From comics to generative remix….

Another pair of excellent presentations in Electronic Literature class!


Thank you to Susan for walking us through Bigelow’s Brainstrips – a digital story-world laced with both parody & whimsy & a highly-concentrated, intricately-designed webcomic.

Susan’s “Strip Your Brain” writing reflection on Brainstrips is very insightful and thorough.  Please take a closer look at her smart blog post (if you haven’t read it already) in order to get a full sense of the complexity of Bigelow’s piece.  The connection she made to the sensibility of the Ig Nobel Prize is spot on!  Many of you shared quirky and thoughtful comments about the piece on twitter (in perfect keeping with the piece itself).

I am glad to see our #elitclass “backchannel” alive and well:

Taroko Gorge and the Remixes

After break we took a closer look at the well known generative poem created by Nick Monfort entitled Taroko Gorge.  Thank you Vee for guiding us through a thoughtful conversation about machine-made, human-coded, reconfiguration-as-poetry.  With a poetic lexia inspired by the meditative contemplation of nature, Taroko Gorge highlights the power and potential of recombinatorial computation.   Our discussion lead to a consideration of remix-as-art-production, as we looked more closely at poetic composition in the face of the algorithm.  Jr Carpenter’s remix entitled  Along the Briny Beach figured front and center in our understanding as remix as a work of art (in and of itself).  The horizontally scrolling texts quote authors who are writing about coastlines to evoke a condition of being in between places.  Like the ocean tides that come in and out while erasing and effacing the flotsam of natural flow, her poetic remediation of the original source code focuses on movement and visuality for a new reading experience.  Our reflections here lead to further thought about the changing role of authorship (in conjunction with the machine).

Jumpstarting your own #elit composition

We ended class with the beginning of a new part of the electronic literature journey: thinking about composing your own digital narrative.  We took a bit of time to brainstorm and develop initial ideas for the story you want to tell!  Please take a look at our shared brainstorm/draft document and add any new ideas if they have come to mind since class.  We will pick up on this work in our next class.

For next week:

1. Please read Facade.  Priscilla will present a walkthrough and lead our discussion on this IF (an interactive animated fiction that can accept any type of language produced by the user and assimilate it into the outcome of the narrative.).

2. Please read Pieces of Herself.  Nikki will present a walkthrough of this exploration of feminine embodiment and identity in relationship to public and private space.

3.  Please write your fifth #elitclass blog post:  you can write on one of the above two selections or both texts if you feel inspired.  And another reminder to tweet your blog post using the #elitclass hashtag.  Check out your classmates blogs as well.

Keep up the chatter on our #elitclass backchannel conversation regarding electronic literature.  I happy to see more of you joining in the tweeting during our class discussion and after class hours as well.

Hope you all have a relaxing autumn weekend.  See you next week!

Dr. Zamora

What #elit art is to political life (?)….

This week our #elitclass conversation was truly compelling as we spoke about how art may strive to speak truth to power, and the role that art might play in engaging people’s understanding of citizenship & the state (and privacy vs. freedom).  Justin kicked off our evening with a walkthrough of the mash-up email-text generator entitled Scaremail Generator by Ben Grosser.

Justin shared with us his analysis of the web browser extension that makes email “scary” in order to disrupt NSA surveillance:

As the ELC 3 states: “Extending Google’s Gmail, the work adds to every new email’s signature an algorithmically generated narrative containing a collection of probable NSA search terms. This “story” acts as a trap for NSA programs like PRISM and XKeyscore, forcing them to look at nonsense. Each email’s story is unique in an attempt to avoid automated filtering by NSA search systems.”  Scaremail addresses the governmental surveillance machine which algorithmically searches and then collects our digital communications in a (futile?) effort to predict behaviors based on words in emails.  The Scaremail generator uses a Markov chain mash-up of words extracted from Bradbury’s canonical novel on the horror of censorship entitled Fahrenheit 451, blending this iconic literary lexia with the NSA’s predetermined keywords or “selectors” which are used to identify communications by presumed terrorists.  The result is nonsensical and “scary” email content.

There was some discussion of the wholesale embrace of the technology tools employed to ensure safety (but that in that process, there is also a dismissal of a citizen’s right to privacy).  Scaremail brings to our attention the right to use whatever words we want as one of our most basic freedoms, and the threat of our first amendment rights. As Ben Grosser states in his blog about his artwork:  “ScareMail reveals one of the primary flaws of the NSA’s surveillance efforts: words do not equal intent.”

