This is How You Will Die

Jason Nelson’s “This is How You Will Die” is described as digital fiction and poetry, but I found that the imagery and the sounds are just as responsible for the haunting and confusing aura around this piece.  I agree that it can be considered e-lit as the prose and poetry inform the experience that we are having (which is all about death, dying and how we treat the subject), but the text to me was often confusing and was displayed in such a way that made it hard to read and absorb. More on that in a bit.  The sounds and imagery are bizarre. The sounds are like a slow heartbeat with an electronic chord that may sound like the wind or a voice depending on how you hear it. The imagery is crude – the frame pixilated which what looks like frayed wires sticking out of it. It all feels very rough. There are only two real choices. One is to “explain death”. In doing so, the author puts text on essentially a blank screen, describing human beings like animals, referring to them as bovines that are just going through the motions of living like a mindless creature (styling your hair, adjusting your clothes). The idea of your career as a “gulley” makes life seem predictable and predetermined – all of our days running in the same direction toward death, which the author calls “the last doorway”. The whole tone of this reading is that life is essentially pointless – that you will be unknown and your life will make little to no distance (he says your “brief bell” which I took as a metaphor for life will swing the herd three steps – in other words, move the needle very very little). I found it interesting that he describes the “game” as having a way to win. This message never changes throughout the game. The only other real option is to hit “death spin”, so I did.

The text that appears on the one-armed bandit style strip across the middle is a somewhat absurd, bizarre accounting of possible deaths.. My rough break down is as follows: So first column of the spin is when – then the second column is what happens to you to kill you – the third is the moment of your death – the fourth is the moments immediately after your death and what happens to your spirit/soul/remains…..The real action is in the clips that appear as numbers on crudely drawn colored doorways.

It was hard for me to get a read on the meaning of the text that popped up in the Death spin – nonsensical in a sense – a “box knife used to restock your face”?  “The cab driver hides your body in an off season amusement park”?  I guess the whole thing points to the absurdity of death – that basically, sh*t happens and it happens for ridiculous reasons and in ridiculous ways and that death has no more meaning than life does. As for the numbered doorways, I found those videos and clips to be much more interesting. These seem to be where the real meaning of the piece lies – thoughtful little audio plays that underscore the ways people see the juxtaposition of life and death – some light-heartedly, others more somberly… Some of them are positively haunting and morbid. For instance the clip about dying while driving – the line “their heads were wrecked, everything around them was wrecked” is disturbing.  I thought the line that “Some cars don’t have drivers that don’t die” was particularly thought-provoking.

There is a clip about birds – the voice is flat and lifeless – talking about birds and the forest being burned i think – says things dont really die, or maybe they do. All we see are images of nature – grasses and birds.  One problem I have with a number of these clips is that the words are hard to read – they change quickly and have a shadow on them that makes them difficult to make out. In addition, the poems don’t really have a beginning or an end. Both the poems in print and the audio readings continue to loop – they circle around unendingly.  Perhaps, I thought it is something to do with the circle of life, or the way you can’t get a thought – particularly a notion of death – out of your head.  In clip 6, the reading is about how its an effort to die, a hassle, an obstacle and the girl ends up comparing it to a playground with slides – a take that I found to be somewhat nonsensical, but also demonstrating the way some people may want to view death – as something that simply gets in the way of having a good time.  The poem has a little more meaning – it points out the chain of killing, leading from soap killing germs to germs killing cells to cells killing organs to organs killing us to “we kill others.  others kill us.”  That seemed more like a statement about man’s inhumanity to man and, frankly, seemed a little jarring when juxtaposed with the audio clip I just mentioned. Other clips show trees and tombstones. One shows a figure in white near what could be cemetery gates. This is another light-hearted (?) exchange about death in which a girl tells a man that her death will be fun for him because it will be a surprise. She also points out that when she dies he will get her material things…

 

I wanted to point out something that struck me in clip 7 because it was the only one that seemed to reference religion or God . In the audio clip, the man is talking about people that “like to die” – and says the only people that like to die hold flashlights over others who are dying to confuse them. So he is referring to people in the afterlife perhaps – that are trapped in this world playing a joke on people dying to make them think they are seeing God’s light?  There’s an allusion to this in the poetry in which is says some deities hold flashlights on bitter dead, on richly worn..  That’s another allusion to God (or gods).  And it also makes the point that the people that will be disappointed by their final destination are those that are bitter or unhappy anyway or those that are rich (which sounds Biblical to me – like the rich man has a better chance of passing through the eye of a needle rather than enter the kingdom of heaven).

