Post #8: Taking a Half-bite, and Left Hungry for More

My chosen E-lit piece for this week was “Inanimate Alice.” And to be honest, it left me with both a pleasant and weird taste in my mouth. By this point, I have tasted the waters in this ocean of electronic literature, thanks to all the previous works we’ve covered in class. Surprisingly enough, each of the works have felt unique in various ways to me each time. This one, again, is no exception. But the reason I was left with mixed feeling after reading it and interacting with the piece, was it was the first piece from all the others that I actually understood. But at the same time, it was also the first piece I didn’t enjoyed as much. This brings me to a point of experience where I have a lot of things to talk about, both positive and negative, because I would have like the work to deliver a more profound experience.

To start off, I want to talk about the things that I enjoyed and found working well for the piece, since it helped it in a literary and creative sense. Without a doubt, the work has a very strong sense of organization. This alone provides a good aspect understanding and experience for the reader, simply because of how easy it is for them to navigate through the story and the work. And so, these two combined (navigation and organization) work wonders in this case.

At the far-right-corner of the screen, there is a small menu which keeps filling up with different points (chapters, scenes, or events) happening in the story. You, as a reader keep unlocking these, little by little as you progress through the work. And once you finished, you have complete access to all of them to navigate once more within the scenes or chapters. This little menu or side panel is always there for your reference as you focus on the actual work in the center and rest of the screen. I really like this idea of design, since it feels clean, easy for navigation, and organized. Adding to this, the work itself it’s very linear, even for an electronic piece. There isn’t much deviation or choices within the narration of the story. You are simply asked to continue, with the option to click on a directional arrow on the screen.

Another little thing that I found working for the work was the level of creativity. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it’s a master piece of creativity, but it has a decent amount of it for what it is (a very simplistic work, in every sense of the word). The way of presentation, format of story progression, story build up, and navigational design are some that showcase its creativity. There is a sense of dairy type of writing behind the story that is felt thanks to the various photographs and short notes describing or presenting them. Story progression and build-up follows on an interesting arc. The story doesn’t just start off with Alice in England, but rather with her in this abandon building, where she has a near to death experience after almost falling to her death. This triggers a type of flashback to when she first moved to England, only to come back to this moment again by the end. Sadly, I found these good qualities to be a double-edge sword, since they work for the piece in certain ways, but at the same time it limits it in other ways.

As much as I wanted to keep enjoying this piece, I couldn’t because of a few limitations that wouldn’t make the work anymore interesting. I felt I was left with the taste of it in my lips, without having the chance to take a full bite. So, here we have a linear and easily to read work, thanks to its design, organization, and way of progression. But I felt there was a lack of development to the things introduced to us (the reader). There were almost just presented, without in-depth amount of details. This is mainly in relation to the scenes and moments which are constantly showcased with real-life photographs. The story itself didn’t have much depth to it, which is why it felt so short and easy to read in the first place. It basically goes like this:

 She finds herself in this abandon building with her friends, taking on a dare to climb up the stairs. She has a near to death falling experience, which triggers a past-related (memory) sort of events of when she first moved to England. This memory focuses on her experience moving into to a certain old house, where she lives with her parents (Dad is teacher, and Mom is a community worker). She then comes to the conclusion that either of her parents like the place, but she fell in love with it, contrary to her parents. Then Alice is back again (where the story first started) at the abandon building finding her way out of it.

Yeah……., that’s it! And that’s all…..! The problem, that aside from the beginning of the story, where there as more details to the scene and even taking place, the rest felt flat, abbreviated, and without much depth. However, there is some amount of pictures relating each scene, but it’s literally 1 or 2 for each scene, joined by small notes or sentences. I do understand that this is just a chapter (the 4th one) in such literary work. But this chapter alone hints much about what we can expect from the previous chapters in terms of narrations, design, and similar aspects.

Above is my example of this. This was supposed to be the meat of the work (a.k.a, the rising action and climax for this chapter), but there isn’t much to it. Each of these “clicking-parts” of her experience basically consists of 1 or 2 pictures, and 1 or 2 sentences. It just wasn’t enough! She gave us open topics about her school, friends, the city, and her project. But we only learned briefly stated that: her house was old, her school friends had different ethnical backgrounds, and her old city in England filled with old buildings and water canals. I was left wanting to know more from each of these, as it would strengthen her story and reason to even having one in the first place.

