Making #elit!

Our recent agenda:

By now, you are all immersed in your own “elit-making-adventure”. I have enjoyed seeing your early (nascent) ideas evolve into full blown conceptual projects.

In the past couple of weeks, we have spent some time thinking about your story concepts, and also the affordances of different digital tools in an earlier workshop. In a follow-up workshop this week, we focused a bit more on the centrality of interactivity and navigation – a cornerstone concept in what makes electronic literature distinct.

Please keep these concerns front and center as you continue to desing your final project in the next two weeks. Also, here is our remaining #elitclass timeline as we are on the final homestretch now!

Your final #elitclass blog

Your last blog post (due Dec. 16th) is the formal submission of your elit story. Please include the following:

  1. A short description (1-2 paragraphs) introducing your reader to your elit creation. Please see the ELC Vols, 1, 2, or 3 “cover sheet” entry pages for a reference point on the convention of an elit description. 
  2. Please include the link to the final elit story project. 
  3. You may also include a brief reflection (please include this reflection below the project link). Your reflection can include what this project has meant to you. Your reflection can also include and account of some things you discovered along the way, skills or new ideas you learned, things you wish you could have done better, and things you are proud of in your execution of your concept. It is up to you to determine what you would like share to here.

Finally, please remember that our last remaining class will be on Dec. 16th. We will NOT meet on Dec. 9 because Monday classes are scheduled to meet that Wednesday. The evening of Dec. 16th will be a Zoom Party & Final Showcase of your elit pieces. Please send me an email if you intend to share a brief walkthrough of your work. I hope the majority of you will take the opportunity to do this!! I know we will all marvel at the diverse talents and amazing work on display. It will be a true gift to behold.

And your last to-do!

The final thing to do to close out your work for class is to email me your #elitclass portfolio by Friday, Dec. 18th.

See you on 12/16. 🙂

Finishing up our reviews & making elit

To complete our review tour of selected elit, we spent some time with Tom’s selection of Anna Anthropy’s The Hunt for the Gay Planet.  The Hunt for the Gay Planet is a text-based Twine game that comments more broadly (and bitingly) on the status of queer representation in videogames. This hypertext fiction spoof is a playful and parodic response to the problematic limits of identity (and identity politics) in the gaming industry. Anthropy satirizes Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic with this retro-style story in which the player is invited to gradually explore the galaxy (looking under rocks and in caves) in search of a lesbian romance. The reader explores five planets, fighting off both sea monsters with gossamer wings, and the ever-present-question “Do you have a boyfriend?”

The search is essentially for a place of community and acceptance unique to the character’s queer identity. The Hunt For The Gay Planet ultimately criticizes the videogame world for not creating an equitable space for queer players, and even more specifically, female queer players. But does this text do a disservice to the LGBT community despite the fact that it means to address offensive stereotyping?  Lesbian identity here (in this campy world) is certainly oversexualized and underdeveloped. While the technical execution of this game text was successful and engaging, the heavy reliance on stereotypes implies that in order to experience anything beyond The Hunt For The Gay Planet, queer videogamers must assimilate themselves to a straight, male vision. Is the satirical lens successful? Or does this campy interactive story reify the very stereotypes it sets out to dismantle? Does this twine game actually complicate gay identity in a positive and productive sense?  

Time to turn to you final project!

With the second half of class, we kicked off the plans for your final project with a workshop to “get started with making your own #elit piece“.

The following steps for creating your #elit piece will be iterative (that means you will be on one step, and then you will discover that you might have to loop back and forth between the steps as you proceed in designing and implementing your creative vision).  The creative process is rarely linear.  That said, here are some basic steps you will take:

  1. Research the topic so you are clear on presentation and concept.
  2. Write a script, a storyboard/map/outline, as well as a timeline of activities necessary to complete the story.
  3. Collect and curate the required multimedia parts — text, images, audio, video, oral history, interviews, selfies, and digital tools applications.
  4. Start to construct the narrative using selected digital tools.  This construction effort will be guided by your storyboard concepts, outline, and/or timeline of necessary activities.
  5. Share and reflect on the completed story.

We did some free writing and spent time in small groups (breakout rooms) to further refine an early elit story concept. You should have all submitted your initial elit concept (with a short description of what you imagine making) here.

