Breaking Down Bots

Hi fellow lit scholars! In today’s post, I will be targeting Kevin’s assigned text  “Bots”. This electronic literature is from Volume 3 in the Electronic Literature Collection and is primarily made up of a mini collection of pieces centered around setting of Twitter. With that, I decided to break down my blog in the format of a series of questions presented in Dr. Zamora’s last class blog post. Below you can see the break down of how I answered the questions:

What are some of the significant textual elements?  

Some significant textual elements from BOTS is the use of the social media handle twitter. Even though each mini collections has its own theme that makes it unique, 

How did you choose to navigate these texts?  

I choose to navigate through each piece in the mini collection by opening up the live twitter action made by each BOT. I did not go in any particular order, I just clicked and looked most interesting to venture into.

What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  

Since there are 12 different parts of the mini collection, I am going to do a quick breakdown of the ones that were most intriguing to me!

@TinyCrossword: The visuals that left an impression on me was the crossword images. The main aspect of the crossword puzzles tweeted is that the answers are simple and easy to find. This is a great interactive tactic to connect people (I actually started following the account!)

@everyword: This one is particularly my favorite due to it be something like the “twitter encyclopedia”. The project is done between 2007 – 2014 and has a book that you can buy a alongside the tweets! http://www.instarbooks.com/books/everyword.html. The imagery within the site the host book is very playful and bright (two things I really like).

What overall effect do these texts create?  

Twitter in itself is such an engaging communication application, so seeing it being used in this manner is pretty easy to navigate. The tweets within each mini collection has their own theme of the text (bots being the main controller of the tweets).

What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? 

The themes I see in the emerging language is the use of bots in twitter feeds. As I said before, the navigation was pretty simple, due to twitter being one of the main mediums being used within my MA program.

What is literary about the text?

I am not sure exactly how to answer this (seems like this my theme for every #elit blog post), but isn’t that what electronic lit is all about? The literary aspect I see in this Elit is the language being used to distinigsh each account from one another. Again, I am not to confident in my answer.

Trope Review

The term E-literature or Electronic literature refers to literary works presented by electronic means. The electronic literature has its own features that distinguish it from the traditional form of hard form or non-electronic literature. The addition of sounds and visual representation add up to the literary qualities of an e-literature. The term literature itself proves that the work being presented is a literary work. There are various forms of literature that are presented electronically. The literary work under navigation is Trope by Sara Waterson, Elena Knox and Cristyn Davis.  The different features of this electronic literary work include the visual, sounds, text and impression of the literature.

            The sounds used in Trope are electronic jazz sound which makes it a piece of modern literature. The electronic literature has a key feature of producing a sound impression on the viewer or reader. The reader is impressed and influenced by the sound used in presentation of the electronic literature (“Trope”). Humans can relate to different situations with different kinds of sounds, hence the sounds used to create a hard image of the text.

            The visual features of the Trope description used dark and bold colors like red and black that further add up to the dark or hard image of the literary work presented electronically.  Humans also can relate different colors with different contextual situations hence the usage of certain colors to create certain meanings when used in electronic literature. A simple text also has the ability to communicate with readers, but the piece is further enhanced by incorporating various colors that make the message or crux of the literary work more communicable. Hence the colors used in the Trope introduction, creates a dark or serious image of the literary work.

            The other main feature is the arrangement or formatting of the text online. There are various formats available online to present a literary work electronically. The authors have used different sections of the page to illustrate different parts of the literary work. The electronic literature is also able to provide different colors for different sections to enhance or lower the impression of the text being presented.

            The use of symbolic language makes the electronic literature more engaging for the audience. The symbolic words and metaphors like “floating geometric maze” and “a firework display” make the text a literary piece presented electronically.

            The electronic text also has the ability to create a virtual world that assists the readers of the text to not only imagine the world created through mere text, but also to view the virtual world by visual representations of the texts. Hence the readers are assisted by various sounds and visuals that add up to the impression of the literary texts.

            The piece also proves the fact that form is also important in literature, like the content. The form enhances the experience of the readers or audience regarding the content of the literary works. 

TROPE AND BOTS

Woah. Electronic Lit keeps getting more mysterious; every time I begin a new piece, it’s like I’m uncovering a realm I never knew existed.