The actual idea of getting or losing spins seemed all beside the point, but enjoyable nonetheless. The first time I plated the game I kept “winning” additional “demise credits” by getting blood diseases, etc.  It doesn’t seem so much like “gambling” as the opening scene makes it sound. This time I got 443 demise credits and its singing (when you die, you die) which I guess is the point here, as it is putting an absurd spin on death and also seeming to poke a little fun at those expecting God or some great answer to be revealed. Here it says that although I have won extra death spins, parts of me are erased. Erased from others’ memories? Erased from the game?  No I continue to get additional spins every time, but the warnings are getting more dire.  The music is speeding up and becoming more chaotic, including organ chords. It predicts that I will do something in 72 hours to lead to my death.

I notice that as I spin, little facts about death appear on the center strip behind the main text – like the increasing method of death is blunt trauma. The markings on the side of the frame look like frayed wires, and when you spin it looks like veins or blood or wires… with some splotches of blood. I cant tell whats behind the bottom of the page – maybe two eyes, make two zeros…. Despite all of this, there doesn’t seem to be anything to learn and the tab that says “explain death” never reveals a different message.  So looking at another link, it says that the more death credits you have, the further away your death is.  But when I get bad news like I have a blood disease or something, it adds death credits meaning my death gets =further= away. That doesn’t make sense. Finally, I decided to start over to see if I could deliberately run my number of death credits down to zero but I got as low as 6 and it wouldn’t let me spin anymore. At that point, the game didn’t appear to be over, but there was nothing more that I was able to do.

In conclusion, I found the game to be an interesting commentary on death, dying and how as humans cope with how we will die. Nelson clearly sees an element of absurdity here and I think he shares it. The game idea just seems to be a platform for the audio commentary and poetry, but it works well. It definitely qualifies as e-lit, although I think it was somewhat disappointing in that there was no end to the game. In a game about death, shouldn’t there be some finality?

deathspin

 

 

 


This is How You Die: Jason Nelson

Just in time for Halloween: This is How You Die, by Jason Nelson

This is a game that is set up like an online slot machine. The pictures that are in place in a regular slot machine have been replaced by short pieces of text that are meant to predict the users death. The prediction is divided into four parts: location, method, result, and post-result. Each spin produces a completely random combination (some making more sense than others!).

The screen that contains the "slot machine" as a few interactive buttons that you can scroll over. One is "explain death" which provides a dismal and creepy outlook on life and death. "Demise credits" displays a number that is reduced each time a death spin is made. The user starts with 28 credits and the game informs you that at least 10 are needed in order to make a spin. Finally, "death spin" activates the game.

On the first spin, a clip of a man singing, "you're dead, you're dead..." plays. The entire time the game is open, spooky music plays. There are repetitive thud sounds and swells of a repeated noise.

Here are my first results:

"Driving a Kansas highway, watching hail storms whiten the knee high wheat fields/ You are weather trapped and after four days blood clots vacation in your brain/ And while your death breath draws you play an imaginary golf game with leaves/ the cab driver hides your body in an off season amusement park/ Your death is reported by tenure seeking academics as being suspiciously modernist"

Now I have 24 demise credits; I spin again. This time, my results make much less sense. Basically, I lock up shop at "Hobby Cakes", get my loose skin stuck in a cab door, am dragged 2 miles, and then my family says that I did it on purpose.  I also apparently published an unsuccessful book of poetry.

15 demise credits:

I still write bad poetry! Yet this time, I'm at the Grand Canyon, and jocks steal machines that I need in order to stay alive.

At 6 demise credits, I'm out; I'm unable to make a spin.

Exiting and coming back into the game, I notice something that I previously missed. Next to some elements of the predictions, there are little numbers that you can press. These activate short video clips that repeat imagery of death and creepy text. I also win some demise credits this time. Text pops up: "Good: you have won extra death spins/ Bad: blood disease".

This was creepy/ fun. Note to self: stay away from the Grand Canyon, Kansas, and poetry.

