In the past months, I’ve been involving myself to the world of electronic literature thanks to our amazing class. Learning about the many different types of electronic literature helped me in developing ideas and understanding about how to construct my own electronic piece.
For my own electronic piece, I went with the style of interactive literature. This is one of my favorites among the many types. This being the case, my piece is one that focuses on the concept of relationships, thus mainly dealing with drama, love, choices, and understanding one’s role in a relationship. This is something that can be experienced through the main character (Kyle), and his relationship with two female characters. Kyle is offered two endings as part of choices. Each of these provides Kyle a different lifestyle and love life, with one being more positive than the others. It is up to the reader to choose the type of relationship Kyle should have and with whom, though the choices of interaction built in the story as part of a roadmap.
The main central inquiry of the work is to: enhance awareness on the difference between a good and a bad relationship. Also, to educate readers (who might be able to relate to the situation presented in this work) on dealing with such experience.
The final project for the class is one that already excites me to a great degree. Over the last couple of weeks, since the semester started, we have been reviewing various types of electronic literature. They have differed in quality, style, type, and even reading experience. Still, going over these already-created works has always been a similar experience, which is one similar to an outsider’s point of view. But now with the Final Project, we get to turn this concept around, and the actual learning experience of this type of literature (electronic). With this project, we get a chance to be the insider into this literary realm. And from such point of view and experience comes a whole different level of understanding of what this genre truly means.
In my case, I took some time to brainstorm planning ideas for my own project. Thanks to the various types of electronic literature I exposed myself since the beginning of the semester, I have discovered some which I prefer and like more over others. And so, my project will be one which will fit into the category of one of my favorite types. However, it will still be different with my own crafted content, since I’ll be adding my own taste and style. The result was from my planning was the following:
This will be a story that will get the viewer and reader to dive into an interactive story, which offers the freedom to shape and construct their own ending based on their choices. It is up to them, not only how they want to proceed with the narrative, but also how it turns out. My initial interest in this type of project came from a project I had to cover, as part of a review: RedRidingHood, by Donna Leishman. The was an adaptation of the famous fairy tale of The Little Red Riding Hood, in the form of an interactive piece of electronic literature. As inspiration from the design of this piece, I found myself wanting to creating my own piece with a higher focus on choices and interaction. The reason for this is because when I reviewed this work, I found myself unsatisfied with my experience of navigating through choices, which were built into the interactive aspects of the work. And so, I wanted to create a project with really emphasizes on choices and narrative. And I think my project will have this in a way that feels deeply built into the narrative.
With all of this in mind, my next step to start on this journey to build my project was to look for a program or software that allows me to craft the work. At first, I tried experimenting with the program TWINE. To my surprise, it was more confusing than I had expected. This is because there is more coding built into the software. To me this was a little difficult to get into, so I tried another tool that would get me to accomplish my goal of design for my project, and I was lucky to find Inklewriter.com. This one was more user friendly than TWINE. After trying the website out, I was able to build the foundation to my project and learn about further constructing the narrative and story, which is yet to come.
This week’s reading was another interesting one with the electronic piece of The Hunt For The Gay Planet, by Anna Anthropy. This work tells the story of a female character’s journey through an intergalactic galaxy, where she aims to find a place specifically for lesbians: Lesbionica. The character searches all over, looking under rocks and in caves, at the different planets that she explores. As a reader of this piece, my experience with it was one surely where I felt mentally placed in a video game.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something about the whole project and story that made me feel I was playing a video game of some sort. In the past, I experienced similar works of electronic literature for our class, but never did I felt this deeply about it being video games. Perhaps it was the setting, the characters, the plot, the context, or even the fictional world in this work that made it feel as a video game. No matter which of these contributed to my experience and interpretation, I honestly enjoyed it a lot.
One thing that stood out to me, which supports this video game-like mechanics of the piece was how strong the piece is with getting the reader to interact through the ability to pick between choices. This choices help move the narrative in such a way that as the story progresses. For example, the way that the story is told, it seems that it was meant to build in suspense and action, with each time the female protagonist visited a new planet. In fact, the build-up is so particular with each visit, that there is a noticeable increase in narrative interaction of choices and content, each time the reader is places on the next scene. In this case, the choices are deeper in giving the reader pathways into deciding how the protagonist interacts with the world around here. This allows readers to feel as if they are controlling the main character in this game-like story. However, despite of having such nice freedom to do so, there is also the fact that the main character is somehow destined to a certain ending, where no matter your choices the end result was still the same. Still, giving the reader the option to affect the narrative so much before the ending, helps the reading experience tremendously. And this experience is one that it has become very familiar in recent video games with strong story narratives.
One famous video-game these days (similar to this piece in the design of choice-features for narrative progression) is one called The Witcher 3. This is a triple “A” gaming title with a fixed story and a fixed ending. But, before the ending, the person playing the game can have choices in the story, as they progressed through the map and different lands in the setting (sometime in old England). These choices affect the kind of interaction with different characters and environment along the way.
Overall, the reader experience for me was enjoyable because it brought back some good memories of similar games I played in the past, as well as proving me with a reading experience different of other electronic literature pieces. Everything about the work felt magical and attention-pulling, as I read more about the journey of this character in hr search for Lesbionica.
For this week, I had the pleasure to read two more pleasant works of electronic literature. Reconstructing Mayakovsky, by Illya Szilak, is an electronic novel focused on the future and with futuristic aspects. And Letter to Linus, by William Gillespie, is a hypercube of poetry that focuses on the power of language (English, in this case). While both works were great to read, I have to say that my experience with each and interpretation of each was different.
Reconstructing Mayakovsky was probably my favorite out of the two because it was easy to read the work and make sense of it. But of course I understand that this is just because I am more familiar with this type of literary work (creative fiction). So basically, the story is about a cyber-like living being named Vera X, who lost her memories after a certain war. She has a simple life at first, but soon her life unravels after a meteorite event, and so she embarks in a quest to reconstruct Mayakovsky after being motivated by his passionate and rebellious words, both as a poet and scientist. But she hopes to accomplish this with the help of some friends, while still learning to make since of the new world. She also finds herself dealing with a series of virtual and real events that separate a perfect world (a world where there is no chaos) from a more realistic one.
From reading the work, I couldn’t help but to find the author’s primary purpose or intention when crafting the work, to be of mutual respect for her role model. It’s weird for me to say this, but it’s what I felt when reading it. I just found too many connections between the work, the writer, and the characters involved that had more symbolic meaning (Mayakovsky). It was apparent to me how everything connected in a way that made it feel as if the author herself was showing her respects to her role model. This of course is something I can’t guarantee, but it would make some sort of sense. When we think about it the author herself shared a common passion with this historic person: a passion for writing as poet and story-teller. In addition, both of these intellectuals have been known for having a futuristic mindset when going about their writing. With Mayakovsky, this was the case with his style of poetry, and with the author (Illya Szilak) is noticed through her stories. I can’t help to feel that this was possibly one of the motivators for the crafting of this work. In some way, the author’s admiration for this historic person was such that she wanted to somewhat help reconstruct or resurrect Mayakovsky’s fame and legacy. And in doing so, this piece was created with such intention. This would explain the title of the work as well. It goes deeper than just the story being told in this piece. The story might just be a reflection of the author’s interests.
My experience with the other reading (Letter to Linus) was a bit different. This work was quite a mix of poetry and random symbolic references to the power of the English language, all thrown in at once in this electronic literature.At first, I felt the piece to be very short and easy to read, since the language being used was clear and straight forward to the point relating language. But then, I noticed that in some blocks or pages, the topic in context did not relate to language, and it deviated itself from it. I’m sure if this was done intentionally or not, or maybe it was just the way I interpreted. Still, the whole work presented itself to me as a puzzle. And when I think about it, it makes some sense. I noticed that the content was presented with this idea of a cube, which had 6 sides to it. Each side would focus on a word and have text embedded in it. Since this is an electronic piece of literature, the option to click and interact with the text was partially there.
But this concept of puzzle really came in for me with the how the reader could navigate through the text found within the parts of the cube. There surely some kind of connection between the words highlighted in red in each cube piece. I tried to figure it out, but I could connect each cube’s specific word (highlighted in red) with the belonging text. So, what I did then was try connecting or make sense of such words with the very last part (the very last sentence at the very bottom) of each text. And by doing this, I found connections and more meaning for those words (cut, blow, ect…). Because of this concept and idea of puzzles, I found the work to be interesting in the sense that it surely get the reader to think. This being the case, readers can find themselves figuring out how to make sense of the text and content found this the cube, and trying to relate it all to the topic of language and how powerful it is.
