The semester is drawing to a close and we only have one E-lit class left! I’m happy to say that I’ve finished my final project: all the pieces are written and all the QR codes have been made and printed. Now, my one concern is that we’re in for rain tomorrow when I was supposed to do a (literal) walkthrough of my project. Because of its nature as a piece of locative fiction, it really won’t give the same effect when not presented “on location,” but, well, we can’t control the weather, so I suppose there’s not really anything that can be done! Still, I’m holding out hope that by the time our class begins, the rain will have stopped…
All I have left to do before the completion of class is my self-assessment narrative. I hope everyone’s semester is ending well. Just hold out, the finish line is within sight! And Happy Holidays to all who are celebrating something in the weeks to come
And now for an update on my final project: I’m working on writing the individual pieces for my project. I estimate I’m going to have ten of them, and right now I have six of them written. After they’ll all done and edited, I have to decide where I’m hosting them (I’m thinking of using Google Docs) and then generate QR codes linking to each piece. Then I’ll just have to decide where on th walkway I am going to put some of the codes that I’m undecided on (for others, I already know exactly where I’m going to put them.) After that, the project will be done. So, the longest and most intensive part is writing the pieces, but I’ve already made good progress and will probably finish those up by the end of this week.
I started my reading this week with David Núñez’s Bastardo. It is described as a digital fiction and electronic novel that combines fragments of a novel to create 10×149 different texts, “optimized in 4 billion stories coherent with narrative structures.” I am not very good at math, so I wasn’t thinking all too deeply about just how many possible combinations there really were…until I opened up the work and hit Google Chrome’s “translate” button to read the explanation page, where I was informed that “if every person were to read a version of Bastardo, it would take 60% of the current world population to explore the entire search space of this dynamic system of hyperliterature.” 60% of the current population of the entire world. I know enough about the world to know that there are a HUGE amount of people on this planet, so yeah, this really put the sheer size of Bastardo into context for me. I realized that I was about to start reading a story permutation that was, among our class members at the very least, among all the past and current readers of Bastardo very possibly, unique to me.
I read through the entirety of the story that was generated for me. I read about John Rowlands, who had many other names, who ended his life as Sir Henry Morton Stanley. John was born a bastard in Wales, to a mother who didn’t, it seems, love him. He was raised by an abusive grandfather, then lived in an orphanage for a time before he escaped. He wound up in America, first in New Orleans, and fought for the Confederate army, then for the Union. At some point, he went to Africa, where he became a cruel explorer. He was eventually knighted for his expeditions in Africa. He married and had a son, and died of cancer in his sleep. This is the gist of the story I got, though there were many other details, too many for me to relate.
I found the storytelling extremely fascinating. Different passages took place at different points in John’s life. It was confusing, yes, the way it jumped abruptly from one point to another, but it was still remarkably coherent for a story whose overall structure was determined by a computer. There were a few passages that repeated, and I’m not sure if that was intentional on Núñez’s part or a flaw in the code, but really, I’m impressed by the story. One thing that I’m confused about, though, is the opening. It started with a girl named Sara, doing research on what “bastard” meant, apparently also a bastard herself. I’m not sure where she is supposed to connect with the rest of the story that I read. After finishing the story, I saw in the text that followed that Sir Henry Morton Stanley was a real historical figure, and that this piece is a “search for identity” based on that man’s life. Perhaps Sara is the character searching for identity?
I really enjoyed this piece and would love to hear what stories everyone else experienced.
