Let’s get Botty!


First, I'd like to say how proud of myself I am. If you would've asked me to present on bots a year ago I would've run away. But now, after two Net Narr class. I'm kind of a bot master. Not, really a master but I am no longer a novice. I'm somewhere in the middle. 

Okay, when I started down the rabbit hole learning about bots for E-Lit, I see this is slightly different than the purposes of bots for a networked narrative class. So, let's get down to the nuts and bolts of this whole bot-uation. That's my last bot pun I swear. Taken from the word robot, bots are, "computer programs designed to operate autonomously." 

In the world of e-lit it becomes a really cool, sometimes random way to generate literature. Or is it? There are debates that happen that online bots are nonsense and it doesn't amount to anything sensical let alone literature. Bots like Tiny Crossword don't seem to serve a purpose. But if you follow through the feed it begins to make its own form of poetic rhythm. 

One could argue that the person who programs the bot intended for it to appear that it doesn't make any sense and therein lies the beauty of it. So how do we detect a bot from an actual writer? Well, there's a game you can play to see if you can pick out true literature.


The best part about bots is making your own. It is cool to play around with already created bots. Creating your own allows you to play the author and create your own character. However, even though you are writing a script perse you still don't get to control the outcome much like other e-literature.

Here's a bot I created.


Professor Alan Levine explored the world of bots with us in my Networked Narrative class. The best part about bots is getting the chance to play around with them. Here's a link to some really cool bot stuff Alan shared with us last year. 



Viva La…Russian Revolution???: Analyzing Neo-Futurism & The Mutability of Reality and Story in Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky

Здравствуйте~

Reality remains fatal, a bullet in the brain ~

In the names of progress and peace, what would you sacrifice? Some of your freedoms? Most of your voice? All of your body? Replace your autonomy with technology, swap democracy for technocracy? These questions seem to be at the narrative heart of Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky (2008), a work of Eliterature (ELit) heavily inspired by the rise of both terrorist activity and technological advancement in the early 21st century as well as by the life and literature of early 20th century Russian Futurist writer and revolutionary Vladimir Mayakovsky. Szilak’s work seems to ask readers to not only immerse themselves in its rich narrative aspects but to consider, conceptually, the nature of reality and the complex relationships of story to reality, of self to machine, and of machine to nature. The work accomplishes this feat through a combination of textual, historical, navigational, and aesthetic “mechanisms” all working in tandem alongside reimagined, Neo-Futurist ideology to construct an experience that “promotes an idiosyncratic reading” (Gauthier) of the piece and reveals the mutability of meaning (story) and of humanity (the self).

OnewOrld, the world of Reconstructing Mayakovsky, is one in which humanity, and its propensity towards violence and chaos, has been abandoned for the seeming safety of virtual reality. “Inhabitants who survived a major cataclysm…live in hibernation units immersed in a virtual world” (Gauthier). The program and its safety are guaranteed by the Monad Global Attention Group, the financial investors behind the OnewOrld project. According to the short video clip–that ostensibly adopts the traditional style of a financial investment PowerPoint– found when one clicks on the “Movies” mechanism–hovering in the starry pocket of an otherwise infinitely dark and empty universe main interface screen–“real bodies cost money” and “the end of profitability is near”.

Click to view slideshow.

Physical reality has become unstable and so must be converted to a virtual system. This story, the overt one, plays out in 46 chapters whose text can be accessed via clicking on the “Mechanism B” mechanism floating in the aforementioned abysmal/primordial miasma (Gauthier).

Oneword background

Example of the Chapters + Some background info on OnewOrld~

Audio versions of the chapters can be found by clicking on the “Audio Podcasts” mechanism. The OnewOrld language is English that has been translated into French and then back into English using the Babelfish program–literally removing it that much further from ourselves. This makes the language read/sound quite mechanical, adding additional complexity as well as a sense of eeriness to readings. These chapters float chaotically in no specific order in their own, bright red or solid black pocket universes of the site. Readers are given no directions on how to navigate the narrative nor interpret the mechanical language within. Instead, readers seem asked to construct meaning on their own as though the work were one large, deconstructed poem, whose inherent order matters less than a reading’s interpretation.

