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Separation, Sooth, ……and our semester windup

This week we had two presentations.  First up was Ally with UnknownSeparation by Annie Abrahams,  and second was Megan with Sooth by David Jhave Johnston.  With Abrahams linear yet interactive poem Separation, we are prompted to think about our relationship to machines (computers).  What is the relationship between the human body and the computer?   Are we joined to our computers as much as we think?  With each click, we receive one more word of a poem written expressly to/for the computer.  The pace forces you slow down, and the exercise supports a kind of “restoration” of your body.  We agreed that the interactivity presented here takes on a new tenor – it is simple, linear, and yet it forces not just your mind but your body to engage in the interaction, drawing attention to how much our physical embodiment is strained under the sway of one’s personal computer.

UnknownIn Sooth, David Jhave Johnston creates a “suite” of six love poems that use the same interface, each of which has its own tone and strategies.  Each of the six panels opens up to an electronic poem – images,  floating/flowing verse, and ambient sound files mingle -responding to the click of your mouse.  There is a kind of simplicity to the design which is appealing, but deceptive, as the piece offers complex meditations on varying states of being (in love).  Looping meditations that are also a quest for truth.  The word “Sooth” has the same root as the word “truth.”  Thanks Megan for an insightful walkthrough.  We discussed a bit about the truth about love – how it is also a truth about satisfaction and its limitation. As Johnston touches the truth about love, you are confronted with both an ugly-looking grouper or moray eel as well as soothing fields of snow.

For next week:

-Alica-Rae will present on “With Those We Love Alive” and Jessica will present on The Cape.  Please read and blog about these texts.  Also, please mull over the title of collaborative article on TiL and offer your suggestion at the end of your blog.  (**I will work on the final editorial touches of the collaborative article as editor.  All of your individual reflection submissions should already be in that TiL document).

Your individual elit piece is due by next class (12/6).  Please email me your piece, and if you would like to frame your work with a kind of “descriptive/explanatory cover letter” you are welcome to include that in your email to me.

Unknown-1Last class period we will have a potluck celebration and we will walkthrough each of your own pieces.  Each student will contribute some food to our final party.  Here is a google doc for sharing your contribution to the overall menu.

We are almost there!  Two more weeks everyone, you can do this :)….

See you next class,

Dr. Zamora



Hobo Lobo Hamelin, & the next few weeks…

images-1Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  We are coming into the homestretch now, and the pace of your coursework will certainly pick up.  Remember to remain calm and work steadily, knowing that this too shall pass ;).

Thank you Katherine for selecting a whimsical and yet profound piece for us to explore and reflect upon together.  The timing seemed perfect, and as I said in class, there something in the happenstance of your selection that is a kind of wisdom.

This whimsy yet onerous pop-up comic is more than frivolous fairy-tale, but a kind of dark satire into the perils of fascism (it also works as a searing critique of current politics, social issues, and mediascape).  The comic strip narrative in prose and verse reinvents the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  HoboLoboIn a richly illustrated world a wolf character called “Hobo Lobo” agrees to eliminate the rat population which has served as the corrupt mayor’s political scapegoat (a useful distraction from his own will to power and greed).  Along the way the “fourth estate” is exposed as a major player in the resulting evil.  Meanwhile, the lobo who is a hobo, represents a kind of deeply flawed ethical ambivalence in the midst of a corrupt world.  We all spoke about the political dimensions of the work, and Katherine also shared insight into the innovative technical aspect is that uses layers to produce a three dimensional parallax effect.  Many of us expressed gratitude that Katherine chose this text to be included in our overall reading roster.


Progress on the collaborative project:

We are getting closer to the completion of our collaborative article about Thermophilies in Love.  Remember that a few of you need to include your own reflection in the work as it stands, and some need to edit or drop an effective title in for your section of the work.  **Your contribution MUST BE COMPLETED by next class on 11/29 so that the final edit can be completed and the work can be submitted ELMCIP for review.

For next class on 11/28:

Ally will present on Separation by Annie Abrahams & Megan will present on Sooth by David Jhave Johnston.  Please read and blog about these pieces before class.

Also, please remember that the final deadline for your individual elit piece is December 6th.

We will have a final class party (potluck with informal presentation) on 12/ film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword now

See you soon,

Dr. Zamora


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Plans for “Thermophiles in Love”….