EXPOSED is a non-fiction piece by Sharon Daniel and Erik Loyer that serves as a database and interactive timeline chronicling the spread of COVID-19 across U.S prisons, jails, and detention centers. The “About” statement on the work website states that “EXPOSED reveals the overwhelming scope and scale of this humanitarian crisis. The monochrome, image-less, headline-styled interface, which allows viewers to step through thousands of prisoners’ statements, is designed to visualize their collective suffering, and signal that the injustices they endure are structural.” Furthermore, the statement on the website builds a connection between the term quarantine, one we’ve become so familiar with over the pandemic, and the prison system, stating “…prison yards, once reserved for those that society may have had a legitimate reason to fear, have filled to over 100% capacity with people that society finds annoying, fails to educate, and refuses to help. The disproportionately poor, Black, or Brown ‘offender’ is treated as a pathogen to be isolated and contained. Having nothing to do with justice or public safety, the quarantine of ‘undesirable others’ is the means and the end.” This, and the other information shown when the website is launched, serves as the background to the piece. A “what we can do tab” provides instructions for contacting governors in order to work towards a massive reduction in prison populations, as well as other measures that readers can take to work towards reforming the law enforcement and prison systems.
EXPOSED was painful and eye-opening. The stories it contained were horrific, and it really makes one question how America can claim to be such a great country when its incarcerated people continue to be treated like this into the 21st century, left, helpless, to die of a pandemic that the rest of the country is being urged to fight with masking and social distancing. The piece serves as a great example of how e-lit can share harsh realities and push for social and systemic changes. EXPOSED not only educates, it also gives the reader the opportunity and resources to act.
When I first opened the Electronic Literature Collection page for “c ya laterrrr” by Dan Hett, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what I got. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that the title and the cover image didn’t prepare my mind for the author’s statement. After reading that this was a heavy piece, I steeled myself and got into it.
I’ve never lost anyone in such a horrific accident, but parts of the piece still resonated with me, and it even nearly moved me to tears. First, the receiving of the news via texts and phone calls…that feels like the way all bad news is transmitted nowadays, isn’t it? I remember for a while after Cody got badly hurt back in April that anytime I would get a text or a phone call, I would feel frantic as I picked up the phone, wondering if it was my Mom calling me with more bad news. This has happened to me a few times before: I’ve gotten some bad information via the phone and then for a time afterward, any notification from my phone was met with a fear response.
I feel this piece worked very well as a hyperlink story. When writing about something so personal, I think it’s natural to want to fictionalize it, to try and remove yourself from it just a bit. The inclusion of other paths, one the author did not take, is likely a way for him to fictionalize certain aspects of the story while still telling his truth and, hopefully, healing a bit by doing so. The piece really made me think more about that concert bombing, the one I’d heard briefly about back when it happened. I remembered it when I read about it in the editorial statement, but honestly, I don’t even think I knew people died in that event. I knew so little about it. I still know very little about it, but nonetheless, I’ve felt the tiniest bit of someone’s loss that resulted.
“Dial” by Lai-Tze Fan and Nick Montfort is an interesting piece visually and conceptually, but I’m not quite sure I “get it.” If I hadn’t read the authors’ statement, I’m not sure I would have understood any of the meaning behind it at all. I also don’t quite understand the interactive element, either. I think that the clocks speed up or slow down how fast the messages change? Perhaps it is because I read “Dial” after “c ya laterrrr” and was therefore primed for a straightforward, to-the-point piece, instead of something more abstract and poetic like “Dial.” I’m looking forward to the presentation about this piece so that I can hopefully grasp more of it and appreciate it, even if I didn’t much enjoy it or get it on my own personal walkthrough.
Giselle’s chosen piece Retratos Vivos de Mamá is in Spanish, and Giselle has encouraged us who do not speak the language to translate it in order to get as much of the full effect of it as possible. I used the Google app on my phone to translate the text on my computer screen; though the translations were not perfect, they were accurate enough for me to understand the story. The piece is about the attempt of the author, Carolina López Jiménez, to tell the story of her deceased’s mother’s life, to trace the life she had before her children. The title translates as “Living Portraits of Mama,” which I think is a beautiful way to look at this piece: Jiménez bringing stories, “portraits” of her late mother to life.
I did not have a way of translating the videos or audio snippets, so although I watched and listened to them, I was not able to understand what they were saying. My understanding is based entirely on visuals.