Your to do list

You should look ahead to mapping, storyboarding and/or outlining your concept as well as considering how to implement or execute this vision. Please look at these links to help you with these next steps, and how you will further develop your work:

Storyboarding

List of Digital Tools

Remember to add any crowdsourced digital tools (found under the “Course Material & Assignments” page of this course website).  Add your tools that you have thought of or that you might use here: More digital tools (crowdsourced by us!)

**Your 12th blog post is due which is an early progress report on your #elit final project concept and planning. We will continue with our workshopping next Wednesday!

Alternative worlds

Our agenda

Redshift & Portalmetal

Unsurprisingly, Amber’s presentation on Redshift and Portalmetal was well researched, thoughtful and insightful, and really brought to life this dystopian hypertext story that incorporates short fiction, poetry, memoir, and performance art.  It is both a meditation on climate change and the neocolonial impulse that drives it, as well as a sci-fi exlporation of overlapping/conflicting identities. How do legacies of colonialism pollute the air, degrade our communities, and map constraints on our very embodiment? With images of factories and frozen landscapes, we explore the story of Roja, a trans person of color who must leave her planet in order to survive. How can we imagine an alternative future, one in which we might resist the urge to colonize as we seek out new worlds for human habitation? With Redshift & Portalmetal, we imagine what it might mean to decolonize this planet, and we hear a call for solidarity, intersectionality, and agency – for people whose experiences have for centuries been eclipsed and erased by the machine of power.

RedRidinghood

Thanks to Karel for his walkthrough and presentation of Donna Leishman’s RedRidinghood.  This interactive narrative is a provocative re-interpretation of the well known French fairytale, and it invokes an ominous, dark, mysterious, and decidedly adult tone.  With jazzy, contemporary background music, an urban setting, the highly stylized comic imagery of this piece announces itself as a clear “re-working” of a classic.  It challenges the assumptions which stem from reading/knowing this age-old children’s tale.  This version seems to unfold in three parts, beginning with a city highrise location.  The second part of the text covers the forest/meadow interlude. Finally the third section of this narrative takes place upon arrival at “Grandma’s house”.  The text is interactive throughout, the reader is choosing outcomes through a variety of link options.  The reader is forced to seek for hard-to-come-by links which are for the most part hidden.  There are definitely elements to discover that are not easily noticed (including a revealing and dark diary which provides insight into Redridinghood’s psyche).  The necessary “active search” for links (that are veiled from reader’s immediate access) seems to suggest an emphasis on all things “hidden”.  Things are not what they seem.  There is more than meets the eye.  There are dark realities that exist beyond the surface.  This is most definitely a psychological piece, charged with frightening twists and uncanny discoveries.  Was Redridinghood violated?  Or was she a complicit agent in her own adulteration?  The text provides complicated layers which render this question difficult to answer.  This story seems to insist that there is indeed more than meets the eye at first.

Another Invitation for 11/19:

Your to-do list:

Read Tom’s selection:  The Hunt for the Gay Planet

Start to “mull over” a few questions: What were your favorite elit pieces so far? What has inspired you?  What kind of elit can you start to imagine making?

Your 11th blog post is due! Blog about your reading experience and understanding of The Hunt for the Gay Planet.

See you next Wednesday!

#elit Dystopias

We all had the pleasure of passing another insightful #elitclass (despite the collective stress) thanks to two smart presentations by both Sun & Maura. This was the week of #elit dystopias. I couldn’t think of a more fitting moment to consider the way that” life imitates art” as much as “art imitates life”. These were not easy pieces to decipher, but Sun & Maura were able to astutely deconstruct the inner workings of these challenging texts, via both navigational insight and interpretative prowess.

Letter to Linus

I am so glad that Sun selected Letter to Linus, a six-node-hyptertext that is an important comment on the struggle between “creative potentiality and the juridical and economic forces that would regulate, patent, and encrypt language.” (ELC 2)  The piece is a work of electronic fiction based on the structure of a cube – it comprises six pages, each of which links to four others. The reader begins with a picture of an unfolded cube and a phrase in each square, and when the reader has finished reading a poem, they can choose a phrase related to a verb at the end of the last stanza, moving on to the next poem. In this dystopian multidimensional “communique”, all of the poems are about the human need for language and expression. 