Blog #6 This Is How You Will Die Review

I thought that this week’s e-lit piece was the spookiest out of all the ones that I explored already. I thought that the background music on this piece was extremely creepy. It gave the piece a gloomy and unsettling feeling. I was unsure of what to press in the piece at first. Then I explored the tabs: demise credits, explain death and death spin. At first I didn’t understand the instructions.

When I pressed the tab that said explain death, I couldn’t understand the poem that was written. If someone else could explain it, I would be truly surprised. Now that I think about it, the explanation might not have been there to actually give an explanation. Instead, it promotes the idea that we don’t know what death is. It just happens. People may try to explain death to us but it still doesn’t make sense to us.
When I pressed the demise credits tab and it said you need at least 10. I wasn’t sure what it meant at first. I wasn’t sure if that meant 10 spins or cards adding up to ten.
I could press either one of the numbers that pop up for me. I wasn’t sure where there would lead based on previous experiences in e-lit. They brought up relatively short videos with words on images. I had to keep reading the notes during the videos but still couldn’t piece them into a story. There were just random stories about how the narrator understood people’s death and he sounded really creepy. In my opinion, he kind of sounds like high, drunk or perhaps psychotic person telling a story. He wasn’t speaking to actually make sense to the readers. That could also add to what the story is about. This could possibly be a piece to show how people with mental issues view death.
I couldn’t come to any concrete understanding of what was trying to be promoted. I tried to frame the disoriented parts into a story with meaning and it still made no sense. The eerie, spooky and haunting voice of the reader stood out to me. I could also press death spin again. When the frames around the game changed I couldn’t interpret them. I would also notice some extra sentences that could come up in another spin.
As I continued playing I wondered, how do I know that I’m done. I can’t really see it coming. When the man kept saying “when you die you die,” his tone reminded me of a horror film.

My story ended when I spun 7 and that was the end. There was no big sign on the screen saying The End. There was no solid reason. I just already knew it would be coming. I just didn’t know the reason other than I spun less than 10. Instead of spinning less than 10 in life to end up dead, we just have to keep living and mess with the wrong substances, wrong crowds among other things.
Even though we may hear about how someone died or why they died but we never really understand it. The game is almost like a game of life itself. In the game, you keep playing and playing and then you’re suddenly dead. In life, you keep living and living and then you’re suddenly dead. All it takes is one wrong move. That provides me with such a grim outlook and this is why I would stay away from a piece of e-lit like this. It provokes uncomfortable feelings of sadness and despair inside me. Even though I believe in God, I’d rather not think about these things. I prefer to focus on the joy, happiness, love and abundance in living than worry about the grim reaper.
Key Questions:
1.      Could the author play with the idea of implementing the end of the game when the player doesn’t finish at a certain time? A timer could be at the top of the screen. Screen could go completely
2.      What provoked the author to do an e-lit piece like this?
Definitely not a piece that I want to model mine after.

Ally’s Elit World 2016-10-25 20:00:00

This was a very interesting game/Elit piece. I am fascinated by the pieces that are considered games because they aren't one's usual electronic video game. They are much more than that. This piece was a game because of the pieces put together to build the woman and discover all of the objects that make her whole. I enjoyed all the noises and music and voices with random comments that helped describe what was going on in the scene.
There was one scene I related to most and that was when the woman was talking about what she wears and what it means. She mentioned how what a woman wears like jewelry or clothing does not depict who they are on the inside. I totally relate to that in the sense that for work, I have to dress in all black every single day. In order to dress up my all black look, I have to wear jewelry and accessorize. I always relate all-black to a more gothic style so I feel like what I'm wearing on the outside does not symbolize who I am on the inside.
"Pieces of Herself" has a lot to do with women and how they realize who they are and what makes them who they are as a person. This piece plays with sounds and colors which I think is done to keep the reader/game player entertained and intrigued. At least that's what it did for me. I enjoyed all of the scenes where there were black and white backgrounds but the pieces itself were colorful. It was pretty scary the way it started in the bathroom with blood on the curtains. This raised a lot of questions in my mind but I just kept going because it had me wanting more.
Something I noticed about this piece that I liked is that it doesn't have a clear ending. It made me understand that my Elit piece won't have to be a story that has a clear beginning with a problem and a solution with a perfect ending. Our Elit stories won't be a typical novel setup. It can just be a piece that has a character or characters in an important setting with a message to the viewers and that can just be it. The idea of what I have for my piece is that I want to have a girl be able to see her life with three different guys. You can click the different faces and with each one will be a different journey. I thought of this idea because of my friends who just don't know how to pick the right guy. So in my piece I want the mean guy to yell out different blurbs like "go change I don't like what you're wearing" and the second guy to say "you better call me when you get there and when you leave. If I don't get a call we're going to have problems" and then the third guy to say "I was thinking for dinner we can do Chinese and then watch this movie I bought us tickets for,  what do you think?" . This way - the player can have a chance to see what their journey in life could be like with each possible guy. But each one will start off nice and throughout the game - their true characters will show. This is just a thought for right now. With time I will work on clearer images and sounds for my piece.