This format lends itself to the idea that navigating an ELit piece is also, “an act of producing a work’s signifying properties in the moment of engagement with them” (Pressman). Meaning cannot be interpreted in this work until a node–a hyperlink, in this case–is clicked and its encoded lexia accessed. Even then, though, there is no promise of revelation. What do 46 chapters mean when, “We reject the absolute truth of the number”? Or, when “The difference between a lie and the truth rests in its utility”? This lack of inherent meaning seems to both be at odds and celebrate the work’s Neo-Futurist undertones. Futurism was an early 20th century art movement that rejected the past and the mere idea of the past influencing the future and instead celebrated the future, the youth, speed, dynamism, violence, and, above all else, the machine. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism calls for the abolishment of libraries and museums and, most famously, compares the automobile to the splendor of “the Victory of Samothrace”. Bold. But, also an ideology that seems promoted in Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

That said, while attributing meaning of this otherwise seemingly disjointed work through a kind of Neo-Futurism reading would be easy, it seems not to suffice. Contradicting elements appear throughout the piece, promoting violence but also a way for “non-violently defining, creating, and animating the world”. Pieces irreverently discard the human and its agency but also claim, “In so far as we are bodies and minds We are the embodiment of nature In so far as we use technology as an extension of our bodies and minds there are choices we can make [sic]”. These contradictions complicate any simple understanding or navigation of Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

Most of these contradictions can be seen when the overt narrative of the work is compared to its accompanying manifesto, which can be found by clicking on the “Manifesto” mechanism. A condensed version of the manifesto titled “a petit Manifesto: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the movies” can be read on the screen that first appears or a longer version of the manifesto, “Do You Think Malaria Makes Me Delirious?”, can be accessed by clicking “download print version”. The condensed version hits some of the manifesto’s highlights such as, “All realities are virtual, but few of us can live here”, “Art is to life as Kitsch is to death” and “EVERYTHING HAS BECOME US, But we are nowhere in the world” while the longer version elaborates on these subjects and many more–such as poetry, language, memory, religion, humor (“We believe that all humans can laugh but most jokes don’t translate well”), etc.–eventually concluding that, “Our future demands a feminine art that knows and appreciates the body and its ornaments” (Szilak). Not very Futurist proper and, in comparison to the narrative aspect of Reconstructing Mayakovsky, this manifesto seems to contrast greatly. In fact, it seems to be a rebuke.

Click to view slideshow.

The manifesto reads as quite a scathing critique of the virtual, technocratic world of Reconstructing Mayakovsky but also of some of the key tenets of Futurism, adding an element of self-awareness the Futurists themselves seemed to lack to the work itself if not the narrative within. Additionally, the manifesto seems to challenge notions of reality and perception, stating, as mentioned earlier, “When the wor(l)d has any meaning The difference between a lie and the truth rests in its utility [sic]”. Reconstructing Mayakovsky, then, becomes a mirror for readers, inviting them to explore the relationship between truth and perception of truth via its decontextualize, free-associative interface and it Neo-Futurist framework which invites a kind of contradictory, Orwellian “doublethink”.

Perhaps, though, some of these contradictions can be reconciled in Mayakovsky himself, who is a main character introduced into the world of the narrative aspect of this piece but who is also the author of much of the conceptual underpinnings of Reconstructing Mayakovsky. More, perhaps taking a closer look at Russian Futurism specifically and its conceptual underpinnings can bring a degree of understanding to an otherwise nebulous and mercurial work.

Vladimir Mayakovsky was born in the Russian Empire, pre-revolutions, in what is now  the country of Georgia. He came of age and became a writer and artist during a time of ideological upheaval as well as national and cultural revolution. In the early 20th century, Mayakovsky joined the Russian Futurist movement, an art movement that was influenced by Italian Futurism’s ideology which promoted/idealized modernization but that also, almost antithetically, appreciated traditional Russian folk art and life. Many members of this movement, like Mayakovsky, sought to dismantle the Tsarist autocracy that had been governing Russian for hundreds of years and replace it with some form of socialism–communism most commonly. Many artists from the movement participated in the generation and proliferation of Bolshevik propaganda.

Most members of the movement rejected the work of the so-called, “Great Masters”. One of the most famous Russian Futurist manifestos Mayakovsky contributed to, “A Slap in The Face of Public Taste”, proclaims, “The past constricts us. Academia and Pushkin make less sense than hieroglyphics. [burn] Dump Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard the ship of Modernity” (Burliuk et al. as quoted in Lawton). Essentially, the Old Masters are dead and should stay dead.