And so, I was left with mixed feelings about the work. I honestly like a bunch of things about it, which kept me wanting more. The level of interest was such, that I would even consider learning about the previous chapters of this large piece of works. But at the same time, I’m afraid the other works will also follow on a similar format, and I will have the same mixed impression again. I guess my issue was with the story development and content. But this has just been my take on it, and I know that maybe if I had approach it in the beginning with a different state of mind, I wouldn’t noticed such things.

With Those we Love Alive

I really had to buckle down and get in my one to navigate With Those We Love Alive. I thought it was really interesting how this story encouraged us to take notes. At first I was just going to take notes on my computer, but after I saw it was encouraging to use a writing tool (Pen, pencil, etc.) I grabbed a piece of paper and went to note taking. It took me 2 times to navigate this story. But I am glad I did it for a second time because my mind was more open and aware.

I loved how With Those We Love Alive, I felt like I was in a complete other world. A world that definitely needed to be explored. A world so beautiful but yet so traumatizing in a way. How you navigated this story was all up to you but it definitely changed your character’s fate. It kind of reminded me of that interactive Black Mirror movie where you decided how it ended by picking and choosing.

However, I do believe whichever path you decided to take, everyone ended up with the same outcome. I think this is because no matter what you do in life, everyone has the same fate. Not to sound morbid or anything… but no matter what path of life you take, death is inevitable. I think the author was trying to portray kind of a “Circle of Life” type message.

My favorite part of this piece was talking about names. I remember in the beginning of the semester, Dr. Zamora asked us where we got our names from. I got my name Kaitlyn from a girl in my mom’s first Pre-K class her first year teaching. My mom’s reasoning was that she just thought this little girl was simply adorable. I use to not like my name at all but now I love it. Your name is a big part of who you are as it has a million meanings behind it. Literal meanings, your parent’s reasoning for that name choice, and how you leave a mark on the world with your name. How you make a difference and the name people will remember when you make that difference.

I enjoyed the audio and visuals of this piece as well. It made it exciting and mysterious. Made it easy for all learning types to navigate. Overall, I really enjoyed this piece of elit. I hope I do my story justice when I present next week.

“Inanimate Alice”

Before I began to navigate “Inanimate Alice” I was nervous because of the description provided. According to the description, the only way Alice can save herself is by traveling through the “scary factory”. I am not a fan of horror movies or anything in the scary realm. So, I was very unenthused about navigating this piece.

“Inanimate Alice” starts off like a 90s TV show or film. The introduction of the text reminded me of a crime drama like “Law and Order” and “NY Undercover”. The text, imagery, and sounds combined made me feel like I was getting ready to watch my favorite TV show. The area where the factory staircase that Alice and her friends are playing on is reflective of a grimy area. There is graffiti on the brick walls of the factory and the factory seems to be abandoned. The city where Alice lives, including her home, is very dreary.

I found “Inanimate Alice” to be very eerie. Alice is the one narrating the text that viewers have to read in order to navigate the text. At first glance, the text just seems like a 14-year-old writing about various areas in their new town. However, at a closer look, I found certain things to sound a bit strange. For example, when I was navigating through Alice’s school, she stated that she now goes to school like a “normal kid”. She goes on to state that she was previously homeschooled in Moscow by her mother. In addition, Alice created a program called “iStories” that lets her friends create their own stories. Although the idea was innovative, I found the premise of the program to be odd. In the story, a young girl’s father goes missing and now she and her mother set out on a road trip in hopes of finding him.

The imagery of Alice’s home seemed like a setting straight out of a horror film. She states that her home is from the previous century and was never renovated by the previous owners. She also states that in order to get to the only bathroom in her home, you have to walk through her bedroom. Yet, she does not seem bothered by what I perceive as a major inconvenience. All she says is, “it’s kind of horrible but I like it”. In addition, Alice is the only person who likes their new town. Everyone else in her family is frustrated by the small house and their new jobs.

After visiting the various locations in Alice’s neighborhood, the text states, “I am going to die” and then fades into a black screen that is the inside of the factory. As the music played, the dimly lit screen and images of an abandoned factory were plastered all over my screen. I became super nervous. I thought it was going to be like those horrible Twitter videos that seem normal but then a demon pops out of nowhere. To ease my anxiety, I turned off the sound. However, I was still nervous about navigating the piece. I kept ending up at dead ends. This made me super frustrated and wanted to finish navigating the piece as soon as possible. I decided to just keep asking “Brad” for help until I got to the end. I think out of all the pieces we have discussed so far, “Inanimate Alice” has been the most nerve racking and probably my least favorite.

