Tag Archives: ELit

Piecing Myself Together

Am I in pieces?

“This was the hardest thing to internalize; that something permanent but invisible had happened.” The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

2018-10-13 (9)

In Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself, the embodiment and construction of feminine identity as well as the relationship of the female self to public and private space is explored. This work of Elit operates through a drag-and-drop interface which allows readers to comb through different environments of the work for icons that can be “dragged” and “dropped” on the female, paper-doll-like motif adjacent to her environment. In this way, readers are able to see how a woman’s environment inscribes itself upon her. More, readers are able to explore how different contexts, such as home, community, and work, affect construction of identity and perception of the self. “Dropping” an icon on the paper doll triggers an audio clip that typically reveals something about how the space being explored imprints itself emotionally or physically on the woman. The icons themselves, paired with the nearly 400 pictures used to create this piece, seem to denote more than their mere connotation would suggest as well (i.e. blood drop icons in the shower room, diary entries and hidden keys in the bedroom, a fetus en-wombed by a church, a sex toy behind a discreet couch cushion etc.). The mere act of uncovering these icons seems reflective of the many layers of feminine identity and the further act of layering these icons atop the paper doll motif seems to suggest the multiplicity, the mutability, and precarious balancing of feminine embodiment. How each sound is layered atop another until there is a steady cacophony of steadily increasing headache-fuel seems to only further illustrate how jarring and overwhelming a task it is to be all these women–at once. Though seemingly simple in design, operation, and presentation of its ideas, Davis’ work is quite a compelling and profound exploration of the intricacies at work in constructing feminine identity as well as a frightening one in how accurately and heartbreakingly it articulates how social and cultural contexts can be all-consuming.

Perhaps it is because of my own context–my gender identity, my age, my education–but I found this work to be particularly poignant. Especially as I combed through the unspecified, female narrator’s private spaces–their bedroom, their bathroom, their kitchen, their living room–I felt this growing lump in my throat, this increasing ache in my chest. The diary entry in the hamper–“In my dreams, I’m home but it’s not really home. And I don’t recognize the town but I know where everything is. So why do I keep running into things…”–reminded me of my own journal, sitting beside me as I write this post, and all of the secret parts of me inside its page no one will ever know. The rain cloud in the bedroom reminded me of the nights no one will ever see. The narrator recalling how hard they tried to but never could quite recreate their own mother’s passed-down recipes–“In the kitchen, where she was forever looking for the right ingredients”that hurt. It hurt me but also made me ache for all the girls and women I know who–secretly–try so hard to be half as good as their moms. Who are are always almost but neverI wonder if my own mom aches like this too? The mask at the front door in the living room and the narrator’s recollection of the monetary worth of what they’re wearing–of who gave it to them— made me remember a time when I was showered with all the gifts babe’s money could buy. I remember finding out the return on that investment did not equal love. Maybe it never could have.

 

Click to view slideshow.
Who I became~

To me, this work, in its content, purpose, and design, is one of the most powerful and compelling pieces of Elit I’ve come across. There’s something so inherently moving about making an unseen, hidden process–such as social inscription; more, construction of feminine identity–visible. Maybe that’s the voyeur in me but I’d also argue that Davis is placing us purposefully in the role of voyeur. But, it’s like we’re spying on ourselvesIs that really spying???? Questions of ownership of the self are raised in this piece and authenticity as a construct seems to be being challenged here. Rather than constructing who we are from navigating our environments, Davis’ work seems to posit that our environments navigate us, that our navigation of our environments is decided long before the question can be posed. According to Davis’ work, we are not imprinting ourselves on our environments. No, our environments are imprinting upon us until we are, essentially, composed entirely of pieces of our environments. This work seems to ask readers to really consider the nature of feminine agency and autonomy in a culture that poses so many, often conflicting, restrictions upon women.

Maybe my reading of this work is singular, a response to the many interactions of my life that brought me to experiencing it. But, if anything, I believe Pieces of Herself is trying to communicate the significance of lived experience. Of all women’s lived experiences.  Of my lived experience. I think that’s an incredibly profound message. More, I think it should not be as revolutionary as it is and yet…. How ’bout that Kavanaugh hearing, right??

Ultimately, Davis’ Pieces of Herself operates on many levels but, perhaps most importantly, it seems to read as almost autobiographic, allowing the reader to assume the unspecified narrator’s identity as they simultaneously engage in the process, navigation,  and negotiation of constructing that identity. Davis achieves this level of engagement through the drag-and-drop interface of the work, the use of audio and commentary, and the visual/design aspects working in tandem in this piece to create an inviting and immersive experience. This work left me feeling overwhelmed and naked(?) as well as left me with many questions about the complex nature of the self and its complicated presentation and representations. How much of me is me? How much is what others want me to be? How do I tell the pieces apart? And, am I broken into pieces? Scattered? Shattered?

Mostly, though, I was left wondering this:

Can I be a mosaic?

****

References

“Pieces of Herself” – ELMCIP

“Bookish Electronic Literature: Remediating the Paper Arts through a Feminist Perspective” – Jessica Pressman, ELMCIP

“‘Pieces of Herself'” by Juliet Davis – Cynthia Roman, I ❤ E-Poetry

Fun Fact

I actually wrote about this piece a while back, during my first Elit “rodeo”. I decided to read what I had previously written until after I finished this post. Let me tell ya, it is wild. Like, reading something you wrote when you know you were an entirely different person than you are now is wildSlightly cringe-worthy. Anyway, I figured I’d provide you with a link to that initial post for your own entertainment. Also, I think it’s interesting, in the context of reading Pieces of Herself, to compare and contrast who I am and who I was in writing. It was fun revisiting her. I miss her, who I was. I wonder if she sees who I am now and wishes she could’ve done more.

Anyway….

BTW

So, this work reminded me of a couple songs I thought I’d share with the class~ I couldn’t help singing them in my head as I was reading this piece and so I thought I’d share that particular level of my experience as well….

Pretty Little Head – Eliza Rickman

Francis Forever – Mitski

Copycat – Billie Eilish

Gasoline – Halsey

~Till next time~

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v. *block b voice* HER (OH oh!)

For the love of god, please never let me put references in my blog post titles again. Like I’ve made some okay ones in the past, but I’ve reached a new low with this one. Anyway, stan block b.

Before I get into the e-lit pieces we’re going to cover this week, Façade and Pieces of Herself (aka the point of reference for that blog title, but let’s forget that exists, shall we?), I’d like to touch on the shared document we wrote on in class last week, in which we brainstormed our ideas for our own e-lit pieces. I posted this:

I was thinking of having some kind of branching hypertext narrative that kind of starts off fantasy/almost children’s book-like (like this kids book I wrote recently about a baby owl) and gradually getting more realistic (Maybe even branching into autobiographic snippets???)? Maybe?? Like starts off with simple sketchy drawings with few words and what seems like a single story then you realize that there are multiple things to click on on the page (pictures or words of the text I suppose?) that branch off into other little stories (maybe connected? maybe not?). With actual pictures and more color and links to music and videos. Idk I think the transition from simple to complex/fantasy to reality would be cool to play around with. I was thinking of throwing in bits of stories I’ve already written, actually. Wondering if I could (and would be able to) have a page where readers/users/players could type in “passwords” from other parts of the piece in order to unlock other pages… Wondering how to do that… make it kind of a game.

I… think I’m being a little over-ambitious here, but BIG SHRUG. I’ve noticed I have a habit of doing Too Much sometimes. Don’t really know what more to say about that except I doubt I’ll be able to make it extremely poignant or anything… more of a mass dump of all the stories and thoughts in my head. Previews of sorts scattered through hyperlinked pages of sketches and doodles I can hopefully gather from past notebooks. I guess in a sense it’ll be a look into my head?

Not…… sure…… if that’s a good idea. BUT WE’LL SEE, I GUESS?

I’m glad I got my presentation out of the way relatively early so I can focus on this for a longer period of time.

Anyway, look forward to disjointed rambles and thinly veiled social commentary, I guess.

Okay, onto Façade.

I’m going to preface this by saying that, as of writing this post, I haven’t played the game yet. Excuses being: my everyday laptop is a Chromebook, my Windows laptop at home is too decrepit to run anything above Word these days, I’m pretending my old baby Gateway laptop doesn’t exist (plus it could barely run Undertale), and my Fancy New Desktop stopped connecting to its monitor.

But I know Façade. I know it from back in my YouTube days, when I religiously watched Let’s Players. There wasn’t a cryaotic, markiplier, or jacksepticeye vid I hadn’t seen back then. But anyway. Most of the youtubers I watched played it at some point, so I’d skimmed their playthroughs out of curiosity.