Jiménez speaks about the mother that only she, her brother, and her father knew. She feels for her mother, having to get up every day with the weight of all those she cared for on her shoulders. She speaks about her mother’s last days, the pain and sickness, and the need to remember her mom in a different way. That is why she created this project; to remember her mother and to tell her story beyond illness and beyond motherhood. She wanted to know and share who her mother had been as a person, not just as a mother or a wife. This is an aspect of motherhood that fascinates me…who a mother is BESIDES a mother, what her life was like before she had children. To me, it feels like after you have children, all of society views you entirely differently. Your identity from before is taken away by them, replaced by your identity as a mother. Something that so touches me about this piece, then, is the refusal by the author to let her mother be remembered as ONLY a mother. She realizes that there were other aspects of this woman’s life and does not want to let them be forgotten.
The author expresses her fears of repeating her mother’s life, of becoming what she was, a selfless woman who sort of gave herself up for everyone else. She fears, too, that the disease that killed her mother lurks within her, too. This reminds me of a quote I saw once in a tumblr post, “mothers and daughters existing as wretched mirrors of each other: I am all you could have been and you are all i might be.” And another quote, I believe from eight bites by Carmen Maria Machado: “There’s something about having a mother when you’re a girl. It’s crushing. Crushing having a mirror that suffers all on its own.” This thought that mothers and daughters are reflections of each other, that they see themselves in one another and see their own suffering reflected back at them. It’s a theme I’ve been exploring in some of my own stories, and a theme I see in this piece as well.
I also really enjoy the way the piece was set up, made to look like diary entries and a scrapbook and so forth, the way it contained photos and documents from Jiménez’s mother’s life. Its construction as an e-lit piece really let Jiménez showcase all of these things and tell her mother’s story.
Though I only consumed what was ultimately a small part of the entire piece, I was extremely moved by it. It’s a beautiful, touching memorial that I’d love to continue exploring more.
I thoroughly enjoyed How to Rob a Bank’s multimodal storytelling approach. In the way that it utilized different apps to tell the story, it reminded me of epistolary stories, those that are told through letters and/or other types of written ephemera. In a way, it even reminds me of certain exploration-based video games like Gone Home where you explore an environment and piece together a story by reading letters, journal entries, etc and examining objects left behind. I love such ways of a telling a story, so it’s really interesting to explore an e-lit piece that uses similar conventions.
The story itself felt almost parodical, though. It was too unrealistic in a strange way, not really in a compelling way that inspires suspension of disbelief. So, I can’t really say I enjoyed the story of the piece or the way it handled it, but I did enjoy its method of storytelling.
This week I started with Katie Schaag’s The Infinite Woman. Before delving into my experience with the piece, I would first like to say that it was interesting to see that, while Schaag was the author, there were several other people listed as collaborators, those who did the coding and technical implementation: Alayna Panlilio, Ryan Power, Josh Terry, Alex Yang, Jeffrey Zhang. I was glad to see this sort of collaboration on an e-lit piece, the idea that even if you don’t know how to code, you can collaborate with people who do in order to make your e-lit idea a reality.
I read the statement and the editorial statement beforehand to give me an idea of what I was going into, as I do with most of the pieces we read for class. I’ve read excerpts of The Second Sex for a class before, so I have some familiarity with Beauvoir’s work and its context, but Marshall’s novel is completely unfamiliar to me. I am really intrigued by the project’s goal of critiquing an “eternal female essence” or at least the idea of one. I think the piece is trying to demonstrate that there is no such thing, stating that the algorithmic remixes stretch the logic of Beauvoir and Marshall’s work and the idea of a “female essence” to its breaking point.
While trying to use the canvas to construct a poem, I found the fog to be irritating, but I think this is supposed to be the “point,” as it is a representative of erasure, something highly negative. Through clearing the fog several times and working with some sentences and word erasure, I produced the following poem:
Woman is Flesh, to say anything about her, it is obvious how she looks. Watching her act, I saw the moon first, full-faced at the lie. just as well her equal. Her homosexual tendencies – a woman is torn between the desire of marriage or lowering herself. Lord-man will protect liege-woman and will adapt rather quickly. Even if they are not satisfied with each other. But the difference in their eyes. are very different result.