I really enjoyed class last night.  Another insightful discussion thanks to Kelli, this time about Jason Nelson’s “This is How You Will Die” – right in time for both Halloween & the Day of the Dead ;).  Kelli’s thisishowyouwilldiewalkthrough took us through the central provocation of Nelson’s clever work, highlighting that death (like life) is simply a matter of chance, much like a random gamble or the spin of the slot machine.  Your own demise (from the cause of your death to what happens to your body) is narrated in the slot machine interface.  The piece is in essence a generative poem with many possible combinatorial outcomes.  The overall effect is both eerie/harrowing and absurdist/funny …in the dark sense of humor.  Kelli pointed out the nihilistic tone (i.e. the meaninglessness of life & death – as a simple as spin on the rouhlette wheel).  She also outlined the artistic influence of dadaism (the early 20th century embrace of chaotic nonsense and the absurd), suggesting Nelson’s piece could be characterized as neo-dadaist.  And we also spoke of the particular affordances of the second person stance – “this is how YOU will die”.  The power of the piece in many ways lies in that simple rhetorical decision/stance.


We then turned our attention to discussing your group project and the new #NetProv (networked improvisational narrative) called Thermophiles in Love.  

You decided to blend your group project ideas with your #Netprov participation as your #Elitclass final public group project.  This “role-playing-game turned elit-theater” will serve as the heart of your final class collaboration.  therefore you must all register for the game ASAP, play this game for about 30 minutes each day this week though Sunday, and blog your reflection on the experience for next week.  The final collaboration will be scholarly paper (a curated edited version of your reflective #netprov blogs) co-written by all of us, and submitted to the ELMCIP editorial team for publication.  In short, we will co-write and co-publish a reflective paper on our #netprov experience for the ELMCIP directory.  And because we have decided to “front-end” this project which mostly takes place this week, the deadline for your individual e-lit piece has been pushed back towards the close of the semester.

For next week (no face-to-face class but work due):

Register for Thermophiles in Love ASAP, and play each day this week according to this suggested schedule.

-Make sure to play each day for approximately 30 minutes per day so you can accumulate experience(s) and interactions with other thermophiles.

-After this week of periodic game play through Sunday 11/6, post a reflective blog on your #netprov experience.  Your Thermophiles in Love blog is due on November 8th.  In your blog, please highlight moments that were fun, or surprising, or disorienting, etc.  Also, please write about what you think you might have learned.  ***In what ways did the Thermophiles in Love forums highlight new forms of play and collaboration?  ***Did the game trigger new ideas about the way people interact, connect, or respond to each other in social media spaces?   ***What have you learned here about collaborative writing/imagining?  ***Did you develop any new digital literacies by interacting in this imaginary space?

For the next time we meet in person on November 15th (remember, we are not meeting in person on 11/8 Election Day):

Dave will present on The First Draft of the Revolution By Emily Short and Liza Daly.  Please read this piece and blog your reflection on it by 11/15.

Also, I will be reading your #netprov blogs next week, and I will start to curate your ideas and thoughts into a collaborative paper.  You will have editorial access to this draft in a few weeks.

I will see you again on 11/15!

Enjoy the #netprov guys….(I’ll be in there too!!)

Dr. Zamora


Just in time for Halloween…


UnknownOur discussion of Pieces of Herself by Juliet Davis was rich and insightful.  Thank you to Nadia for her excellent walkthrough – I really enjoyed our thoughtful conversation about the work.  This interactive digital art piece makes use of much less text than we have seen in the previous e-lit pieces we have explored together.  Instead, this work makes great use of a drag and drop interface – viewers can scroll through familiar environments (i.e. bathroom, living room, outside, the office) to collect metaphorical “pieces” of the self and arrange them in compositions inside the body by dropping them down in a dress-up doll.   The reader/navigator can customize their exploration of the work by filling in the dress-up doll (or woman’s silhouette).  As each “piece” is dragged into the paper doll silhouette, it triggers animations along with audio clips from interviews with women, music loops, and sound effects, resulting in a layered narrative effect.  

We discussed the meaning behind the that the fact that one cannot remove any of these animations/effects once they are dropped down in the silhouette.  This amplifies the underlying theme that ideologies leave lasting marks, imprinting a woman permanently.  Davis’ work emphasizes the irrevocable layering of all the experiences that shape and mark a young woman, highlighting the social inscription of the feminized body.