Tinkering Session

I have been writing my blogs in advance and then scheduling them, so I didn't get a chance to add my elit thoughts to last week's blog. I am considering two ideas. One: I am getting in the spirit of Halloween, and I kind of want to tell a story of a family who is experiencing some kind of haunting in their home, but I want to tell it from the family dog's perspective. I think that this could be fun. Two: I have a short story started that I might want to adapt to an elit piece.

For either of those options, I want to find tools that I can use to combine sound, images, and text (maybe video too...).

I started out by checking out Google Story Builder. This was not what I was looking for... I just kept asking myself, "Am I missing something?" This seems like a neat way to teach kids about collaborative writing though. I will keep this in mind for future projects. I also looked at Thinglink, but this too seems like something that I probably can't use for this particular project.

Then I got distracted by trying to make a Voki for way too long...

The tool that I liked the most so far is one that I can use as an element in my elit piece. It is WordFoto, and it is pretty cool. The images that you can create with the app by combining pictures and words are both visually interesting and a little disturbing. Perfect for the theme of my elit piece! When looking pictures to upload into the app, I looked on Creative Commons. I then played around with creating my own WordFoto. Here are some of my results:



~ Pieces of Herself ~

pieces-poem

I found the concept for this particular feminist piece of E Literature by Juliet Davis to be very interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed navigating the piece as the reader is prompted to search for the hidden colorful objects in various areas and place them on a silhouette of a woman’s body to the lefthand side of the screen. What is very interesting is the fact that none of the pieces are able to be removed once they are placed in whatever respective areas the reader chooses to put them down. By the end of the piece, then, the reader ultimately “makes” the woman into whatever he/she chooses instead of the woman being able to piece herself back together and “find herself” as she says she has set out to do before the piece begins. A women’s identity in society is very much socially constructed to the point where what can come of the woman is nothing more but a sense of brokenness and deterioration.

Everything that a woman can experience, whether it be heartbreak or a struggle with personal insecurities and body image is practically inscribed on her and carved into her from birth. The apple on the tree outside alludes to a man ruling over a woman, which is a concept that was very much socially acceptable for centuries really climaxing in the 50s as the man was seen as the dominant figure and the head of a household. A woman’s life was lead in such a way to prepare her for taking care of her children, her home, and catering to her husband; Unfortunately, there wasn’t much else to aspire to as women did not have a very dominant role in too many other things. The emotion of this piece was increasingly heightened as some of the hidden objects played music. When the clip of “Que Sera Sera” started, it was extremely despairing as it confirms the very miserable existence the woman in the piece (representing many) had. Whatever will be… will be and there wasn’t much a motive to do anything else. She lives for putting others before herself.

I was intrigued in certain scenes by the different actions that would take place as the mouse rolled over the different sections of the screen. There was an area in the kitchen where the reader could roll over and it would tuck in the chair at the dinner table, which I thought to be an allusion to the way women were trained to act and carry themselves regarding table manners or mannerisms in general. Sayings like “Don’t forget to wash your hands” ring throughout the piece more than once like a broken record. The piece itself is described as a polemic on the information page when the world is first entered. This idea made me wonder if the author was going for a very clear understanding that this piece could be a sarcastic take on societies very outward exhibition of a women’s contempt, or if it is just an attack on the views put onto women by society. All in all, it is evident that the woman and women in general are in pieces and never quite put back together in a sound way from all that is endured, leaving the end result to be complex and in some ways very disturbing.

