Final Stretch!

We are closing in on the final stretch of the semester. Thanks to Brittney and Edna for their presentations on Exposed and Bastardo respectively. These two selections are quite different, and each introduced us to new forms of electronic literature. Exposed is a powerful journalistic exposé of the pandemic’s impact on incarcerated people, and the cruelty at the core of such a failed system for “justice”. The piece brings to the surface so many human stories through recorded testimony, while revealing the dark underbelly of the American penal system through the use of a data. Exposed makes evident the scale of this systemic injustice at the heart of our societal structure. Bastardo reveals the endless possibilities inherent in computationally-driven fiction – a dynamic hyperliterature “system” that mixes diverse sets of lexia to create a multitude of different stories. This piece is a powerful example of combinatorial fiction. It gives us a sense of the generativity produced by the algorithm, but also the importance of a single reader’s interpretive power alongside such an engine.

Our class agenda slides:

Focus of your final project!

You are now all working on your final elit project. I have sent most of you a personal email with some feedback on your individual concepts.  I am really excited about your concepts for this project opportunity.  Remember, your final elit story is a truly “open” invitation in the sense that I encourage each of you to take creative license in choosing the story you want to tell, and determining the way you want to tell it.  I hope that the end result will be a powerful and diverse set of stories that will be a legacy of this class.  Each contribution will be unique and special in it’s own right. Story maps use graphic organizers to help students visualize the elements of a book or story.  Try Miro to get your ideas organized, mapped out, and collected effectively.

Regarding the digital tools that you decide to use, my advice is to go with what you know and what you are most comfortable with. For example, you can film on your phone, you can record sounds and voice stories on your phone, take photos and manipulate images on a phone, you can write in Google slides and Google docs, you can create a new “space” for this project in WordPress or Wix, you can create in Powerpoint or Prezi, etc.  There is also a possibility of exploring new skills and trying new tools or applications. Some of you are working on interactive pieces with Twine or Inklewriter.  Some of you might use called Thinglink to create “hotspots” or “node links” on an image. Explore the lists provided under the “Course Materials” tab on this course website.

Our remaining timeline:

Your final digital story project will be developed over the course of the three weeks.  Here is our remaining course calendar:

Dec 8   Blog a “progress report” of your final project for this week.

Dec 15  ***Elit Story Showcase in class. Blog a summary of your final elit project with link.

***#Elitclass Final Portfolio due by Monday, Dec. 19th

Thanksgiving update

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we head towards the holiday, I want to share my gratitude for our class, and how thoughtful you have all been this semester thus far.

I am glad your were able to proceed with the Elit Workshop I designed in order to “jump-start” the process of formulating your own elit story development. Writing your own #elit piece will involve some basic steps over the remainder of our time together.  We will proceed with these steps over the course of the next few weeks, taking a bit of “workshop” time from most class meetings to work on your continual progress. 

My sincere thanks to my wonderful Graduate Assistants – Katie & Brandon – for facilitating the workshop protocol, and getting you thinking about the work ahead in the next few weeks. We will continue with this process next week after the holiday.

The steps you might take for creating your own #elit piece will be iterative. That means you will be on one step, and then you will discover that you might have to loop back and forth between the steps as you proceed in designing and implementing your creative vision.  The creative process is rarely linear.  That said, here are some basic steps:

  1. Research your topic or idea so you are clear on the presentation of your concept.
  2. Write a script, a storyboard, and/or a timeline for your story.
  3. Collect and curate the required multimedia parts — text, images, audio, video, oral history, interviews, selfies, and digital tools applications.
  4. Start to construct the narrative using selected digital tools.  This construction effort will be guided by your storyboard concepts, outline, and timeline.