Many Futurists also came to reject the title of Futurism itself, Mayakovsky stating in a short essay titled “We, Too, Want Meat!” (1914), “What’s a Futurist? I don’t know. I never heard of such a thing. There have never been any”. Perhaps this rejection is what led to the eventual dissolution of the movement. Perhaps is was the fall of the Russian empire. Perhaps it was always just disillusionment in need of voice and performance….

Regardless, the movement essentially dissolved in Europe with the onset of World War I and dissolved in Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the assassinations of the last of the Romanov family, and the rise of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Mayakovsky continued writing in the “Futurist spirit” though, penning multiple books of surreal, decontextualized, or otherwise counter to poetry and becoming outspoken spokesman for the Communist party until his suicide in 1930. A bullet in the brain heart.

In many ways, Mayakovsky embodies the ideals Reconstructing Mayakovsky espouses–which makes sense. (The work is literally titled Reconstructing Mayakovsky and, in the piece, Mayakovsky’s character is resurrected.) Evoking Mayakovsky is evoking the complex, often contradictory nature of Russian Futurism–its promotion of both the machine and traditional folk art–but also of that time period of upheaval and revolution in which the movement and Mayakovsky existed. “We believe that art is the memory of the future and memory is the art of the past”, the manifesto states. Mayakovsky is both the art and the memory. Reality is what exists in between, is what exists in the vast blackness surrounding “Manifesto” and “Movies”.

The “Archive” mechanism seems to also enhance the idea of reality being made mostly of what is remembered and created. This mechanism consists of images, documents, and articles related to events referenced in the narrative aspect of the work. In this way, the reader and the reader’s reality are being tied to the reality of Reconstructing Mayakovsky as all of the events referenced in the narrative aspect of the work have a basis in our reality (i.e. the bombing of Nagasaki, the existence of complexity theory, etc), making questions about the reality of Reconstructing Mayakovsky also questions about our reality.

Click to view slideshow.

Some examples of the Archives referencing Mechanism B~

And, again, readers are given no directions for how to navigate this space of stacked images. The onus of coherence and persistence of narrative falls on the reader. This decontextualization seems another callback to Futurism while the compilation of meaningful subject matter seems to be what connects the overall concept back to Russian Futurism (which still values the traditional or “sentimental”) specifically.

Ultimately, the decontextualization of this piece allows for multiple readings of this work and, so, multiple constructions of reality, something that becomes apparent to readers as they attempt to, almost like “astronauts”, forge connections in that amorphous, black space between content and meaning. Additionally, the resurrection of Mayakovsky in this work resurrects and brings into question the ideals and contradictions of Russian Futurism, further complicating the understanding of thi piece and ensuring that no easy answers bring reconciliation. Through concept, design, and aesthetic, Reconstructing Mayakovsky seems programmed to function as an exploration of the contradictory nature of reality, perception, and the relationship of the self to both. Or, perhaps, it is meant to be a joke and its meaning just “does not translate well”.

Works Cited

Gauthier, Joelle . July 25, 2011. ”  Reconstructing Mayakovsky  “. Sheet in the NT2 Laboratory Directory of Hypermedia Arts and Literatures. Online on the NT2 Laboratory website. <http://nt2.uqam.ca/en/repertoire/reconstructing-mayakovsky >. Accessed September 23, 2018

Lawton, Anna M. Russian futurism through its manifestoes, 1912-1928. Cornell Univ Pr, 1988.

Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. “The futurist manifesto.” Le Figaro 20 (1909): 39-44.

Pressman, Jessica, and N. Katherine Hayles. “Navigating Electronic Literature.” Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (ebsite)(2008).

Szilak, Illya. Reconstructing Mayakovsky. June 2008. Web Design and Development: Cloudred. Art for animation and graphic design for manifesto: Pelin Kirca. Original music for animation: Itir Saran.

Further References:

http://pelinkirca.com/reconstructed/

http://cellproject.net/creative-work/reconstructing-mayakovsky-2

https://www.theartstory.org/movement-russian-futurism.htm

https://helenbledsoe.com/?p=238https://helenbledsoe.com/?p=238

https://www.estorickcollection.com/exhibitions/a-slap-in-the-face-futurists-in-russia

****

До свидания!