The letter writer begs Linus to return because communication systems are falling apart.  Libraries are in ruins. The government and corporations seem to be patentening languages.  Local dialects are fading out.  Words are bought and sold, churning out new languages each year.  While the rich can speak freely, the poor must pirate dictionaries. The government has patented language for security purposes. Once the reader finds out that people need to pay to use words, it makes the writer’s decision to illegally write to Linus more compelling as there is a sense of urgency.  In short, the citizens of this future have no way of communicating news or feelings to each other, leaving the world in a state of ignorance and mistrust. Sun’s questions, interactive prompts, the TED talk she shared, and her astute close readings helped us see the significance of both our words and our silences, and the role that language plays in the attibution and distribution of power. The piece is indeed about language, power, and the significance of multilieracies in our world. Who gets to speak, in what spaces, and for what reasons? Who upholds the languages we are forced to speak? An how are other languages unauthorized? When do our silences say more than any words we may offer?

Reconstructing Mayakovsky

Next up was Maura’s thoughtful presentation on Reconstructing Mayakovsky. I think she did a great job of making sense of this purposely “non-sensical” pastiche. Reconstructing Mayakovsky is both an elaborate and challenging piece. 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. (Just as “Past Me” Maura has to deal with “Present Me” Maura – see her tweet below).

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.  If you haven’t had a chance yet, is worth taking a bit of time to read Maura’s blog which is a thoughtful analysis of all that is at work in this complex and layered work of art:

Invitations for next week!

Your to-do list:

Read Amber’s selection: Redshift & Portalmetal

Read Karel’s selection: RedRidinghood

Your 10th blog post is due! Blog about your reading experience and understanding of Redshift & Portalmetal and RedRidingHood.

Take a deep breath, practice patience, and I will see you next week!

Dr. Zamora

#Elit Characterization

There were many insights about digital literacies, and the role of technology in human lives, that surfaced in this week’s readings. We also looked further into character development in an interactive #elit environment. Both of our readings this week showed us how complex characterization builds not only from what is shared about a protagonist but rather, from what is omitted.

Our agenda:

Digital, A Love Story

Thanks to Ryan for his smart walkthrough of Digital, A Love Story. Set in the early days of the internet with a distinct “retro” game feel, it captures the era of dial-up modems and BBS boards. Digital begins with you, the player/protagonist, being asked to pick a username and give your real name, then throws you right into the game. All actions you perform are done through typing keyboard commands and clicking on icons, as you would with your own computer. Talking and browsing eventually gets you useful programs like Notepad, which records important information, and a password decrypter.  But when the BBS boards suddenly start shutting down, cutting you (player/protagonist) off from the people you’ve met, it slowly becomes clear that a sinister force is threatening this brave new digital world. 

Hacking into a site is always a multi-step process, requiring you to discover information on the password system. As Ryan made clear, this can be monotonous if you get stuck on a section. But one thing that is important here is that dialogue is non-existent. You never see how your character responds to another character, but you can pick up on a general idea by the context of the response. In other words, your character is mute, but still given a personality from how others react to you and your own interpretation of the actions you commit.  With casual connecting and playful hacking, and you strike up a relationship with a user named “Emilia”. After responding to her request for criticism on a poem she wrote, you can start replying to messages from her and begin to grow a connection as she starts opening up to you. By navigating a computer interface, you (player/protagonist) end up exploring the enigma of modern relationships through the filters of early social media (with both spurts of joy and grim sincerity). The plot ends up being far bigger than it initially appears, with even the birthplace of the internet itself becoming involved in the climax.

Inanimate Alice

Thanks to Kaitlyn for an excellent walkthrough of the seminal #elit text Inanimate Alice Vol. 4.  A multilayered episodic story about a young girl who grows up in varying spots on the globe, this multimodal combination of text, sound, video, and imagery has been an exemplar of digital storytelling. In the fourth episode of Alice’s overall journey, she is fourteen years old and living in a small town in the middle of England. Her first real friends have dared her to climb to the top of an abandoned building which supposedly has a great view of the whole town from the top. Alice accepts the dare. As she climbs to the top and the stairs give way. She narrowly misses falling and is stuck at the top of the building with no clear way out.  Alice is frightened, and she must navigate her way out of this dark unknown place.  We navigate with/for Alice, and we “play the game” until we can find our way out of the abandoned warehouse.  Brad (Alice’s imaginary digital friend) helps if we decide to “use” him for guidance during our journey to the top of the building.  The soundtrack and imagery set a foreboding and dangerous tone, along the way highlighting glimpses of surprising beauty in an overall industrial wasteland.  Alice has a way of finding the silver lining in her surroundings and her situation.  She is a sojourner who survives despite the constrained context(s) she finds herself in.

