All posts by twodonutsmakeinfinity

A Quiz that Lasts One Lifetime minus 8 Months

This is going to be a last minute review of Brainstrips by Alan Bigelow.

The first section is titled ‘Deep Philosophical Questions…’ and it is a comic book with some deep philosophical questions. For example, is color real? I never believed colors were real. They always look fake. I think the rumors about the colors being products created secretly by the government to make us forget black and white is true. I am totally fine inside my box, thank you very much. I do not need to see the fake things outside of it. I pay my taxes and that should be enough. Another question is ‘Do trees have rights?’ and it is a good question. Some people believe they do have rights but I watched a YouTube video of a guy in his basement talking about those trees and he said trees are overrated and I think it may be true. Trees clean the air but I prefer animals because you are not allowed to have a tree as a pet.

The second section is titled ‘Science for Idiots’ which I do not need because I am smarter than everyone else. Especially my neighbor, George. He is a curious one. I do not understand why he never bothers to leave his trash on his side of the sidewalk on Mondays. I always find banana peels on the ground as I leave for the office and I just want to scream and throw a rock at his house. Perhaps I should ask him to look at Brainstrips. The part called ‘Evolution’ might teach him something. Maybe he could become as smart as I am and work in a nice cubical office just like me and earn more money. There is also a part called ‘Gravity and You’ and it is about gravity. It shows a person digging into the core of the world. I do not think this is real. I have never tried it myself but I do not believe you can actually dig that deep. There are some videos online about digging that deep but I think they are fake.

The third section is titled ‘Higher Math’ and I do not like this section. It is stupid. The part called ‘Subtraction’ shows a guy winning one million dollars by gambling. He only tries three times and wins big and it is not believable. I buy instant tickets all the time and I never win big. I only manage to win ten or twenty dollars after three tries, so the guy in the story should win only that much to make it more believable. I write stuff on Reddit all the time. Storytellers should be more careful with their stories. Another stupid part is ‘The Googolplex’ and I thought it was about Google search but it is not. It is about a girl and numbers of 1 and 0. In the end of the story, the girl discards all the zeroes for some reason and make the number small. I do not understand this at all. The more zeroes mean the number is higher and I think everybody knows this. The guy in the part ‘Subtraction’ is smarter than this girl, I think.

My overall score for this particular piece of literary work is: “I’m late!” out of 10.

 

 

(In case there is some confusion, this was a satirical post.)

Pied Piper of Digital World

The Pied Piper of Hamelin was a story I remember reading when I was a kid and feeling uneasy afterwards. It was my first experience with an unexpected ending to a story. Revisiting that particular story was not something I had considered but the idea of exploring it within the merits of electronic literature made me very intrigued. I wondered about the potential innovative or creative possibilities that could be applied to it by an update in a digital medium. The result is the wonderful digital narration called Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. The story that made me feel tense in its traditional form is now one of my absolute favorites in its digital form.

It is always fascinating to observe reinterpretations of old stories or folktales in modern era. Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is a great example of mixing the traditional storytelling with modern satire and snark. The author simply describes his work by claiming that “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is a thing by a dude, who’s all like, “I’m gonna make a thing.” and I interpret it as “don’t take it too seriously.” Political satire has the potential to upset people with strong and very serious political stance. Literary works such as this requires an open-minded approach to enjoy and examine it properly. The subtle – and often not so subtle – metaphorical imagery used in this story makes it a distinctive work.

The first major change that is noticeable from the original work is the main character, the piper, being a wolf instead of a human. The animal wolf is “a symbol of guardianship, ritual, loyalty, and spirit.” This seems to work more in line with the story’s satirical nature by introducing the character in this manner only to contrast it with the ending. The other obvious changes include modern aesthetics such as the rats being drug addicts and the major being depicted as present day politician who goes on a television program to spread his message. Along with certain details placed in the background of the images, such as the poster with “teamwork: town that prays together, stays together” on page 5, the author manages to offer his commentary on current political and social issues in subtle but arguably appropriate manner. It also proves how timeless the original work is by being very open to interpretation.