I was surprised by the piece. As I entered the room, I noticed the pitch-black background; it made me think of Shariff Ezzat’s Electronic Lit piece, “Like Stars in the Clear Night Sky,” however that piece was more magical with stars hovering over the black screen. Toupe; was different; I almost got an eerie feeling, like whatever the author was going to reveal next was going to be dark and severe. There, dead center, I saw an audio piece; it was eight minutes and forty-eight seconds. So rationally, I skimmed it, just to see what was next. And nothing…

Nothing was next. That was it, and I was worried I was doing something wrong. So I went back to the homepage and tried it again and once again, to my surprise, nothing! So this time, I stayed and listened to the audio. I begin to enjoy the experience of just listening. I started counting the poems to keep track; I heard two poems and then just a one-liner, “I’m not going to the dentist until the apocalypse comes.” What in the world did that mean? And then I heard, “When my gums began to bleed, and my teeth fall out,” not once, but twice. Once with a clear voice and the second time, it was muffled and whispered. At this point, I started to feel anticipation; I was awaiting an apocalypse. Then I finally heard what it would probably sound like if the world were ending, it felt like a movie scene when a character is dying, and then the director cues the sad, almost cryptic music to make the viewer feel some type of way. That’s precisely the sense I got; I could be wrong. And then, in the end, I got a hint that maybe someone survived? So freaking dystopian, I freaking enjoyed it, is that bad, even though it was a bit creepy.

Now on to BOTS! This was a cool concept, bots autogeneration content on to twitter on a set schedule. How futuristic! Both pieces seem very futuristic. I begin with “Tiny Star Feilds” because it resembled the black background in “Like Stars in the Clear Night Sky,” once again. It took me straight to the twitter feed, which consisted of clusters of stars. I was fascinated to see how many followers the page had, 125.1k, holy crap! Looking at the tweets was like looking at a smaller picture of what I would see out in the night-sky down by the mountains.

The second piece I stumbled upon was tiny crosswords; I found this was exciting. A bot generates a tiny three world puzzle every day around noon. This twitter account only had 165 followers, like what? I might just tweet them and promote them because this is a unique, intriguing concept and saves me money on sudoku books. But I am not even going to put up a front; the puzzels were super hard!

To come back to the concept of bots, I am, to say the least, fascinated. I follow Rupi Kaur and Rumi on Twitter, and now I am sure they also use bots to post autogenerated pieces, only 140 characters of their poems. How cool is that? I thought the authors were on the writing pieces of their poems every day, how silly was I!

Questions of Permanence and Significance in Bots and Trope

It turns out I was an unwitting connoisseur of electronic literature long before I began taking this class. I’ve seen plenty of bots on social media sites like Reddit and Twitter; I just didn’t realize they had any literary value. My personal favorite is Magic Realism Bot, which generates intriguing microfiction in tweet form—for example: “A polyamorous butler falls in love with the end of the world,” and, “A heart falls from the sky. An archaeologist says: ‘This is how it ends.’” 

I was a little disappointed when I didn’t see this bot (which I’ve been following for a while on my personal Twitter account) appear on the list in the ELC, and its absence made me wonder: What makes a text literature? At first glance, none of the bots I reviewed struck me as literary. In fact, I used the word “nonsensical” in my notes to describe at least five of them. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed reading them. My notes are also peppered with words like “cute” (directed at ✫ tiny star fields ✫) and “hilarious” (how 2 sext has some gems), but I struggled to find meaning in a lot of the texts. 

 Maybe that’s the point. These bots take reader-response theory to an entirely new level—the authors’ textual involvement ends after they finish coding, so the “writers” of the public facing portions are unfeeling algorithms. The onus is on the reader to make connections between seemingly random non sequiturs and create a deeper meaning. 

I found myself searching for this meaning unconsciously. For example, I scrolled through Pentametron until I found rhyming couplets, and then I read them all in a row like they were one continuous poem. I sought traces of satire in Two Headlines, and I made note of poignant verses from poem.exe. These bots expose our need to make connections, and they reveal the human condition: an endless search for meaning in our random, unfeeling universe. (Or maybe I’m overthinking it; sometimes a sexting Twitter bot is just a sexting Twitter bot.)

Not only did I question the significance of literature while exploring these bots, but I also questioned its permanence. Literature is timeless; I can read words from centuries ago that still feel relevant and meaningful. Electronic literature, however, can have an expiration date. Some of the Twitter bots have had their accounts suspended or deleted. Even the ones still up and running can’t last forever; what happens when Twitter follows in Myspace’s footsteps? 

These questions plagued me while I read Trope, as well. When I tried to access the text through Second Life, I received an error message saying that “conVerge Island” no longer exists. Based on the authors’ description, interacting with the work seems to be a key part of discovering its meaning. I can’t imagine that simply watching the video does the piece justice. 

The video itself raises even more questions. The first time I attempted to watch on my desktop, I was treated to eerie sounds and voices emanating from a pitch black screen. After reading some other blogs, I realized there should’ve been images to go along with the audio, so I switched to my iPad to watch. Now, the creepy whispers brushed through trees in a white forest, the clips of songs and static blared from a radio at a dance party, and the rapid explosions lit the night sky with a colorful fireworks display. Seeing the images in conjunction with the audio completely changed my reaction from utter confusion to—well, still confusion.

I couldn’t quite make sense of the story, but I had new questions to ask about the relation of the audio to the video and the meaning of some of the visuals. The difficulty of viewing Trope made me wonder about the accessibility of electronic literature. With traditional literature, I can run to the library, crack open a book, and read words that were written before I even existed. Electronic literature is tougher—you need the right software (such as QuickTime to view Trope) and the right device (like the Oculus headset to get the most out of Queerskins), and even then, you may miss out because the piece has been taken offline.

Does electronic literature exclude those who can’t read it at the right time or with the right technology? How can this type of writing be preserved and shared with everyone? Reading Trope and exploring the Twitter bots made me question the meaning and permanence of traditional literature in comparison to the reader-created significance and fleeting nature of electronic literature. Who knew Twitter bots could be so thought provoking?

4th Post: The Unexpected Literature within Twitter

For this, I found myself examining the work of Bots. I have to say that it was a completely differently experience from the rest of the other pieces I examined and read in the past for this class. In the very least, I found the project to be enlightening and very artistically interesting.

The first thing that caught my interest was of how powerful the engine of twitter is today, and how it even works around this genre of literature known as electronic literature. I never thought or even imagined that Twitter was being used in such ways, and this caught me by surprise. But then again, I guess I could’ve seen it coming, since today this engine or platform serves as another way of communication with its distinctive features. And this being the case, you do have some short of literature that emerges from it, intentionally or unintentionally. This is specially the case with the various professional organization that are joined with Twitter, and share literary writing with this it as a way to reach their audience.

Another thing I found interesting from this project was of how the idea of Twitter being linked with various types of resources (bots), artistically engage the readers with language in different ways. Because Twitter serves almost as an engine of communication with very little limitations of how groups can communicate in it, you have a large selection of resources at your disposal. This of course means more variety of language and literature itself. A good example is found in this project, with how there are eleven bots that serve as resources: @Everyword (twittered every word in the English language. Task began in 2007 and completed in 2014.), @Poem.exe (a micropoetry bot, assembling haiku-like poems throughout the day and publishing them on Twitter ), @Pentametron (shared projects with crowdsourced poetry), @RealHumanPraise (draws snippets of positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes), and the rest of distinctive bots.

I’m glad I the chance to learn about this E-lit project, as I was able to further open my mind and understanding of how this genre of literature works, and the many possibilities and spaces in which it can exist. Now, I am left, thinking that just as it worked with Twitter, there’s a high possibility it is also working the same way in other electronic and digital spaces on the web, such as platforms, websites, and engines.

“Tropes” and “BOTS”

The opening of “Trope” gives me a futuristic, dystopian, technological feeling containing a lot of electronic sound effects and scattered poems or comments. I had a constant fear that something was going to pop out from the black screen. The whispering and static noise gives me a sense of unease. The best word I can use to describe this experience is sporadic and haunting. By the time you’ve made sense of one comment, noise or song and come to terms with it, the audio has changed to fireworks, a song, a whisper of a poem, ominous music or a clip from the radio.

This piece emphasizes the point many people in class have been stating; that we shouldn’t try to make sense of a piece of elit but rather allow the experience to occur and exist without applying real world rationalization.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I navigated BOTS correctly so I am going to reserve my thoughts on the program.

Bots Never Fear, Trope is Here.

