The first thing that came to mind when I began to navigate through Inanimate Alice was teenage angst. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to dig deeper or look further into the story to unveil a more sinister or complex meaning to what I experienced. But I find that the beauty in electronic literature is that it leaves us with a lot of room for interpretation. Which I find freeing and invigorating. Electronic literature gives the reader or participant not only the opportunity to explore the piece itself, but it allows for our imaginations to soar. It gives us the chance to experience the story and then come up with our own unique thoughts and feelings about it. I think there is real beauty in that we all interpret each electronic piece differently. Each week we are assigned the same stories to watch and each week during our various presentations and blog posts, we come away with such distinct and differing versions of what we saw within the pieces. So far that has been my most favorite part of this course. I enjoy reading each of your blogs each week and I get giddy for each and every presentation. Unlike traditional literature where we pick up and read a book, or access it online, at times there is minimal room for interpretation but for the most part the plot, story line and conclusion are pretty straight forward. The moral of the story is never in question. However, in electronic literature I’ve learned that nothing is as it seems and everything we see, hear and experience within the electronic literature library is up for interpretation and our own unique perspectives. Which again for this week I can’t wait to hear and see from all of you, my amazing classmates!
I found Inanimate Alice to be user friendly. The interface and menu options were easy to understand and follow throughout the fast paced scenes. The navigation was a bit tricky for me at first but after a second go around the piece flowed smoothly for me. I liked having the simple menu option with the various icons on the right hand side of the screen at my disposal. It was easier to follow the story having that as a guide of sorts. It was also helpful in that if you wanted to re trace Alice’s steps you could easily go back and click on any of the icons. The icons were all labeled with one word titles that highlighted the various parts of the story. I enjoyed the ease of this option because if I felt the need to back track at a certain point during Alice’s adventure I was able to do so with ease. The first scene I came upon was the stairway scenes. I loved the aesthetic look of it. The graffiti, the cloudy, overcast skies that the piece opens with. The wrought iron and rusty stairway and railing. I thought the red brick walls and old, painted over and boarded up windows throughout really set the ominous scene for what was to come. The music was also fantastic. Fast paced and then it slowed down at just the precise most perfect moments. I also loved being a physical part of the action. In order to progress the story further you had to click on various arrows in each scene and then decide which “arms” (which served as arrows) to click on as you progressed further in the story. This made me feel responsible for the choices Alice would make, and where the choices I chose would lead her.
The stairway scene from what I saw and experienced represented Alice’s teenage angst and her coming of age. To me the overall feelings of teenage confusion, fear, self doubt, anger, and displacement kept flooding throughout my mind and body. The abandonment and eventual return of her friends to the terrifying scene of poor Alice dangling from above reinforced my feelings. I couldn’t shake this feeling as I watched Alice climb the staircase further. The higher and higher she went the more my heart began to race. I was cringing at the thought that she might plummet to her death while the stairs disintegrated at her feet. Could this be the disintegration of her innocence possibly? I wondered. But I had a strong suspicion that Alice plummeting to her death wouldn’t happen, not yet. That wouldn’t make for a very exciting elit adventure. Then again I expect the unexpected when it comes to each new piece we explore. Combined with my own very real fear of heights and the disturbing re occurring dreams I experience about this fear, I found myself feverishly clicking the arrows to help advance the story along in hopes of saving Alice from any sad fate. I so desperately wanted her to make it up the stairway and to safety! I became invested in this piece from this opening scene. Thanks in large part to the navigation because we were involved deeply with the story as it played out with each click of our keyboard keys. Again this shows the power that is electronic literature. I find that when we are able to interact with the story and help the characters make decisions and give them direction, it makes the entire experience much more meaningful. I love literally and figuratively being an important element of the story.
As the stairway scene slowly fades out we learn that Alice is feeling stuck and afraid that she won’t be able to climb higher to safety. Again to me, this reinforces the teenage feelings we have all experienced of being stuck, afraid and unsure of what to do next in life. I found myself frozen in fear for Alice. But when her friends returned and shouted out words of encouragement and gave her some ideas of what to do next, I exhaled a bit. Then we learn that fourteen year old Alice and her family are originally from Moscow, Russia, and moved to a secluded country like part of England. I liked how the music picked up a faster pace and we were able to get quick snap shots of her life in Russia. This again gave me the impression that Alice was feeling displaced by the move, but she eventually grows to like her new town which we learn later on in the story. These are in fact the growing pains some of us experience throughout our teenage years. Moving and learning to adjust to a new environment with new people and new schools. That can be anxiety producing for any young teen who already feels awkward and out of place in the fast paced, ever changing world we live in. What happens to us at this point in our young lives we have zero control over. That’s the angst that Alice was feeling. At fourteen we can’t control much and are at the mercy of our parents and their sometimes unwise decisions. I must say I was intrigued and soon found myself feeling like I was Icarus and had fallen asleep. Here I was accompanying Alice within her own dream. Similar to Alice falling down into the rabbit hole I thought.
I must say the imagery was amazing. So stunning and beautiful. It set the tone, the mood and the overall feeling throughout each scene. I liked the overall gloomy, cloudy skies feels which were set through each photograph we looked at. I’m weird I know, but I love cloudy and rainy days. They speak to my soul more then the sunny days do. Even when I’m in a good mood, feeling content, I still find peace and solace within the cloudy dark skies above. Now the action seemed to pick up quite a bit throughout the piece but I felt it worked perfectly with what Alice was experiencing and feeling in each scene. When the image turned to what I refer to as the iPod (I had no clue what it was exactly) I was intrigued. I enjoyed picking different colors for it. Of course I settled on pink, one of my favorite colors. Once I clicked on a small square image within the iPod we get sucked into what looks like a Google Maps version of Alice’s exact location. Then we come across five options of where we could go and explore more. They were: My Project, My City, My School, Home and Friends. These are the top four areas of life that I believe make up the most important aspects of most fourteen year old’s existence.