Unknown

One question I hope to ask you all (but we ran out of discussion time) was to think about the resonance of the title for this piece. The title is an illusion to “Alice in Wonderland” of course. But I also think there is an inherent provocation – as we strat to think about what is “inanimate” (i.e. the tension between what is human vs. technology).  Also, we should think about the unique affordances of the “gameplay” version of the story’s conclusion versus the other choice to just “read through” the factory exploration.  The gamed version is more interactive, and as a result, perhaps the navigator/reader is given a more “empathetic lens” into Alice’s trials.  Kaitlyn shared the way in which this work has been a catalyst for many discussions regarding both digital literacy and globalization.  What is striking about this piece is the strong desire to really know Alice.  While we do not know what she looks like, or anything beyond the very basic facts of her transient life, we are still drawn to this character through a skillful and dynamic portrayal of her inner workings.  The textual, visual, and auditory aspects of this digital novel work in powerful tandem – the reader discovers the important role technology has to play not simply in viewing a text, but in forming a more complex and intimate relationship with a character.

Some Equity Unbound (#unboundeq) invitations:

Your to-do List

Read: Letter to Linus (Sunanda’s selection)

Read: Reconstructing Mayakovsky (Maura’s selection) 

Your ninth blog post is due!  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of Letter to Linus  & Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

Happy Halloween, …and a collective deep breath before Election Day!

Please take good care of yourselves.

Dr. Zamora

OuR dreamlives…

Another great week “in the can”! Thank you all for some collective exploration and close reading in #elitclass. Here are our agenda slides from this week:

Icarus Needs

Thanks, Hugo for the visual logic and analytical eye you applied to our next #elit walkthrough review from the ELC Vol. 3 –  Icarus Needs – by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey.  This digital comic adventure-quest had us all thinking about the fine line between waking life and the dream world.  (….Because as your mother might have warned you, you never know when you might fall asleep playing a video game.)  The questions you asked us all at the close of your presentation (about the fine line between reality, perception and our dream life) was much food for thought. I think it is safe to say that we were all sincerely reflective about the role our dreams have played in our waking life.

And isn’t it true?  Life is like a dream…or some kind of adventure-quest game? I guess you could say that Icarus Needs is video game mechanic-come-quirky philosophical inquiry.  We collect magical objects, hit many dead ends, jump over chasms, solve mini-puzzles, and wake up by falling, falling, falling.  With metaphorical/symbolic language laced throughout and a digital interface that renders a kinetic-comic-strip experience, Icarus Needs is a text that certainly challenges our traditional sense of the “literary” as it makes us think further about what literature can be.  The beginnings of an answer may be found in several of the astute close reading observations made about this unique text during Hugo’s class walkthrough.

With Those We Love Alive

Thank you Jessie for choosing this special piece of #elit.  I am sorry we ran out of time, and thanks to your peers for staying as long as they could. I know how hard you prepared and your research was thorough and brought vast insight into this beautiful and yet disturbing work. Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive is a Twine game that invites the reader to become physically involved through marking up their own body with symbols throughout “game play”.   With Those We Love Alive makes use of text and audio and simple backgrounds of shifting colors to draw the player into a disturbing science fiction landscape. This interactive game-story is also a nightmarish experience in an unknown world full of self-harm, visceral disgust, and violence. Jessie’s thoughtful analysis revealed the complexity of the work, and I especially enjoyed her consideration of the title extracted from the Bhagavad Ghita or “The Song of God” (a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the epic Mahabharata, commonly dated to the second century BC):

“Better to live on beggar’s bread with those we love alive, than taste their blood in rich feasts spread, and guiltily survive.”

If this is an interactive fiction about trauma and survival, it is also a looping experience of false starts and roads that keep leading us to dead-end traps.  To read the story is to experience the thematics which mirror our “relationship with the chasm”.