From concerns over privacy to an allegory for fascism in late-capitalism

As many of your blogs have attested to this week, several of you seemed to “turn a corner” regarding your overall comfort-level with reading/understanding electronic literature .  I am grateful that Christina chose Hobo Lobo of Hamelin early on in our semester  long exploration of electronic literature.  Despite her humble tweet, Christina’s work (and presentation) on Hobo Lobo was excellent.  Please take a look at what she has to say about this compelling piece in her blog here:

This whimsy yet onerous web pop-up comic is more than frivolous fairy-tale, but a kind of dark satire into the perils of fascism (it also works as a searing critique of current politics, social issues, and mediascape).  The comic strip narrative in prose and verse reinvents the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  HoboLoboChristina shared some effective imagery to indicate the innovative technical design that uses layers to produce a three dimensional parallax effect.  In a richly illustrated world a wolf character called “Hobo Lobo” agrees to eliminate the rat population which has served as the corrupt mayor’s political scapegoat (a useful distraction from his own will to power and greed).  Along the way the “fourth estate” is exposed as a major player in the resulting evil.  Meanwhile, the lobo who is a hobo, represents a kind of deeply flawed ethical ambivalence in the midst of a corrupt world.  We spoke about the political dimensions of the work and how prophetic this piece has turned out to be.  This commentary on Hobo Lobo’s nightmare-fuel-come-everyday-reality is also worth your attention:

Christina wrapped up our engaging discussion of #elit with some challenging questions as she asked us to reflect on the allegorical dimensions of the work.  Where are we today in all of this?  It is not an easy question to answer.  Are we all to identify with the wolf? Or the children headed to the cave? …Sigh.

For next week:

1. Please read the Taroko Gorge Remixes – from Electronic Literature Collection (Volume 3).  Start by taking a close look at Nick Monfort’s generative poem entitled Taroko Gorge. Then take a close peek at “Along the Briny Beach” and a few other remix versions.  See will present a walkthrough and lead our discussion on this mini-collection.

2. Please read Brainstrips by Alan Bieglow from Electronic Literature Collection (Volume 2).  Susan  will present her walkthrough and offer an analysis of this series of comic strips for the web.

3.  Please write your fourth #elitclass blog post:  you can write on one of the above two selections or both texts if you feel inspired.  And another reminder not to forget to tweet your blog post using the #elitclass hashtag and check out your classmates blogs as well.

I am including again some questions to get you started with the reflection: -What are some of the significant textual elements?  -How did you choose to navigate these texts?  -What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  -What overall effect do these texts create?  -What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text?  -What is literary about the text?

Finally, I am hoping you will all start using the class twitter hashtag #elitclass more often in order to respond to presentation ideas (as we grow our backchannel conversation regarding electronic literature).  I am encouraging you to join in the tweeting during our class discussion.

See you next week for more #elitclass insight!

Dr. Zamora


#Elitclass close readings: Bots & Reconstructing Mayakovsky


At the start of our last class, an intense rain was falling hard outside, and this seemed to spurn some campus-wide wi-fi funkiness.  In short, the conditions put a damper on our connectivity, which really disrupted Stephanie’s overall plan for presenting the world of creative bots.  Still, we soldiered on, and it finally worked itself out after some frustration.

As Stephanie shared with us, Twitter bots are computer programs that tweet of their own accord.

“Short for robot, a bot is a computer program designed to operate autonomously, performing scheduled, responsive, or real-time operations in a computer, through the Internet, and/or on social media networks. What distinguishes bots from other kinds of software is that they interact with and/or produce content for humans, often assuming a human persona.” – ELC, Vol. 3

While people access Twitter through its web site, bots connect directly to the Twitter mainline, parsing the information in real time and posting at will; it’s a code-to-code connection, made possible by Twitter’s open application programming interface, or A.P.I.  Everyone who uses twitter has seen a spambot or two.  These are used mostly for public relations and commercial use.  But there is also a growing population of creative bots that consume, remix, and contribute to a broader internet culture.

Despite the wi-fi hiccup, Stephanie was able to show us some resources and give everyone a glimpse of the world of creative twitter bots

In addition, you can check out this recorded “Studio Visit” conversation about bots and electronic literature in general  (featuring Dr. Leonardo Flores, Prof. Alan Levine, yours truly, and several Kean University students).