And lemme tell you. This game is wild.

User-input-dominated. Incredibly intelligent. Wildly open-ended. I don’t even know how many endings there are with this game, but I know they can get… interesting.

Hopefully I’ll be able to play it at some point, and when I do I’ll be sure to link either a video or my commentary on it [HERE]. If you see no link, please carry on reading and pray I get my life together some day. *wink + finger guns*

Alrighty, onto Pieces of Herself.

First impression of the little point-and-click story is Wow, these controls are wonky. The side-scrolling was incredibly frustratingly sensitive and it was a little difficult to drag the little objects over to the “doll” on the left side of the screen. Plus it looked like you could still click on the areas where the objects were, but it didn’t do anything, so it gave me a little paranoid feeling that I was missing something (OOF. INTENTIONAL?). I can’t complain too much about the sounds, as the cacophony of sound effects and music clips was undoubtedly intentional.

Screenshot 2018-10-13 at 15.51.16
My “doll” once I’d found what I believe to be every hidden object. The water droplet and frog croaking never stopped…

The overall sense I got from the game, while ominous and foreboding from the black-and-white and jauntiness of the programming, was overwhelming. All the societal expectations of being “female” (whatever that means, amirite?) and being A Good Wife/Girlfriend/Daughter/Woman/Girl (Eeugh.) were expertly represented. Be timid but not boring. Be social but not too much so. Be sexual but no, not like that. (don’t think I didn’t peep that hidden vibe in the living room) Women are meant to be contradictions in society, therefore. But then it’s seen as frustrating when we contradict ourselves…?

That’s… does that make sense? Man, I don’t even know.

Being a woman, I’d like to think I’m over those kinds of expectations and I’m currently actually living as myself, but I suppose there are those self-conscious moments of Am I allowed to do this? or Is it my place to say that/have that opinion? I catch myself seconds later, because maaaaan heck that mentality. I’m allowed to have whatever opinion I want (within reason, tho, let’s be real), and being a woman shouldn’t deter me of choices I make.

(Oof, I’m listening to some inspiration music at the moment so pardon the Emo Turn this post has taken.)

Story-wise, though I feel like a lot of the environment’s little voice clips and such can be relatable and the overall story can be up to interpretation, I know there is an actual story to go along with this particular woman’s environment. Something to do with mental health and gender identity and coming to terms with (and hopefully defying) societal expectations. There really is no “end” that I could find, which only adds to the ominousness of the “Main St.” scene. Did something happen? What’s with the hospital? The cop cars? The car on the far right? What happened to this woman?

I’m looking forward to discussing this piece more in class. This piece as well as Façade. I hope we get to play both, and that we don’t have any more technical problems. Lookin @ you, wi-fi. Get your life together.

Alrighty! That’ll be all this week!

Have a lovely day/night/whatever!

–Masooch

Re-imagining Assemblage in the Taroko Gorge Remix Collection~

Some Reassembly Required…

Taroko Gorge (2009) is a work of generative poetry created by Nick Monfort and inspired by a body of poetry written about the Taiwanese national park of the same name. Lines of poetry are generated via a JavaScript program, designed to format each line of the work in a specific way. Monfort states, “…this generator forms strophes that begin and end with a “path” line and may have one or more more static “site” lines in between. Between each pair of such strophes is a “cave” line that trails off, as if into darkness, like the tunnels in the park that were carved by Chiang Kai-shek‘s Nationalist army.” Essentially, the work is designed to generate a pattern that alternates between providing a pairing or grouping of lines and a singular line. That singular line always ends with an em-dash, inviting readers into the void beyond the text. Inviting readers to walk beyond where the sidewalk ends. This text is produced limitlessly, the poem without an end until the reader decides to stop reading and exit the screen.  The work’s generative programming challenges traditional notions of authorship and of agency in navigating a text (how do I know when to stop reading?), has inspired multiple creative and compelling remixes (which I’ll get to), and was not very interesting to me at first (tbh).

See, I’m all about challenging the academy/the establishment/whoever the authority is but, in the case of Taroko Gorge and its remixes, I was a little underwhelmed by the gauntlet being thrown down. I guess, in comparison to other works of Elit I’ve encountered, this body of work just seemed so much less??? That was until I came across an article by our friend Katherine Hayles in which she described the design of Taroko Gorge and its subsequent remixes as a kind of digital assemblage. That’s some art shit. My kind of art shitHeck yeah. Once I donned those art lenses, I was able to see past the work’s seemingly simple interface and really take a gander and what I was looking at: neo-assemblage. Double heck yeah.

Taroko Gorge 1

First page of Taroko Gorge for me~

So, assemblage has existed in many forms over the years. Most notably by Picasso and good ol’ Duchamp but also by artist such as Dubuffet (real cool guy with a real cool body of work) and Tatlin. Many Dadaists preferred “photomontage“, a cousin to assemblage and a precursor to Photoshop, while Neo-Dada artists, like Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, preferred to call their process of making works of art from composing found objects into different arrangements “combines“. Assemblage also brings to mind bricolage, which is a kind of “do-it-yourself” combining of seemingly disparate found objects into a whole work (a topic I’m researching for my thesis).

Anyway, art history lesson over, viewing Taroko Gorge and its subsequent remixes such as Along the Briny Beach (2012) by J.R. Carpenter and Tokyo Garage (2009) by Scott Rettberg, as contemporary assemblage, I think, generates some interesting questions about the composing process and its performance–how much of what we write is simply found language, pasted together and given meaning because we decide it has meaning? All of it. But, also, I think viewing these works as digital assemblages helps re-conceptualize the seeming nonsense of their decontextualization.

5-paulhan

Self portrait made out of butterfly wings by Dubuffet

Assemblage was a way to help expand the mind beyond the constricting constraints of traditionalism by pairing non-like objects together and asking viewers to read them as related, as a new whole. Taroko Gorge and, especially, Along the Briny Beach, seem to do something similar in the ways both works make use of their lexia and display. Taroko Gorge places absurdly paired wording in a traditional strophic form while Along the Briny Beach does the same, even using quotes about beaches and the sea from traditional literature, but adds further complexity to the canvas, so to speak, by having 3 additional strings of lexia run horizontally across the screen, one string invisible until an image of a beach slides behind the otherwise background-colored text, revealing it. Kind of overwhelming at first, tbh. Both pose unique challenges to readers and their processes of reading and processing information. But, they also offer so many fascinating possibilities in regards to both. Like with Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue, there are no clear answers and there is certainly no easy sense of closure. Only limitless possibility. A large expanse of blank space open to interpretation.

Along the Briny Beach

My first page of Along the Briny Beach~

I’m reminded of what Hayles said in an earlier article of her’s we read–that there is no story; only readings. I think this concept applies to Taroko Gorge and its many remixes (and also too many works of assemblage). The traditional notion of authorship is blown out of the water by pieces like these. The program combines the text into stanzas. And, I would argue, the traditional notion of reading is also obliterated by the infinite scroll. I can’t go back. I can only watch. Watch and remember. In this way, the poem becomes a little bit mine–for as long as I can remember it. This work and its design places readers in this odd space, somewhere half-between passive observer and cognitively engaged participant. Along the Briny Beach and Tokyo Garage similarly place readers in this limbo.

Tokyo Garage 1

My first page of my fave Tokyo Garage~

The text that slowly inches up the screen is often intellectually or aesthetically or poetically stimulating but, at the same time, its steady and unending ascent can make the text become this endless stream of nonsense, without clear purpose or intent to guide reading. In some ways, these works read as a kind of counter-to, anti-poetry. There is no inherent meaning. No specific place to start nor any closure. At the same time, though, there seems to be this invitation to meditate on the use of language to convey poetic thought and aesthetic appeal and just beauty. What does any of this language really capture? It’s all words. What is beautiful about their repetitive recombinations? Anything? What is the function of poetry and language, especially in this digital age where forms of aesthetic representation are vast and varied and so easily accessible but so rarely able to be appreciated?

Ultimately, I think Taroko Gorge and its remixes provide a way for readers to explore their own preconceptions about language, semiotics, authorship, authorial intent, and reader expectations. The works certainly challenge many traditional conceptions of these topics. But, I think viewing these works as both digital and cognitive kinds of assemblages allows these works to become a question about the overall nature of composing, creating, and interpreting meaning and signification in online spaces as well. At the very least, doing so engaged me with the work in a new–and interesting–way and provided me with a way to develop insight I might not have otherwise.