Overall, I would say that I enjoy both pieces, but not at the same level. I’m sure if it’s because of personal preference or something else, but this was the case. For me, I really enjoyed the piece of Reconstructing Mayakovsky much more than the other piece. It got m to think of how we can still help support and reconstruct the legacy of past literary historic figures or literary past idols (meaning writers from the past, who might not be as popular anymore in this day and age). And what better way to do this than by crafting a successful recognizable piece of writing focused on their character and persona.
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.
The reading for this week was yet another interesting one. With Those We Love Alive, by Porpentine, is a twine game or interactive game (with hyperlinks and various layers of codes) that works as a piece electronic literature. I would argue the that it does the job very well, with the way the reader interacts with the piece and goes about reading it. In a nutshell the story it’s very interesting as well: A story of fantasy in where you design artifacts for an alien empress. It’s dark and filled with both aspects of life and death.
I found the story itself to be very immersive with the way that I progressed each time. But perhaps this is because it really feels like a game (some sort of video game that I played when I was younger). And this type of game is one that is too familiar to many of us today. I say this because in the past when I was younger, I found myself playing these type of games in the computer at the library. But instead of words it was with pictures, and clicking on different parts of the picture would take you to new ones. So then again who doesn’t love games, in one form or another? This can be seen as the icing on the cake with this piece, as it works similar to a hook providing a bigger layer of interest and fun to the reader.
There is not a lot of images, since there is only text about the story and background audio music. This is because this piece is heavily focused on the story. But even so it’s interesting nonetheless. Being able to choose between different selections such as eye color, birth month, and your element, makes it feel personal as if you are designing for yourself the type of artificer you can be for the empress. And then you get to meet the empress as she rises from the lake, and her larvae skin loads across the lake. And as the story of progresses it focusses on the empress and you continue to be given choices on how to interact with her. The idea of hyperlinks being placed throughout the text, as they are bolded and colored, is fascinating as it doesn’t take away from the literature and literary style.
But as a reader, I really had my own experience of it. This being one where I felt that I was playing a game heavily on character creation. And in such a game I would create a character keeping in mind the empress. Each time I was given the option to select or design for myself, I felt as if I was adding a new piece or part to my own character through customization. To be honest I never in the past had the opportunity for such personal customization from just reading someone else’s fictional work or even from another electronic piece of literature. Because of this this piece felt original and very eye opening to the possibilities that can happen with an elit piece.
When it comes to literature and writing relating poetry, I normally find it a bit hard visualizing the aspect of setting, place, and location. This is because in poetry, there is normally little space for description in great detail. What I mean with this is that, since poems follow on a certain structure and style, there is rarely space for a lot of description of details (as in the case of a whole paragraph) to just one words, phrase, or idea. At least this has been the case with me in the past when reading poems. But then again, I can’t say I am a poetry guru, by any means. Still, this has been always a challenge for me in the past: visualizing setting, place, and location in poems.
However, the electronic piece and work of Window, by Katharine Norman, changed this feeling and experience in my mind for the first time. The work is definitely heavy with its emphasis on location, time, and space. This adds another level of experience to the poem – one that draws you in into the moment taking place. The works is brilliant, and one can see it and feel it by simply navigating through the various moments (months, scenes, visuals, ect…) taking place on the screen. The sounds are exquisite to the moments, with birds singing in the background, kids talking, the wind blowing strong, and other human-made noises around the house. The visuals are also satisfying in presentation, with various shots taken from this window. We have admit, that it could have been different, and the window shot could have just been the same through the whole work. But it was not, as we have different position from where we look through this window, and this also adds another layer of interest and complexity to the visuals and presentation parts of the work.
The entire experience was really enjoyable as I was able to feel that I was at this moment and time, living in this same room. All of a sudden, this brought me back memories of when I was younger and I also used to spend a great of time around my room’s window, looking outside to wonder into the world around me. Of course I wouldn’t do it the whole and each day, but I would find myself practicing this habit quite a lot whenever I needed to brainstorm through a tough time, or just ideas that would be in my head. So experiencing this electronic piece, allowed me to re-experience once more something I used to practice when I was younger. And I have to say that I’ll most likely try again this old practice for reflection, which I had already forgotten as I’ve grown older and aged.
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.
The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s Fall 2020 Electronic Literature course.