Slides from our Workshop (11/17/22):

Your to-do list:

  1. Please remember that this is “Blog Catch-Up Week”. That means that if you have missed a week of blogging along the way this semester, you can take this week as an opportunity to catch-up, by writing about selections from a week that you skipped earlier. The blog catch-up content would reflect the selection(s) from the week that you missed before. All students are invited to submit one blog for “a catch-up” on their overall blog tally.
  2. As per our in-class workshop on 11/17 – Please remember to submit your initial concept for your final elit project in this document (see your name included at the bottom of the document). I will be reading everybody’s ideas in time for our next meeting on 12/1.
  3. For our next meeting on 12/1, we will be discussing Edna’s selection: Bastardo, and Brittney’s selection Exposed. You should have already completed your blogs on these selections a few weeks ago (their presentations were postponed). We will discuss digital tools and storyboarding a bit in the final part of class.
  4. Your blog posts for the remaining classes this semester will be “progress reports” on the development of your final elit project. But as I stated above, this week you have the chance to write a “catch-up” post. **If you have not dropped a single blog post, then you have the week off.
Enjoy the time off and a treat!

November is here!

Class agenda from 10/27/22:

This past week was the first week that selections for presentation were less in sync, and seemed much more disparate in theme, design, and sentiment. Still, our discussions were certainly insightful, and I am so glad these two texts were selected for a closer look. Thanks to Giselle and to Nicole for their thoughtful presentations which helped fill out context for both works, and fed our further understanding. The scrapbook story world of Retratos vivos de mamá was a meaningful contemplation of grief and loss, and I am so happy we had such personal engagement with this piece both in your blogs and in our discussion in class thanks to Giselle’s final prompt. This work seems to explore the elusive (and often failed) nature of love, and the inexplicable silence that comes after loss. I thought that the genre of this piece, (i.e. the digital scrapbook of personal memory), might be an interesting genre for you all to consider in thinking about your own creative production of an elit story (for later on in our semester).

Meanwhile, How to Rob a Bank had a very different tone – the wild misadventures of two dangerous fools in love. This transmedia fiction might also serve as “food-for-thought” for your own future creative work. The ingenious move made here is the way Alan Bigelow has used social media as an “overview” forensic form of storytelling. The animated text conversations between the main characters, and their use of their iPhones to Google search, text, and game, tells us (the outside unintended reader) so much about their lives. This approach offers us all a surprisingly deep form of character development. There is less interactivity here than in the other pieces we have looked at, but there is also an important critique of the way digital culture has mediated our lives askew.

What to-do for next week?

Read Jasmine’s selection: Dial

Read Ricki’s selection: cya laterrr

Blog due:

Blog about your reading experience and understanding of Dial  and/or cya laterrr

See you in our our CAS classroom next time (11/3)!

October light, …and ephemerality

October has ripened with its crisp air, its shimmering light, and its colored leaves like shards of golden glass refracting the hues of harvest and reflection. Autumn is a time to pause, to pay attention, and to take account, as our daytime dims and becomes shorter. I hope you have found your own moments to enjoy these rhythmic shifts in the natural world, because they are a bounty that we all should celebrate and share. Nothing lasts forever, but it is beautiful to behold that one thing passes into another. Nature reminds us of this regularly, especially with the shift in seasons.

I am thinking back to our class last week, and so glad to have read A Kiss and also An Infinite Woman with all of you. Thank you to Jules and Jasmine for taking us through the prowess of each story world. Perhaps the common thread in these two pieces is the idea of ephemerality, and also erasure. When thinking about A Kiss together, we talked about the nature of love. And we talked about the difference between “the everydayness” of a life lived with love, verses the grand gestures of romantic stories (think Hallmark channel, etc). I think Dan Wabar shows us how well suited hypertext fiction is in capturing slice-of-life stories, snap shots of love over time, and the everyday minutiae that make up the ebb and flow of real lives lived. Fleeting moments. Moments we forget. Moments that are lost to memory’s editorial hold. But the complex webs that hypertext can build are a kind of storytelling that makes us see so many “sliding door moments” – the shimmering glimpses of moments in time that evaporate. They are lost to us in getting on with life each day, but they still do make up the sum total of love.

In a different sense, the impermanence of our identity and our positioning within the world is addressed with the mash-up poetry of The Infinite Woman. In this piece, we start to think about how the overall concept of womanhood and femininity has be “framed” by a male artist with a prominent male gaze. And how it has also been “recuperated anew” – by a feminist philosopher interested in the disruption of power held within that familiar male gaze. By reading and interacting with these two tracts, we come to see the limits of gender construction itself (and more specifically “femininity”) as a performance. As the fog slowly erases the screen of our words selected, the curtain drops on any final positing of what a woman is. We start to realize that the act of representation (…of “writing the woman”) is an ephemeral fantasy, something that will always be attempted, but never contained as a final “whole”.

Class slides & agenda

Your to-do list:

Read Giselle’s selection: Retratos Vivos de Mama

Read Nicole’s selection: How to Rob a Bank

Blog due: Reflect on your understanding of one or both of these readings!

Further reflections

Thank you to Melanie for her presentation on Peaceful Dream, and Xinyu for her presentation on Zui Yong Shi. It seems to me that there were many common thematics in the pieces they selected – the dream like quality of both poetic compositions, and the timeless and meditative quality that emerges when experiencing our own interactivity with these texts. We are all lucky to have benefitted from Melanie & Xinyu’s deeper understanding of the mandarin language (as well as the literary traditions referenced in these two works). We discussed Ottar Omstead’s use of “letter carpets” transposed with Chinese ideographs in combination with images, videos and music. We also discussed the pentatonic melody of the Chinese WuYan JueJu poetry tradition – remixed here in a multimedia context by Ren Yang. In each case, the words connect to nature and feelings and a kind of romantic idealism, helping us to see the significance of nature (overall) in Chinese written tradition.

In many ways, I think our thoughtful discussion last week also highlights the multi-pronged ways in which translation is ever-present in our lives. The act of translation is a complex skill. Translation means to move meaning across a boundary. This work is being done constantly and is a vital part of living in our contemporary and global world. Each of us must “translate” all day, all the time. We move meaning across boundaries – linguistically of course, but also in terms of cultural divides, or representational genres – like visual language, or sound too. These two texts ask us to slow down, and to pay attention to how we do that work. The selections last week were really paired together effectively, and have brought these overall translation concerns to light for us.

Class slides:

Your to-do list for this week:

Read: Jasmine M’s selection: The Infinite Woman 

Read Jules’ selection: A Kiss 

Blog due: Blog about your reading experience and understanding of The Infinite Woman and/or A Kiss

See you in our our CAS classroom next time (10/20)!

Kicking off our exploration of the new ELC4

Another great #elitclass conversation this week, which seemed to bring new insight into the power (and variety) of born digital storytelling. I would like to mention again how powerful and important your weekly blogs have become to lending certain insight into the world of electronic literature. In addition, your blogs have been very generous thus far, and I am impressed with the way in which you have shared meaningful aspects of your own lived experience when making connections between elit selections and the world. 

Everything is Going to Be OK

Thank you to Katie for a smart engagement with Natalie Lawhead’s Everything is Going to Be OK – a chaotic and false-whimsy collection of life experiences presented in a hyperanimated “game” or multimodal ‘Zine. An interactive roller coaster of cutesy-gore and vivid-lucid stories, this piece is more a fever-dream exposé on surviving bad things – a (truly) dark comedy about the most serious of topics including dread, depression, trauma, and abuse. At the same time that is hard to read, it is also truly profound.  Everything is Going to Be OK slowly creeps up on you, and makes you behold the inner struggle and tortured mindscape of anxiety, loneliness, and the hurt of everyday living. This work is weighty – and an unforeseen surprise – and I appreciate Katie’s way of framing her concerns for us all before her actual presentation, and the discussion that ensued in class regarding content warnings and what we expect of art. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the work is its wake. It has much more depth than its plushy bunnies would suggest. As reader/players, we come to understand that courage in life is simply to persist, in the face of the painful fact that life can indeed be a cruel game.

Blackout Poetry Tool

Thanks to Bianca for her insightful walkthrough of Blackout Poetry Tool. I am so glad to have visited this work early on in our class, as it’s central provocations are important to the field of electronic literature. This piece harnesses the generativity of the machine in active collaboration with the creativity of the human. The tradition of Blackout Poetry (in an analogue context) has been established long ago, but adding here the computational engine of the computer allows for new dimensions of interactivity with classic texts from the literary past. Blackout Poetry modifies an existing text by “blacking out” some words in the passage; the remaining words are read as a poem. This elit piece moves this concept further by coding into existence four modes of “play” – you choose the words; a bot chooses the words; a back-and-forth selection by you and then the bot; or you choose and then the bot suggests. In each of these modes, human and machine interact and produce new meaning in collaboration. Each step of the way we start to dig deeper into certain questions regarding writing and conceptions of authorship. Who can be called an author, when interacting with the machine? Is the reader of the Blackout Poetry Tool also a writer? How so? As a creative inquiry exploring the human-computer relationship, this work highlights how literature born in a computational environment breathes new life into textual exploration and experience. Funny how the machine can produce something hauntingly beautiful, that only the human can recognize as such.

Your to-do list for next week:

  1. Chelsea’s selection: Letters to X
  2. Kefah’s selection: forgotten nights
  3. Blog due  -Blog about your reading experience and understanding of the Letters to X and/or forgotten nights.

Again, remember some key questions when blogging: How would you describe your experience of the text? How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

Enjoy the first days of October and happy homecoming!

Dr. Zamora

Warming up with a “walkthrough”

What a wonderful read through all of your blogs this past week. I must say that I had a clear feeling that many of you “turned a corner” in terms of your “warming up” to electronic literature. While the field continues to push categories/boundaries, it has become for many of you a more immersive and emotional experience. And despite the formal innovation in terms of storytelling, you also expressed a newfound relatability and accessibility in your experience of elit work.

Our agenda slides:

High Muck A Muck

Wespent our class with the beautiful hypertext poem entitled High Muck a Muck, – a stunning collaborative work.  High Muck-a-Muck: Playing Chinese is an interactive poem, consisting of a website and eight videos which explore the narratives and tensions of historical and contemporary Chinese immigration to Canada. High Muck a Muck is most intriguing especially because it was formed through an interdisciplinary collaboration of nine Canadian artists and programmers including Fred Wah, poet, Jin Zhang, composer; Nicola Harwood, project director and designer; Thomas Loh and Bessie Wapp, video artists and performers:, Hiromoto Ida, dancer; Patrice Leung, filmmaker; Tomoyo Ihaya, visual artist and Phillip Djwa, creative technologist.  The convergence of so many gifted practitioners has produced an exceptionally rich and complex piece, which definitely pushes beyond the traditional confines of “text”.  

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

Your to-do list for 9/29/22

Kathryn’s selection: Everythings Going to Be OK

Bianca’s selection: Blackout Poetry Tool

-Your next blog post is due by 9/29.  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of and/or Everythings Going to Be OK or  Blackout Poetry Tool.

What are some of the significant textual elements?  How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What overall effect do these texts create?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

See you soon!

New Ways to Read

Our last class was the beginning of a semester-long conversation about literature, reading, writing, new forms of literacy.  As I think back to what we covered together, there really is so much to consider when thinking about the act of reading in our lives.  This quote from Jessica Pressman’s early article entitled “Navigating Electronic Literature” makes us all think further about how the act of reading might be changing: “Electronic Literature demonstrates how navigation is not only a central characteristic of the digital literary work and it’s aesthetic but also a primary source of its signification.”  Where is the source of meaning produced when we read?  How is the role of the reader changing?  Can a reader also be a part-author of text?  How so? I decided to have you all read Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue in tandem with Pressman’s article as a way to build an early foundation for our journey into the world of electronic literature, and as a way to signal new experiences in reading and writing. We developed some collaborative notes on Twelve Blue and Pressman’s article are full of insight regarding these difficult questions.  

New ways to read…

I want to share that I am impressed with you all. You are willing to share your earnest impression of new ideas and new experiences …..and you have even expressed anxiety, and discomfort. Your openness is a good sign. Learning is often linked to forms of vulnerability.  And so your admittance of these unforeseen experiences in reading (at the start of our journey) is a sign that we are in for a great deal of authentic learning together in #elitclass!

Our class slides:


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

Some ideas to consider from our discussion last Wednesday:

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

Many expressed frustration, and many felt a sense of exploration and discovery emerge after some more time spent with the text.  Perhaps we could claim that the piece was “writerly” but the story was never compelling because there was no cohesion.  You observed a lack of any discernible pathway to reading.   You also admitted that a lack of any identifiable closure was unsettling.

Themes/Motifs: reading & flowing; water- upstream/downstream, stillness & turbulence, being submerged, fluid and changing; memory; color; nature/seasons; traces; generations (young vs. more mature); history; perception (looking); multiple paths/multiple meanings; “skyways” (routes, infrastructure, mobility); self-referencial elements

Character, plot and relationships: there are relationship “networks” but there was definitely some confusion – some readers knew some characters, other readers knew others, some of our knowledge of the text overlapped, some did not, etc.

Reading strategies:   Some click on threads or the hyperlinks within the text randomly, some readers decide to stick consistently by a certain thread color, while others might discover the titles for each of the lexia tabs and use this as an attempt to “frame” possible meanings.  Some readers think about the number 12 as a clue to a reading strategy, while some attempt  basic “note taking” and/or “mapping” in an attempt to discern patterns or meanings.

Assessment: 12 Blue reminds us all of the active role of the reader in creation – we are “navigators” beyond just readers;   There is an underlying structure that cannot necessarily be apprehended but is determined by the code of the work. (This is the central illusion – that readers have agency through navigation, but still, the world is a closed design determined by the underlying code).

I think the idea of an illusion will be a keyword for us to consider throughout our exploration of #elit.  With Twelve Blue, we struggled to apprehend an ending, but perhaps there is beauty in the fragments.

Some critical/review articles

These articles give you an idea of how critics/scholars write about a text like 12 Blue (this is optional reading, but thought it might be interesting for you):

12 Strange, Blue Rains: Touch Evocations in Elit via Kathi Inman Berens

Selected Bibliography of Hypertext Criticism:

Postmodern Culture, Volume 8, Number 1, September 1997

Don’t Believe the Hype: Rereading Michael Joyce’s Afternoon and Twelve Blue by Anthony Enns (2001 in Currents in Electronic Literature)

Your to-do list:

-All of you have selected a date for your presentation.   A few of you still need to add you elit piece/selection into the Course Calendar.

-Remember we will meet in our Zoom room (see email or syllabus for link) on Sept. 22nd

-Read Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky

Read High Muck A Muck (we will do a walkthrough together in the beginning of class)

-Your third blog post is due.  Blog about your reading experience and understanding of High Muck A Muck and/or Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky

Thanks for a great start to the semester #elitclass. See you next week!

Dr. Zamora

Jumping into the World of Elit

Jumping into a new world…

Again, it was great to see you all last Tuesday evening, and I feel like slowly but surely we are getting to know each other a bit more and we are starting to connect. It was a pleasure to read all of your introductory blogs, and I also enjoyed the “Choose A Plant” introductory exercise – just another window into who you all are!

Here are the slides from last week:

You are welcome to review our slides that cover an introduction to the most prominent genres of electronic literature (and they include some links to examples of each genre highlighted). This understanding of the general  #elit “categories” will serve as a foundational vocabulary for our overall exploration of electronic literature throughout the semester.  

The Electronic Literature Collections

Surf the Electronic Literature Collections)!  Just peek around and open up different texts to discover what awaits you there.  Start to search for a few texts you might want to choose for your review presentation.  Make a mental “shortlist” of your top choice selections to work with, as we will settle our Presentation/Review schedule next time. As you look through the Electronic Literature volumes this week, please notice the expectations & strategies you bring to the texts. What do you like & why? What frustrates you and why?  Remember to be open to new experiences. In many ways, reading elit is a whole new world.

Your “to-do” list for next class:

Read Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature”.  This essay is located in “About Electronic Literature:  New Horizons for the Literary”.

-Read Twelve Blue by Michael Joyce for 1 hour.

-Your second blog post is due.  Please write a reflection about your Twelve Blue reading experience in relation to Pressman’s article about reading elit.

Next Thursday I will see you in CAS 308, where we will settle the Course Calendar together, discuss the readings above (that you are also blogging about). In addition, I will demonstrate a couple of elit “walkthroughs” to give you a feel of what is possible.

Looking forward to it!

The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s Fall 2022 Electronic Literature course.