Tag Archives: E-Lit

A New Literacy: Inanimate Alice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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

Shades and Tones of the Same Book: Thoughts on “Pieces of Herself”

            Part of Nives’ presentation that stood out to me last week was the fact that she incorporated the people behind her e-lit piece, Window , into her walk-through. This added a layer of depth and meaning that made the material come alive in a different way than I had experienced up to this point. As I interacted with the assigned pieces this week, I decided to try this approach and see if it could help give me a deeper experience. I wasn’t disappointed with the results, though I still found myself bewildered by the amount of jargon in this field that I am still not familiar with.

            My focus this week was on Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself. In her article “Fractured Cybertales: Navigating the Feminine” we learn that Davis has a background in advertising and that as she moved into feminist art and web media design, her past experience with the use of “visual and verbal rhetoric” (27) in targeting an audience gave her an interesting approach to her art. Her background can be seen in the design of Pieces of Herself as it simulates the common interface that is used with games that allow young women to drag-and-drop clothing onto a virtual mannequin (29). Davis uses this particular interface in order to critique the messages sent to women and in the process sends her own anti-messages (so to speak) to her ‘consumers’. The set up of Pieces of Herself creates an experience where the consumer is eased into a familiar process of dressing up a doll-like figure only to discover that the ‘materials’ they are having to use are at once strange and all too familiar. As we drag-and-drop symbols onto the doll-body, we are exposed to sounds and pieces of dialogue expressing concerns about body image, responsibilities to others, the desire to be wanted, expectations of how women are to act in the work place, etc. Davis describes this process as a “subversive experience”(27) where the consumer is being forced to consider how they are impacted by the environment they have been steeped in and the messages that have formed their identity. Her anti-message calls attention to the seemingly innocuous platforms and interfaces we use regularly and what messages they are reinforcing every time we interact with them.

            I had none of these things in mind when I initially interacted with this piece. When I was a little girl, I wasn’t one to play with the kind of interface that is being recreated in this work, but I was familiar with the messages that I heard as I dropped random objects onto the body of the doll. One thing that was unnerving as I interacted with this piece was how the sounds I placed on the body would either be repetitive or overlap with each other. This cacophony of messages and stimuli felt disorienting and made it hard to concentrate on enjoying my interaction with the work. After I read Davis’ article, I saw this annoying experience as not just a feature of navigation, but a way of using navigation to create further commentary on what the piece is getting at. As women we are sent messages our whole life that contradict and interfere with each other, causing a chaotic inner experience that makes it difficult to function at times and steals our joy. As a woman who doesn’t identify with many of these societal concepts of womanhood, I have often felt the burden of trying to figure out how to be female in a world where few of the models of femininity resonated with me. What is even more frustrating, and adds to my own inner noise, is trying to block out the noise of others who try to decide for me where I should fit in the societal view of womanhood.

            This attempt to find where I fit and to fight against where others try to make me fit is not a unique experience to me or to women in general; most of us in our humanness are trying to figure out where we fit. The messages about who we should be in light of what ‘society’ determines is best are all around us. Davis’ piece is one more message in the mix, but in amplifying the messages that she is critiquing she creates a space to cathartically practice cutting off the noise. I found that when I got too overwhelmed with the interaction of sounds, I would just start over and turn off the volume until I knew everything was quiet again. This ability to have agency over how much I listened to the messages within the piece opened up a space in me to consider how I might start doing this in real life. I don’t think it is possible to get away completely from these toxic messages and their influences, but I think it is possible to start recognizing where they come from and find ways to turn them down or off completely.

            Though unassuming at first glance, Davis’ piece is deeply moving, which makes it quite fitting for the subject matter she is critiquing. I found it interesting that though there were very few physical words to read, there were plenty of mental narratives that automatically played in my mind at the sight, sound, or experience of the objects I would place in the doll. I wonder if we all were to write the words that come to mind in response to this piece, if we’d find we have  all written the same book, just in different shades and tones – and what power would lie in working together to write something new.   

Works Cited

Davis, Juliet. “Fractured Cybertales: Navigating the Feminine.” The MIT Press Journals, vol. 4, no. 1, 2008, pp. 26-34.

Davis, Juliet. Pieces of Herself. Electronic Literature Collection Vol. 2, https://collection.eliterature.org/2/works/davis_pieces/index.html. Accessed 13 October, 2020.