Reconstructing Mayakovsky

Next up was Kelli’s thoughtful presentation on Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

This complex hybrid media novel gives us a trace-glimpse of a world from the future – a dystopia where uncertainty and discord have been eliminated through the corporatized promise of “freedom” and the power of technology.  Reconstructing Mayakovsky revisits the past to make sense of our chaotic present. Author and digital artist, Illya Szilak, uses a variety of medias and methods, including manifestos, texts, animations, podcasts, music, and data visualisations. Her interactive multimodal multivalent mediascape-come-novel employs a variety of fiction genres to bring to life Vladimir Mayakovsky – a Russian Futurist poet who killed himself in 1930 at the age of thirty-six.  It is worth taking a bit of time to read Kelli’s blog – a thoughtful analysis of all that is at work in this complex and layered work of art.

For next week:

1. Please read the Hobo Lobo of Hamelin from Electronic Literature Collection (Volume 3).  Christina will present a walkthrough and lead our discussion on this provocative piece.

2. Please read ScareMail Generator from Electronic Literature Collection (Volume 3).  Justin  will present his walkthrough and offer an analysis of this web browser extension that makes email “scary” in order to disrupt NSA surveillance.

3.  Please write your third #elitclass blog post:  you can write on one of the above two selections or both texts if you feel inspired.  Don’t forget to tweet your blog post using the #elitclass hashtag and check out your classmates blogs! Some questions to get you started with the reflection: -What are some of the significant textual elements?  -How did you choose to navigate these texts?  -What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  -What overall effect do these texts create?  -What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text?  -What is literary about the text?

And please…enjoy this beautiful autumn weekend!

See you Tuesday for #elitclass,

Dr. Zamora





Navigation as Reading

Last class was another great conversation.  As I think back to what we covered together, there really is so much to consider when thinking about the act of reading in our lives.  This quote from Jessica Pressman’s early article entitled “Navigating Electronic Literature” was in a way a touchstone for our overall conversation – an idea we continually came back to as we reflected together on how the act of reading might be changing:  “Electronic Literature demonstrates how navigation is not only a central characteristic of the digital literary work and its aesthetic, but also a primary source of its signification.”  Where is the source of meaning produced when we read?  How is the role of the reader changing?  Can a reader also be a part-author of text?  How so?
The class discussion was rich and also honest.  I am impressed with you all – a group of students who are willing to share your earnest impression of novel ideas and new experiences.  I think it was instructive to read Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue in tandem with the Pressman’s article as a way to build an early foundation for our journey into the world of electronic literature.  Your collaborative class notes are rich with insight and thoughtful – chuck full of smart observations and ideas.


everything can be read, every surface, every silence, every breath, every vacancy, every eddy, every current, every body, every absence, every darkness, every light……

Some ideas to consider from our discussion last Wednesday:

Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue = a reading experience; a conceptual exploration.

  • Themes/Motifs: reading & flowing; water- upstream/downstream, stillness & turbulence, being submerged, fluid and changing; memory; color; nature/seasons; traces; generations (young vs. more mature); history; perception (looking); multiple paths/multiple meanings; “skyways” (routes, infrastructure, mobility); self-referencial elements
  • Character, plot and relationships: there are relationship “networks” but there was definitely some confusion – some readers knew some characters, other readers knew others, some of our knowledge of the text overlapped, some did not, etc.
  • Reading strategies:   Some click on threads or the hyperlinks within the text randomly, some readers decide to stick consistently by a certain thread color, while others might discover the titles for each of the lexia tabs and use this as an attempt to “frame” possible meanings.  Some readers think about the number 12 as a clue to a reading strategy, while some attempt  basic “note taking” and/or “mapping” in an attempt to discern patterns or meanings.
  • Many expressed frustration, and many felt a sense of exploration and discovery emerge after some more time spent with the text.  Some expressed that the piece was “writerly” but the story was never compelling because there was no cohesion.  We speculated on the effect of a lack of any discernible pathway to reading.   A lack of any identifiable closure was certainly unsettling to most.
  • Assessment: 12 Blue reminds us all of the active role of the reader in creation – we are “navigators” beyond just readers;   We all shared an awareness of an underlying structure that cannot/couldn’t be apprehended, but was determined by the code of the work. (This is the central illusion – that readers have agency through navigation, but still, the world is a closed design determined by the underlying code).
  • I think the idea of an illusion will be a key word for us to consider throughout our exploration of elit.  With Twelve Blue, we struggled to apprehend an ending (lack of closure was deemed truly unsatisfying), but perhaps there is beauty in the fragments.