~Till next time~

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Blog 2

The bots made for twitter are very useful in many ways. They are artificial intelligence, but can still spark up conversation within the twitter community. Not only do they tweet with words, but they display images relating to those words to give a clear picture. Also, this A.I. can create content that other users can interact with like crossword puzzles.

I did not know that these bots were being used on twitter, but I am aware of some accounts that usually work under computer-rule.I think that my favorite bot is the poem bot because the tweets are short yet precise. They may not be complete sentences, but they convey a thought or feeling the people can relate to when they read it.

Lots of Bots!

Laszlo-Krasznahorkai-about-the-future-of-literature-540x540

The Electronic Literature (e-lit) piece that I decided to look into was Bots and I must say, I had quite an experience. There are rare occasions in higher education where homework is fun and exciting. I spent hours exploring the different kind of Bots there were. At first, I thought I was going to simply jump around and pick one bot to talk about. However, I ended up taking a look at almost all of them until I came across Poem.Exe and then I fell in love with it. I scrolled on Poem.Exe Twitter page and I have not had inspiration like this in a long time. Liam Cooke from Dublin, Ireland is the author who describes this bot as, “a micropoetry bot, assembling haiku-like poems throughout the day and publishing them on Twitter and Tumblr.” The poems come from Raymond Queneau’s Cent mille milliards de poèmes (A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems) and then creates the different lines for the poem. At first, I was going to focus on Tiny Crosswords by Matthew Gallant because I was drawn to that bot as well. Then when I clicked on Poem.Exe, I knew I wanted to do that one.
The poems that were created from the bot had an angelic sound to them. More recently I have been into the art and study of poetry. Seeing a bot created poems so beautifully made me think that I can be a better writer if I get in touch with my creative mind. I could focus on so many of the poems that were generated but I will only focus on two poems. The first one is,
“first butterfly
siesta
go ahead, make love!
how delightful!”.

This was a recent poem that was generated and the reason why I was drawn to this was that of the subject matter. Intimacy is a difficult subject to discuss and write about. The poem is vulnerable, energetic and elegant. Everyone knows the saying “butterflies in your stomach” when you have romantic feelings for someone else. However, I have never seen this feeling described with one butterfly. Also, making love is described as something delightful. Today, we don’t hear it as sacred and beautiful. This poem was amazing to read.
The second poem that I loved was,
“A year older
scent of old books
before dawn”.

What I loved about this poem was that it made me feel nostalgic. Growing up, I moved a lot from house to house and from school to school, I would usually try and visit the places that I used to live in. So the first line talks about someone being a year older. The second line is about the scent of old books. As a kid, my mother would take me to the library and the scent of the books is something that I can still remember even today as an adult. The last line of the poem talks about the time of day, which is before dawn. Between the hours of one and five in the morning is my favorite time of night. I used to stay up to do homework, listen to music, write, watch movies, and then right before dawn, I would begin to feel tired. Before going to bed, I would watch the sky begin to brighten. This poem connected with me and I’m glad I was able to come across it.
Poem.Exe made me realized that e-lit can truly inspire someone and have the ability to connect globally. This was a different experience that students are not usually given when learning about literature and poetry. The poems did not have a structure because they were generated from a computer but that it was made the process of reading them fun.

Tiny Crossword by Matthew Gallant and Poem.Exe by Liam Cooke

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.

“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 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

My first E-lit reading experience: Twelve Blue

It is my first time to read an E-lit text. It is brand-new for me, also confusing.  Twelve Blue is like a veiled story for me since there seems to have so many contents which need the readers to construct further by themselves. However, every time when I reentered the literature piece, I will go through a different storyline. It has eight bars. The lines in the left sometimes intersect sometimes don’t. Hence, it was also a quite interesting experience for me to explore how the story goes.

Jessica Pressman’s article, “Navigating Electronic Literature” mentions a unique element of E-lit, which is navigation.  In Twelve Blue, there are many hypertexts connected through links like “Follow me before the choice disappears” and “‘So young…’ she sighs. As if the seasons were whose fault?”. Following the hyperlinks, readers can gradually step into the plot, redirecting a new reading path. I agree with Pressman’s opinion that unlike printed literature, electronic literature owns a more lively performance of expression through navigational interaction with readers in front of the electronic devices. Every part of the E-lit reading process affects its influence on readers.

