On “Inanimate Alice” and making elit….

imagesThanks Richonda 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) is a help 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 find herself in.

UnknownIt was interesting to think about the resonance of the title for this piece (an illusion to “Alice in Wonderland” of course, as well as the inherent provocation as we think about what is “inanimate”).  We discussed the unique affordances of the “gameplay” version of the story’s conclusion verses 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.  We also discussed 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 skilful 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.

For next week:

Nadia will present and walk us through Pieces of Herself by Juliet Davis.  Your blog post should have two components this coming week -a reflection on the reading, and -a storyboard or a review of a new digital tool:

 1.  Please post your thoughts/reflection on the reading Pieces of Herself.  

2.  In addition, you have a choice between two different activities for next week’s class.  Please choose one of the following two activities:  -You can post your initial storyboard concept for your own elit piece.  Please reflect on the storyboard as you have mapped it out, and what you have learned in the process of producing it.  -You can post a summary of your “tinkering session” with a new digital tool you are considering for the production of your elit piece.  Please include a review of what you learned when exploring and playing with the new tool, and reflect on whether or not the digital tool will be helpful to you in making your own piece.  You can choose from the list of digital tools, or explore any other tools that have come to your attention.

I look forward to reading about your ongoing exploration.

See you soon,

Dr. Zamora


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On High Muck a Muck….

UnknownOur last e-lit class was a bit unorthodox since we serendipitously decided to attend Prof. Alan Robbins talk on “Design & Storytelling”.  I am glad we made the effort, as I think the discussion drew attention to the fact that a good story is also a matter of design.  I especially appreciated the slides in which he mapped out his mystery novels.  The visual reference reminds us all that in building out our own e-lit, we we’ll need to pay close attention to the concept of structure and form.  A story map practice will certainly support our writing/making process.

As I noted in class afterward, I do not think all stories require a clearly apprehended beginning, middle, and end to be called narrative.  In some of the most compelling literature, this notion of a linear or teleological story convention can be “played with” or scrambled up in the most provocative of ways.  The beauty of e-lit often is about bending these perceptions/conventions of narrative expectation.  Despite this objection to defining a story in a constrained fashion, I do think Prof. Robbins talk was an interesting visit for us, and I am always glad when we can incorporate new disciplinary angles on our shared thinking.

Unknown-1Thank you to Hailey for an excellent second half of class with her thoughtful presentation of High Muck a Muck.  High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese is an interactive poem, consisting of a website and eight videos which explores 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”.  The addition of an installation version of this piece lends further complexity by offering the work up as an event.

Unknown-2Hailey was able to effectively walk us through many of the most significant images/tropes of the piece, while sharing her 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 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.  There is loss despite gains in this journey to a new world.

For next week:

Richonda will walk us through and present Inanimate Alice (Episode 4) by Kate Pullinger & Chrish Joseph.  Please read this piece and write your reflection blog.  In addition to your thoughts on Inanimate Alice Episode 4, please include at the end of your blog some initial ideas for your own elit piece.  What kind of story do you want to tell?  Start to brainstorm a plot structure, characters, and themes. 

In the second half of class we will start the process of mapping your e-lit ideas (building story maps) and we will also take a look at a list of digital tools that might help in implementing your ideas.  

See you then,

Dr. Zamora

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On “Tailspin”, and what is next….

As many of you know, I have been away at the Digital Media & Learning Conference held at the University of California-Irvine.  It was a wonderful week filled with inspiration and learning, and I return home with renewed passion for the work we are exploring together, and new energy regarding what is possible (as co-learners in this class together).

Thank you to Andaiye for setting the tone for our “close reading” presentations of e-lit texts.  Her choice to explore Christine Wilks’ Tailspin was a good one, leading us right away to apprehend the kind of literary nuance afforded in digital storytelling environment.  ‘Tailspin’ is elegantly written and constructed, with themes, imagery, and a symbolic language that complements the multimodal navigation required to discover the story.  Unknown-1 The story is about a WW2 vet named George – a man whose hearing impairment is a constant source of tension between him and his family, and in particular, his daughter Karen.  One of the first things we do notice about ‘Tailspin’ is the power of sound. From a constant heartbeat and an eerie, repeated, tinny melody, the story opens with someone humming and the sound of utensils scraping across plates. The reader is bombarded with footsteps, birdsong, muffled shouts, the silly banter of children, and the sounds of video games. The effect is a constant din, perhaps mirroring the tinnitus that George suffers from.  The pull of the story lies in a subtle but ever evolving sense of trauma rooted in George’s buried past.  The coil of the inner ear (cochlea) foreshadows the spinning swirls that readers must click on to navigate through the story. These spinning icons also echo the tailspin of the plane crash George witnessed during the war and the sense that things are “spinning out of control” in the family’s interactions with each other.  In this story, generations fail to connect, silence does not ensure peace, and trauma is the legacy that cannot be seen but is heard.  Andaiye had us think about each phase/layer of this story, and pointed to the way in which the multi modal use of sound, image and text (and links) all worked in concert to produce a coherent yet complex narrative.