Blog 2

Ponderings on Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue

Near the end of Pressman’s (“Navigating Electronic Literature,” n.d.) essay, she states, “…emergent forms of electronic literature complicate the ways in which we think about and engage with literature” (para. 12). Almost every piece I have experienced thus far in this field has left me with the sense I’ve entered into a psychedelic tinged world, where time and meaning are vague concepts and everything is about experiencing and feeling. This is not altogether unpleasant. The nature of literature IS to be a gateway into a kind of timelessness that is all about experience.

That said, I agree with Pressman that electronic literature is complicated to engage with. It makes me feel uncomfortable. When I read, I like my role as observer on a familiar path where words, plots, and characters line up before me in neat, curated lanes. A piece like Joyce’s (1996) Twelve Blue does not fit well into this framework; I can not stroll down the linear path. Instead, I am like a bagger at the grocery, characters and lines being conveyed to me in wild and unorganized ways while I try to quickly form it all into a meaningful package. Before reading Twelve Blue, and a few other pieces like it, I did not know that I was such a boring and linear reader. As I engaged with Twelve Blue for the assigned hour (a strangely devotional way of reading, reminiscent of my days of diligent Bible study growing up – maybe a topic for a future post), there were several ideas that came to mind.

What initially struck me was how overwhelming the piece felt to read. The power of navigation being in my hands (the act of “producing” and “performing”, as Pressman (“Navigating Electronic Literature,” n.d., para. 12) puts it) was a burden. My process began a little like this:

Me: Ah, it begins with numbers.

Anxiety: How do I know what number I should pick first?

Me: Never go for 1… 4 is a solid middle choice.

Anxiety: Oh, no…but what if I was supposed to actually start at 1 and now I have messed it all up?

Me: Do you think I should go back?

Anxiety: [continues to worry about going back to number 1]

Me: Oh well, I am already reading…

“She looked out on the creek and measured out the threads…” (Joyce, 1996).

After I read the first ‘page’, I felt a little of the initial burden ease because curiosity grabbed me. I weaved in and out of a story that seemed to be about loneliness and longing in the lives of two doctors with teenage children; in the background, a deaf man’s death was threaded into each of their stories – “zeppelin dolphin” (Joyce, 1996). In the end, I found my way back to the woman by the creek, her ponderings now more meaningful, but still lacking any kind of conclusion to the story. The burden came back, and I felt anxious. I hadn’t navigated enough to understand – did the two doctors get together? How did the boy drown? Who was the little girl by the sea who “thought sperm was a shore” where she might be able to find her dead mother? Had I failed in my engagement of the author’s text, navigating in a way that didn’t capture what the author intended me to understand? Or was that the point – I was supposed to experience it in the way I experienced it, and that was okay?

Of course, I know from Pressman’s article that I engaged the piece in the way it was meant to be read; my haphazard navigation was part of the meaning making experience of the story. That said, to return to the idea of my “boring” and “linear” way of reading, I found myself thinking about the concept of what makes a story. Pressman addressed how electronic literature challenges the typical structure of story in her article, specifically when she quoted Jay David Bolter. Bolter (as cited in Pressman, “Navigating Electronic Literature,” n.d.) basically says story in hypertext isn’t just a one and done kind of thing. With each reading, what we experience varies and changes, and because of this, the reader could actually question if there is a story to be found at all!

The idea that something that calls itself literature might not even have a ‘story’ once again challenged my ideas around literature. I don’t think that Twelve Blue is without a story, but it is without traditional structure – and after spending the summer reading through The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop (Koch, 2003), this seems sacrilegious! In Koch’s words, “Good structure clarifies” (p.71). I would say Twelve Blue is anything but clear in it’s structure. But in this murky ‘story’ there is something more true to story telling than I think the traditional structure is fully capable of capturing. Twelve Blue feels like living, and what is life but one long story full of incongruities. What I mean by this is the imagery drew me into brief emotional experiences, not unlike the moments of life. Even if the scene’s context was confusing and didn’t seem to fit in the larger picture, there was something about the way I felt that made it okay if I just wanted to take it as it was or try to find more of the story. That feels like the way humans live in their stories. Sometimes they chase a plot to it’s end, but sometimes they let it drift off.

There is something completely chaotic to this whole process of electronic literature. Letting people author with you, having stories that may not actually be stories, never having people experience your piece in the same way, letting navigation dictate meaning, etc. But in that chaos is a type of freedom that I’m finding I am drawn to. Often the writing I have produced has been spurts of images and people and stories, but it never felt story-like in the traditional sense. Experiencing Twelve Blue and learning more about the theories behind electronic literature in Pressman’s article gives me the creative spark that comes when I recognize a path through the marsh of doubt I’ve been mired in around my writing. Maybe it is time to leave my linear ways behind – at least just a little.

References

Bolter, J.D. (1991). Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Joyce, M. (1996). Twelve Blue. Postmodern Culture and Eastgate Systems. https://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/joyce__twelve_blue.html

Koch, S. (2003). The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop. The Modern Library.

Pressman, J. (n.d.). Navigating Electronic Literature. Electronic Literature: New Horizons For the Literary. https://newhorizons.eliterature.org/essay.php@id=14.html

Blog Post 1: Introductions

“Why am I at Kean?” An existential question if I ever saw one. But let’s talk rhetorical for now, because that is much more straight forward.

My background is in psychology, but in a BA way, no BS. I went into the field for a number of reasons:

 1) because it seemed the most ‘practical’ subject I could pursue that would satisfy the expectation that I get a degree that would translate practically into a job.

2) because I genuinely wanted to help people struggling with their mental health.

3) because I felt afraid to pursue my creative interests in a serious way, but psychology felt mysterious and creative enough to fill some of that need.

Unfortunately, after a semester in my program I realized being a mental health provider was not a good fit for me. I let things get to me too much, and I didn’t feel I would be able to manage the impact of other’s trauma on me in a sustainable enough way. Thankfully, my education still created a lot of opportunity for me to explore my creative side. In the end, I went through my undergrad experience as a psychology major in name but a writing and philosophy major in spirit.

Since graduating in 2014, I have worked in the ‘real’ world in higher education and, most recently, in mental health. In that time, I confirmed my undergrad concerns about my ability to manage the impact of secondary trauma on my mental health. But I also solidified that I have a desire to combine my passion for helping others with my creative pursuits and interest in the technical side of writing.

So that is why I am here. I love the combination of the creative and technical that the English-Writing Studies program offers, and I hope to refresh and strengthen my skills in writing so I can help others. My time in mental health instilled in me the value of community support from colleagues, so I also look forward to forming relationships and learning from others who are pursuing creative endeavors.

I felt the need to focus this introduction more on why I am here at Kean than on random facts about myself because I have written a little about myself already in the About section of this blog. If you would like to learn more, go check it out. 😊

vii. I am Late and This is a Storyboard(?)

Hello! Happy Election Day! I am very late with this “storyboard” of sorts and I apologize. It’s been A Rough Few Days, haha.

Here’s the gist of what I have so far.

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I know I’d definitely like to hint at stories/story ideas that I’ve come up with in the past. And it’d be really cool to “break the fourth wall” and put bits about myself in there, as well. Ha, maybe that could kinda be like the “credits” of the whole piece in a way, while still being a part of the story.

On Dark, Dark Nights is a children’s book I wrote earlier in the semester, and I feel like it would be a good, simple starting point for the story to branch off of.

It’d be really cool to compose my own little tunes for it. Not sure I’ll have the time, but I’m pretty adept at Musescore, so I could probably whip something and it wouldn’t take too long.

Well, until the perfectionism sets in and I’m up at 4 am editing a melody for panel 236.

Haaaaaaa. Can’t wAIT.

Regarding the drawings, I feel like whatever character is “You”/the main character would be whose eyes the reader sees through at the time. Hence the change in color schemes and such. I have an alright tablet at home so… hopefully for the plots closest to the central plot (Baby Owl’s storyline) I’ll be able to do simpler drawings. It’d be cool to get more complex the further from that storyline the reader goes, until you see the actual pictures taken for the “author” storyline (aka mine).

This.

Sounds complex.

And a mess.

Welp, I’m nothing if not ambitious. Let’s see how it goes.

It’s a good thing I have the main plot done already, haaaaaaa.

(Apologies for not giving examples of what the art would look like… I’ll see if I can draw some stuff in the upcoming weeks.)

OKIE DOKIE. REMEMBER TO GO VOTE, FRIENDS.

–Masooch