Sources

Taroko Gorge collection

“Literary Texts as Cognitive Assemblages: The Case of Electronic Literature”

 

~Till next time~

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iii. Hobo Lobo of Hamelin: part twisted fable, part uncanny predictor

When I was looking for the e-lit piece I wanted to present, I knew I had to pick something creative. Something story-driven and maybe just a bit weird. Don’t get me wrong, all of the pieces in the Electronic Literature Collection are extremely creative. Many are story-driven, as well. And many are so very very weird. But something about Hobo Lobo of Hamelin really struck me as The One. Maybe it was the story line blending old fable and modern socio-political commentary. Maybe it was the blended setting of Renaissance and 21st century. Maybe it was the really cool color schemes and site design and music and sketchiness and humor and subtle (and not so much) grotesqueness of it all–

Okay, it was a lot of things, so here goes nothing.

Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is a webcomic, a medium I am relatively familiar with, posted from 2011-2014. It is, according to the Hobo Lobo ELC page, “a digital pop-up book about a city, its scruples, some rats, a wolf, his woodwind and the stuff that goes down.” Sounds simple, but it turns out to be a lot more complicated than that. Just one look at the first page gives the reader an expectation of something lighthearted and playful, but… it’s clear by the third “panel” of “page” one–(see: “coked-up rats… freaking everybody out” as citizens of Hamelin try to “get them to fuck off”)–that this story will be a lot more real than originally thought.

There are a few topics I’d like to hit in my exploration of Hobo Lobo, and I’ll put them here in a nice little list so I don’t forget:

  1. Background – programs, author, inspiration, etc.
  2. Story – a simple fable twisted beyond recognition
  3. Themes – the eerie way the tale has aged and “predicted the future”
  4. “More to come…” – ???

Will I be able to cover everything in extensive detail? Probably not. But hey, we’re all friends here. All human. Let’s just go with the flow and maybe we’ll discover some things together.

Background 

First, we’ll check out the behind the scenes, or the back end, of the piece, starting with its author.

Stevan Živadinović of San Antonio, Texas, is a graphic designer, artist, video game design teacher at a creative youth development program, creator of “comics and comic-like things,” and overall a pretty rad dude, if his Twitter and Tumblr are anything to go by. (Note: they are; he’s pretty active.)

On the main Hobo Lobo website, Živadinović has linked his professional portfolio page detailing his credentials, projects, areas of expertise, and contact links. It’s an aesthetically pleasing page with charmingly simple (yet still professional) language and a subtle, almost dry humor (see “Marketing that is dead inside,” “I make things special,” etc.) that carries over into Hobo Lobo. There’s also the quirkily “hidden” background/statistics/about/credits page helpfully titled “What is this thing?” It’s kind of like an info-dump on that page. Any questions you want answered (and others you didn’t know you wanted answered) can be found there.

As for programs, Živadinović utilized an amalgamation of Photoshop, jQuery, JavaScript, Flash, a whole mess of plugins, etc. that culminate into a “Parallaxer platform” / “parallax scrolling storytelling framework,” as far as I understand it, to make Hobo Lobo possible. Each “page” of the story is a long, horizontal strip of an image, consisting of “panels” that blend together (no traditional “gutters” as with print comics) with pencil-drawn images and subtle animations. It’s a mix of 2D and 3D that really just works. Below, you can see the different layers that go into creating this many layered side-scroller, as well as some bits of the coding involved and the visual editing process:

Click to view slideshow.

Borrowed respectfully from here.

Živadinović linked to a tutorial on building said framework and throwing everything together on that info-dump page I mentioned, for those crazy kids out there who want to make their own side-scrolling web comic. He claims himself that the formatting is “janky as hell” under the Technical Considerations section, but personally I find it adds to the sketchy charm of the piece.

I can’t say I’m well-versed in back end stuff like this–coding and site-building and whatnot–so I’ll cap it off here, but as far as I’ve seen, the amount of work and consideration that went into this multimedia work is incredibly impressive. Feel free to peruse those links I gave. There’s some quirky coding throughout that’s arguably as enjoyable as Hobo Lobo itself.

Ah, one more interesting thing I noticed: Živadinović mentioned some of his influences for Hobo Lobo in his parallax tutorial, one of which was MS Paint Adventures. Color me surprised, as I was neck deep in that fandom several years ago. Turns out you can never really escape Homestuck. Learning this, though, I can see the connections–the dry humor, the deep story hidden by lighthearted visuals, the charming music, the multimedia aspects. Maybe it’s fate I picked this comic, then. Or it’ll go terribly wrong and we’re in a doomed timeline, and–

Let’s move on.

Story

ELC’s editorial statement summed up the story as: “A wolf turned Renaissance journeyman travels to the town of Hamelin where the local mayor refuses to pay him for ridding the town of ‘coked-up rats.'” That’s… honestly exactly what we have.

It’s a liner story, nothing crazy or hard to follow. Despite the multimedia aspects, a majority of the story is told through text. Let’s go with like… 35% text, 55% visual imagery, 15% cool animations, 5% rad tunes.

Those statistics are not real, I’m just conjecturing. Bottom line, there’s a lot of text / visuals.

As for content, Hobo Lobo is a curious blend of old and new–“medieval Pied Piper”/”European folktale” and the modern-day-esque, political and media disaster of a town called Hamelin. Even the characters themselves are a mix of this old and new. Heck, even the genre itself and the design choices down to the coding are a mix. It’s really cool.

We’ll read the story together in class (I’d like to get through the whole thing, as it’s not particularly long), but I’d still like to touch a bit on the main characters of Hobo Lobo.

First, we have the story of the Mayor, whose name is literally Mayor Dick Mayor–(did I say subtle humor earlier? I take it back). The mayor runs a “progressive Fascist-Calvinist coalition government” in Hamelin–(essentially, for those like me who can’t really keep political anything straight, it’s an ultra-religious dictatorship). He’s… a terrible and corrupt politician who ignores due process, goes to psychics for advice, and wants to purge the city of rats–all for the purpose of staying in power during the next election.

Hm……… Interesting………… That’s not familiar at all………………..

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“DICK MAYOR HATES YOU” – p. 1.4

He’s cryptically told to hire a professional.

Thus enters Hobo Lobo, the “protagonist” of sorts.

Screenshot 2018-10-02 at 02.16.21
“I am Hobo Lobo, a mover, a shaker, a fraternal boilermaker, a mender of loose ends, a doer of deeds, and a sometimes indoctrinator of youth! If you have a Gordian knot that is blowing your mind, bring it here for the untying—I’ll even draw you a complimentary diagram!” – p. 2.3

This “Renaissance Journeyman” rolls into town ready to accept any job he can for the barest of fees. Seems a little too good of a match for our Mayor Dick Mayor.

It’s interesting in the beginning–seeing the way these two characters are set up. The mayor gives a very established, power-driven but laissez-faire vibe. Words that come to mind when thinking about his character, to me, include: manufactured, corrupt (-ed and -ing), uncaring, misled, ignorant, perfection-seeking, power-hungry, modern (in the bleakest sense).

Hobo Lobo, on the other hand, from the very start has more of an old but carefree vibe. Words like versatile, pure (in a weird sense), supernatural/fantasy (see: page, folklore come to mind. (I’m struggling to find the right words, but basically: he’s a complex character that juxtaposes the mayor… but when you think a little harder they have some things in common. Would it be selfishness, perhaps?) You get the sense that he knows what’s up from the get-go regarding his eventual deal with the mayor, but it would seem that a more base need wins out in Lobo’s moral dilemma.

Screenshot 2018-10-02 at 07.37.32
“Sometimes it wasn’t easy being a professional renaissance journeyman. It was often harder being a hobo.” — p. 2.10

Continuing this look at blending old and new, simple and complex: the plot itself is another element. We start off with a simple story about a simple (but grim) deal made in a town–one that could take place in any setting and for now seems to be more medieval than anything–but come to realize that there are more complex things at play here. Socio-political unrest, religious zealots in power, xenophobia, genocide, the effect of the media (Fourth Estate)… All of which… is uncannily relevant.

Which brings us to the themes of Hobo Lobo.

Themes

Let’s start with the obvious. Hobo Lobo is very politically charged, showcasing political extremism, complacency for that extremism, racial and social ignorance, and overall exacerbation by the media (which, in Hobo Lobo, is aptly named “Fourth Estate” in a logo startlingly reminiscent of General Electric and another of Fox News).

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Please note the ass and the clown as news anchors. Gave me a good chuckle.

As I am not particularly one for going on and on about politics, so I won’t be touching too much on it (aside from opening the floor for discussion, of course), I’ll just point out that this piece was written in 2014. While the themes were relevant back then, it was more of an extreme future–a laughable 1984-esque dystopian dream.

Well.

In our year 2018.