If you are curious about the creator who made such a compelling piece, this link is very interesting:

National Day on Writing!

As we all know, writing is an important part of life. It helps us communicate and work with each other, supports our learning, and helps us remember.  The National Day on Writing® celebrates writing—and the many places, reasons, and ways we write each day—as an essential component of literacy.   Since 2009, #WhyIWrite has encouraged thousands of people to lift their voices to the things that matter most to them.  NCTE invites you to join our 2019 National Day on Writing on October 20 and tell us about what compels you to pick up a pen, sharpen a few pencils, dust off the chalk, find a marker that works, or tap your keyboard.  Here’s how!

It is celebrated for about a week or so, and I hope each of you will take a creative moment to share why you write (#whyiwrite), and also to share a little bit of who you are  (#iamfrom #whyiwrite).   

Your to-do List:

Read: Digital, A Love Story (Ryan’s selection)

Read: Inanimate Alice (Kaitlyn’s selection)

Participate in the #NDoW by using the #whyiwrite #NDoW and/or #NDoW hashtags on twitter, and dropping an image of your work into our shared google slides: #WhyIWrite slides #iamfrom slides

Your eighth blog post is due.  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of Digital, A Love Story and/or Inanimate Alice.

Have a restful weekend!

Dr. Zamora

Activist E-lit

This week we saw the way in which electronic literature can be both expressive and polemic at once. Works of electronic literature tagged as “activist” are those defined by the author as politically or socially motivated: they often reflect current conflicts, inequalities, and pressing issues of international social concern. The readings for the week had clear commitments. What has become apparent is that an immersive and interactive story can also be an emotionally powerful experience that transforms a viewer’s understanding.

Our slides:

Motions

Thank you Medea for kicking off the evening with a very powerful tour of Motions by Hazel Smith, Will Luers & Roger Dean – an activist multimedia web-book exploring the harrowing reality of human trafficking. An emotional piece about modern day slavery and sexual abuse, it employs visual artifacts combined with dissonant sounds files to capture the fear, dislocation, abuse, exploitation, and oppression experienced by the trafficked victim. The images, videos, and backgrounds of the pages are often abstract, or out of focus and include locations, vivid colours, close ups on peoples faces, and figures in distress. The atmospheric sounds often have a disorienting and relentless quality that enhances the feelings of tension reflected in the text. The work is particularly effective because it bridges the global and globalized nature of indentured servitude with the specificity of individual trauma experienced by victims. Medea provided extensive research on the realities of human trafficking, and she was quite articulate in outlining both the vulnerability and the loss of self that is at the center of this trauma. She also shared a glimpse of her heartfelt understanding of this work via a creative collage she felt compelled to compose as a way to express her synthesis of the work’s meaning. Bravo!

Pieces of Herself

Our discussion of Pieces of Herself by Juliet Davis was truly insightful, and it was a joy to read some many smart thoughtful blog posts about this reading.  Thanks to Teethee for her excellent walkthrough. This interactive digital art text makes use of much less lexia than we have seen in the previous e-lit pieces we have explored together.  Instead, this work makes great use of a drag and drop interface – viewers can scroll through familiar environments (i.e. bathroom, living room, outside, the office) to collect metaphorical “pieces” of the self and arrange them in compositions inside the body by dropping them down in a dress-up doll.   The reader/navigator can customize their exploration of the work by filling in the dress-up “paper” doll (or woman’s silhouette).  As each “trace” is dragged into the paper doll silhouette, it triggers animations along with audio clips from interviews with women, music loops, and sound effects, resulting in a layered narrative effect.

We discussed the traces and marks (read “scars”) left behind as a woman lives her life.  The marks left by private and public aspiration, desire, hopes and dreams, and violation too.  There is much challenge and pressure in becoming a woman.  The colorful accumulations on the silhouette emphasize the theme that so many competing ideologies leave lasting marks, imprinting a woman permanently.  Davis’ work emphasizes the irrevocable layering of all the experiences that shape and mark a woman, highlighting the social inscription of the feminized body.

Your to-do list

Read: Icarus Needs (Hugo’s selection)

Read: With Those We Love Alive (Jessie’s selection)

Your seventh blog post is due.  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of the Icarus Needs and/or With Those We Love Alive.