 

Tool Testing: I ended up going through the list on the course’s website to get a feel for what each tool is for and what it can do. Thing link is very interesting and can come in handy if I would like to put text over a map maybe, but as far as testing something out I stuck with Powerpoint this week. I know that there is so much that I can do with it, but I still have a lot of playing around to do with the program to get to a point where I may be comfortable using it to create my entire project. Some of the different effects with fading and moving text may be hard to do in Powerpoint with the way that I am seeing it in my head. I know that there’s an ability to fade things in and out and video shouldn’t be a problem unless I create one and it decides not to play on other devices when people try to access my piece. The strongest impressions made on me so far from the pieces we have seen (regarding the components that make it up and how the piece is navigated through) is Like Stars in a Night Sky and High Muck a Muck. I do not wish to achieve exactly what is done in these pieces in just this one project for the semester, but I want to find a way to emulate them with my spin on it (if that makes sense). I’m thinking some of the most prominent aspects of my piece will be visuals, video, and narration. Powerpoint should have the ability to do all of those I guess, but as aforementioned, I will have to play around with it more because I am honestly unsure at the moment if it is what I would like to work with. I do recognize that it is a powerful tool, though, and I am in no way casting it off. I just want to explore more options.


"Pieces of Herself"

Before experiencing this piece of electronic literature, I thought that the premise of the narrative was going to be much darker, so to say. I loved that it still touched on concepts of gender identity and social construction of what a woman is "seen as," and I think that the paper doll idea was very creative and effective in showing these "tangible" pieces. However, I thought that the "pieces" of this woman were going to be picked up after possibly having a traumatic event, namely something sexual, and putting herself slowly together in order to reclaim her own identity.

While I enjoyed the piece, I wish Juliet Davis would have done more. I think she could have inherently gone further with the idea. For example, I thought that biblical verse about the "job of women" was particularly chilling and effective, and I wish there were more glimpses of dark societal moments and presumptions about what it is to be female throughout. I felt like she held something back. Still, the sound bytes of the different interviews with women, especially in the office, were effective in adding to the tone of the piece; again, though, I wish we would have seen more of that.

For my own project for Elit, I tried to experiment with inklewriter, thinglink, and popcorn maker, but none of those programs were what I wanted to convey my story. Instead, I have decided to do it all through wix, since I think I will be able to actually imagine my ideas through the website, even if I have to implement coding to get certain effects for my navigational elements.


Wix allows me to create icons and have lightboxes and different elements pop up without necessarily leaving the page. I want it to look like a desktop background, and have icons the reader is able to explore to "experience" this romance I am writing. Additionally, I have done further storyboarding for the story, and I'm excited to develop it more. I don't want to give too much away, but it will definitely have a darker twist to it - nothing will appear as it is on the surface, and the reader will have to click on things to really uncover the true narrative going on. I know that sounds vague, but I promise! It'll be great. 

E-Lit Storyboard

This story is about how a father and teenage son communicate (or fail to communicate). It is important because it will illustrate how music and lyrics can both separate the generations but can also bring generations together. It will also show how music and lyrics can help speak for us, can help us channel our emotions and can help us express our true feelings.

The two main characters in the story will be the father and son. Both will appear as either sketch drawings or as guitars (appropriate for the type of music they represent). I’m thinking hard rock/metal for the boy and more of a 50’s R&B or blues for the father)  An image of the two of them can be the home page.

There will be multiple settings.  The first will be a living room/domestic setting (perhaps a dinner table) that will position the two main characters as adversaries.

The second will be a concert hall – the ultimate destination for the teen and the cause of the argument/conflict between him and his father.

The third will be back in the domestic setting where the two will find common ground through a shared love of a certain type of music, serving to heal their rift.

There will be non-linear aspects of this – each based around music, giving the person exploring the story more insight into the two characters. They can be stills (with audio? with text?) showing how music fits into their lives. For example, still photos of man and wife at a concert – telling story of how they met with a song playing…. For the son, a picture from behind the wheel, a story of learning to drive and the song that was on the radio….

They can be accessed through various icons distributed through the story

The scene at the concert hall will include more audio – possibly guitar solo’s

It will include text indicating that the son is feeling guilty/frustrated about arguing with his father

I believe this story is best told through still photos, audio, text and possibly GIF’s.

