Email Novel.
  • Show author(s) (2014). Electronic Literature Communities. 17 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2013). Norsk blogghistorie: erindringer fra årtusenskiftet. 14 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2010). Feral hypertext: When hypertext literature escapes control. 16 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2010). Digitale tekster: blogging, Wikipedia og SMS. 12 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2010). Digital Media. 15 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2008). Quests in World of Warcraft: Deferral and Repetition. 18 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2008). Introduction: "Orc Professor LFG," or Researching in Azeroth. 16 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2007). A Network of Quests in World of Warcraft. 4 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2006). Blogging from Inside the Ivory Tower.
  • Show author(s) (2005). Distributed Narrative: Telling Stories Across Networks. 13 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2004). Å lære å gi og motta konstruktiv kritikk gjennom medstudentvurdering. 17 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2004). Tegnemaskin 1-12: Utsmykking på http://odin.dep.no.
  • Show author(s) (2004). Kunst i bevegelse - elektronisk kunst i offentlige rom. 6 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2004). How I Was Played by Online Caroline. 8 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2004). Art in Motion: Electronic Art in Public Spaces.
  • Show author(s) (2002). Blogging Thoughts: Personal Publication as an Online Research Tool. 31 pages.
  • Show author(s) (2001). Do You Think You're Part of This? Digital Texts and the Second Person Address. 18 pages.

More information in national current research information system (CRIStin)


[in progress]

Distributed narrative: Digital narratives frequently break with the aesthetic ideal of unity that has dominated narrative and drama since Aristotle defined the unities of time, space and action in Poetics. Distributed narratives challenge not only the unity of the story, but also the unity of its telling, or of its form. Distributed narratives are distributed in time, space and authorship: 1) Distribution in Time: The narrative cannot be experienced in one consecutive period of time.2) Distribution in Space: There is no single place in which the whole narrative can be experienced. 3) Distribution of Authorship: No single author or group of authors can have complete control of form of the narrative. (Read >> 2004)

Feral hypertext is a concept that builds upon distributed narrative to argue that hypertext on the web has become feral, that it no longer is clearly delimited by authorship or clear boundaries separating one text from another. “If we lose the old ways of disciplining links and hypertext – authorship, metadata, clear structures – there is all the more need to research the ways in which feral hypertext can work. Hypertext will remain an intimate extension of our memory, but the focus will be on our in the collective rather than on the individual. Feral hypertext draws from our collective ideas and associations to create emergent structures and meanings. That is valuable, if only we can see it and appreciate it.” (Read >> 2005)

The role of the reader/player in digital narratives

Second person address in digital narratives: “In hypertexts, games and certain other electronic texts, an apostrophe to the reader can and often does require a response. The reader’s answer is inscribed in the text, and enacted by the reader. That is what this essay is about. It’s about how you seem to be part of the texts you read and the games you play, and how, in electronic texts, your scripted response is necessary to the very act of reading or playing.” (..) “When you play a game, or enact the involuntary performatives of responding to a link in a hypertext, you are more than a voyeur. You enjoy that feeling of being part of the text, part of the ma- chine. Do you enjoy the limitations of your participation: the feeling of being forced, of submitting? Is this the pleasure of ritual? In games, and even in some hypertext fiction, death (of your character or your reading) is your punishment when you stray from the path.” (“Do You Think You’re Part of This? Digital Texts and the Second Person Address >> 2001)

Ontological fusion: Building upon earlier research by Pavel (1986) and Walton (1990). «I argue that interaction can be a form of depiction, causing the user to imagine both her perceptual actions and her manipulation of the work as being fictional as well as actual. This produces an ontological fusion between the actual and the fictional.» “…a bodily, perceptual and often emotional fusion with the fictional world» “interaction can be a form of depiction, causing the user to imagine both her perceptual actions and her manipulation of the work as being fictional as well as actual. This produces an ontological fusion between the actual and the fictional.» (2003)