The title of this electronic literature piece is Twelve Blue, and the background color and the font color of this electronic literature is dark blue. “Blue” seems to be the theme and keynote of this story. It can stand for enormous meanings. I felt a sense of melancholy when I went through roles, life, ambiguity, misery, misfortune, and other nonsensical objects. One thing I found very strange was that some hypertext links were blended into the background color when I restart the story. Hope I can discover more with Twelve Bule and investigate the design intent of it soon.

blue

 

Jessica Pressman.

http://newhorizons.eliterature.org/essay.php@id=14.html. 

Twelve Blue: Michael Joyce.

http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/joyce__twelve_blue/Twelve_Blue.html.

Twelve Blue/ Blog 1

As a Chinese University student major in English, I had never acknowledged Electronic Literature before in both my study and my life. To be honest, I was kind of afraid to take the class at the first as I have never heard the word “ELIT” before. For me, the definition of Electronic Literature used to be very simple, just the literature that people read online, until I took the class and read the article entitled “Navigating Electronic Literature” by Jessica Pressman. I realized the great importance of “navigation” in ELIT, which “affects the ways in which we read and interact with digital textuality.” Since navigation combines readers’ actions to the works’ performances, it shows the significance and meaning of ELIT, which can be described as “interaction”. 

When I read “Twelve Blue” by Michael Joyce, which confused me was that sometimes I cannot help but ask myself “Am I reading a literature?” The reading experience of “Twelve Blue” is really different to traditional literature, when you just read through the words whether they are on the book pages or on the screen. It is more close to playing games for me. Personally, I have not read any books like “choose your own adventure books” as a Chinese, but I have play some choose your own adventure games when I was an elementary school student, in which you jump to different questions depends on your choices and answers to the previous questions. The reading process of “Twelve Blue” reminds me of those games I had played before. However, when reading the book, I started a new story with different characters and contents when I turned to different “questions”. Hence, it is really difficult for me to remember all the stories that I read previously. I ended up almost a mess in my memory, as I failed to figure out the names of different characters in different stories.

Nevertheless, the brand new reading experience does excite me to a large extend. I feel that ELIT makes it possible for readers to have diverse choices and experiences even though they read the same works. They are allowed to kind of play with the work, which makes “reading” itself much more attractive and interesting. Therefore, I am excited to learn more and read more ELITs in the following classes. 

Diving Back In

“‘…there is no story at all; there are only readings’ (124)”.

I don’t know why WordPress is throwing my links all over the page like this. I had to cut a bunch of links to make the post remotely legible. I’ve tried many different things to fix the problem and I think it’s just a system error for the time being. Believe me, I’m annoyed about it too >.>

Flux & Flow

So…. I’m back at it again.

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Doing the ELit thing, writing the feelings whatever those are down, being “insightful”… You know, the usual.

Anyway, let’s get down to business.

I don’t remember what I thought of Jessica Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature” the first time I read it eons and eons ago but this time around, I found it to be thought-provoking, informative, and intellectually engaging. The article articulates the challenges and nuances of interacting with ELit, especially in a classroom setting, rather well. In my experience, I’ve found just articulating what ELit can be and what it can do to be a challenge in and of itself. So, kudos Jessica~

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Pressman’s emphasis on navigation in ELit texts, too, I found particularly deft. Having a wonderful wealth of experience interacting with ELit–even creating my own work!–myself, I know how integral to a work its navigation can be–but, also, how much confusion a work’s navigation can create. More than that, I know how a work’s navigation can complicate reader/interactor understanding of literary purpose and overall merit.

If anything, this time around, I was most interested in the points Pressman was making about problems of conceptualizing, or, really, re-conceptualizing storytelling and authorship when it comes to ELit. Do affordances such as hyperlinking allow readers enough agency to make them co-authors of an ELit work, like Landow suggests? Or, are readers merely explorers of a work, trying to uncover all avenues of story rather than decide them? More, to what extent do readers decide meaning in works like this? Can an inherent meaning be embedded/programmed in these works anymore than meaning can be imbued in a written text? Or, is meaning ultimately decided by the reader?