Direct interactions between father and son will be represented by clips of music videos/live performances – isolating lyrics that are meaningful to the interaction

Additional information will be accessed through icons around the screen – they will be still photos with text and possible audio (perhaps just music, no lyrics).  Some can be GIF’s of scenes from a video or a concert if they accurately convey a situation/interaction or an emotion

The concert scene can include clips of video (and audio) or GIF’s.

No need for a map with this story.

It is essentially linear storytelling in that there will be the home scene that advances to the concert scene and then advances to the home scene again for resolution, but within those scenes, the viewer will have free rein as to how they proceed through the icons.  Although I wish I could, I do not anticipate being able to arrange the sound clips from the two main characters in a way that one can trigger a response from the other. The goal will be that they are in two randomly generated sets – one set accessed by clicking the father’s icon and the other set accessed by clicking the son’s icon.

elitsketch-copy

sketch2

Another option is to use the following icons as cursors to represent the father or the son and they elicit different responses from the items depending on which one you use

 

 


Blog Post #5: Review of “Pieces of Herself”

poh

Starting this piece I was very confused as to where the actual literature or you can say “writing” was located in this piece. Clicking through the different portals I was pretty confused on what was going on until I realized that there were descriptions on the top right of each portal. As I began to drag things to the woman’s body as instructed, I thought that something would come out of it.

The only thing I got out of it was a deeper message. The author explores a woman’s body through nodes of exploratory context of home, work, and community. As you click and drag nodes onto the woman’s body you can see the meaning behind where the items being dragged plays a deeper meaning towards the empowerment of women.

This interactive drag and drop game explores the embodiment and feminine identity. As an advocate of women empowerment, I very much appreciated the feminine aspect of how powerful the meaning behind the drag and drops nodes had. For example, there was a node of a brain to drag meaning education and/or intelligence. Another node that stood out to me was the finger prints. To me embodied somewhat of an identity.

 

poh2.jpg

All in all, this piece was powerful in the sense of a deeper message, granted it was a little confusing towards the beginning and this is definitely not for simple minded people. Pieces that allow my mind to get stimulated are always good in my opinion.


Blog # 5: Review of Pieces of Herself

 


The first time I explored this piece was at the beginning of the semester. I found it to be a lot less enjoyable than my other readings. Although some of the other readings lacked the traditional beginning, middle and end, most of them still contained a story. Pieces of Herself has the reader do alot more self interpretation about the piece. The strongest part of the piece is when the beginning states "her friends said she needed to "find" herself. And sure enough, when she started looking, she found pieces of herself everywhere."

When I first went through the story, I felt just thrown in and just started moving things around. I thought it was pretty cool that I could drop the things on the figure but I expected a particular design and for everything to fit at once. I guess that's like my experience reading e-lit. I have been taking pieces and interpreting them piece by piece and determining how they connect with each other.

Upon a second walk through, I noticed that there are actually instructions at the bottom on how to play and it states its a game. I am not sure if I noticed that the first time but nevertheless it helps to know that. I think the voice and music were really random. Sometimes if you pressed one thing and then moved around a little and then you wouldn't hear her properly because of layered noises. At one point I pressed the apple and a preacher was telling the story of Adam and Eve and I moved my screen over to the truck and a loud song started playing and I could no longer hear the preacher. I kept looking for signs I'm on the right track and didn't leave anything behind.

Sometimes I liked the little parts of songs that would play. I had to download All I have to do is dream by Everly Brothers after playing the game. I felt at times I needed patience to make sure I heard everything an item may contribute to the story. I especially couldn't continue once I heard a song playing. Sometimes the multiple noises were annoying.

The piece reminded me about a discussion that was held in one of my classes. Basically, we talked about how we have so many roles as human beings and we have to continuously adopt all the time. In this walkthrough experience I could hear the previous things I had pressed-the frog making noises and water dropping. Even though I couldn't hear the author talking anymore I still could remember all the things she has floating around in her body as she travels different places. I think this would make a nice short film. The funniest part to me was the one boob on the building and how she spoke about cleavage. Once you finished,that was it. I didn't really like that but that's a common thing in e-lit.
Here's my finished figure below: