Space in digital narratives

I’ve looked at Ricoeur and his theory of narrative, in particular mimesis, in the past (here and here). Ricoeur discussed narrative almost exclusively in relation to time, and not to space. Yet Bakhtin’s idea of the “chronotope” (conceptions of space and time) had been published before Ricoeur wrote Time and Narrative, and in some places Ricoeur makes explicit references to it.

“Curiously, although Ricoeur makes explicit reference to Bakhtin’s work on several occasions, the chronotope study is never mentioned by the French critic. This omission is all the more startling, given the many similarities between their critical preoccupations.” (Collington 2001, 221).

This omission is not actually unusual, and the focus of much narrative theory has been time rather than space. This is perhaps because time lends itself more readily to analysis.

“The existence of space is pushed into a corner, so to speak. It is not altogether discarded, but neither does it have a recognized and clear-cut status within the text. It can be understood in various ways, but none is as clear and unambiguous as the term time.” (Zoran 1984, 310).

But in digital narratives, space is becoming increasingly important, particularly since illustrations are an increasingly common part of the digital “texts”. Narratives that include illustrations necessitate some elements of spatial ordering. Depending on the type of digital narrative, space can be almost equally as important as time in the process of storytelling. In digital games, for example:

“……. time and space work together to anchor textual, visual, auditory and other interactive cues in the digital game, from which the digital game players can build their mental story world.” (Wei et al. 2010).

My conclusion from this is that I wll need to do more reading on narrative theory, to look beyond Ricoeur, and examine Bakhtin’s writing, in order to develop a theory of narrative appropriate to the construction and consumption of narratives online.


Collington, T. (2001). Space, Time and Narrative: Bakhtin and Ricoeur. Space and Culture, 4(7-9), 221-231.

Ricoeur, P. (1984). Time and Narrative. University of Chicago Press.

Wei, H., Bizzocchi, J., & Calvert, T. (2010). Time and space in digital game storytelling. International Journal of Computer Games Technology, 8. (Retrieved from, accessed 23 Jaunary 2015.)

Zoran, G. (1984). Towards a theory of space in narrative. Poetics Today, 309-335.