For next class we will be exploring High Muck A Muck.  Hailey will be directing our “walkthrough” with her presentation on this new e-lit text from the ELC Vol. 3.  

Please be sure to blog a reflection regarding this text before class on Tuesday, and use the our class hashtag (#elitclass) to tweet your early thoughts.   After Hailey’s presentation in part one of class, we will start to think further about making e-lit in the second half of class.

See you soon! Dr. Zamora

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Our first walkthroughs….


New Red smI enjoyed our discussion of Donna Leishman’s RedRidinghood to kick off our tour of elit last class.  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.  I hope that as we walked through this text together, it was also useful to refer to the Elit Review Assignment to gather a sense of how to proceed in a close reading of an elit text.

I asked all of you to read read both Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky and Soliloquy from Vol.  1.  as well.  I thought that by reading these e-lit texts they would further deepen our initial familiarity with the potential of Electronic Literature.  I also felt that by considering these texts together in a comparative light, we would be able to further hone our analytical skills regarding Electronic Literature.  Unfortunately, our time did not permit a comparative discussion of these other two intriguing pieces.  I am including here my own brief analysis of these two texts.  ***Please feel free to comment on my own writing here via your own blog posts if you have not yet written a response to these readings:

Subjectivity and Language in Sharif Ezzat’s “Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky” & Kenneth Goldsmith’s “Soliloquy”

By Mia Zamora, PhD

images“Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky” is a flash-hypertext poem.  Elegant and ethereal, the screen is a dark night sky with a constellation of stars that become the access point for further poetic lexia.  Readers can explore the sky of interconnected poems at random.  There is an introductory voice-over poem in Arabic (with translation on screen in English).  The text is laced with ambient sounds of wind-chimes, offering the effect of a recollection of a distant place, a place of purity/simplicity, perhaps the “village” of one’s origin.  The tone of the text is soothing, calming, and dreamlike.  This lovely piece includes a reflective narrative voice who repeats “I am full of stories”, perhaps reminding the reader of that universal aspect of our human condition: that we are all “full of stories” – we are all a small universe within the larger universe.  In this piece, subjectivity through words is achieved in the most traditional sense.  There is a clear and stable “I” that is full of stories.  That subject is established through his many stories which manifest in centered verse in the middle of the screen when clicking on a glimmering constellation.  The reader wanders through the cosmos with the mouse, hovering on certain stars to reveal a variety of poetic verse which represent the texture of certain lives. “Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky” reminds us that our subjectivity is only apprehendable through narration, through words, through stories past on through time.  In a subtle and wistful way, this text traverses an essential tension that is a part of the human experience.  It prompts us to think about the ways in which we are inherently connected in both time and space, as well as the sting of our profound singularity.

Subjectivity is grappled with in different but equally poignant ways in the Kenneth Goldmith’s “Soliloquy”.  Goldsmith is reflective of his “bound” subjectivity through expendable words.  In exploring this idea, he documents of every word he utters during the week of April 15-21, 1996, from the moment he woke up that Monday morning to the moment he went to sleep on Sunday night.  “Soliloquy” is a clever kind of provocation, as it is a web version-of a book edition-of a gallery installation. It is a week’s worth of the artist’s spoken language captured in a veiled database.  The reader opens the text by clicking on the prologue quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Don’t, for heaven’s sake be afraid of talking nonsense!  But you must pay attention to your nonsense.”  By clicking on the quote you gain access to his web catalogue of a week’s worth of spoken words, all in chronological order, but what is striking upon entering the text is the encounter of the blank screen of white.  In order to reveal his lost words, you must mouse over the screen and a sentence of the carefully transcribed lexia appears (and disappears) as soon as the mouse moves on.  The provocation is in the transient disposal of our words, as well as the utter banality of so much of what we say. Words are lost to the world as quickly as they are uttered, and what is left is like an empty canvas with a haunting afterlife.  Words are rendered in “Soliloquy” like fleeting ghosts or traces that can be glimpsed but not captured.   The title of the piece lends further comment, with it’s dramatic allusion to the inner life as a kind of performance.

Both of these significant Electronic Literature texts offer us a glimpse of the way that words shape our sense of selves and our place in the world.  The affordances of the digital medium pay particular homage to the thematic concerns and poetics of these two works of art.  While Ezzat employs traditional storytelling constructs to assert a timeless connection to narrative and memory, Goldsmith provokes us to consider the self consumed and disposal aspects of the words we use.  Although the tone of these two elit texts are very different, they each elicit a deeper reflection about the dynamic world of words that shapes our human subjectivity. ______________

We were able to settle the Course Calendar for the most part.  I still need an elit selection for review from Megan, Alicia-Rae, and Jessica.  We also have a few more nights to settle in terms of the presentation schedule.