***Please remember that you should drop your storyboard and/or concept for your individual elit piece in this document.  There are some fantastic examples of work thus far included there.  I am really inspired and excited to see this unfolding work from all of you.   Not everyone has dropped their material down in there yet, so make a point to do that before next class.

For next class:  

Kelli will present on “This is how you will Die!” By Jason Nelson…just in time for Halloween ;).  Please post your reflection blog on this piece before class.  

In part two of class, you will all discuss and determine your plans for the final group project.  Please come to class with some ideas – what collaboration project might be both exciting and meaningful as a conclusion to our e-lit journey together?  We will be sure to set up a timeline for the project before the close of class.

Finally, I will be announcing a new mini-project for all of you to explore in the next two weeks.  It is a #netprov called Thermophiles in Love.  We will discuss how we will participate when we are in class together soon.

images  Happy Halloween!


On “Inanimate Alice” and making elit….

imagesThanks Richonda for an excellent walkthrough of the seminal #elit text Inanimate Alice Vol. 4.  A multilayered episodic story about a young girl who grows up in varying spots on the globe, this multimodal combination of text, sound, video, and imagery has been an exemplar of digital storytelling. In the fourth episode of Alice’s overall journey, she is fourteen years old and living in a small town in the middle of England. Her first real friends have dared her to climb to the top of an abandoned building which supposedly has a great view of the whole town from the top. Alice accepts the dare. As she climbs to the top and the stairs give way. She narrowly misses falling, and is stuck at the top of the building with no clear way out.  Alice is frightened, and she must navigate her way out of this dark unknown place.  We navigate with/for Alice, and we “play the game” until we can find our way out of the abandoned warehouse.  Brad (Alice’s imaginary digital friend) is a help if we decide to “use” him for guidance during our journey to the top of the building.  The soundtrack and imagery set a foreboding and dangerous tone, along the way highlighting glimpses of surprising beauty in an overall industrial wasteland.  Alice has a way of finding the silver lining in her surroundings and her situation.  She is a sojourner who survives despite the constrained context(s) she find herself in.

UnknownIt was interesting to think about the resonance of the title for this piece (an illusion to “Alice in Wonderland” of course, as well as the inherent provocation as we think about what is “inanimate”).  We discussed the unique affordances of the “gameplay” version of the story’s conclusion verses the other choice to just read through the factory exploration.  The gamed version is more interactive, and as a result, perhaps the navigator/reader is given a more “empathetic lens” into Alice’s trials.  We also discussed the way in which this work has been a catalyst for many discussions regarding both digital literacy and globalization.  What is striking about this piece is the strong desire to really know Alice.  While we do not know what she looks like, or anything beyond the very basic facts of her transient life, we are still drawn to this character through a skilful and dynamic portrayal of her inner workings.  The textual, visual and auditory aspects of this digital novel work in powerful tandem – the reader discovers the important role technology has to play not simply in viewing a text, but in forming a more complex and intimate relationship with a character.

For next week:

Nadia will present and walk us through Pieces of Herself by Juliet Davis.  Your blog post should have two components this coming week -a reflection on the reading, and -a storyboard or a review of a new digital tool:

 1.  Please post your thoughts/reflection on the reading Pieces of Herself.  

2.  In addition, you have a choice between two different activities for next week’s class.  Please choose one of the following two activities:  -You can post your initial storyboard concept for your own elit piece.  Please reflect on the storyboard as you have mapped it out, and what you have learned in the process of producing it.  -You can post a summary of your “tinkering session” with a new digital tool you are considering for the production of your elit piece.  Please include a review of what you learned when exploring and playing with the new tool, and reflect on whether or not the digital tool will be helpful to you in making your own piece.  You can choose from the list of digital tools, or explore any other tools that have come to your attention.

I look forward to reading about your ongoing exploration.

See you soon,

Dr. Zamora


On High Muck a Muck….