E Lit Blog: Bots and Trope

I love everything that is weird and funny and takes people out of their comfort zone.  I hate heights, yet I love roller coasters.  I was never more afraid and exhilarated when I went snorkeling over a World War 2 wreck along the coast of Aruba.  My fear of heights was on the reverse.  I was above this thing that’s so deep and why wasn’t I falling.  However, the schools of brightly colored fish of all shapes and sizes swimming by undeterred by the fat guy splashing around in a near-panic at the surface allowed me moments of joy amidst my fears of drowning.  That’s pretty much the way I feel about Twitter and a host of other online content.  “Bots,” Kevin’s selection offers me the weird comedic vibe that I crave.  “Trope” offers me the scary.  “Trope” has plenty of weird to go around as well.  However, the dark screen has me looking into unknown depths. Aruba part deux. 

“Bot’s,” by Rob Dubbin pulls much of its content from the Twitter-verse.  I’m already flailing in the ocean at the mere mention of Twitter.  I can’t even blame my generation for my lack of knowledge in using Twitter. “Bots” was a great way to explore that world without drowning in it.

The home page of the site allows readers to pop in and out of the various bots presented.  Bots are, to be brief, bits of software that collect and create words and phrases from Twitter and other online sources.  Sometimes the words and phrases generated make sense.  Sometimes what is created makes no sense at all.  That is the draw for me. 

I particularly enjoyed the bot, PENTAMETRON.  I love Shakespeare.  I’m not obsessed by the man, but I do enjoy reading his works.  Collateral damage of being an English teacher for nearly 20 years.  This particular bot was created by a sound artist.  Having known a few Audio Recording specialists in my life through vocational teaching, one can already assume, the young man is, “Looking for a Beat.”   Upon diving into the bot, the viewer finds this to be true.   PENTAMETRON searches the Twitter-verse and collects any and all tweets that happen to be written in Iambic Pentameter.  “Romeo and Juliet” was written in Iambic Pentameter, as was most of Willy Shakes most memorable pieces.  I must say I enjoyed swimming around in this one…when it worked. I also think this bot would be a wonder to use in a ninth grade English class to help in teaching Shakespeare’s plays and other works.

REAL HUMAN PRAISE was my next favorite selection from “Bots”. Rob Dubbin, according to his bio, is a writer and content generator for the likes of Rotten Tomatoes and The Colbert Report.   This one stood out because of how it dealt with he idea of swapping names and situations between journalists and actual events. The idea of Fake News was presented on the home page.  I found the approach comical and filled with satire.  However, if some of the random one liners found its way to an uneducated public then perhaps some misbegotten deeds could be misbegotten.  Sharks come in many shapes and sizes.  Some swim and some write for news programs.  Sharks scare me, because you never know where one is going to come from.  Learned that in Aruba.  Trope had me feeling the same way.

“Trope” starts off with some really cool sounds.  I like to watch people tap dance.  The sounds at the beginning reminded me of that.  Or like water bubbles popping.  Then, like a shark, the first narrator comes out of the pitch-black screen and says some pretty shocking things that deal with sexuality and masculinity.

The walking sounds between segments help keeps things flowing along.  While I could not figure out how to get the visuals working, the eight minutes or so of audio that played reminded me a great deal of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  Both the album and the video from the 1980s tell a story about someone dealing with a particularly difficult time in their life.  The main, most noticeable narrator in “Trope” mentions not going to the dentist until after the apocalypse.  The main character in Pink Floyd’s The Wall choses to forego any type of medical care after tough love has failed him.

The main narrator in “Trope” then goes on to say that when her teeth fall out she intends to send them to someone – minus the invoice of course.  There is a scene in The Wall where the main character for some reason, shaves off his nipples.  I got the same kind of creepy vibe.

The varying of music also reminded me of The Wall.  During the playing of that album (just dated myself), Pink Floyd uses a variety of music genres to enhance the dark or light tones that are presented as the tale flows along. Heavier rock style songs showed anger and frustration.  Soothing songs reflected times when the main character was relaxed … or sedated.  “Trope,” by Sarah Waterson, Elena Knox, and Cristyn Davies employ that same technique.  I loved the rendition of Muskrat Love.  I loved all of the 80s music that just came swimming in.  The whispering was used to drop thoughts and ideas much the way the voice tracks in The Wall helped listeners feeling what the main character was going through in his mind. 

For someone who is afraid of heights, yet not afraid to put himself in those types of positions, I’m glad that some of my initial experiences with Electronic Literature began here. As I failed to mention earlier, in Aruba, I learned that as long as I had the right people with me and the right equipment on, there was no way I was going to drown.  “Bots” and “Trope” helped me to swim a little better into waters I have no idea about.  The mix and twist of fear and humor are just what this land lover needed to get me swimming with a bit more confidence.