A New Literacy: Inanimate Alice

            Of the two pieces of e-lit this week, I have to admit I loved Digital, A Love Story. I haven’t finished the story yet, so I am not sure how it ends, but I really enjoyed the mystery of it and the format of it being transported back in time to an 80’s interface. One thing that quickly got old though was getting so many messages and emails – it was a little too much like real life. So though I felt a little burnt out by the time I stopped, it was still a neat format to create multiple storylines at once. All of that said, I am not going to write on Digital (at least directly), I want to instead look at Inanimate Alice.

            Unlike Digital, I wasn’t super into Alice. Not that it wasn’t also mysterious and intriguing, it just felt kind of tedious. As I was moving through the game, following a disembodied arm and ghost boy through a warehouse I was trying to escape from, I found myself asking once again, is this really literature? There were literary elements to it like the narration and plot, but the piece felt more like a game with pretty pictures and simplistic dialogue. The story is from a 14 year old girl’s perspective and it sounds like a 14 year old is writing it – which made it feel a little too young for me. When I reached the end I felt like I was missing something about the piece that made it special, so I decided to do some digging to see what I could find about it.

            As I dug into the creators behind Inanimate Alice, I discovered an article called “The Compelling Nature of Transmedia Storytelling: Empowering the Twenty First-Century Readers and Writers Through Multimodality”. The article uses Inanimate Alice to discuss and research the changing understanding of literacy that has been brought about by our digital age. Initially, when I read the article, I was taken aback at the idea that literacy was something beyond simply reading. I know about other forms of literacy, but in my mind they seemed to be distinct from each other, with some overlap here and there. As I continued to read, I discovered that there is a movement in education to teach students how to read and write in new ways that align better with this digital age we live in. According to the authors, their idea of literacy now, “…is increasingly recognized as a social practice, a perspective which draws on the idea that literacy is a human activity shaped by tools unique to the community in which it is practiced” (Hovious, Harlow Shinas, Harper par.7). This means that because our society uses so many different forms of creation and communication, literacy extends to just about every sense of the body – sight, smell, touch, hearing, etc (par.7). The authors throw around the words “multimodality” and “transmedia” to describe the literacy that is needed in classrooms to engage the students of today (par. 9). These days, students have to not only being able to read, but be interpreters and co-creators; not only this, but the tools they use to do this are more than just the paper and pen. The tools of the literate student today can encompass film, photographs, sounds, coding, etc (par. 9). The reason why Inanimate Alice is special is because it is one of the main pieces of electronic literature that is being used right now as a way for teachers to start teaching this new version of literacy.

            When I began to look at Alice through the lens of it being part of a new type of literacy, not just literature, it seemed astounding. Up to this point, e-lit has seemed like an avant-garde art form that has its niche, but I didn’t see its application beyond the e-lit world. What Alice and this article did for me was connect e-lit to what I have been exploring in ENG5020 – the idea that the old ways of creating, writing, reading, consuming, etc. are over. At this point, everything has to be processed through the lens of what the writers of the article described above as “a social practice.” Because our world has become so intricately interconnected through technology and the internet, everything we do is on a social level. When we log in and post something, look something up, or share something, we are being active participants in a larger collaborative meaning making society that literally encompasses the world. What is interesting about Inanimate Alice, is if you look on the website, it is used all over the world to teach students this new “transmedia” literacy that is now needed.  

From the website inanimatealice.com – A map of where Inanimate Alice has been taught or used for research purposes around the world.

The article that I found is a great window into this new world and though I was left with a lot of confusion and questions after reading it, I was excited to understand how e-lit connects to the bigger picture of our role as writers in society. Inanimate Alice, on the surface, at first didn’t seem like anything exciting. But after reading about the implications it has for students learning new a literacy, I am intrigued and excited by the possibilities it offers for the future.

Works Cited

Alice’s Map. Inanimate Alice, 2020, https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1-8EPgaFNDi8rw9GaS0n6gToEvFo&ll=21.373813254507102%2C-35.859375&z=2. Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.

Hovias, Amanda, Harlow Shinas, Valarie, Harper, Ian. “The Compelling Nature of Transmedia Storytelling: Empowering twenty-first century readers and writers through multimodality.” Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 11 March 2020, paras. 1-52.