It would also be unfair not to mention the gorgeous artwork that is presented along with the story. The still animation of Hobo Lobo of Hamelin obviously resembles the pop-up books designed for younger readers. Their colorful and immersive nature often make them more attractive in comparison to more conventional examples. Some may argue that pop-up effect is a simple gimmick or an illusion that only offers the young reader a distraction. This notion is perfectly captured by the overwhelming size of the artwork over the written section on the page that showcases the concept of distraction and it creates irony. An effect designed for younger readers is used to divert attention from political threads of the story intended for adults. The use of newspaper comic strip drawing style, along with single color appliance over each page, which no doubt represents particular emotion that matches with action represented in the story, is also nothing short of brilliance. Imaginatively constructed shifts and alternations in animation truly captures the mood that the author is attempting to present.

The story examines the concepts of fear-mongering and alternative truths. Its open-ended conclusion, which is no doubt intentional, allows its reader to ponder upon many issues that we face on almost daily basis. Its navigational structure that resembles a newspaper reading is a compliment to its delicate nature. Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is a great reinterpretation of a classic story that everyone should experience.

Voyage Forward

Discovering what electronic literature is capable of is truly riveting. Discussing the experience and thoughts of others about reading, or rather navigating, through a work of electronic literature in the class made a lot of things more clear to understand. I totally agree with the assertion that “when we are schooled, we loose our ability to make games out of life” and that “electronic literature is one way to bring that sense of fun back around”. Best example of this assertion would be the puzzle-solving aspect of its structure. Though, I do not know if this is absolutely applicable to every single genre of electronic literature, as I have yet to experience them all, but the fact that possibility is there.

Our next assignment was to examine the integration of computer algorithm into the presentation. Out of the two given options, I chose to look at Reconstructing Mayakovsky by Illya Szilak. This time around I decided to briefly write down my experience with this piece. Simply put, it is a multimedia electronic literature that examines the concept of utopia and the future of humanity. I was not familiar with Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky beforehand. Reading the line “Inspired by the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky who killed himself in 1930 at the age of thirty-six” in author description on the main page set a anxious mood before I begin reading it. Similar to Twelve Blue, this piece also relies on navigation. The first thing that it required me to do was selecting a media in which I would be engaging with the story. As a big fan of podcasts, my attention was immediately drawn to that particular category.

I was not so sure what to expect from a section titled Audio Podcasts in electronic literature. Since reading was supposed to be the main focus, my first guess was that transcripts of recorded podcasts would be listed here for reading. I was wrong. There were literary recorded audio files which you could select randomly and simply listen. I do not know why but the number 8 tends to be my choice when given, and that was the first audio file I selected. A narrator that sounded like Adam Driver began to talk about struggles of a woman with an inner voice that “infiltrated her mind”. This voice, if I’m not mistaken, correlates to the advertisement and slogans that people are often exposed to on media. The narrator described how uncomfortable woman felt with this voice affecting her thoughts. As I continued to listen, I noticed the voice of the narrator was actually digitally altered and I guess it was a way to portray concept of being hidden.

The narrator also described Mayakovsky in a very unsettling matter. This was possibly a subtle way to portray how people perceive or conditioned to perceive certain individuals with personal views that my be deemed radical. The overall theme of the work began to be clear around this point, especially with the analogy of a cruise ship that contained history of Russia. The theme was the dream of a better future and utopia. As I made a quick search online, I realized Vladimir Mayakovsky was poet in Soviet Russia and implemented “hidden” ideas and meanings into his writing. This particular electronic literature was bringing these ideas into a digital environment for readers to experience rather than read about them. It is a fascinating work.

Besides Audio Podcasts selection, I also examined Achieves. The implementation of algorithm was very evident as I believe the pictures displayed in this selection were randomly picked up from google search. The themes were more clear with the keywords listed on top; such as Freedom, Truth, Future, Revolution, and Utopia. I guess the algorithm picked up images that correlated with these specific words and crated a thematic exhibit. A question that comes to mind with this approach would be “Is the algorithm writing the piece rather than the author credited?” My answer to that question is that the author would be the featured painter, and the algorithm would be the curator of that painter’s gallery. The algorithm still serves the vision of the author.

This type of implementation, along with usage of additional medium such as podcast, in a work of literature made me go back to my question “Does literature require the action of reading in order to observe its essence and merit or can literature be experienced through multiple actions instead?” I’m beginning to think that it is possible to experience a literary work through combination of alternative media rather than focusing on sole ability of reading. Children tend to rely on many abilities that they posses to bring their games into fruition after all. I guess it is safe to say the same can be done in literature.