UnknownOur last e-lit class was a bit unorthodox since we serendipitously decided to attend Prof. Alan Robbins talk on “Design & Storytelling”.  I am glad we made the effort, as I think the discussion drew attention to the fact that a good story is also a matter of design.  I especially appreciated the slides in which he mapped out his mystery novels.  The visual reference reminds us all that in building out our own e-lit, we we’ll need to pay close attention to the concept of structure and form.  A story map practice will certainly support our writing/making process.

As I noted in class afterward, I do not think all stories require a clearly apprehended beginning, middle, and end to be called narrative.  In some of the most compelling literature, this notion of a linear or teleological story convention can be “played with” or scrambled up in the most provocative of ways.  The beauty of e-lit often is about bending these perceptions/conventions of narrative expectation.  Despite this objection to defining a story in a constrained fashion, I do think Prof. Robbins talk was an interesting visit for us, and I am always glad when we can incorporate new disciplinary angles on our shared thinking.

Unknown-1Thank you to Hailey for an excellent second half of class with her thoughtful presentation of High Muck a Muck.  High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese is an interactive poem, consisting of a website and eight videos which explores the narratives and tensions of historical and contemporary Chinese immigration to Canada. High Muck a Muck is most intriguing especially because it was formed through an interdisciplinary collaboration of nine Canadian artists and programmers including Fred Wah, poet, Jin Zhang, composer; Nicola Harwood, project director and designer; Thomas Loh and Bessie Wapp, video artists and performers:, Hiromoto Ida, dancer; Patrice Leung, filmmaker; Tomoyo Ihaya, visual artist and Phillip Djwa, creative technologist.  The convergence of so many gifted practitioners has produced an exceptionally rich and complex piece, which definitely pushes beyond the traditional confines of “text”.  The addition of an installation version of this piece lends further complexity by offering the work up as an event.

Unknown-2Hailey was able to effectively walk us through many of the most significant images/tropes of the piece, while sharing her sense of the diverse options for navigation.  The piece explores the multi lenses of diaspora and globalism, while provoking us to think further about the impact of dreams steeped in the challenges of exile or migration.  We could see the way in which embodiment (the body) is wrapped up in conflicted pasts and presents, and how the myths of immigration are often a gamble with many different resulting outcomes.  The final tone of the work is ambiguous and dispersed, with a haunting lack of resolve.  There is loss despite gains in this journey to a new world.

For next week:

Richonda will walk us through and present Inanimate Alice (Episode 4) by Kate Pullinger & Chrish Joseph.  Please read this piece and write your reflection blog.  In addition to your thoughts on Inanimate Alice Episode 4, please include at the end of your blog some initial ideas for your own elit piece.  What kind of story do you want to tell?  Start to brainstorm a plot structure, characters, and themes. 

In the second half of class we will start the process of mapping your e-lit ideas (building story maps) and we will also take a look at a list of digital tools that might help in implementing your ideas.  

See you then,

Dr. Zamora

On “Tailspin”, and what is next….

As many of you know, I have been away at the Digital Media & Learning Conference held at the University of California-Irvine.  It was a wonderful week filled with inspiration and learning, and I return home with renewed passion for the work we are exploring together, and new energy regarding what is possible (as co-learners in this class together).

Thank you to Andaiye for setting the tone for our “close reading” presentations of e-lit texts.  Her choice to explore Christine Wilks’ Tailspin was a good one, leading us right away to apprehend the kind of literary nuance afforded in digital storytelling environment.  ‘Tailspin’ is elegantly written and constructed, with themes, imagery, and a symbolic language that complements the multimodal navigation required to discover the story.  Unknown-1 The story is about a WW2 vet named George – a man whose hearing impairment is a constant source of tension between him and his family, and in particular, his daughter Karen.  One of the first things we do notice about ‘Tailspin’ is the power of sound. From a constant heartbeat and an eerie, repeated, tinny melody, the story opens with someone humming and the sound of utensils scraping across plates. The reader is bombarded with footsteps, birdsong, muffled shouts, the silly banter of children, and the sounds of video games. The effect is a constant din, perhaps mirroring the tinnitus that George suffers from.  The pull of the story lies in a subtle but ever evolving sense of trauma rooted in George’s buried past.  The coil of the inner ear (cochlea) foreshadows the spinning swirls that readers must click on to navigate through the story. These spinning icons also echo the tailspin of the plane crash George witnessed during the war and the sense that things are “spinning out of control” in the family’s interactions with each other.  In this story, generations fail to connect, silence does not ensure peace, and trauma is the legacy that cannot be seen but is heard.  Andaiye had us think about each phase/layer of this story, and pointed to the way in which the multi modal use of sound, image and text (and links) all worked in concert to produce a coherent yet complex narrative.