Are there any stories at all in Elit? Or, is it all just readings?

I don’t have any answers and I love it.

The experimental, the uncertainty, the trans-formative, the de-contextualized, the room for possibility—is what I love about ELit. To me, it is the curiosity and the search for discovery and meaning-making that ELit spurs that makes ELit literary/a literary experience. The literariness exists in what we are given/in what we receive from a work, the questions it generates and the challenges it creates and asks us to tackle.

While I think the binary–stories/readings–is apt in some ways for describing differences between ELit and traditional literature, forgetting that there are readers behind both– story and reading–neglects a vital aspect of understanding new forms of digital literature and media. The underlying depth to ELit, I believe, is something that has to be realized in the reader.

Underlying Depth

And sometimes the nights last for months

And sometimes the nights last for months… Maria Guia Pimpao (I have the Google Arts & Culture extension on my browser which allows a new work of art to be the background whenever I open a new tab. When I opened a new tab to open Twelve Blue, this was the image that popped up and I thought it was rather appropriate, considering the work I was about to read, and so I wanted to share it with you~ #theinternetworksinmysteriousways

“So a random set of meanings has softly gathered around the word the way lint collects. The mind does that.” from On Being Blue William Gass

In my opinion, Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue is one of those powerful works of ELit. Like, it’s a seminal work for a reason not just that it was the first work of Elit. I think I forgot that until I “reread” it this weekend.

The work is a piece of “simple”, hyperlink fiction, progression through the work and its lexia triggered by the reader clicking on one link or “thread” to open a new window with new lexia and so on. Readers aren’t really given a set story or direction–there are no guiding signs or whatnot (other than a “Begin” button when one first opens the work).

Here are the first few “pages” I read:

Click to view slideshow.

Instead of clicking “all over” the threads, which I know from prior experience with the work would take me on all kinds of adventures, I decided to click on the links provided from one page to the next–just to see where the story goes, trying for a “pure reading”, so to speak. This went well…till I came across just a screen with a painting on it??? I had to click on the painting and, the next screen I got, didn’t have a link to click on??? So, I had to dive into the sea of threads anyway #whatever~~~~

But, it was interesting to just see where the work would take me (not purely on its own–as I was clicking on the agents spurring the story forward). I read a few excerpts about Lisle and her daughter and then about Javier(?) and his daughter. Nothing that really connected in any linear way. It’s clear from the text, though, that this “story” is taking place across multiple time periods and generations. I read about an accidental drowning that took place years ago and then I read a selection about the friend of the girlfriend, who’s boyfriend drowned, and how this friend remembered the somber atmosphere at school in the days following the mysterious accident. No clear time line is established and yet, the sense of time passing and moving, the sense of people holding on and letting go of time, is so vivid and so visceral. (“What choice do we have but love, what season after?”)

The design and navigation of this work is a topic of discussion that could–and will–continue for a while but the actual text of this work is so rich and fascinating in its own right. Small example but, I mean, how many creative and inventive uses of the word blue did you note while reading this work??? (“She had never been lonelier, never more blue.”) And did you notice each page is titled differently–mostly related to blue words, though–in the tab?? (i.e cornflower)

A strong swimmer out of grief

“She became a strong swimmer out of grief.” This page, in particular, touched me. The longing and sorrow are somehow enhanced that much more my this work’s infinite loop, like there’s always this girl on the edge of the ocean, longing for the mother she never knew.

There’s something distinctly literary about this work’s text, if not its nonlinear navigation. To me, though, if anything, the infinite looping in on itself of this work only serves to enhance the story it is “weaving”/telling. Each page is like a still life, perhaps disconnected from some greater whole, but capable of telling a compelling story in and of itself. For some, that disconnectedness may translate as “brokenness”, the lack of coherence or persistence of narrative over time, as a fault, but, again, I find the questions that exist in those perceived narrative “gaps” in works of ELit like Twelve Blue to be what keeps me coming back. Though, of course, I want answers, I also enjoy not knowing. It creates this mental space for me to explore possibilities–something not always offered IRL, where “pinning things down” is so highly valued these days.