The First Step

It is exciting to write my first blog post for the semester. A digital means of writing for a digital-focused class. I was not fully aware of electronic literature or its impact in the field up until now but it appears to be more fascinating than one would expect. It is simply described as “literature born in digital form” and exclusive to that digital-based environment. Even though it sounds clear enough, it certainly requires more thought to fully grasp its nature and how it differentiates itself from literature as we know it. These first couple of weeks were my first steps into understanding the nature of electronic literature and construct a better definition for literature in bigger picture.

Following the brief introduction to electronic literature, our first small but important assignment for the class was to define literature as a whole. As most students would do, I simply looked up its dictionary definition online to get a sense of what is expected when it is asked. It read: “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit”. I needed to re-write this given definition by my own words and capture the essence of literature but also be inclusive to these new forms that I was introduced to in class. In my re-written definition, I suggested that literature was an expressive work conducted in a communicative form that presented literary purpose and ignited creative thinking. Although I agree with that definition, I also could not help but wondered whether I was truly capturing that essence in question by re-writing the definition or intentionally altering the established definition in order to include the works presented to me as examples of electronic literature? I was a bit skeptic.

Instead of comparing traditional literature with electronic literature, I figured that examining the key aspects of differentiating the two could be a better approach. One particular way to make a solid distinguish would be to examine the existence of interaction. In the article, Navigating Electronic Literature, it is suggested that the key feature of electronic literature is the role of the reader who has the power to navigate through the story and construct his or her own path to the end as opposed to traditional works of literature that tend to present its narration in much more simplistic matter. It made sense but I needed something more distinguishable and specific since this statement could easily apply to a Choose Your Own Adventure book, which is constructed in a traditional environment rather than digital. As it is stated in the article, “Navigating electronic literature is an act of producing a work’s signifying properties in the moment of engagement with them…” and “when and how the reader inputs a command, whether it is a mouse-click or a typewritten word, this action affects the work’s performance and the reader’s engagement with it.” I wanted to experience that complex navigation and Twelve Blue by Michael Joyce seemed to be a great conduit for that.

Twelve Blue was the first hypertext I read. It was an abstract piece and more in line with poetry in my opinion. The construction of story was based on the choices presented to the reader. By clicking on given options in form of links, the reader discovers a portion of the story. Each portion could be examined as a puzzle piece and the reader is expected to navigate through the story in order to complete it. These portions introduced me to the characters and their relative perspectives. There were clues as to how the reader could navigate through the story. For interested readers, the biggest clue to this puzzle rests in the title, the number 12 – as in 12 characters and also some small pictures placed by the author in few points of the story. Something I found very compelling was the change in tone of writing within these portions based on the character which was being focused on. The overarching theme within the story, in my opinion, was drowning; not in real sense necessarily but more in psychological or even social sense. This particular theme was also correlated by the color blue that formed the text and the background. The figurative tone of story in its abstract form and the complex navigational format truly made me feel that predicament as I read it, and it was something that could not be duplicated without the digital environment in which the story is meant to be read.

Reading and navigating through Twelve Blue was certainly a very interesting experience. Even though the style of story was not my cup of tea necessarily, being very poetic and figurative, it did provide great examples of what one could archive with a narration conducted in digital environment. It did display a distinct atmosphere in contrast with traditional literary works and also created a genuine challenge. Jessica Pressman, author of Navigating Electronic Literature, mentions in her article that “…student frustration with navigation and confusion about the reading experience can be turned into fruitful, self-reflective discussions about the role of media on the ways in which information is produced, disseminated, archived, and taught.” This is certainly true. The most important realization after going through Twelve Blue was that I was attempting to answer the wrong question in order to achieve the true definition of literature. The question that I should actually attempt to answer is: Does literature require the action of reading in order to observe its essence and merit or can literature be experienced through multiple actions instead? Although I might not have a solid answer to that as of now, I’m quite certain that further analysis on other electronic literature examples in upcoming weeks is going to allow me to find it wholly.

I am certainly looking forward to our following assignments to discover more about the nature of this new field of literature.