Digital Media: Life-Changing Online

Imaginative Agency: New Possibilities


  • Clare Brant King's College, London



imagination, agency, creative, culture, media, internet, art


This article presents imaginative agency as a new theoretical concept with great potential for life writing studies, especially digital life writing. It draws on a wide range of concepts and contexts to discuss selective histories and workings, proposing ways in which imaginative agency can fit into philosophical and aesthetic debates about capability, performativity, ethics and artificial intelligence. I argue for making a distinction between imaginative agency and creativity, owing to the monetizing of much creative activity. I explore agency in relation to aesthetic human capability, through comparison to the non-human, particularly whether bots can demonstrate imaginative agency in art and literature, and through questions of ethical agency in online practices like trolling and malware. Contexts relevant to imaginative agency in digital and social media practices, such as algorithms, crowdsourcing and augmented reality, are explored in terms of political considerations which tie cultural creation to wealth creation— a shackling from which imaginative agency can provide some liberation.

Author Biography

Clare Brant, King's College, London

Clare Brant is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture at King’s College London where she also co-directs the Centre for Life-Writing Research. She has published widely (and hopefully deeply) on literature, culture and gender. Her most recent book was Balloon Madness: Flights of Imagination in Britain, 1783–1786 (Boydell 2017). She co-edits the Palgrave series Studies in Life Writing, and is an editor on the European Journal of Life Writing. She was a Co-Investigator on the European Research Council-funded Ego Media project at KCL (2014–2019). Her fourth collection of poems will be published by Shoestring Press in 2020. Email:





Digital Media: Life-Changing Online