Excerpt from the Jan. 28, 2011 interview:
HJ: "You draw a range of comparisons here to older, even pre-20th century forms of storytelling -- from Daniel Dafoe to Charles Dickens. What continuities and changes do you see between deep media and older forms of serialized fictions?
FR: That's a question I became increasingly intrigued with as I worked on the book. Collective entertainment may be new, but there's nothing new about entertainment that's participatory and immersive. In fact, every new medium from the printing press on has been considered dangerously immersive at first. TV, movies, books--Don Quixote went tilting at windmills because he'd lost his mind from reading too much. And in order to gain acceptance, each new medium has tried to pass itself off at first as something familiar. In his preface to Robinson Crusoe, which is generally considered the first novel in the English language, Defoe declared the entire story to be fact. Fiction was considered an inferior branch of history that had the glaring defect of not being true, so when Robinson Crusoe came out in 1719, it had to be passed off as autobiography. Nearly a hundred years passed before the novel became a generally accepted literary form in England. And then when Dickens came along in the 1830s and his publishers started putting out his novels in monthly installments, critics decried that as dangerously immersive. Bad enough that people were reading novels when they could have been engaged in social pursuits, like conversation or backgammon--but now they were going to be losing themselves in a fictional world for months on end.
But the really remarkable thing about Dickens was the way he communed with his readers. That was something serial publication made possible--and serial publication was purely a product of technology. Better printing presses, cheaper paper, trains that could deliver things reliably, rapidly growing cities with a lot more people who could read. Few of these people could afford to purchase entire books, but they could pay for short installments. An unanticipated result of this was that when books were published over a period of 19 or 20 months, readers had a chance to have their say with the author while the novel was still being written. And Dickens relished this. He took note of their comments and suggestions, and he loved interacting with them on the lecture circuit as well. One of his biographers described it as "a sense of immediate audience participation...."
Read the full interview on Henry Jenkins' blog: