Bots is Totally Gnarly Dude…

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I must admit this weeks electronic literature picks were harder for me to analyze and interpret. I decided to focus my attention and energies on BOTS. I remember learning and hearing a bit about this concept last spring in Net Mirror. I was like: Yay bonus! I actually know a concept, phew! So lets stick to what we know Nives, or at least what we think we know, shall we? I found the home page interface to be easy to navigate. It was just a lot of information all at once. I found my eyes darting from one small square of images to the next. But the description of the piece was helpful on the opening page. I read the editorial comments, line for line and word for word. I must admit however, that I had to do a little more research on this BOT revolution because I still felt unsure of what it was I was looking at. Here is a brief description of what I learned. The first chatterbox, ELIZA was developed by Joseph Weizenbaum from 1964 to 1966 at MIT. Fascinating! Never thought anyone would develop this type of technology or electronic lit back in that era. The second bot PARRY was made at Stanford in 1972. These early bots were not easy to interact with. You had to make appointments and take a trip to MIT in order to have a in person bot experience. During the second generation, many of the first generation bots were implemented on the Web, providing widespread access to them. Bots have become much more sophisticated over the last few decades. They serve as characters in interactive fiction and video games. The third generation of bots have become much more artistic and literary due to the influx of the world wide web and social media platforms. This brings us to the current electronic literature piece we see in BOTS.

The picture above is from Facade. I became enthralled with this interactive elit piece when we were introduced to it in the first reading assignment we had about navigating through electronic literature. Plus as I’ve admitted to in the past, I’m a total video game geek, so for me this type of interactive lit is my favorite to explore. When I first began to navigate my way through BOTS I could see how far the bot innovations have come. These characters are now more advanced and have gone far past the chatbox subgenre. Now they are presented as humans that publish their own works on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks. While exploring and clicking my little heart away from one square box to the next, I realized what was happening to me. I was interacting with bots on Twitter, who knew!? Totally rad! These bots are now leveraging social media networks as contexts and spaces to develop their own audiences! You can follow these bots and they also pick up on key words and phrases you may tweet out. They can even create haikus from you tweets, which is highlighted in of one of my favorites: poem.exe. Some other personal favorites of mine were: how 2 sext, tiny star fields, and everyword. I found each of them to be thought provoking and innovative! It was also interesting to see some of my own followers following these bots back on Twitter! I’ll sum up my experience with this particular piece of electronic literature by saying it was interesting, easier to navigate and I found myself wanting to explore more. I also begin to question what bots has to do with literature exactly? I guess there is coding involved and a sure method to the madness. I’m also glad that I decided to take the time to do some research on this piece before hand. It gave me a map or a compass to follow. Which is extremely helpful when your a novice in this trippy world of e lit. I also appreciate the fact that the inter face and experience was user friendly, yet a kind of felt like a bystander this time, not like I was fully immersed as a part of the experience. Lastly, I’ll say it blows my mind to think how far technology has come today, and this creation of bots in particular is kind of scary, but like the good kind of scary. I’m looking forward to seeing Kevin’s interpretation of this on Wednesday! Ciao, ciao!

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Meaning and Structure in BOTS

When I initially started looking through the different bots, I didn’t feel like there was anything especially literary or special about them. A bot that is basically a teenage boy spurting out nonsensical euphemisms for sex acts? Anthropomorphizing a lost buoy out at sea by giving it the voice of Captain Ahab from Moby Dick? Creating weird formations that are interpreted as constellations? What is this and why is it literature? As I contemplated this, the two things I focused in on the most were the meanings found in the text and the creation of the structure of the pieces.

Though I knew coding was involved with the bots creative process, Iwas still under the misconception that there was little structure in the way they were creating ‘literature.’ “So the bot gets lucky and creates things with some syntactic structure and vague semantic significance,” I thought. “A monkey throwing slips of paper with poetic lines in the air could do the same thing.” But when I looked deeper, I saw that the process was quite a bit more advanced than that of said hypothetical monkey.

The key to getting a better understanding of this was when I discovered the word ‘Oulipo’ in connection to a few of the bots. Poetryfoundation.org defines it this way:

“An acronym for Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (Workshop for Potential Literature), a group of writers and mathematicians formed in France in 1960 by poet Raymond Queneau and mathematician François Le Lionnais. Unlike the Dada and surrealist movements, OuLiPo rejects spontaneous chance and the subconscious as sources of literary creativity. Instead, the group emphasizes systematic, self-restricting means of making texts.” (n.d.)

In light of this definition, I could see that the literary process of the bots is a result of a systematic formula, i.e. code. So, though random in combinations, the products are still contained within an organized structure; @_LostBuoy_ can only combine it’s weather data and lines from Moby Dick to create; @poem_exe can only draw from A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems and create something that has some kind of reference to the seasons. To me this makes the process seem slightly more literary because there is a method to the madness. The bots are programed to create work that is somewhat syntactic in nature so that we can identify their products as ‘poem’ or even just ‘sentence’. But, as I am learning in Linguistics, syntax doesn’t always mean semantics. We can have a perfectly syntactic sentence that means absolutely nothing. We can ALSO find semantic significance in a sentence that is ungrammatical, which bodes well for some of the nonsense these bots create (I’m looking at you ROM TXT). But, for something to be considered literature, it needs to have some level of semantics to go with syntax – the bots have structure, but do they create meaning?

Thinking about meaning was the most intriguing part of going through BOTS for me. I felt like the nature of the bots’ literary productions creates so many questions around meaning – what happens when you take something that was intended to mean one thing, and put it in a context that completely changes that meaning? Can the result of randomness really be called meaningful? Who is the meaning maker – the bot or the reader? In the midst of this questioning, I discovered a term in poem.exe creator Liam Cooke’s description that was fascinating to me both on a psychological level and on a literary level: ‘apophenia.’

After a quick read through in Wikipedia (2020, September 20), I learned that apophenia is basically when we connect things that are unrelated and drawing errant meanings from said connections. The distinguishing feature of apophenia is that the meaning and connections are not actually related in the way we believe they are; in other words, we are literally being delusional. And on every practical level, there IS a delusional feeling to the bots’ strange mash ups and the meaning we seem to draw from their random connections. Take the how 2 sext bot.

What do sexting and the wiki articles have to do with each other? Outside of there probably being a wiki article on how to sext, nothing. Sexting has its own contextual meaning and wiki articles have theirs; not only that, the two have totally different audiences and purposes in mind! So, what does that say about the nature of meaning when we take the wiki articles and place them into the context of sexting, transforming their original intention and meaning?

I don’t have an answer to that yet, but I am excited to be left with such big questions – especially from something as silly and strange as a Twitter bot.

I started my exploration of BOTS with very low expectations. In fact, I had a difficult time understanding how it was e-lit in some ways because it didn’t feel literary or as if I was really navigating in anyway, I was more of a passive observer. But as I came to understand the generative nature of bots, and saw the underlying questions they stir up about meaning and creation, I found this to be yet another enriching e-lit experience. I am coming away from this piece with a more technical understanding of e-lit and it makes me excited to continue to see other pieces and how they might shed light on the questions this one created for me.

References

Apophenia. (2020, September 20). in Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophenia

Electronic Literature Collection Vol. 3. (2016, February). BOTS. https://collection.eliterature.org/3/collection-bots.html

Poetry Foundation. (n.d.). Glossary of Poetic Terms: Oulipo. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/oulipo

Analysis – Bots and Trope

The concept of Bots intrigued me on some level as I had some experience writing a computer-generated bot of sorts for one of my art class finals. A lot of work goes into writing a series of code that must operate independently or with the input of someone, generating a series of responses and effects that lend to it a sense of autonomy or a basic understanding of it.

“Real Human Praise” was the first I clicked on. It introduced viewers the idea of generating a random assortment of positive tweets and constructing them at a fast rate, making sense half of the time and others don’t. Clicking on it brings one to a suspended Twitter account (that I want to talk about later), so one must watch the accompanying video to understand how it works. A snippet of a clip shows the Twitter feed and all of its content, all tagged with #PraiseFOX.

The important thing to remember is that everything is done through Twitter, an online platform everyone has access to. It is a place of where almost every type of person occupies, sharing or arguing with others on their ideals, hobbies, news and the like. I mention arguing because Twitter is notorious for people creating something called “bot accounts” to generate false information or praise to support a claim of sorts. This made me think about the purpose of “Real Human Praise”, as it feels like a satire of this very concept. The fact that it can generate random buzzwords that read like a normal sentence, almost mirroring other bot accounts strengthen this perception I have. It is entirely experienced by visuals alone, meaning the reading of these absurd tweets is the important component. It seems almost spam-like, which might be the intention when reading the author’s statement and how it wants to flood search inquiries with this random assortment of text. It could be seen as noisy and mindless, but it speaks volumes on how a lot of people operate online because it is no different from other tweets I’ve seen.

The actual literature of the text isn’t the most important think to consider, it’s the manner of how it operates and what it says about online society. The tweets add nothing to an overall conversation, they are just random statements that anyone can stumble upon. The fact that the account is suspended says a lot on the affect it had on people, the tweets got to a point where enough people were annoyed enough that the account was reported for “violating the rules”. Is that not most of the online experience however? How is this different from buzz-word articles and twitter spams that are still prominent now?

“ROM_TXT” was next. This one I had the most interest in checking out because I was highly familiar with the concepts of ROM files, I tinkered with those files with friends all throughout high school and still do to this day. The naming convention is surprisingly similar to editing/naming documents on MAME, a software engine most commonly associated with arcade cabinets. Like the bot I observed before, it relies on the basis of randomly generated texts but the ones I found here are more chaotic in nature. It’s a series of random texts and characters placed together, all ending with the file type of a game system for classification (which is how ROM files are labeled on a computer). I’m honestly not entirely sure on what to make of the overall piece, but it makes me want to take out my Raspberry Pi3 and create my own parsed texts.

Is this meant to have a similar affect like “Real Human Praise”? It seems like most of the intention was to create twitter noise and clutter Twitter feeds who look up the posts (everything has a hashtag of a popular console name, so it would be no surprise if anyone stumbled upon these). Unlike the first bot, this Twitter account is still around so it has longevity going for it. A lot of it reminds me of these pages taken from a Raspberry Pi3 menu running RetroPie:

I had more I wanted to say about Bots, but I wanted to move onto my experience with Trope. This one I was also interested in because in some ways it reminds me of the article I am to read and dissect later in class.

Briefly reading the abstract, Second Life caught my eye. I’ve never interacted with the software, but I was made aware of it years ago when I stumbled upon a documentary about people using it, and thus I’ve always had a passing interest in learning more about it. Knowing that it played a hand in the creation of this piece made me anxious but interested in understanding it.

Tone is entirely reliant on auditory senses, almost like Noise Music. Assortments of phrases and words uttered by computer generated voices and whispers flooded my headphones like a tidal wave. Parts of it even seem atmospheric, like there are moments where I can close my eyes and feel more ‘involved’ with the piece. I listened to it twice – once in a lit room with my eyes on my computer, and a second one with all the lights off and my eyes closed. I think the experience is more enriching with the latter method because it forces you to only interact with Tone. Thinking back to Second Life and how people use it as an online space to occupy, I can almost say I had a similar experience. Was this the intention, to suck someone away into a virtual space that doesn’t feel ‘right’? “I’m not going to the dentist until the apocalypse arrives” had to be my favorite line, it is so absurd yet it makes me think about the context of the sentence. It’s moments like that and the random shifting of mood that made me appreciate my time with this piece. Like Bots, I’m not sure the words being said are important, but rather the delivery of them and how you are reading these without necessarily ‘reading’ anything.

My Thesis Progress Continued…

Kudos to Marykate for such an insightful and informative presentation! I know she is a soon to be first time mother, full time teacher and graduate student, just turned thirty and she always looks so put together and flawless to boot! How does she do it all?! If that was me, I would be in my wrinkled pajamas all day, with my hair sticking out in all directions, like I had stuck my finger in a socket, total hot mess express. Seriously, so Marykate, you are my #goals! On a serious note, learning that Marykate is also a fellow OCD sufferer like myself, made her story and YA novel even more potent for me. I think we are both great examples of the fact that serious mental illness doesn’t have a “face” or a certain “look” to it. I’m also humbled and proud to say that we are both examples of how a person can overcome, thrive and continue to live a happy life while living with a mental health disorder. It’s not easy, and the road is long, and harrowing to say the least. I’m sure we both still have good days and bad days. But through both of our heartfelt MA thesis contributions, we are showing that their is in fact hope, encouraging all sufferers to try and cling to faith, and believe that the good days will soon outweigh all the bad days. I’m praying that our contributions, even if in the smallest of ways, can help to normalize and destigmatize mental illness. Also I’m touched that Mary Kate’s audience is for young adults. When I was growing up there was never such literature found about my struggles, or mental health disorders. Even in school anxiety was just a passing word, on a page in a health book chapter, there was no turning back to learn or ask for more information. Again, I pray that both of our thesis projects can help bring a little more hope, to those who feel hopeless. Thanks again Mary Kate for sharing your story with us all. Excited to read the final product! Xo

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“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”– F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I LOVE this time of year, my favorite season is upon us. There is something poetic, and magical about the crisp fall air, the falling leaves, the change of colors and life. Oh and lets not forget the yummy pumpkin spiced lattes! This time of year makes me feel a sense of rebirth. Sounds cheesy I know, but it’s true. As a small child I was way too prissy, a girly girl, to jump into a pile of yucky leaves. Or maybe my Italian, ever so on high alert Mother was right there behind me to caution me not to jump. But today as a grown woman, I’m less hesitant, less afraid to jump into the yucky pile of unknown. This journey of my final two semesters in graduate school (say it ain’t so) is a lot like jumping into the leafy pile. So many things I don’t know, need to know, and hope to learn, within these last couple of months. This past weekend was a productive one for me. I prioritized my time well, making sure to put thesis on the very top of my to-do list. I hope for the same results this weekend. My plan is to continue on, full steam ahead with my literature review voyage. It’s important to note, life is all about balance, so I try my best to work as hard as I can, but to also be mindful of taking some time for play. A fellow Writing Studies student Kate who I became fast friends with over our virtual summer classes together, told me she envies how I balance it all. Huh? Envy me? The hot mess!? No way! But when she said it, it felt so very nice to hear. I guess without realizing it, I’ve been forging a path that has been a healthy balance of both work and play. No easy feat for me, the chronic over thinker and worry wart. Thank you Kate for the compliment! Again I’m so lucky and blessed to have met such amazing new people, and some who I can easily call friends, through my MA journey in this program. Thank you again Dr. Zamora for who you are, and all that you do.

Lastly, I’ll sum up what I researched and found so far in my literature review adventure. Let’s start with the boring stuff, the more clinical side of OCD and anxiety. To be honest I learned a lot about what I already know. Being a diagnosed sufferer for half of my life now, there is not much I don’t know about my disorder. Or is there? Luckily I’ve found some amazing new articles and research that dive deeper into the complex intricacies of OCD. I chose articles for my literature review that highlight the genetic component of OCD, the complicated familial relationships that develop due to the disorder, the different types of therapies to treat it, many of which I’ve experienced first hand. It was also important for me to take a closer look at the critics of such therapies. I mean there always will be critics, but maybe they have a point? I’m ready to dig deeper and explore more to find out why some leaders in the field do or don’t believe in certain therapies used to treat mild, moderate or severe OCD. I made sure to also include scholarly, peer reviewed articles that dealt with pediatric OCD, and young children in particular. Although I was diagnosed with anxiety at a young age, my OCD diagnosis did not come until many years later, while in my early twenties. So it’s important for me to understand and research the impact this disorder has on young children, because I was suffering all along and didn’t even know it. On a brighter, less clinical note, the other interesting part of my research that will be included in my literature review, will be memoir based stories of people suffering from anxiety and OCD. I’m writing a non fiction memoir for my MA thesis, so I need to know exactly what this genre is all about before I continue writing my story. I would feel like a complete hypocrite if I went into writing this blindly, not thoroughly researching what makes for a truly compelling and authentic memoir. So this weekend will be spent reading the real life struggles and triumphs of my fellow anxiety and OCD. I feel like I know them all already. I’m looking forward to the readings, for more self reflection and introspection, with my pumpkin spiced latte in hand, while the leaves are slowly falling and changing colors in the background. Good luck on your research guys! I hope you find what you are looking for! Don’t forget to take some time to enjoy this lovely time of change and renewal! Ciao, ciao! 🍂🧡☕

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QUEERSKINS AND HIGH MUCK A MUCK

The first thing I noticed about High Muck A Muck was how much setting and scenery this story was going to entail. As a visual learner and a person who learns and gets captivated by pictures and videos easily, I was intrigued by all the different settings such as the towns and cities. The navigation was pretty self explanatory. I loved the whole concept a map on the back of a person. It made it more personal because I feel like we all carry our own map on our back of everything we have been through in our lives that made us the person we are today. The map reminded me of a tattoo. Permanent and tells a story. I enjoyed getting to know each character on a personal level.

To be blunt, Queerskins messed me up. Emotionally. I was so sad reading this piece. I think I felt this story so heavy because I could relate to Sebastian’s relationship with his father. His father sounds like my father a lot. Disconnected emotionally. He has no relationship with me or my brother anymore and we don’t even mind it because we would rather not have the toxicity he carries in our lives. My mother and him are still married but only legally for financial purposes. There is no love, which sounds a lot like Sebastian’s parents.

The “sophisticated look” of the story when you first open it up kind of threw me off because of how the story was so emotional it is with the death of Sebastian, the toxic parent/child relationships, the sensitive topic of sexuality and AIDS. The audio clips really sucked me in and made me feel the story. I felt every emotion the characters in this story felt. Reading Sebastian’s writings… hearing his personal thoughts. What really struck a nerve with me was the ending. God Loves You. It was like after all of Sebastian’s life of not being accepted by those closest to him, when he made it to heaven he finally got that and that warmed my heart. As a LGBT+ alley, that is all I hope for anyone in a similar situation to Sebastian.

Pressman and TwelveBlue

Before reading Navigating Electronic Literature, I wasn’t fully aware of what Electronic Literature was and how it was different then other forms of literature. I assumed it was just literature you read online if I am being honest. The essay by Jessica Pressman really opened my eyes onto how to successfully read, understand and dive in to electronic literature.

Electronic Literature takes the reader on an adventure which adds a layer of creativity and depth. Because of this layer, Electronic Literature can be interpreted in different ways. It all depends on the reader. I also think the way you read Electronic Literature has a lot to do with your learning type. I think this genre covers and aids to visual learners due to the viewing of the story on a digital device and looking at some pictures and drawings that will come along with some of the stories as well with a video here and there.. Auditory learners can learn from Elit because some of these stories will come with sound and audio. You can also have the story read to you on most elit works which is definitely beneficial. Elit is definitely beneficial to tactile learners as you physically need to navigate through a piece of Elit work and gives those learners the hands on approach.

The hyperlinks can be a little much at times. Clicking one then another will bring you back and forth in different directions. I like it though. Its different. It makes the reader excited to read. It makes the piece exciting.

The Essay really helped me dive into the reading of Twelve Blue. When I first opened up to Twelve Blue, I was a little taken back and found it difficult. In other words, it was A LOT to take in at first as it was really the first piece I was going to really dive into and try to understand on my own. I had to take notes the entire time just to keep track on what I was reading. However, I didn’t find myself getting uninterested which I usually do when I look at a screen too long (I get horrible screen fatigue). I was very captured in the reading. Being interactive. I was the reason the story was moving along. Clicking different hyperlinks kept me engaged because I wanted to see everything there was to offer. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Interactive fiction is deff one of my new fave genres. Such a change. I was very into this reading. It relaxed me once I got really into it and found my flow.

All About Kaitlyn

Hello and welcome to my blog. My name is Kaitlyn McDermott. I am 22 years old and my birthday is June 16th. (Gemini!) I am in my last semester of undergrad majoring in English with Writing. I have gone to Kean all of my college career and have loved my experience here. I was born in Brooklyn, New York but only lived there until I was 2 and then moved to Union, NJ which has been home all my life.

I plan to get my masters in Writing Studies because I want to become a journalist. It has been a passion of mind since high school. I discovered my passion are journalism my freshman year of high school when I joined the newspaper. My sophomore and junior year of high school I was promoted to editor and then senior year I obtained the position of Editor-In-Chief.

To be honest, the school newspaper was the only thing that kept me sane in high school. My high school experience was very toxic. I was in a mean girl group and I was the target. They all pretended to be my friends but would constantly talk down about me In front of me and when I wasn’t around. After graduation, I cut them out and found real friends in college. I am so grateful I got out of that toxicity.

NOW ON A BRIGHTER NOTE, lets talk about the things that make me who I am. I am an 100% Irish girl and LOVE being Irish. I also am a dog mom to an 11 year old Yellow Lab named Hunter who is my CHILD lol. He’s getting old and it is breaking my heart but he is still in perfect health which is the bright side. I am also a big sister to an 18 year old brother named Daniel.

In my spare time, I love to workout. I go to the gym 6 days a week and also am a yoga instructor there on the side. Yoga and working out definitely keep me sane. I suffer from bad anxiety so it is my way to destress. I also am a big TV show binger and movie watcher!!! My favorite TV shows are Grey’s Anatomy, FRIENDS, Boy Meets World, and One Tree Hill. (My other guilty pleasure TV show is What Would You Do?) My favorite movie is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I LOVE Audrey Hepburn.