I think that if one spent a lot of time in this piece, they could create some really intriguing poetry! There’s something to be said, too, about the possibility of working WITH the fog, with letting it choose what words you black out in your poetry…
Dan Waber’s a kiss was immediately intriguing to me because it is a novel-length hypertext piece. Just looking at the image of it is boggling, seeing all those connections, all those possible paths and lexias!
I think if I encountered this piece earlier at the beginning of the class, I would feel overwhelmed. See, if I approached this as I’d approach a physical novel, I’d feel like I had to read the whole thing in order to grasp its meaning! However, this class has made me more comfortable with the fact that a variety of meanings can be made out of a single work, that e-lit pieces have no one, set, final meaning anyway. This makes me feel more comfortable just perusing this piece casually and seeing what it has to say to me.
Some memorable quotes from my reading:
“When he opened the cheese he thought Wooof! That smells like a foot, a really nasty foot. “
“She likes mushrooms, but, not enough to die for.”
What’s worth dying for? “No food, that’s for sure. No god, no country, no philosophy. No piece of land, no amount of money, no firmly held principle.”
An excerpt I love:
they share their writing projects in-progress they work together they work apart they remember things the other says they make time to go on dates they disagree they root for each other
other ways they say I love you
I just find that absolutely beautiful, an exploration of love beyond the word. I have a friend who loves love. She loves the ways people express it, loves poems about it, not mushy typical love poems describing someone’s beauty but the unique ones, the “real” ones, I think is how I’d describe it. This poem reminds me of her; I think she’d love it. And, of course, it reminds me of my girlfriend, makes me think of all the ways we say we love each other without just using the words.
“They both think that part of the reason why writers like to form groups is because what they do is so intensely anti-social that they need the social aspects of the group in order to keep from becoming misanthropic hermits.”
Other ways to describe the hug: “a Dali clock on a spoon”
“If someone told you that you could live to be 250 by hitting yourself in the head with a hammer for 20 hours a day, would you do it? Of course not. What’s the point of prolonging a life devoid of the things you enjoy? That’s doubly foolish.”
“Watch closely, and pretend that the way they are treating the animal is the way they’d treat a person weaker than they are. Watch closely, and imagine this is how the person will treat you in your joy and in your moments of need.”
The whole lexia of “the perfect onions and mushrooms to go with steak”; the recipe sounds delicious. I love mushrooms and onions with steak.
This piece, overall, was gorgeous. From what I read, it’s the slice-of-life story about a married couple. I love slice-of-life stories anyway, so it’s pretty much right up my alley. It had a way of being so tender, so full of sentiment without being sentimental. I loved it. I could probably dedicate hours and hours to reading through it. I love, also, the use of words, of images, of metaphors. I mean, “a Dali clock on a spoon” to describe a hug…that’s genius.
Peaceful Dream by Ottar Ormstad is a visual and auditory poetry experience. It is a Chinese version of Ormstad’s first book, and because of the idea behind the film (a poetic experience creating the feeling of a peaceful dream by making the eyes move to read words/characters in combination with images and audio) it cannot be translated directly. Ormstad feels that a translation via sound would be impossible, as this is a visual work, and likewise feels that subtitles would ruin the experience. As a viewer who does not know Mandarin, I simply followed Ormstad’s instructions to “just enjoy the beauty of the signs in combination with the visual effects and the sound.”
The video indeed made me feel quiet peaceful and sleepy, like a waking dream. I found myself wondering if the movement of my eyes as I looked at the changing characters in the corners of the screen had anything to do with that; are eye movements alone able to influence mood or feeling? I have not looked into that, but I have a hunch they can do something to that effect (perhaps that is the real science behind pseudoscience like hypnotism.) The images and sounds were also very calming, for the most part. Occasionally, the distortions of images and the use of bright yellow were jarring, taking me out of a peaceful state.
