Blog #5- Pieces of Herself

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http://elit.umwblogs.org/2012/02/23/pieces-of-herself-by-juliet-davis/

Piecing Together the “Pieces of Herself”

            Pieces of Herself by Juliet Davis captivates the awareness of feminism and gender identification through the unknown character’s eyes and the public’s eyes in multiple settings surrounding a person’s everyday life. This piece of electronic literature is described as “ironic” and “playful,” in which Davis uses interactive digital media to convey her message to the reader. This person remains nameless throughout the story in an attempt to reconstruct her lost identity using drag and drop to help “dress- up” the doll that appears only as a silhouette in order to maintain that idea of hidden emptiness.

When first entering Pieces of Herself, a text slowly popped up line-by-line, stating, “Her friends said she needed to “find” herself And sure enough, when she started looking, she found pieces of herself everywhere…” This line automatically made me realize that this piece of electronic literature would be more interactive with the reader more than anything else. The first place the story takes you to is the bathroom and as the screen appears there is an awful, loud sound that appears simultaneously. That sound is short, but undoubtedly grabs your attention from the start. Realizing this, I knew that sound/noise would be an essential part of this piece.

While exploring the rest of the story, I noticed that the overwhelming noises coming from different items I either scrolled over or clicked and dragged in order to move from the scene to the doll were beyond frustrating. Once listening closely to those sounds I came to realize not only of the importance of the meaning of each individual sound, but the fact that they looped around or played once and stopped was just as significant. For example, the floating journal scribbling’s represented heartbreak and the statements of her wishing her children to have the best and trying to hide herself at work in order to avoid harassment was a representation of regret. These repeating sounds, noises, and music all symbolize a complex, conflicting and distraught human being. What I found to be an unsatisfying experience was the attempt in listening to the different sounds, one would override another and it made it almost impossible to hear anything. I assume that is what the author wanted the reader to have to go through in order for the reader to understand the character’s emotional distress.

After exploring other readers from different sites, I have come to understand their viewpoint of certain aspects. There were a few different articles discussing the “ending” of this story. As one person described the ending, they stated that Pieces of Herself stopped when the reader collects and/or triggers all objects that appear in each scene. Another person argues that there is no true resolution in which no one truly understands himself or herself and people constantly change while facing new conflicts. A third person claims the story cannot be viewed as “singular” or as a clear picture, just as life itself. I agree with all of these opinions because when it comes to reading electronic literature or any literature for that matter, it comes down to the reader’s thoughts and views on that specific piece.

Generally, I would describe Pieces of Herself as an outrageous and overpowering piece of electronic literature. Davis was able to captivate the reader’s usual way of perceiving their normal, everyday scenery and rationalizing certain images of items from something so “outside of the box” and turning it into a relatable object. As the reader, I was capable of getting through this seemingly irritating and bothersome piece, in order to obtain my goal of understanding what Davis was trying to demonstrate. People living their everyday lives with their everyday friends/family, living in their everyday homes and showing up to their everyday jobs may come off a certain way, but on the inside may be struggling with who they really are or what they can really be. The goal is to explore everything around you until you find out exactly what does and does not work for you, just like in Pieces of Herself.


Pieces of Herself

“Pieces of Herself” is an obviously feminist e-lit narrative that utilizes multimedia (still imagery, moving video and audio clips) to illustrate different ways that women see themselves against a backdrop of an idealized American culture. I felt that this was a unique way of exploring the female character, in that it allowed me to go step by step, using different environments to help me understand how women see themselves in relation to those environments. I’m sure that my female colleagues will see this interactive differently than I do and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in class.

The opening imagery is small – almost like a doorway. The way the images can be slid across the screen and transferred to the cutout of a person made me think of germs (especially in the bathroom) and I thought that the metaphor was somewhat apropos in that the imagery piled up. It was as if the aspects of their character (as discovered in the various environments) became stuck to them and difficult to shake. A lot of the symbolism and clips referenced self-doubt or personal insecurities, particularly about their bodies. One clip referenced gray hair, another referenced not wanting her children to see her naked. Interesting that you don’t actually see any women at any point in the entire narrative except for the back of one woman in the bathroom scene.  In the bedroom, the references are to a woman who is missing (either physically or mentally) and the voice of a man is predominant.  There is nothing sexual or intimate or romantic or even very personal about the bedroom scene which I found interesting. In fact, the imagery seemed very impersonal although the audio clips were.