Music also helps me cope with my anxiety. My favorite pastime is going to concerts (Thanks COVID for taking that away). I like all music for the most part. My favorite artists are Ariana Grande, The Jonas Brothers, Carrie Underwood and of course my absolute favorite… Justin Bieber (Belieber for life lol).

That is me in a nutshell! Hope you enjoyed!!

ELit as experience

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

Our agenda slides:

High Muck A Muck & Queerskins

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

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

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

Your to-do list for next week:

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

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

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

What are some of the significant textual elements?  How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What overall effect do these texts create?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

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

TROTS: “Trope” + “BOTS”

So this week’s readings left me saying, “Huh??” I was really confused about what I had in front of me. I first started reading “BOTS.” I learned a little background information before beginning the learning experience. I learned that it is considered one of the oldest e-lit genres, and is used commonly in social media applications like Twitter and Tumblr. When I clicked on “BOTS”, it led me to make a choice from 12 different selections. As I kept clicking on each one, I noticed that the authors ranged from Dublin, Ireland to Pennsylvania, USA to Israel. I started off with “Real Human Praise.” When I clicked on the work website, it took me to a Twitter page that said “Account suspended as a result of violating official Twitter rules.” So I have no idea what that was about, although the video displayed a bunch of tweets with #PraiseFOX all over the page. One of the tweets read “Fox News Sunday is a warm and quirky comedy that never condescends to its eccentric characters.” I can’t tell if the page was overflowing with sarcasm or it was just my assumption. Then, it was “Tiny Star Field.” This page’s bio included “a small window of stars periodically throughout the day and night.” And the word website just showed a collection of star patterns throughout the page. That confused me. The third was “Poem.exe.” This page made a little more sense to me, as each post reflected a poem consisting of two or three lines, sometimes four…”coffee brewing, full of autumn, I found myself.” Lastly, “The Way Bot.” I was curious about the github project page, but didn’t understand what it was about so I backed out of there. The tweets were equally disorienting. “I like it when brits can turn flip right into an American accent” to “I like it when you talk like that, it makes a girl go mad.” What? I couldn’t understand what the connection was between any of the tweets. It was randomness taken to another level.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The next adventure was taken to “Trope.” This was really interesting. At first, it took me to an 8:48 second audio link that I still can’t make any sense of whatsoever. I heard really weird sounds, and it jumped to women speaking. Again, I felt lost, like there was no link between anything. “I’m not going to the dentist until the apocalypse comes.” I have no idea where that came from, but hey, I am four weeks into reading e-lit and I have learned that a lot of it is supposed to be distorted, it’s done on purpose. (At least I think so, or maybe I am going crazy 😉 ) She continued on saying, “When my gums bleed and my teeth fall out, I will gather them up…” All I can say is, OW! That will be horrible, but it’s her teeth, she can do what she wants with them. Towards the end, there were a lot of short audio clips of various sounds that kept cutting off and blending into another sound. After the audio finished, I was taken to a world, a map created by Second Life. It’s a virtual (obviously) platform where people make avatars and make friends, explore and have fun! It was a whole new realm with really fun places listed on the side. A few on the list were the Totally 80s Club, Surfside Hideaway, Inspire Dance Planet, and Dreamy Days HUB and Hangout. Fully customizable avatars with outfits and looks were provided, even thousands of 3D environments and fun events. And let me tell you, the places I listed (and a lot I haven’t listed) are places I would definitely go to (if it were real.) It was a world to teleport to, to maybe escape reality and go to a land far away that lets you make friends, discover, travel and live like there’s no tomorrow (virtually of course). It can be done anywhere whether in a country club, a beach, a desert or even the Garden of Eden. It was pretty cool and intriguing, considering that so much life can occur through a virtual medium especially with so much creativity behind each location and destination.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

All in all, this week’s readings were a whole new journey again. I guess I need to start getting used to being wowed every week because every time, I just don’t know what to say. I am left speechless, confused, intrigued, fascinated, and most of all, educated in something I never had any history in. Just enjoying every moment of this new experience while “in flat sunset light, shadows speak, warm-hearted.” (“Poem.exe”, BOTS)

Breaking Boundaries and SyNRGizing: The Trip of “Trope”and Creation in “Bots”

Breaking Boundaries: The Trip of Trope

“If it’s obvious in what it says then I escape from my fingertips,” the fox (muskrat?)-man says in the final frame of “Trope,” when he is inside the magnified, green path of a giant lady-bug’s wanderings. There is nothing obvious about “Trope.” It was designed to break the boundaries of reading linearly. It is supposed to be a visual trip that includes kinetic language.

In “Trope,” I was navigated around different landscapes. Only the last two frames made (some) sense. In the penultimate frame, we have a female figure who seems to be reading from a large book (or placards) after her shoeless self flies inside a snow globe and stands inside a cozy lodge. The figure indicates that Black Riding Hood has killed the wolf and she has snuggled up inside it “right up to its eye sockets.” So I’m supposed to think about disparate ideas, about breaking conventions, flipping the script, so to speak? This follows the notion of “trawling for shoes in Manhattan” while “people are dying [due to] Katrina.” Is the author making a statement about how sordid the world is? That’s what happens, right? There are hurricanes and famines while people stand blithely by in other landscapes, doing banal things like taking selfies.

What I found REALLY weird about this piece is when I started to hear Captain and Tennille (who apparently are recently divorced; they stayed together in the non-romantic union for almost 40 years not to disappoint the fans!) It was in the scene where there is a firework show for a “Daze” party. I’ve never heard this tune before, so I was pretty shocked to hear it was about super-affectionate muskrats. Here is a full rendering of the weird “Muskrat Love,” made popular by the duo in 1976:

Muskrat Love by Captain and Tennille

In the introduction to the song, Tennille says that the duo performed “Muskrat Love” at the White House for the bicentennial, in front of the Prince Phillip and the Queen of England. Henry Kissinger was stonily mad. I get it. What the heck? They couldn’t play “Love Will Keep Us Together”? They performed a song about extremely amorous muskrats, Suzie and Sam?

Perhaps the creator of “Trope” wanted the viewer to think about absurdities? Right after the song is played, there are a medley of excerpts played from a boombox: McArthur’s Park (Donna Summer), Together Forever (Rick Astley) and “Mr. Tambourine Man” (Bob Dylan). There is a similarity between “Muskrat Love” and the last song: the mentioning of “jingle jangle.” I’ve not heard “Mr. Tambourine Man” many times before, but hallucinating due to drugs seems to be a possible meaning. That brings us to the trippy vibe of “Trope.” Am I supposed to step outside of my senses and experience it? How is that even possible? I think it could be if I played it in real-time, VR-mode. That would allow for a better suspension of my own self.

My idea that “Tropes” is about breaking conventions is fortified by the scene in which dominoes are knocked down. In that scene, I was able to discern individual words on some of the dominoes: “your blood does the breaking.” Right after that I think that I heard a person with an Australian accent say “in front kicks.” So, does this mean that I am supposed to break away from convention and experience the piece? I think it does.

SyNRGizing: Creation in “Bots”

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Mind Blown

“Bots” was amazing because of the idea that poetry can be created by scraping data. Machines, created by humans, making art? Mind-blowing. Intuitively, I knew this, but seeing it in action set my mind aflame! It was the ultimate in experiencing synergy. “Station 5100” delivering meteorological data from a buoy and mashing it up with lines from Moby Dick? So creative! “Poem.exe” was even more moving. The notion of scraping a haiku database and then tweeting it so that others may comment or retweet is so novel to me. I feel like code (which has humans behind it) is creating the art. When I think about A.I., the sterile image of a white robot with cold eyes comes to mind. How wrong I am! A.I. can be entirely elegant, as we see in “Bots.”

Furthermore, I really liked “*tiny star fields*,” because it was visually appealing. Bots can also be funny, which I very much enjoyed. The algorithm in “Headlines” resulted in some pretty humorous results. The code in “How to Sext” also had smart, funny content. I am pretty surprised! Why? Because when I used to think of bots, my image was of fake celebrities or known personages churning out drab or lewd content. Bots can and are elegant and smart. There goes elit again breaking my expectations. I love that!

What makes a great remix? | Features | MN2S
It’s Remix in the House

Bots had an element of what we discussed in Writing Theory and Practice: remix. Isn’t all art a remix of some kind? If I write a memoir, aren’t I influenced by the art, music and things I have experienced? Of course I am. We can see all of life as a remix. We take what we see everyday and we express ourselves. Elit just brings us closer to the consciousness of remix.