While watching the video, I found myself thinking about poetry and what it actually entailed. As we know it, poetry involves words and meaning, but there’s no doubt that it also involves feelings and the imagination of images. Could we make poetry without words? Poetry that only uses images (and maybe sounds) to evoke feelings? For someone who does not read any Mandarin, that was the effect of Peaceful Dream.
Zui Yong Shi by Ren Yang is another poetic piece. It generates Chinese WuYan JueJu poetry and a melody to pair with said poetry. This poetic form is “the poetry of singing intoxicatingly” or “to intoxicatingly sing poetry,” and is inspired by Tang Dynasty poet Li Po. As such, this poetry (which is set against a painting also inspired by Li Po and his friends gathering), is meant to be sung aloud. I had a lot of fun generating new poems and trying to sing them aloud in time with the generated musical tones. As I was singing them in English, I assume there were more syllables in my attempts than in the original Chinese, meaning it was a challenge to try and sync my words with the musical tones. However, despite this challenge, it was still quite fun trying! The poems themselves, being randomly generated, were also interesting to try and make meaning out of. Like our earlier exploration of the Blackout Poetry tool, I think that we are still very capable of finding meaning in computer-generated poetry that at first may seem nonsensical.
Overall, this piece was very aesthetically satisfying, not to mention genuinely fun to play around with. Without me trying to sing, the tones that accompany the poetry are beautiful and, combined with the background and the poetry, this work also makes me feel quite peaceful and relaxed.
Letters to X. vol/1, an e-lit piece by Jessica Barnes, is sort of a digital adaptation of a handful of written letters. The author’s statement explains that she asked friends to handwrite letters to ‘x’ (the recipient could be whoever they wanted) on a subject they would not typically post online. The letters were then used for the e-literature piece, with names and certain other words redacted out, available in their original forms and in editable templates in a “mad-libs” style. The templates can be filled in and edited completely, can be dragged around the screen, overlaid with each other and with the original scans of the letters, and saved to your computer or printed. It is interacted with primarily by clicking, typing, and dragging.
The piece is, according to the author’s statement, meant to make the reader think about social media, but that’s not really what I was thinking about as I explored the piece. Instead, I was thinking about how fun writing letters is, even though I rarely do so, and how I’d love to do it more. Now that everything is digitized and it’s so easy to quickly text, call, email, or DM, there’s something special about sending and receiving a letter. It’s an indication that someone really took the extra time to communicate with you, that they wanted to send you something special. When my girlfriend was still in undergrad in Savannah, Georgia, we would sometimes write each other letters. It’s not like we didn’t text every day and call frequently, but the letters were fun and special.
Because each letter is fully customizable in this e-lit piece, not just the blank spaces, it really presents some unique opportunities for storytelling. You can get an idea from a letter template, fill it in, and then switch around and change whatever words you want in order to create a new meaning. You can turn the letters into anything you want, giving you limitless possibilities even with only 16 templates. This, then, is where it becomes literary, at least to my mind, because it allows you to create stories, and/or to imagine what stories the original letters told prior to being redacted. I had fun with the piece, using some letter templates to get out thoughts in my head and to tell some tiny stories. One of the letters even reminded me of the character Snufkin from The Moomins, so I filled it in and edited it to reflect that further!
forgotten nights by Peter Hebden is one of the pieces that I began to explore on my own while I was trying to pick a piece to focus on for my presentation. I cannot express enough how much I love this piece. It is an audio poem that you can alter by adding or removing stars from the night sky by clicking. The interface is simple, really. Click around on the sky to add stars where available. Hover over the moon to reveal a play button, then click it to hear a version of the poem read aloud.
The poem is not randomly generated, with each change you make to the night sky changing one or more lines of poetry. It may be tempting to think that selecting every star will reveal one final, “true” poem, but there are so many stars available to click that it would be difficult to reveal them all, not to mention that that’s not the point. Now that we’ve seen more and more examples of e-lit and hopefully gotten more comfortable with the idea that there’s no single, correct meaning to be found in these pieces, I think that forgotten nights is a beautiful exploration of poetry and of user-driven change within a piece. To really experience forgotten nights, I think it is essential that you play around with it multiple times, seeing how additions and subtractions in the night sky alter the poem being read.
In a way, I think that the unique story that gets told depending on the different number of stars in the sky reflects how each human being has a different experience with the night sky. One rendition of the poem states that the narrators father taught them to look up to the stars when they have questions. Another rendition speaks of a person who enjoys laying in the grass in the dark, looking up whenver they have questions. One person was taught about the stars by their father. One came across them more organically, seeking an answer in the sky. It makes me think about how everyone has a different relationship with the stars and the night sky. Some people are enraptured by it, others hardly notice it, and many of us fall somewhere in between. There’s no doubt, though, that stars have captured human attention for ages; just look at all the constellation myths we have.
For this week’s readings, I began by playing around with Blackout Poetry Tool by Jazer Chand. Unlike the other pieces we’ve looked at thus far, Blackout Poetry Tool is not a narrative but, as it says in the title, a tool. With it, you can create blackout poetry from given excerpts, collaborate with a bot to make said poetry, let the bot generate poetry all on its own, or have the bot draw a “wave” through the text. My favorite mode is “synthesis,” in which the user selects a word, the bot selects the next, and so forth. This is a piece I made from an excerpt of The Great Gatsby using synthesis (so, actually, it’s a piece we made, the bot and I.)
I know, it sounds a little…incoherent, but I think that if the reader chooses to put some punctuation in some places, imagines filling in some “missing” words in others, one could find meaning in it. As it is, I still think it’s quite pretty and thought provoking.
Here’s a poem made in “antithesis” mode (picked only by the bot.)
This one feels like a reflection on government (Civil hardware?) and freedom.
Finally, here’s a poem made in the “symbiosis” mode, where you select words and the bot makes suggestions for what to pick next.
I really enjoy this e-lit tool. I already liked blackout poetry prior to this discovery, but working with the bot (or just seeing what the bot creates on its own) adds a new layer to this poetic technique. It’s also an exercise in making meaning out of words and poetry, out of trying to figure out some message and some coherence behind something that on its surface may not make a whole lot of sense. It’s also an understandable, easy-to-use entry point into the idea of human/technology collaboration for making art.
Our second piece for this week was Everything is Going to Be Ok by Nathalie Lawhead. This work was very complex, with a lot of things to explore, interact with, and absorb. I played around with it for over an hour and still hadn’t completed everything, but by then I was beginning to develop a bit of a headache from all the noise and flashing visuals and so I had to stop. This is a piece that you would probably need more than one sitting to really complete and fully digest.
I first noticed that it was very computer-centric in its appearance. By this I mean that the font, the visuals, the program boxes, the way it was set up a like a desktop, the sounds, all made it very clear it was a computer program and that it was really leaning into that. It had a strong sense of its aesthetic and how to really utilize it.
The piece does a great job of exploring depression, the recovery from trauma, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health topics. One bit that really resonated with me was the discussion about fearing how little control we have over everything. I have a lot of personal experience with this fear. Back in March, I had a major panic attack (or rather, a series of them) after a lot of build up of stressors. I was worried about catching covid and giving it to others, having a heart attack, having something medically wrong with me that I didn’t know about, having people hate my writing…ultimately, I was afraid of dying and I was afraid of people hating me. I tried to take control in whatever ways I could: I limited my eating, trying only to consume “healthy” foods to keep my cholesterol low; I frequently checked my heart rate and blood pressure; I took at-home covid tests constantly, usually at least once a week, sometimes more frequently; if I had even a tiny sniffle or the hint of a sore throat, I would panic and test; I often missed class and work because I feared I had covid; I stopped wanting to go out and do things for the same reason; I told myself I would alter my writing to make it more acceptable, more appealing, less objectionable; after my most major panic attack, I told myself maybe I’d just stop writing at all.