Some critical/review articles

These articles give you an idea of how critics/scholars write about a text like 12 Blue:

Some follow up planning issues:

  • All of you have selected a date for your presentation.   A few of you still need to tell me what text you will present.
  • The first presentation for your E-lit Reviews will start next week – thanks to Stephanie & Kelli for  volunteering to kick this part of class off.
  • All of you should be syndicated into the course website by now, under the Student Blogs tab of this site.  Please remember that your blog post for each week must be published BEFORE CLASS by each Tuesday morning.
  • Also, a reminder to tweet your blog posts to the class hashtag #elitclass each week, and any other #elit reflections generate in or from class that you think are worthy of public notice.

For next week:

 1.  Please read the Bots” section of Electronic Literature Collection (Volume 3) and check out some of the boys features in the mini-collection.  Stephanie will present some bots and generate a discussion for us about generative literature and bots.

2.  Please read “Reconstructing Mayakovsky” by Illya Szilak.  Kelli will present a “walkthrough” of the piece, share some context and background, and generate a discussion for us to participate in.

3.  Your second blog post:  Please write on one of the two selections made by Stephanie & Kelli.  What are some of the significant textual elements?  How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What overall effect do these texts create?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

Thanks for a great start to the semester #eitclass….

See you next week!

Dr. Zamora

The beginning of our electronic literature journey together

It is good to be back!  Although I had a wonderful sabbatical year at the University of Bergen in Norway in 2017-2018, it is certainly a great feeling to “come home” and be working with all of you again.

This week, I enjoyed “kick starting” our semester-long discussion of electronic literature by sharing an overview of some of the most recognizable genres of electronic literature.  This understanding of the general  #elit “categories” will serve as a foundational vocabulary for our overall exploration of electronic literature throughout the semester.  In addition, I am very pleased to have several new students join our course since the first week. This leads me to reconsider our designated space (currently class is in CAS 426). I will request a new room on campus (with a better screen capacity that might enhance our collective navigation/reading of digital texts).   More information to come on that front when I see you next week.

A review of some of the things we have accomplished so far:

-We have introduced ourselves.

-We have talked/walked through the course website and syllabus.

-I have presented an overview of where to find our primary readings: the Electronic Literature Collections (Volumes 1, 2, & 3).

-We have looked at our Course Calendar together.  And we have discussed the electronic literature review assignment that each of you will share as a presentation in class during the semester.

-I have introduced you to the basic genres of electronic literature.

To do for next Monday when we meet again:

-If you have not done so already, please email me your class blog URL & your class twitter account. You should be ready to start tweeting each week with our class hashtag #elitclass (and feel free to use the hashtag #elit as well) .

-Read Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature”.  This essay is located in “About Electronic Literature:  New Horizons for the Literary”.

-Read Twelve Blue by Michael Joyce for 1 hour.

-First Blog post due.  Please write a reflection about your Twelve Blue reading experience in relation to Pressman’s article about reading elit.

-Surf the Electronic Literature Collections (Vols 1, 2, and 3)!  Just peak around and open up different texts to discover what awaits you there.  Start to search for a few texts you might want to choose for your review presentation.  We will settle the schedule next week for your review presentations next week, so consider what date you would like to present on (and make a mental “short list” of your top choices to work with).

As you look through the Electronic Literature volumes this week, please notice the expectations & strategies you bring to the texts.

What do you like & why? What frustrates you and why?  Remember to be open to new experiences, because they are there, …just waiting.

Looking forward to seeing you all next week,

Dr. Zamora

Welcome to #elitclass!

Welcome to “Writing Electronic Literature”.  Soon we will meet each other for the first time as a class, and an embark on a journey that will be transformative for all of us.  Some of you might have an idea of what Electronic Literature might be, while others are really not clear.  Some of you might feel relatively self confident in a technological environment, while others might feel more than a bit of trepidation.  Whether you fall into one of these categories or the other, I guarantee you will learn a great deal in this class.  You will learn many practical things, like how to work with new technologies that you have never been introduced to before.  But more importantly, you will all learn more about yourselves.  You are invited to jump into a new realm and explore and discover.  And you will have ample chance in this class to exercise both your analytical skills, and your imagination.

I look forward to speaking with all of you soon, as we discuss what this course can mean to all of us.  We will begin by collectively considering what literature is, and what new media and the digital realm might offer to expand our understanding of what literature can be.  Throughout our class together, this website will be our “homebase”, and soon each of you will have your own linked blogs which will be syndicated here on this site under “student blogs”.  This e-location for our work together will house our collective reflections, our resources, and our continuing conversation throughout the semester.

Here are a few videos to get that conversation started:

“How to Read A Digital Text”



“E-Literature Explained”

The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora's Fall 2018 Electronic Literature course.