What is up for next week?

Please read/navigate Tailspin by Christine Wilks Vol. 2.  I am grateful to Andaiye for her willingness to kick off our presentation/reviews with her selection of this important elit work.  She will direct the first half of class with her walkthrough and presentation, and for the second half of class, we will start a discussion of your own venture into making elit.

-After reading Wilks’ Tailspin, please blog about the piece before class.

-Remember to keep up with the #elitclass twitter feed and tweet with our hashtag.

See you next week.  Sincerely,

Dr. Zamora


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Starting with “Twelve Blue” and thinking about reading…..

 “12 Blue Isn’t Anything, Think of Lilacs When They are Gone.”

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 emerge from our discussion last evening:

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

  • Themes/Motifs: reading & flowing; water- upstream/downstream, stillness & turbulence, 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 chose to click on threads or the hyperlinks within the text randomly, some decided to stick consistently by a certain thread color, while others discovered the titles for each of the lexia tabs and used this as an attempt to “frame” possible meanings.  Some considered the number 12 as a clue to a reading strategy, while some attempted  basic “note taking” and/or “mapping” in an attempt to discern patterns or meanings.  Everyone 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 of us.
  • 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 some of us agreed there was beauty in the fragments.

I would like to share with you 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:

You each should identify a date for your presentation.   We will pin the calendar via negotiation next week in class.  Remember as well to identify the elit text you would like analyze (have a few choices in mind, and I encourage you to select work from Vols 2 or 3).  The first presentation for your E-lit Reviews will start next week – thanks to Andaiye volunteering to kick this part of class off on 9/27.

For next week:

 1. For those of you have not identified an Elit piece to analyze, continue exploring the ELC Volumes and choose a few you would like to work with.  Keep a few preferred presentation dates in mind and be ready to negotiate that date with the rest of your classmates in class next week.

2.  Please read these three elit works from Volume 1:

Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky by Sharif Ezzat

Soliloquy by Kenneth Goldsmith

RedRidinghood by Donna Leishman

3.  Your first blog post:  Write analytically about one of those three texts:  –Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky, –Soliloquy, or –RedRidinghood.  Some questions to consider:  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?

Next week we will walkthrough the three texts, as a model for what your reviews may be like.  In addition, we will go over the Elit Review protocol/assignment.

I regret we did not have further time to discuss Twelve Blue and hypertext in general last night, but we still had a very rich conversation as we start to reconsider the act of reading .   The links to your collaborative class notes can be found in the Course Resources section of this website.

Thanks for a great start to the semester….

See you next week,

Dr. Zamora

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Our First class meeting 9/6

UnknownGreat opening class. I enjoyed reconnecting with some of you, and meeting the rest of you for the first time.  Soon each of you should have a working twitter account. You should be ready to start tweeting weekly with our class hashtag #elitclass (and use #elit too) .

A review of what we did:

-We talked through the course website and syllabus.

-We introduced ourselves.

-We covered a basic definition of Electronic Literature:

E-Lit a literary genre consisting of works of literature that originate within digital environments and require digital computation to be read.  In contrast to most e-books, electronic literature is created specifically to be used via a digital setting and thus cannot be printed as key elements of the text require computation: for instance there may be links, generative aspects, multimedia content, animation or reader interaction in addition to the verbal text.

To do for next week:

-Please email me your class blog URL & your class twitter account.

-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 about an hour.  This elit piece is located in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1.

-Surf the Electronic Literature Collections (Vols 1, 2, 3) – check out a few pieces from each volume.  I would recommend spending time in Vol. 3 since it is brand new!  Start to think about what text you might want to choose for your review presentation.  We will settle the schedule next week, so consider what date you would like to present on.  As you look through the Electronic Literature Collection this week – notice the expectations & strategies you bring to the texts. What do you like & why? What frustrates you and why?  Be open to new experiences – because they are there – just waiting.

I have a good feeling about this semester with all of you, and your thoughtful “exit passes” were very helpful to me in thinking about our class next week.

Looking forward to it,

Dr. Zamora

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Welcome to #elitclass everyone!

imagesWelcome to “Introduction to Electronic Literature” everyone.  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.  ….The old “what have I gotten myself into” feeling, so to speak.  Whether you fall into one of these categories or the other, I guarantee you 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 not ever been introduced to before.  But more importantly, you will all learn more about yourselves.  You will 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 blog will be our “homebase”, and soon each of you will have your own linked blogs which will be syndicated here on this site.  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 Electronic Literature Exhibit – MLA 2012”

Looking forward to getting know of each of you and working with you this semester!


Dr. Zamora

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The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s Fall 2016 Electronic Literature course.