Have a restful and replenishing weekend!

Dr. Zamora

Soul & Smarts in #elitclass

Our last #elitclass was a soulful and smart enterprise. Thank you to both Nives and Edward for bringing us together for a compelling night as we explored Norman’s Window and Zuern’s Ask Me For the Moon

I think it is safe to say that these two pieces resonated with many, and it seems the themes they offered happen to be ones we can especially appreciate through our shared lens of our own struggles with this pandemic.  Both of these hypertext poems seem to signal us to the importance of paying attention.  These two pieces of electronic literature remind us of the profound meaning to be discovered in the seemingly mundane.  Nives & Edward both brought a part of their unique and attentive selves to their #elitclass presentations, and in turn, they revealed the power of each work with a kind of grace.

Window

Window transforms the experience of the prosaic into the experience of the poetic. It achieves this bit of alchemy through ambient sound and an insistence on the slow and quiet, directing us towards a solace that can be discovered in the magic and mystery of our own inner world.  As we struggle during this pandemic time with the radical upheaval of our lives, this piece brings front and center the simple beauty of the world around us.  Thank you Nives for centering this sentiment for all of us at this time.

After our class, a dear friend from Australia (@KateMfD) sent us this link to a digital project called “WindowSwap” that shares glimpses from windows all around the world (much in the same spirit as Norman’s piece).  There is also magic is receiving small gifts of wonder from friends a far, no?  Kate wanted us all to enjoy this site for a bit it after reading many of your thoughtful blog posts!  Please check it out:

Ask Me For the Moon

Ask Me For The Moon is a piece of electronic literature that also asks us to look closer and see a new. For many of us, Hawaii is synonymous with paradise. A place of beauty and escape. A place for a well-deserved “time out” (if you can afford it). In other words, Hawaii is a dreamscape luxury that we can aspire to.  But where does luxury come from? And at what cost? This complex and layered work keeps revealing a discomforting tension between the veneer or façade, and what lays underneath the surface. The sounds of labored breath accompany a shadowy interface and words that appear from the dark like a chimera or specter and then evaporate.  

Just like the cool illumination that comes from the moon, slowly (and serenely) the violence of that cost of luxury is brought to light.  The tourism industry, colonization and imperialism, the plight of the indigenous laborer, the radical manipulation of the environment – all these powerful themes arrive at our feet (through lyric verse spun from the tracks of philosophy, political and economic theory, and indigenous activism).  Not with blunt force of a hammer, but with the slow and steady erosion of gentle yet unrelenting tides coming in from the ocean.  The piece is both poetry and polemic, as it lifts the veil on paradise and reveals dark trauma.  Thank you Edward for your insight and your thoughtful walkthrough of such a impactful piece of literature.

Your to do list:

-Read:  MOTIONS (Medea’s selection)

-Read:   Pieces of Herself (Teethee’s selection)

-Your sixth blog post is due.  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of Motions and/or Pieces of Herself. I am really looking forward to next week!

Have a wonderful autumn weekend everyone. Celebrate the stainglass leaves falling to the ground. Celebrate the little things that make a big difference.

See you next week,

Dr. Zamora

Generative Lit & World Building

Another great #elitclass conversation this week, which seemed to bring new insight into the power (and variety) of born digital storytelling. We had two very different pieces to explore together, giving

Bots

Thanks, Kevin for an insightful overview of the BOTS collection and our first glimpse into what is considered generative literature. There is much buzz (and perhaps, confusion) about the notion of “generative literature.”  It is indeed a specific form of literature which challenges some aspects of classical literature.  Frequently associated with the power of the machine (read computer), generative literature is often understood as the production of continuously changing literary texts by means of some set of rules and/or the use of algorithms.

“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.