None of this was my first bout with anxiety. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. It was, however, my most severe struggle with it in a few years. I went on medication again and started with more frequent therapy and self care, and I started to improve, but it was a fight. This franticness of this piece, the way there is so much happening at once, so much noise, reminds me of how my thoughts get when I’m anxious. The spiraling, often nonsensical worries that flood my brain and stop me from focusing on anything else. The struggle, the tedium, the way it tires you out.
A few months after all of that came to a head and I started to recover, my dog Cody got seriously hurt and required a pretty major surgery. Since then, he’s continued to have health problems, some related to that injury and some not. He’s twelve years old. There’s barely a day that passes where I don’t worry about him dying. Every time something happens that requires another vet visit, I break down. It all comes back to that terrible lack of control. There is nothing I can do. Anything can happen. It’s out of my control. All I can do is be there for him and do my best to help him through what I can’t prevent. All I can do is love him. Like Everything is Going to Be Ok says, all I can do is live one day at a time.
Did I enjoy Everything is Going to Be Ok? I don’t think enjoy is the right word to use. I don’t think it’s something you’re supposed to enjoy. But it made me think, and feel things, and relate. It resonated, struck a cord. Some of it was almost fun. Other parts were draining. A lot of the time, I just wanted to be finished with it. So…it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be easy, just like life.
High Muck A Muck, an e-lit collaboration between 11 different creators, is difficult to define as any one thing. The editorial statement describes it as “sound, poetry, video, and interactive text,” which is a fair jumping-off point for a read-through of it. All these elements interact and overlap, but are still able to be distinctly identified: you interact with different images and textual pieces to “discover” poetry, sound bites, and videos, navigating via a central home “hub” to different parts of Canada where elements are grouped. The navigation reminds me slightly of a point-and-click adventure video game.
I will come out and say it right away: I had a difficult time deciphering and making meaning of much of this piece. I think part of it has to do with the fact that it’s layering the already difficult task of interpreting poetry (or at least, that is a difficult task for me) onto the also difficult task of interpreting e-lit. That is not at all to say anything detrimental about the quality of High Muck A Muck; it’s a beautifully made, intricate, and fascinating experience of electronic literature. It’s just a hard “read”, at least for me.
Reading the authors’ and editorial statements before going in certainly helped me out a lot. I’m not sure how much I would have comprehended without this initial help. The surface-level meanings behind the piece, such as an exploration of Chinese immigration to Canada and the ensuing formation of Chinatowns and struggles that these Chinese-Canadians faced, were easily enough recognized and understood, but determining the meaning behind some other parts of the piece was much harder. Take, for example, the videos.
Watching the videos felt a lot like trying to decipher the meaning of performance art (which, actually, may be exactly what the videos are.) They made little sense to me, though they were fascinating to watch and had a beauty about them. I was frustrated with myself for not being able to…”get it.” One of the first videos I came across in the piece was the one of the calligraphy brush overlaid against the man who was tied up and doing some sort of acrobatics. I am so certain that there is deep meaning there, that everything in the video means something and there is a connection between the brush, the man, and the poem being read aloud, but I can’t grasp it. It’s frustrating, but again, the frustration isn’t really directed at the piece but at myself.
For me, my favorite parts were the audio snippets located in Nelson. These were stories of people’s lived experiences, and they were much easier for me to make sense of. When I’m able to figure out the meaning of something (even if it’s just my meaning, going back to the idea that with an e-lit piece, there are infinite meanings created by the readers), I’m usually able to enjoy it much more.
Despite the difficulties this piece gave me, I liked reading it. I love multimodal approaches to storytelling such as this, and I have a great appreciation for what the creators were doing and the story they were relaying, even if it feels like a lot of it went over my head. As with Twelve Blue, I think a rereading (or multiple rereadings) will help me piece together more and more and eventually come to a higher understanding.
The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s Fall 2022 Electronic Literature course.