It’s safe to say that Stevan Živadinović predicted the future.

That’s really all I’ll say about that, unless anyone has any comments they’d like to bring up about anything socio-political or Fourth Estate. Feel free to discuss!

There is one other topic that I would like to touch on, though. The rats.

The rats, while not given much of a voice in the story, are portrayed in a somewhat polarized way. The narrator and the mayor both boast about how the rats are “freaking people out” (p. 1) and “destroying the livelihoods of taxpayers” (p.2),  but on the third page, we’re given a wordless panorama of their lives–a vibrant array of who rats are as a people. You can even see it subtly throughout the second page, as rats go about their lives and get help from Lobo, as well.

Click to view slideshow.

… only to be slaughtered by him.

Click to view slideshow.

It’s a brief snapshot, the beginning of the third page, but it works, because the rats’ absence is felt very strongly in the subsequent page. “This was noticed” (p. 3.2), but the mayor and media gloated of this great achievement of historical significance. It’s a testament to the rampant xenophobia/racism of today–of the fear of someone “different,” the impact of their absence to a society, and the disgusting, prideful sense of achievement when that society is consequently seen as “free” from that “different” force.

“More to come…” 

The seventh page of Hobo Lobo is, in one word, haunting. You can tell on the previous page that Lobo is fed up with the mayor, with Hamelin’s ignorance, with the whole of society, and so he comes to a decision with a swift kick and a busted radio.

The anticipation that builds up with the seventh page, and the realization of what Lobo is doing–luring the town’s children in that same Pied Piper-esque way that he lured the rats to their deaths–is like watching the second shoe drop. That simple, almost righteous vibe Lobo gave off earlier crumbles away–purely visually, which is even more powerful–and you get a sick sense that there really are no “good” characters in this story.

Screenshot 2018-10-02 at 08.32.36
“More to come…” — p. 7.4

And he must realize it, too, with that distraught, perhaps even self-loathing, look to him. This must go against everything about his character, but it must also give him some kind of twisted satisfaction to get revenge. The question is, which one wins out? Will he regret this decision or accept it and be satisfied by it?

I’m sure that that is what we would find out later on in the story… but this is the final page, and has been for about four years. According to that Info-Dump page

screenshot-2018-10-02-at-08-41-44.png

… it’s been a while. That chart there represents the days between pages. It looks like an update won’t be coming in the near future. (Which is fair! It’s common in the fanfiction world; life gets in the way and updates come few and far between. It’s also a mood, I say as I recall a story I started sophomore year of high school that is only halfway finished… I’m a graduate student… Actually, Hobo Lobo started the same year I started that story. Ha. Small world.)

Anyway, honestly? This “final page” acting as an ending is… actually perfect. Hauntingly poetic. Stories with no definite ending that leave you with more questions than answers, with a sense of worry in your gut for what comes next and dreaded acceptance that you’ll never find out… they’re really cool. Especially a deeply morally-rooted and horribly relatable one as this.

Were this story to continue…what do you think the ending would be? Are the children okay? What will Lobo do? What will become of the mayor? the town?

And, considering the eerily similar state of our own society today, as touched on earlier, what does that say about the future of our society? Are we waiting for the second shoe to drop? Where are we in the Hobo Lobo story? What will become of us?

Well. I’d say that about wraps up my little exploration of Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. Props to Stevan Živadinović for “[MAKING] A THING” that would turn out to be a masterpiece on modern-day socio-political commentary and complex moral dilemma.

It’s a rad little tale.

— Masooch

 

Links Links Links!

Hobo Lobo of Hamelin: http://hobolobo.net/
Behind the Scenes page: http://hobolobo.net/what-is-this-thing
ELC Entry page: http://collection.eliterature.org/3/work.html?work=hobo-lobo-of-hamelin
Stevan Živadinović’s portfolio page: http://portfolio.hobolobo.net/
Parallax Tutorial: https://www.creativebloq.com/javascript/building-parallax-scrolling-storytelling-framework-8112838

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Journalism!

“It’s like journalism–only better.” (pg. 6, slide 3)

This is bad

My Second Rodeo

So….that Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is some story, right? Some great work of far-off, far-fetched fiction, right? Like, could you even imagine living in a world like that???? Wild, right?

nervous laughter

I’m dying

WildHelp.

Alright, alright. Enough thinly veiled references to the blazing “hugest” dumpster fire politics in the greatest country in the world have become. However cathartic it may be…. 

I’m ready for Ashton Kutcher to pop out and reveal America’s been punked.

I remember when I first read Stevan Živadinovic’s Hobo Lobo a few years back, during election year, I believe. I was blown away, then, by how poignant the piece seemed. The allusions to socio-political points of contention such as xenophobia, nationalism, and big news media corporations (like Fox News) seemed so clear and so powerful, especially when paired with the invocations of Big Brother and the Fourth Estate. These complex, complicate, and, often, dark concepts seemed such a contrast, too, to the storybook, Dr-Seuss-esque elements used to convey them. It was shocking to see these elements so overtly packaged for consumption by the youth. Indoctrination is supposed to be subtle, you know?

Hobo Lobo seemed to be as much a modern reimagining of The Pied Piper medieval folktale as it was scathing commentary on contemporary politics, the 24/7 news cycle, and the effects of late-capitalism on the US.

Now, the work is f*cking horrifying.

the horror

If Hobo Lobo was too close for comfort before, now it’s a living nightmare.

I mean, look at this face:

Dick's bulbous head.png

Could use more orange….

Nightmare fuel.

And, that’s just the imagery. When paired with the actual language used in this work, Hobo Lobo becomes highly unsettling. In fact, despite this work being ELit, I found it very difficult not to read it as I would a traditional narrative. The work, though, I think lends itself to that kind of reading–being modeled after a hybrid of the standard design of a pop-up storybook and the typical design of comic books. Unlike comic books proper, though, pages shift fluidly into each other, elements of both language and imagery flowing from one “panel” to the next, creating a “poly-linear timeline” and a kind of “infinite canvas”. Time seems to progress as the work “flows” from one event into the next. Persistence of narrative occurs in that the imagery of each page coincides with the lexia beneath it, nothing de-contextualized about it. In fact, everything seems embedded in a thinly-veiled context–i.e a not veiled at all one #didn’teventry~ The pieces of propaganda strewn purposefully in the background of most panels seem to reinforce a socio-political reading.

1st screen_LI

I mean, you can’t reference Big Brother and not expect the ghost of Orwell to ruin the party. That’s his thing.

Hobo Lobo is a work that is meant to be read. Even the pages that do not make use of lexia, use images and sound–like pipe music and the laughter of children, the resolute thud of stone against earth–to convey not-totally-illusive narrative.

Click to view slideshow.

I mean, these images are narrative. Even if I did not have the accompanying limerick to direct my interpretation, I think I could figure out the story. 

Anyway, regardless of what contemporary parallels I draw from the content, I believe  Živadinovic’s Hobo Lobo is a compelling work of Elit, whose language, design, and aesthetic all work in tandem to immerse readers in this upside-down, surreal-but-hyper-real, topsy-turvy caricature world.  It’s combination of whimsical, folktale, Dr. Seuss-esque with snarky, political satire is both charming and revealing of the dark truth of indoctrination: that it’s all child’s play until the stone bites the dust and you’re swallowed whole.

Click to view slideshow.

References How I know my sh*t:

Elmcip “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin”

I ❤ E-Poetry “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin”

****

~Till next time~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

 

Viva La…Russian Revolution???: Analyzing Neo-Futurism & The Mutability of Reality and Story in Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky

Здравствуйте~

Reality remains fatal, a bullet in the brain ~

In the names of progress and peace, what would you sacrifice? Some of your freedoms? Most of your voice? All of your body? Replace your autonomy with technology, swap democracy for technocracy? These questions seem to be at the narrative heart of Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky (2008), a work of Eliterature (ELit) heavily inspired by the rise of both terrorist activity and technological advancement in the early 21st century as well as by the life and literature of early 20th century Russian Futurist writer and revolutionary Vladimir Mayakovsky. Szilak’s work seems to ask readers to not only immerse themselves in its rich narrative aspects but to consider, conceptually, the nature of reality and the complex relationships of story to reality, of self to machine, and of machine to nature. The work accomplishes this feat through a combination of textual, historical, navigational, and aesthetic “mechanisms” all working in tandem alongside reimagined, Neo-Futurist ideology to construct an experience that “promotes an idiosyncratic reading” (Gauthier) of the piece and reveals the mutability of meaning (story) and of humanity (the self).