For more on BOTS, check this old #netnarr post out:

Also, For more thoughts on the non-creative use of this technology as a follow up to our conversation, here is more food for thought:

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):

Trope

And a big shout out and thanks to Orella for the dynamic and exciting walkthrough of Trope by Sarah Waterson, Elena Knox, and Cristyn Davies. The possibility of using computers to create immersive virtual environments in which one can interact with others has excited the imagination for decades, and this piece brings us up against that possibility rather vividly. “Trope” is a location you can visit in Second Life (a virtual space for users to explore using their customizable avatars, create landscapes and objects with 3D modeling tools, program behaviors onto these objects with their scripting language, and interact with over a million users). For many of you, you were stuck because you didn’t have the software to run the work, and so your initial run-through did not work properly. Thankfully, Orella brought us all into the fold and made the wonder of the piece evident to all. Trope creatively intervenes in ways that readers engage with literature by creating a virtual environment that is conducive to the experience of reading poetic text. “The physicality of the text itself is key.”  Visitors to the conVerge island are able to explore the variety of landscape and architectural designs, read text presented in the form of books and a floating geometric maze, and enjoy fireworks. This piece clearly expanded our collective understanding(s) of “world-building” in stories.

Your to-do list for next week:

-Read:  Window (Nives’ selection)

Read:   Ask Me for the Moon  (Edward’s selection)

-Your fifth blog post is due.  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of the Window and/or Ask Me For the Moon, Again, remember some key questions when blogging: How would you describe your experience of the text? How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

Also, you #elitclass twitter use is becoming more and more interactive! (Excellent). Just another reminder to tweet your blog posts to the class hashtag #elitclass each week and any other #elit related content that might be interesting!

Enjoy the weekend,

Dr. Zamora

ELit as experience

What a wonderful read through all of your blogs this past week. I must say that I had a clear feeling that many of you “turned a corner” in terms of your “warming up” to electronic literature. With the special pieces selected for consideration this week, you experienced elit a-new. While the field continues to push categories/boundaries, it has become for many of you a more immersive and emotional experience. And despite the formal innovation in terms of storytelling, you also expressed a newfound relatability and accessibility in your experience of elit work. You expressed the feeling of “being in the story” and awareness that elit can be a full “experience” rather than simply a reading assignment. I am very happy that this has become apparent to you so early on in our time together.

Our agenda slides:

High Muck A Muck & Queerskins

We opened class with the beautiful hypertext poem entitled High Muck a Muck, – a stunning collaborative work.  High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese is an interactive poem, consisting of a website and eight videos which explore the narratives and tensions of historical and contemporary Chinese immigration to Canada. High Muck a Muck is most intriguing especially because it was formed through an interdisciplinary collaboration of nine Canadian artists and programmers including Fred Wah, poet, Jin Zhang, composer; Nicola Harwood, project director and designer; Thomas Loh and Bessie Wapp, video artists and performers:, Hiromoto Ida, dancer; Patrice Leung, filmmaker; Tomoyo Ihaya, visual artist and Phillip Djwa, creative technologist.  The convergence of so many gifted practitioners has produced an exceptionally rich and complex piece, which definitely pushes beyond the traditional confines of “text”.  

We walked through many of the most significant images/tropes of the piece while sharing a sense of the diverse options for navigation.  The piece explores the multi-lenses of diaspora and globalism while provoking us to think further about the impact of dreams steeped in the challenges of exile or migration.  We could all see the way in which embodiment (the body) is wrapped up in conflicted pasts and presents, and how the myths of immigration are often a gamble with many different resulting outcomes.  The final tone of the work is ambiguous and dispersed, with a haunting lack of resolve.  In other words, there will always be loss despite gains in this journey to a new world.

Thank you to Patricia for her thoughtful walkthrough of the haunting and emotional piece by Illya Szilak called Queerskins. A painful story of thwarted love and loss, Queerskins tells the story of Sebastian, a young gay physician from a rural Missouri Catholic family who dies at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Queerskins is a collage of remnants from Sebastian’s life. The reader “rifles through” the trace(s) of his life through multimodal artifacts-as-puzzle pieces. Themes include the human urge for transcendence via love, religious faith, suffering and redemption, sexual ecstasy, storytelling, and technology itself. Patricia had us consider both the way in which we navigate this work, the way we can read the meaning of the work, and the profound tragedy of a life clipped through familial repression, cruelties, and denial.

Your to-do list for next week:

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

Please read Trope from Volume 2. Orella will present a walkthrough and discussion of this Second Life piece as well.

Please write your fourth blog post for #elitclass. Write on one (or both) of the two selections from Kevin & Orella. 

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, just another reminder to tweet your blog posts to the class hashtag #elitclass each week and any other #elit reflections that you think are worthy of public notice.

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