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.