For next class we will be exploring High Muck A Muck.  Hailey will be directing our “walkthrough” with her presentation on this new e-lit text from the ELC Vol. 3.  

Please be sure to blog a reflection regarding this text before class on Tuesday, and use the our class hashtag (#elitclass) to tweet your early thoughts.   After Hailey’s presentation in part one of class, we will start to think further about making e-lit in the second half of class.

See you soon! Dr. Zamora

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Starting with “Twelve Blue” and thinking about reading…..

 “12 Blue Isn’t Anything, Think of Lilacs When They are Gone.”

everything can be read, every surface, every silence, every breath, every vacancy, every eddy, every current, every body, every absence, every darkness, every light……

Some ideas to emerge from our discussion last evening:

Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue = a reading experience; a conceptual exploration.

  • Themes/Motifs: reading & flowing; water- upstream/downstream, stillness & turbulence, fluid and changing; memory; color; nature/seasons; traces; generations (young vs. more mature); history; perception (looking); multiple paths/multiple meanings; “skyways” (routes, infrastructure, mobility); self-referencial elements
  • Character, plot and relationships: there are relationship “networks” but there was definitely some confusion – some readers knew some characters, other readers knew others, some of our knowledge of the text overlapped, some did not, etc.
  • Reading strategies:   Some chose to click on threads or the hyperlinks within the text randomly, some decided to stick consistently by a certain thread color, while others discovered the titles for each of the lexia tabs and used this as an attempt to “frame” possible meanings.  Some considered the number 12 as a clue to a reading strategy, while some attempted  basic “note taking” and/or “mapping” in an attempt to discern patterns or meanings.  Everyone expressed frustration, and many felt a sense of exploration and discovery emerge after some more time spent with the text.  Some expressed that the piece was “writerly” but the story was never compelling because there was no cohesion.  We speculated on the effect of a lack of any discernible pathway to reading.   A lack of any identifiable closure was certainly unsettling to most of us.
  • Assessment: 12 Blue reminds us all of the active role of the reader in creation – we are “navigators” beyond just readers;   We all shared an awareness of an underlying structure that cannot/couldn’t be apprehended, but was determined by the code of the work. (This is the central illusion – that readers have agency through navigation, but still, the world is a closed design determined by the underlying code).  I think the idea of an illusion will be a key word for us to consider throughout our exploration of elit.  With Twelve Blue, we struggled to apprehend an ending (lack of closure was deemed truly unsatisfying), but some of us agreed there was beauty in the fragments.

I would like to share with you some critical/review articles. These articles give you an idea of how critics/scholars write about a text like 12 Blue:

Some follow up planning issues:

You each should identify a date for your presentation.   We will pin the calendar via negotiation next week in class.  Remember as well to identify the elit text you would like analyze (have a few choices in mind, and I encourage you to select work from Vols 2 or 3).  The first presentation for your E-lit Reviews will start next week – thanks to Andaiye volunteering to kick this part of class off on 9/27.

For next week:

 1. For those of you have not identified an Elit piece to analyze, continue exploring the ELC Volumes and choose a few you would like to work with.  Keep a few preferred presentation dates in mind and be ready to negotiate that date with the rest of your classmates in class next week.

2.  Please read these three elit works from Volume 1:

Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky by Sharif Ezzat

Soliloquy by Kenneth Goldsmith

RedRidinghood by Donna Leishman

3.  Your first blog post:  Write analytically about one of those three texts:  –Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky, –Soliloquy, or –RedRidinghood.  Some questions to consider:  What are some of the significant textual elements?  How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What overall effect do these texts create?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

Next week we will walkthrough the three texts, as a model for what your reviews may be like.  In addition, we will go over the Elit Review protocol/assignment.

I regret we did not have further time to discuss Twelve Blue and hypertext in general last night, but we still had a very rich conversation as we start to reconsider the act of reading .   The links to your collaborative class notes can be found in the Course Resources section of this website.

Thanks for a great start to the semester….

See you next week,

Dr. Zamora