OnewOrld, the world of Reconstructing Mayakovsky, is one in which humanity, and its propensity towards violence and chaos, has been abandoned for the seeming safety of virtual reality. “Inhabitants who survived a major cataclysm…live in hibernation units immersed in a virtual world” (Gauthier). The program and its safety are guaranteed by the Monad Global Attention Group, the financial investors behind the OnewOrld project. According to the short video clip–that ostensibly adopts the traditional style of a financial investment PowerPoint– found when one clicks on the “Movies” mechanism–hovering in the starry pocket of an otherwise infinitely dark and empty universe main interface screen–“real bodies cost money” and “the end of profitability is near”.

Click to view slideshow.

Physical reality has become unstable and so must be converted to a virtual system. This story, the overt one, plays out in 46 chapters whose text can be accessed via clicking on the “Mechanism B” mechanism floating in the aforementioned abysmal/primordial miasma (Gauthier).

Oneword background

Example of the Chapters + Some background info on OnewOrld~

Audio versions of the chapters can be found by clicking on the “Audio Podcasts” mechanism. The OnewOrld language is English that has been translated into French and then back into English using the Babelfish program–literally removing it that much further from ourselves. This makes the language read/sound quite mechanical, adding additional complexity as well as a sense of eeriness to readings. These chapters float chaotically in no specific order in their own, bright red or solid black pocket universes of the site. Readers are given no directions on how to navigate the narrative nor interpret the mechanical language within. Instead, readers seem asked to construct meaning on their own as though the work were one large, deconstructed poem, whose inherent order matters less than a reading’s interpretation.

This format lends itself to the idea that navigating an ELit piece is also, “an act of producing a work’s signifying properties in the moment of engagement with them” (Pressman). Meaning cannot be interpreted in this work until a node–a hyperlink, in this case–is clicked and its encoded lexia accessed. Even then, though, there is no promise of revelation. What do 46 chapters mean when, “We reject the absolute truth of the number”? Or, when “The difference between a lie and the truth rests in its utility”? This lack of inherent meaning seems to both be at odds and celebrate the work’s Neo-Futurist undertones. Futurism was an early 20th century art movement that rejected the past and the mere idea of the past influencing the future and instead celebrated the future, the youth, speed, dynamism, violence, and, above all else, the machine. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism calls for the abolishment of libraries and museums and, most famously, compares the automobile to the splendor of “the Victory of Samothrace”. Bold. But, also an ideology that seems promoted in Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

That said, while attributing meaning of this otherwise seemingly disjointed work through a kind of Neo-Futurism reading would be easy, it seems not to suffice. Contradicting elements appear throughout the piece, promoting violence but also a way for “non-violently defining, creating, and animating the world”. Pieces irreverently discard the human and its agency but also claim, “In so far as we are bodies and minds We are the embodiment of nature In so far as we use technology as an extension of our bodies and minds there are choices we can make [sic]”. These contradictions complicate any simple understanding or navigation of Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

Most of these contradictions can be seen when the overt narrative of the work is compared to its accompanying manifesto, which can be found by clicking on the “Manifesto” mechanism. A condensed version of the manifesto titled “a petit Manifesto: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the movies” can be read on the screen that first appears or a longer version of the manifesto, “Do You Think Malaria Makes Me Delirious?”, can be accessed by clicking “download print version”. The condensed version hits some of the manifesto’s highlights such as, “All realities are virtual, but few of us can live here”, “Art is to life as Kitsch is to death” and “EVERYTHING HAS BECOME US, But we are nowhere in the world” while the longer version elaborates on these subjects and many more–such as poetry, language, memory, religion, humor (“We believe that all humans can laugh but most jokes don’t translate well”), etc.–eventually concluding that, “Our future demands a feminine art that knows and appreciates the body and its ornaments” (Szilak). Not very Futurist proper and, in comparison to the narrative aspect of Reconstructing Mayakovsky, this manifesto seems to contrast greatly. In fact, it seems to be a rebuke.

Click to view slideshow.

The manifesto reads as quite a scathing critique of the virtual, technocratic world of Reconstructing Mayakovsky but also of some of the key tenets of Futurism, adding an element of self-awareness the Futurists themselves seemed to lack to the work itself if not the narrative within. Additionally, the manifesto seems to challenge notions of reality and perception, stating, as mentioned earlier, “When the wor(l)d has any meaning The difference between a lie and the truth rests in its utility [sic]”. Reconstructing Mayakovsky, then, becomes a mirror for readers, inviting them to explore the relationship between truth and perception of truth via its decontextualize, free-associative interface and it Neo-Futurist framework which invites a kind of contradictory, Orwellian “doublethink”.

Perhaps, though, some of these contradictions can be reconciled in Mayakovsky himself, who is a main character introduced into the world of the narrative aspect of this piece but who is also the author of much of the conceptual underpinnings of Reconstructing Mayakovsky. More, perhaps taking a closer look at Russian Futurism specifically and its conceptual underpinnings can bring a degree of understanding to an otherwise nebulous and mercurial work.

Vladimir Mayakovsky was born in the Russian Empire, pre-revolutions, in what is now  the country of Georgia. He came of age and became a writer and artist during a time of ideological upheaval as well as national and cultural revolution. In the early 20th century, Mayakovsky joined the Russian Futurist movement, an art movement that was influenced by Italian Futurism’s ideology which promoted/idealized modernization but that also, almost antithetically, appreciated traditional Russian folk art and life. Many members of this movement, like Mayakovsky, sought to dismantle the Tsarist autocracy that had been governing Russian for hundreds of years and replace it with some form of socialism–communism most commonly. Many artists from the movement participated in the generation and proliferation of Bolshevik propaganda.

Most members of the movement rejected the work of the so-called, “Great Masters”. One of the most famous Russian Futurist manifestos Mayakovsky contributed to, “A Slap in The Face of Public Taste”, proclaims, “The past constricts us. Academia and Pushkin make less sense than hieroglyphics. [burn] Dump Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard the ship of Modernity” (Burliuk et al. as quoted in Lawton). Essentially, the Old Masters are dead and should stay dead.

Many Futurists also came to reject the title of Futurism itself, Mayakovsky stating in a short essay titled “We, Too, Want Meat!” (1914), “What’s a Futurist? I don’t know. I never heard of such a thing. There have never been any”. Perhaps this rejection is what led to the eventual dissolution of the movement. Perhaps is was the fall of the Russian empire. Perhaps it was always just disillusionment in need of voice and performance….

Regardless, the movement essentially dissolved in Europe with the onset of World War I and dissolved in Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the assassinations of the last of the Romanov family, and the rise of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Mayakovsky continued writing in the “Futurist spirit” though, penning multiple books of surreal, decontextualized, or otherwise counter to poetry and becoming outspoken spokesman for the Communist party until his suicide in 1930. A bullet in the brain heart.

In many ways, Mayakovsky embodies the ideals Reconstructing Mayakovsky espouses–which makes sense. (The work is literally titled Reconstructing Mayakovsky and, in the piece, Mayakovsky’s character is resurrected.) Evoking Mayakovsky is evoking the complex, often contradictory nature of Russian Futurism–its promotion of both the machine and traditional folk art–but also of that time period of upheaval and revolution in which the movement and Mayakovsky existed. “We believe that art is the memory of the future and memory is the art of the past”, the manifesto states. Mayakovsky is both the art and the memory. Reality is what exists in between, is what exists in the vast blackness surrounding “Manifesto” and “Movies”.

The “Archive” mechanism seems to also enhance the idea of reality being made mostly of what is remembered and created. This mechanism consists of images, documents, and articles related to events referenced in the narrative aspect of the work. In this way, the reader and the reader’s reality are being tied to the reality of Reconstructing Mayakovsky as all of the events referenced in the narrative aspect of the work have a basis in our reality (i.e. the bombing of Nagasaki, the existence of complexity theory, etc), making questions about the reality of Reconstructing Mayakovsky also questions about our reality.

Click to view slideshow.

Some examples of the Archives referencing Mechanism B~

And, again, readers are given no directions for how to navigate this space of stacked images. The onus of coherence and persistence of narrative falls on the reader. This decontextualization seems another callback to Futurism while the compilation of meaningful subject matter seems to be what connects the overall concept back to Russian Futurism (which still values the traditional or “sentimental”) specifically.

Ultimately, the decontextualization of this piece allows for multiple readings of this work and, so, multiple constructions of reality, something that becomes apparent to readers as they attempt to, almost like “astronauts”, forge connections in that amorphous, black space between content and meaning. Additionally, the resurrection of Mayakovsky in this work resurrects and brings into question the ideals and contradictions of Russian Futurism, further complicating the understanding of thi piece and ensuring that no easy answers bring reconciliation. Through concept, design, and aesthetic, Reconstructing Mayakovsky seems programmed to function as an exploration of the contradictory nature of reality, perception, and the relationship of the self to both. Or, perhaps, it is meant to be a joke and its meaning just “does not translate well”.

Works Cited

Gauthier, Joelle . July 25, 2011. ”  Reconstructing Mayakovsky  “. Sheet in the NT2 Laboratory Directory of Hypermedia Arts and Literatures. Online on the NT2 Laboratory website. <http://nt2.uqam.ca/en/repertoire/reconstructing-mayakovsky >. Accessed September 23, 2018

Lawton, Anna M. Russian futurism through its manifestoes, 1912-1928. Cornell Univ Pr, 1988.

Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. “The futurist manifesto.” Le Figaro 20 (1909): 39-44.

Pressman, Jessica, and N. Katherine Hayles. “Navigating Electronic Literature.” Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (ebsite)(2008).

Szilak, Illya. Reconstructing Mayakovsky. June 2008. Web Design and Development: Cloudred. Art for animation and graphic design for manifesto: Pelin Kirca. Original music for animation: Itir Saran.

Further References:

http://pelinkirca.com/reconstructed/

http://cellproject.net/creative-work/reconstructing-mayakovsky-2

https://www.theartstory.org/movement-russian-futurism.htm

https://helenbledsoe.com/?p=238https://helenbledsoe.com/?p=238

https://www.estorickcollection.com/exhibitions/a-slap-in-the-face-futurists-in-russia

****

До свидания!

~Till next time~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

Diving Back In

“‘…there is no story at all; there are only readings’ (124)”.

I don’t know why WordPress is throwing my links all over the page like this. I had to cut a bunch of links to make the post remotely legible. I’ve tried many different things to fix the problem and I think it’s just a system error for the time being. Believe me, I’m annoyed about it too >.>

Flux & Flow

So…. I’m back at it again.

damndanielgif

Doing the ELit thing, writing the feelings whatever those are down, being “insightful”… You know, the usual.

Anyway, let’s get down to business.

I don’t remember what I thought of Jessica Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature” the first time I read it eons and eons ago but this time around, I found it to be thought-provoking, informative, and intellectually engaging. The article articulates the challenges and nuances of interacting with ELit, especially in a classroom setting, rather well. In my experience, I’ve found just articulating what ELit can be and what it can do to be a challenge in and of itself. So, kudos Jessica~

Fantasticmr.foxyeahgif

Pressman’s emphasis on navigation in ELit texts, too, I found particularly deft. Having a wonderful wealth of experience interacting with ELit–even creating my own work!–myself, I know how integral to a work its navigation can be–but, also, how much confusion a work’s navigation can create. More than that, I know how a work’s navigation can complicate reader/interactor understanding of literary purpose and overall merit.

If anything, this time around, I was most interested in the points Pressman was making about problems of conceptualizing, or, really, re-conceptualizing storytelling and authorship when it comes to ELit. Do affordances such as hyperlinking allow readers enough agency to make them co-authors of an ELit work, like Landow suggests? Or, are readers merely explorers of a work, trying to uncover all avenues of story rather than decide them? More, to what extent do readers decide meaning in works like this? Can an inherent meaning be embedded/programmed in these works anymore than meaning can be imbued in a written text? Or, is meaning ultimately decided by the reader?

Are there any stories at all in Elit? Or, is it all just readings?

I don’t have any answers and I love it.

The experimental, the uncertainty, the trans-formative, the de-contextualized, the room for possibility—is what I love about ELit. To me, it is the curiosity and the search for discovery and meaning-making that ELit spurs that makes ELit literary/a literary experience. The literariness exists in what we are given/in what we receive from a work, the questions it generates and the challenges it creates and asks us to tackle.

While I think the binary–stories/readings–is apt in some ways for describing differences between ELit and traditional literature, forgetting that there are readers behind both– story and reading–neglects a vital aspect of understanding new forms of digital literature and media. The underlying depth to ELit, I believe, is something that has to be realized in the reader.

Underlying Depth

And sometimes the nights last for months

And sometimes the nights last for months… Maria Guia Pimpao (I have the Google Arts & Culture extension on my browser which allows a new work of art to be the background whenever I open a new tab. When I opened a new tab to open Twelve Blue, this was the image that popped up and I thought it was rather appropriate, considering the work I was about to read, and so I wanted to share it with you~ #theinternetworksinmysteriousways

“So a random set of meanings has softly gathered around the word the way lint collects. The mind does that.” from On Being Blue William Gass

In my opinion, Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue is one of those powerful works of ELit. Like, it’s a seminal work for a reason not just that it was the first work of Elit. I think I forgot that until I “reread” it this weekend.

The work is a piece of “simple”, hyperlink fiction, progression through the work and its lexia triggered by the reader clicking on one link or “thread” to open a new window with new lexia and so on. Readers aren’t really given a set story or direction–there are no guiding signs or whatnot (other than a “Begin” button when one first opens the work).

Here are the first few “pages” I read:

Click to view slideshow.

Instead of clicking “all over” the threads, which I know from prior experience with the work would take me on all kinds of adventures, I decided to click on the links provided from one page to the next–just to see where the story goes, trying for a “pure reading”, so to speak. This went well…till I came across just a screen with a painting on it??? I had to click on the painting and, the next screen I got, didn’t have a link to click on??? So, I had to dive into the sea of threads anyway #whatever~~~~

But, it was interesting to just see where the work would take me (not purely on its own–as I was clicking on the agents spurring the story forward). I read a few excerpts about Lisle and her daughter and then about Javier(?) and his daughter. Nothing that really connected in any linear way. It’s clear from the text, though, that this “story” is taking place across multiple time periods and generations. I read about an accidental drowning that took place years ago and then I read a selection about the friend of the girlfriend, who’s boyfriend drowned, and how this friend remembered the somber atmosphere at school in the days following the mysterious accident. No clear time line is established and yet, the sense of time passing and moving, the sense of people holding on and letting go of time, is so vivid and so visceral. (“What choice do we have but love, what season after?”)

The design and navigation of this work is a topic of discussion that could–and will–continue for a while but the actual text of this work is so rich and fascinating in its own right. Small example but, I mean, how many creative and inventive uses of the word blue did you note while reading this work??? (“She had never been lonelier, never more blue.”) And did you notice each page is titled differently–mostly related to blue words, though–in the tab?? (i.e cornflower)

A strong swimmer out of grief

“She became a strong swimmer out of grief.” This page, in particular, touched me. The longing and sorrow are somehow enhanced that much more my this work’s infinite loop, like there’s always this girl on the edge of the ocean, longing for the mother she never knew.

There’s something distinctly literary about this work’s text, if not its nonlinear navigation. To me, though, if anything, the infinite looping in on itself of this work only serves to enhance the story it is “weaving”/telling. Each page is like a still life, perhaps disconnected from some greater whole, but capable of telling a compelling story in and of itself. For some, that disconnectedness may translate as “brokenness”, the lack of coherence or persistence of narrative over time, as a fault, but, again, I find the questions that exist in those perceived narrative “gaps” in works of ELit like Twelve Blue to be what keeps me coming back. Though, of course, I want answers, I also enjoy not knowing. It creates this mental space for me to explore possibilities–something not always offered IRL, where “pinning things down” is so highly valued these days.

Additionally, I think Twelve Blue gives readers a slight taste of the reciprocity ELit is renown for. (At least, it’s one of my fave parts of ELit.) This reciprocity is realized in the simple act of the readers clicking a link on the screen and being rewarded with a new screen, with new information. The work functions on reader input–slight reader input but still an action the reader must take in order for the work to “move on”. That’s a smidge more agency than most traditional forms of literature have been able to allow for a long time.

Riding the Waves

All in all, if you couldn’t tell, I’m looking forward to diving back into ELit and discovering new ways to tell compelling stories through new digital media. I think Twelve Blue is an excellent place to wade in with. It’s new in many ways but also recognizable in others. And, of course, the work is so beautifully, heart-breakingly, heart-achingly written.

I hope the rest of our class is at least half-excited as I am looking forward to diving in deep on ELit!

****

Links

Hypothes.is

*Feel free to check out some of my notes on this week’s article and respond to them if anything I’ve said resonates or triggers another idea~ Though I’ve been resistant in the past to using hypothes.is, lately, I’ve found it to be a good tool for taking notes maybe I just don’t like being told I have to use it and now that I don’t have to use it, I’ve got to rebel in the other direction????

Tweet tweet…

*Feel free to follow me on Twitter as well~ In between sharing sappy poetry and prose, I sometimes say some witty things??? #debatable??? #claimthecave

~Till next time ^.^~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

Diving Back In~

“‘…there is no story at all; there are only readings’ (124)”.

Flux & Flow

So…. I’m back at it again.

Daniel Vans GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Doing the ELit thing, writing the feelings whatever those are down, being “insightful”… You know, the usual.

Anyway, let’s get down to business.

I don’t remember what I thought of Jessica Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature” the first time I read it eons and eons ago but this time around, I found it to be thought-provoking, informative, and intellectually engaging. The article articulates the challenges and nuances of interacting with ELit, especially in a classroom setting, rather well. In my experience, I’ve found just articulating what ELit can be and what it can do to be a challenge in and of itself. So, kudos Jessica~

Fantastic Mr Fox Yes GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Pressman’s emphasis on navigation in ELit texts, too, I found particularly deft. Having a wonderful wealth of experience interacting with ELit–even creating my own work!–myself, I know how integral to a work its navigation can be–but, also, how much confusion a work’s navigation can create. More than that, I know how a work’s navigation can complicate reader/interactor understanding of literary purpose and overall merit.

If anything, this time around, I was most interested in the points Pressman was making about problems of conceptualizing, or, really, re-conceptualizing storytelling and authorship when it comes to ELit. Do affordances such as hyperlinking allow readers enough agency to make them co-authors of an ELit work, like Landow suggests? Or, are readers merely explorers of a work, trying to uncover all avenues of story rather than decide them? More, to what extent do readers decide meaning in works like this? Can an inherent meaning be embedded/programmed in these works anymore than meaning can be imbued in a written text? Or, is meaning ultimately decided by the reader?

Are there any stories at all in Elit? Or, is it all just readings?

I don’t have any answers and I love it.

The experimental, the uncertainty, the trans-formative, the de-contextualized, the room for possibility—is what I love about ELit. To me, it is the curiosity and the search for discovery and meaning-making that ELit spurs that makes ELit literary/a literary experience. The literariness exists in what we are given/in what we receive from a work, the questions it generates and the challenges it creates and asks us to tackle.

While I think the binary–stories/readings–is apt in some ways for describing differences between ELit and traditional literature, forgetting that there are readers behind both– story and reading–neglects a vital aspect of understanding new forms of digital literature and media. The underlying depth to ELit, I believe, is something that has to be realized in the reader.

Underlying Depth

And sometimes the nights last for months

And sometimes the nights last for months… Maria Guia Pimpao (I have the Google Arts & Culture extension on my browser which allows a new work of art to be the background whenever I open a new tab. When I opened a new tab to open Twelve Blue, this was the image that popped up and I thought it was rather appropriate, considering the work I was about to read, and so I wanted to share it with you~ #theinternetworksinmysteriousways

“So a random set of meanings has softly gathered around the word the way lint collects. The mind does that.” from On Being Blue William Gass

In my opinion, Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue is one of those powerful works of ELit. Like, it’s a seminal work for a reason not just that it was the first work of Elit. I think I forgot that until I “reread” it this weekend.

The work is a piece of “simple”, hyperlink fiction, progression through the work and its lexia triggered by the reader clicking on one link or “thread” to open a new window with new lexia and so on. Readers aren’t really given a set story or direction–there are no guiding signs or whatnot (other than a “Begin” button when one first opens the work).

Here are the first few “pages” I read:

Click to view slideshow.

Instead of clicking “all over” the threads, which I know from prior experience with the work would take me on all kinds of adventures, I decided to click on the links provided from one page to the next–just to see where the story goes, trying for a “pure reading”, so to speak. This went well…till I came across just a screen with a painting on it??? I had to click on the painting and, the next screen I got, didn’t have a link to click on??? So, I had to dive into the sea of threads anyway #whatever~~~~

But, it was interesting to just see where the work would take me (not purely on its own–as I was clicking on the agents spurring the story forward). I read a few excerpts about Lisle and her daughter and then about Javier(?) and his daughter. Nothing that really connected in any linear way. It’s clear from the text, though, that this “story” is taking place across multiple time periods and generations. I read about an accidental drowning that took place years ago and then I read a selection about the friend of the girlfriend, who’s boyfriend drowned, and how this friend remembered the somber atmosphere at school in the days following the mysterious accident. No clear time line is established and yet, the sense of time passing and moving, the sense of people holding on and letting go of time, is so vivid and so visceral. (“What choice do we have but love, what season after?”)

The design and navigation of this work is a topic of discussion that could–and will–continue for a while but the actual text of this work is so rich and fascinating in its own right. Small example but, I mean, how many creative and inventive uses of the word blue did you note while reading this work??? (“She had never been lonelier, never more blue.”) And did you notice each page is titled differently–mostly related to blue words, though–in the tab?? (i.e cornflower)

A strong swimmer out of grief

“She became a strong swimmer out of grief.” This page, in particular, touched me. The longing and sorrow are somehow enhanced that much more my this work’s infinite loop, like there’s always this girl on the edge of the ocean, longing for the mother she never knew.

There’s something distinctly literary about this work’s text, if not its nonlinear navigation. To me, though, if anything, the infinite looping in on itself of this work only serves to enhance the story it is “weaving”/telling. Each page is like a still life, perhaps disconnected from some greater whole, but capable of telling a compelling story in and of itself. For some, that disconnectedness may translate as “brokenness”, the lack of coherence or persistence of narrative over time, as a fault, but, again, I find the questions that exist in those perceived narrative “gaps” in works of ELit like Twelve Blue to be what keeps me coming back. Though, of course, I want answers, I also enjoy not knowing. It creates this mental space for me to explore possibilities–something not always offered IRL, where “pinning things down” is so highly valued these days.

Additionally, I think Twelve Blue gives readers a slight taste of the reciprocity ELit is renown for. (At least, it’s one of my fave parts of ELit.) This reciprocity is realized in the simple act of the readers clicking a link on the screen and being rewarded with a new screen, with new information. The work functions on reader input–slight reader input but still an action the reader must take in order for the work to “move on”. That’s a smidge more agency than most traditional forms of literature have been able to allow for a long time.

Riding the Waves

All in all, if you couldn’t tell, I’m looking forward to diving back into ELit and discovering new ways to tell compelling stories through new digital media. I think Twelve Blue is an excellent place to wade in with. It’s new in many ways but also recognizable in others. And, of course, the work is so beautifully, heart-breakingly, heart-achingly written.

I hope the rest of our class is at least half-excited as I am looking forward to diving in deep on ELit!

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Links

Hypothes.is

*Feel free to check out some of my notes on this week’s article and respond to them if anything I’ve said resonates or triggers another idea~ Though I’ve been resistant in the past to using hypothes.is, lately, I’ve found it to be a good tool for taking notes maybe I just don’t like being told I have to use it and now that I don’t have to use it, I’ve got to rebel in the other direction????

Tweet tweet…

*Feel free to follow me on Twitter as well~ In between sharing sappy poetry and prose, I sometimes say some witty things??? #debatable??? #claimthecave

~Till next time ^.^~

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Hopeful Monster: Exploring an ELit Frankenstein of Hypertext & Kinetic Poetry~

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This week, we’ve finally begun our much-anticipated exploration of Elit. (Perhaps, it’s only much-anticipated on my end though…?)

Delving into Elit ❤

As I may have mentioned before, I’ve taken a few courses already on ELiterature and networked narratives. And so, I’ve already developed a bit of a soft spot for the genre. I find the experimentation and spontaneity and interactivity of Elit to be engaging in a way that is not better than traditional literature but that allows for more of my senses to be involved in the experience of the work. It’s different. Especially when it comes to poetry and prose shared in this genre, I find something special and almost magickal about the work.

I’ve often heard criticism that digital work–writing and art, particularly–are somehow less meaningful for their “digital-ness.” Like, because a work is made to be experienced through a digital interface, it is somehow inherently less capable of  conveying meaning or initiating meaningful dialogue. Or, more simply, it’s just less.

That line of thinking couldn’t be farther from my own. More, it couldn’t be farther from the truth of my own experience of both interacting with works of Elit and with making my own work of Elit.

Two particular works of Elit that come to mind when I think of ones that have touched me are Jason Nelson’s This is How You Will Die and Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive. I mentioned Nelson’s work earlier when discussing Dada in new digital media and have written at length about this particular work. Nelson’s work is a kind of kinetic poetry with a dash of generative fiction thrown in. As for Porpentine’s work, I went into great detail about my thoughts on this piece here.  The “story” is a work of hypertext fiction created using Twine (a platform of which I’m not so much a fan myself but that seems to work amazingly for other people) and it is an absolutely beautiful work. I love everything about it from the diction used to the background sounds and the colours. Read my full review of it if you want but I found this work of Elit to be a particularly poignant articulation and exploration of experiencing trauma and moving on from it. (*Fun fact, this work was on display at the Whitney Museum’s 2017 Biennial exhibit and I got to see it~)

Revisiting EPoetry and Prose ❤

For this week, I decided to explore another work of EPoetry/Prose from the 3rd volume of the Elit collection. The work I chose is Ask Me for the Moon by John David Zuern. It is a work of kinetic poetry. The lines of the poetry in the piece ebb and flow into each other likes waves on the shore of a beach.

Click to view slideshow.

*The work starts with one line of poetry that overlaps and fades until it becomes the horizon for a slowly increasing cityscape–that of Waikīkī, this work being set in Hawaii.

Once you enter the work–by clicking on the screen in order to “ask me for the moon”–there are also missing spaces in some of the lines and particular quoted phrases in some of the lines too. These differences in the lines are filled in by excerpts from related works once the poem finishes ebbing and flowing out and from the screen. The poem will fade into the background and either the quoted phrase or the blank space will be emphasized as an excerpt from another work fades in on the screen.

Click to view slideshow.

The contents of the introduced excerpts revolve around the colonization and industrialization of Hawaii. More, around the commodification of the islands’ themselves, their natural resources, and the natives’ culture. The seen vs. the unseen is also invoked by this piece as the images one clicks to engage with the poetry are of different kinds of labor and work–the line of these images cutting across a beach scene at night. In the editorial statement for this work, these decisions are described as such:

“John David Zuern’s Ask Me For the Moon is a digital poem created in Adobe Flash using juxtaposed images, words, and sounds, to create the feeling of the labor behind the scenes at a Hawaii resort. The images and colors (black, white, and turquoise dominate) paint a picture of Waikiki that is emphasized in Zuern’s notes on the piece, which observe that at the time the piece was made there was approximately one worker for every two and a half visitors to Waikiki. The text of the piece plays over the faded gray landscape of the island, while the moving pictures depict fragments of labor moving through like waves along the shore. The visual poetics serve as a poignant reminder of how much work is done at night, out of sight of the tourists who swarm the island.”

Zuern says of his own work, “I was looking for a way to bring concrete details of my experience of working in Waikīkī into some kind of dialogue with what I was learning about the history and politics of the tourism industry in Hawai‘i. I wanted the poetry to quote but also, in a sense, to inhabit and illuminate the writing of philosophers and critics, calling attention to their own deployment of image and metaphor. At the time, it seemed important to keep the file size as small as possible, and notions of compression and constraint wound up governing many of my formal considerations, including my decision to write in haiku, to employ a somewhat restricted vocabulary and palette, and to include small images with minimal animation.”

For his purposes, I think Zuern’s work becomes a compelling commentary. At first, I was thrown off by the constrained format and the minimal amount of direction/interactivity of the work but once I realized the scope of the content of the work, I began to appreciate the aesthetic and technical decisions of the work. It’s definitely more simple than many other contemporary works of Elit but I think that simplicity makes a statement about what is being lost. In that way, I think this work transcends itself.

What do you think, though? More, what do you feel when engaging with this work? Do you feel the loss, the longing for a return to something simpler? Or, do you feel something else?

On Making Our Own Elit

If we are making our own works of Elit, I’m definitely interested in making a work of EPoetry/Prose. So far, I’ve translated my poetry into metalworks (which is a process, let me tell you) but I would like to expand into Elit with it. The work of Elit I created before was one of prose and so I would definitely like to expand upon what I can do with Elit and the medium.

That said, I would like to express concern with the time-frame for creating this Elit piece–if we are. I had an entire semester to work on the other piece of Elit I made and during that semester I was learning how to use many different kinds of tools and whatnot to create my piece. It was a whole, long process. And, even then, it was still a struggle to create the work I did due to how long it takes to do anything/translate anything it seems into a digital format as well as how overall challenging and strenuous it can be. There were many, many ideas and drafts scrapped along the way.

Anyway, I guess I just want to both inform, maybe, expectations as well as ask for a clearer understanding of what will be expected of us if we are making a work of Elit.

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Links

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Goodies

Porpentine’s Twitter

Bots & Whatnot~

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Beep-Beep-Boo-Bot: Revisiting Bots

So, at this point in my exploration of the digital humanities, I’m not unfamiliar with bots. In fact, I’ve written about them at length before. More, I’ve written about the ethics or lack thereof of bots here.

This isn’t to say that I’ve, by any means, said all there is to say about bots, just that I have thought about them and their functions in detail before. And, more, as far as interacting with and creating bots, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Anyway, that disclosed, let’s get to this week’s activities!

First, after discussing what a bot is for those who are unfamiliar with them, we explored some different bots on Twitter. I decided to check out some of the bots mentioned in this article by Lainna Fader. Since I already do follow a lot of bots (mostly sappy poetry ones #itswhoiamasapersonsorrynotsorry), I wanted to check out some ones that come highly recommended~

Two of my favorites were the @420worldclock bot and the @wikisext bot. Totally nsfw but pretty Great~ @420worldclock seems to co-opt the the adage I’m writing this at 4:20pm AHHHHH btw~ “It’s always happy hour somewhere” to “It’s 4:20 somewhere” and tweet out about that.

Meanwhile, @wikisext is pretty self-explanatory, no???

Personally, I think this bot gives Great advice >.< Totally recommend checking out for yourself~ (if it’s your cup of tea)

After interacting with and exploring a few bots, next, we put our newly-found bot prowess to the test to see if we could differentiate between bot poetry and, you know, traditional poetry. Not as easy as it sounds???

Check it:

Click to view slideshow.

For the most part, I was able to identify Poe, Dickinson, Neruda, some Keats, and some Blake but, in my opinion, including e.e. cummings was just unfair >.> I mean, have you read his work??? Come on!

There were also some really Great works that totally should be famous poems. Like, look at this:

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Genius. Absolutely Great.

…Anyway, moving on~

I found it interesting to see just how similar some bot-generated poetry could be to works written by people. For some of the works, it was easily to spot the thing that made the poetry come alive. That human hand. But, for a surprising number, it was rather difficult to identify them as bot-generated. I’m not sure what that implicates for the future of the medium and of technology but it’s certainly interesting.

Revisiting Making Bots

After exploring the medium and discussing some of the functions and applications of bots, both positive and nefarious, we got to the crux of the matter: making our bots.

Now, as I mentioned, I’ve already made a bot. This pesky, circle-talking faerie… (she talks a little very-scary but don’t worry too much~ she’s harmless ^.^)

So, I didn’t really experience much difficulty in the process of creating one. It took me some time to come up with a format for the things I wanted the bot to say, though. I got a topic I wasn’t overly enthused with discussing thank Alan. So, that took some time to develop. I came up with some Great hashtags, though, in my opinion… #zuckers, #zuckit, #zuckoff…. I mean, come on–those are Great ^.^

I didn’t really get much interaction with my bot-generated content, though. One person outside of the #netnarr scope did like a tweet, which was marginally exciting:

Aside from that interaction, the most I got on my tweets was a comment here:

and a retweet here:

along with a few likes here and there as well~

I’d say some of my replies to some tweets got more interaction. For example, this thread:

It generated some interaction amongst multiple users in the #netnarr sphere, at least. Other than that, I mostly felt like I was having one-sided conversations with other users~ (which, isn’t really all that different from most conversations I’ve had with other Twitter accounts tbh~ in my experience, most aren’t super responsive to comments??).

Don’t think I really influenced anyone all that much with my tweets but maybe some targeted hashtags could change that?? I’m not interested in keeping this bot running past this week, though. I like my personal account to be more organic~

I mean, look at the difference in my bot-reading that only a few days made:

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Added a few of my accounts for comparison~

2018-04-15

My bot-rating jumped from 29% before using bot-generated content to 41% after incorporating only a few days worth of bot-generated content. It’s kind of odd that it’s the same percentage though as my other account, @hellsskell24, which has never had any bot content on it. And, to be honest, I kind of expected my actual bot account, @noxsiog, to have a higher bot-rating. I mean, it is a bot.

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting experience. I wish we could have generated more discussion within the #netnarr thread, at least, but I still like this approach to teaching bots. It’s interactive and creative~

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Links

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Killing It: Some spooky/creepy/disturbing little stories I wrote inspired by bot prompts/nonsense #shamelessselfpromotion

Goodies

Some bots I highly recommend following:

@DothTheDoth

@SICKOFWOLVES

*I mean, this is Great.

@DarkRothko

@s8n

~Till Next Time~