My Project was very interesting, this explores her “iPod” as I call it. It’s a creative device Alice uses to write stories and create playlists. Her friends engage in the activities and ask her to write stories for them. As we read the text within the device we learn about Alice and her parents relationship. Both parents seem to be unhappy and bogged down by life, bills and debt. She seems to be stuck right in the middle. She mentions how her parents never imagined ending up in a place like where they find themselves. Yet Alice learns to like it. Or maybe she’s just happy not to be moving again. I found this portion very telling, and again reinforced my feelings that this piece revolves around the angst she feels as she’s coming of age and into her own as a young woman. Next up My School showcased a row of blue lockers, as we slowly move down the hallways, we get to interact and click on polaroid pictures of the various countries her school mates are from. Some students are from far away places like Alice, while others were born in the small England town she now calls home. Next was My City which was my favorite. It was a stunning visual tour of canals, streets, tunnels and different landscapes throughout her city. I loved the dreary, overcast skies in each snap shot along with the geese peacefully gliding down the lake, great contrast. It really set the the overall tone and mood of this particular part of Alice’s adventure.
The part that resonated with me most during this scene was where she admires the weeds growing out of the sidewalk cracks. I find that fascinating because I used to do that as a child. I would notice the green, mossy grass that crept up and grew within the very cracks of the sidewalk, as I skipped along wondering how that could be. I would notice even more details like this as I grew older and in particular during the darker times in my life when I felt major anxiety or fear. I noticed the smallest of details of the world around me and this made me contemplate the bigger picture of my life and purpose here. In this way I felt a deep connection with Alice and maybe her feeling of being like an inanimate object in this big scary world. That may be a stretch on my part but hey electronic literature makes me feel confident in thinking differently and exploring all aspects of literature, hidden or obscure meanings included. The Home scene was also fascinating. It showcased what I thought of as a photo album which contained pictures of her house. Each snap shot describing a room in great detail. The exterior was an old red brick house that looked small. The house seemed cramped and old with the exception of the one bright picture of a lively, neat looking living room. Overall, the small brick house and rooms within looked cramped and narrow. No room to really breath I thought to myself. The run down kitchen in particular was the most depressing. Then the fact that you had to walk through her bedroom in order to get to the one and only bathroom in the house sounds like an awful thing for a young teen to have to endure. Yikes no privacy there, poor Alice! Overall, the home seemed depressing and dim. The Moscow scenes although dark and sometimes out of focus seemed like a much happier place where she found more contentment.
Lastly, we come to the infamous black screen which gives us two options: Play The Game Or Read Only. I mean duh! LETS PLAY! Once we click on this option we are taken on a graffiti filled adventure through what I’m assuming is the building Alice was able to climb into while almost falling from the crumbling staircase. We are given helpful instructions to click the letter B on our keyboard and our friend Brad would point us in the right direction. I appreciated this detail because there were times throughout when I was making the wrong choices and I felt stuck. So having Brad as an option to help us along the way was a nice feature. For me this last part of Inanimate Alice again reinforces what I have been feeling all along. The graffiti filled building and it’s many dark twists and turns along the way represent a uneasiness and angst within Alice. She’s navigating the unknown and choppy waters of teenage life and she’s not sure what direction she should go in. Left? Right? Up? Or how about down? Is that safe? Sometimes it seems like whatever choice we make we end up in the same gloomy, abandoned part of the old, dilapidated building. Sometimes that’s what life feels like too. Whatever choice we choose to make with the best of intentions, we sometimes end up exactly where we started off in the first place. This can leave us feeling desperate, alone, and in desperate need of escape.
The one scene that stuck out to me the most was the graffiti like art work of the woman with the short jet black hair and dark black beady eyes. The blood running down one of her nostrils. Very scary yet I couldn’t look away! All I know is after seeing that I was even more anxious to help Alice get the hell out of this scary place. However, I must say I do appreciate graffiti as an art form. I love the urban, gritty, raw expression of it all. Maybe, I thought, this was an artistic representation of what Alice was feeling and thinking throughout this piece. Especially as she tried to make her way through this confusing and scary maze like abandoned building. The empty, dried up canals and sewers reminded me of an abandoned subway rail line. Where all you see is the foggy glow of the blinking and broken lights overhead. The yucky left over sewage or rain water is trapped, and lord knows what yucky creepy crawlers are lurking below the surface! Eww! Alice lets go! Again, the visuals throughout this piece are stunning. At this time as I’m trying to point Alice in the right direction to make her escape, I notice the text reveals that she feels like she’s dreaming or living within a nightmare. It honestly does in some ways remind me of reoccurring dreams I’ve had of screaming but never being heard. My voice echoing down long empty hallways and drafty spaces, yet no one ever hears my cries. It’s an unnerving feeling to not be heard, in a dream and in real life. Eventually we find our way through numerous ladders and various doorways and windows that lead us throughout the building. At last we make it out alive! Yay! Alice rejoices and the text reveals that she is so very happy to be out of that dark place. She’s happy to be back in her town and even more excited to see and hear all her new friends cheering for her safe return! She’s like a hero now, they praise her and it feels pretty darn good to Alice. And to think this all started with just a simple dare?!