Additionally, I think Twelve Blue gives readers a slight taste of the reciprocity ELit is renown for. (At least, it’s one of my fave parts of ELit.) This reciprocity is realized in the simple act of the readers clicking a link on the screen and being rewarded with a new screen, with new information. The work functions on reader input–slight reader input but still an action the reader must take in order for the work to “move on”. That’s a smidge more agency than most traditional forms of literature have been able to allow for a long time.

Riding the Waves

All in all, if you couldn’t tell, I’m looking forward to diving back into ELit and discovering new ways to tell compelling stories through new digital media. I think Twelve Blue is an excellent place to wade in with. It’s new in many ways but also recognizable in others. And, of course, the work is so beautifully, heart-breakingly, heart-achingly written.

I hope the rest of our class is at least half-excited as I am looking forward to diving in deep on ELit!

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Links

Hypothes.is

*Feel free to check out some of my notes on this week’s article and respond to them if anything I’ve said resonates or triggers another idea~ Though I’ve been resistant in the past to using hypothes.is, lately, I’ve found it to be a good tool for taking notes maybe I just don’t like being told I have to use it and now that I don’t have to use it, I’ve got to rebel in the other direction????

Tweet tweet…

*Feel free to follow me on Twitter as well~ In between sharing sappy poetry and prose, I sometimes say some witty things??? #debatable??? #claimthecave

~Till next time ^.^~

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Twelve Blue

To be very honest, Twelve Blue and certain forms of elit initially strike me as… uncomfortable. In Twelve Blue, there are a great number of characters and plots that are all happening simultaneously. The story starts with a girl who falls for a carny, then jumps to “September’s Embers never ending” from the perspective of a girl who is on her way to school. Next is Samantha, who wants to plan a tea party and invite a girl who’s boyfriend drown in a creek. This type of storytelling is so confusing for me. I have difficulty keeping up with all of the story lines and characters, and sadly I lose my focus.

The interesting part of all of this is that when I was younger, some of my favorite books were the Goosebumps: Choose Your Own Adventure books. One page told you to skip to another page, and then go back to another page. However, when I was reading the Goosebumps books I would frequently peek at what was about to happen in both storylines, and choose which one I liked better. Also, most of the time I would go back and read all of the storylines.

The difference with Twelve Blue is that the electronic format gives so much more room for alternate characters and endings. At this point, to me, it becomes overwhelming. however, I am intrigued by this type of storytelling, and I want to learn more about it. I will definitely be reading more of these stories in the future.

Navigating Electronic Literature (Blog 1)

In her short article “Navigating Electronic Literature” English professor and scholar Jessica Pressman introduce readers to a different style of writing literature, that is electronic. In her article, she goes in-depth to explain the historical creation and aesthetic of this digital type of work. Electronic writing she describes is “unlike print literature”, in that print literature is simply pen to paper writing, a traditional form of literary studies that many people know and are accustomed to doing. In contrast, however, this digital form of literature forces readers to engage in the literary work at hand by navigating through links in the story. In the article, she states, “whether it is a mouse-click or a typewritten word, this action affects the work’s performance and the reader’s engagement with it. In other words, navigation enables the digital work’s performance and its signification.” Readers are immersed in this type of reading because they are actively clicking a link that brings them to a different page to follow the story. Additionally, there are other several key points that Pressman make about this type of genre. She also talks about hypertext and its quintessential purpose in digital works.  She agrees and concludes with critic George P. Landow who states that “hypertext [offers]  readers more agency, and even partial authorship, over the text they read than print texts.” This action allows readers to become aware of their significant role in a story.

Pressman’s article was an edifying resource that provided me with the knowledge and skills needed to read an electronic literature. While reading Twelve Blue by Michael Joyce I was able to interact with the story by clicking the links and hypertext included in the story. It was an interactive form of reading that I’ve actually never experienced before this course. I look forward to reading and learning more about this type of literature. 

Before enrolling in this course I expected that electronic writing would be about reading novels and stories in electronic form using a Kindle or audible app, the usual ways that I normally read literature in electronic form. I was surprised to learn that this is a form of storytelling that exists and I knew nothing of it beforehand. Although I still don’t know much about electronic writing I am excited to learn something new and hopefully enjoy this different form of the genre. 

 

Check out the links below: 

** http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/joyce__twelve_blue/Twelve_Blue.html

** http://newhorizons.eliterature.org/essay.php@id=14.html