 

Going outside, we see a number of what I believe are “beginning of life” references – the baby, the monkey that turns into a man (a symbol of evolution), the apple in the tree that meshes with the church.  (The apple reveals a sermon about conception – talks about pain and a man ruling over her – not a very uplifting message about having kids and a family.) The song, “Que Sera Sera”, I took as channeling a woman’s mindset of saying whatever will be will be as it pertains to actually having a child. The imagery here is kind of a standard checklist of the bedrock of American family life – the 4×4, the flag, the house with the basketball net (implying a family) and the playground for kids. But the audio clips – both from the sermon which talks about the man ruling over the woman and the woman saying “i always said i would give my child the best that i could possibly give them” – seem to position the woman as subservient to her environment, even her family, putting the husband and the children first. In fact, the statement from the woman felt to me to be as much a promise from the protagonist as a challenge to her – making her feel guilty about the possibility that she wont be able to fulfill that promise.

 

In the kitchen, the voices that speak – the one talking about a recipe and the one talking about wanting to be spicy – sound like voices channeling the voice or thoughts of the so-called ideal wife and mother – appealing to her husband and making something delicious for the family. (also telling her kid to wash their hands and talking about underwear that makes her look skinny revisits the idea of body consciousness)  The imagery is all black-and-white – giving it a very 50’s feel – a time in America when the family units were elevated and expectations for husbands and wives were more (publicly) clear-cut.  I get the sense that those are the expectations that some women believe they are still fighting against.

In the living room, the clip is of an contrary view in which the woman goes through a whole list of what she wears and what she drives but says none of it matters to her. The whole thing is rather contradictory. A note that none of the environments represented are overly lavish. The fact that the TV is tuned to Oprah speaks to the middle class and middle class striving to have more, even while (as the woman does in the clip) saying that material goods don’t really mean anything.  I don’t think we can take her statement at face value. The sex toy under the pillow adds an interesting wrinkle – hiding something they are ashamed of?

In the office, its about limitations for women – not being able to show emotion.  I found it fascinating that the spine and brain are located here in the office, not at home. In other words, the office is where the spine and brain come in handy or get used, not at home. But there is imagery here that speaks to the outdated old-fashioned roles for women in the workplace as well – the desk and the filing cabinet, for example. The dialogue box here says “where she fought to keep them all”, which I took to reference the difficulty in balancing all of her tasks, both at work and at home.

Outside  again, we hear a teacher talking about how education tends to take a back seat to social issues – like looks. There’s imagery here to back that up, including the image of a breast at Dairy Queen where the message is about girl trying to be beautiful or attractive in social situations.  I wondered here if the author was remembering how it was in high school for her – or is it an “idealized” or stereotypical version of what’s going on in American high schools across the country.  This was not quite as groundbreaking to me – the imagery and message was more blunt than it was in other scenes, although the idea that looks are prioritized over education in the minds of women and girls is a troubling one (and all too prevalent I’m sure).

I found this to be an extraordinary way to demonstrate how women see themselves personally and their place in American culture. In addition, it seems to me that the point of doing this was to show how women continue to fight against outdated stereotypes, even if in some cases it is women themselves consciously or unconsciously fulfilling or perpetuating them. I thought that this was less e-literature (there’s very little writing) and more of a multimedia presentation, but it made great use of – not only imagery and sound – but color, image positioning, backgrounds, etc…

 


Pieces of Herself– Juliet Davis

Juliet Davis's Pieces of Herself is introduced by the Electronic Literature Collection as being a piece that "uses the motif of the dress-up doll to explore issues of gender identity in the context of home, work, and community". Davis adds in the author's note that her work "is an exploration of feminine embodiment...in relationship to public and private space".

The piece is essentially a drag-and-drop gaming experience. It plays on color as well. The background for each scene is black and white, while the game pieces are very colorful. The reader must use the mouse as if they were taking a virtual tour of the scenes. When the pointer rolls over a game piece, it becomes visible, and the reader can click and drag in order to place it on the black and white outline of a body, which is located on the left-hand side of the screen.

The game pieces trigger sound bytes and short clips of interviews. Sometimes there is only a brief, animated sounding noise, while at other times, the sound repeats itself until he user leaves the game. The repetitive sounds that I encountered were of a frog croaking, a drip of water, and the sound of something being dunked aggressively into water. These sounds become distracting and annoying at times. Towards the end of the game, when all three where playing at once, it was more difficult to concentrate on the other audio clips.

In the game, there are seven scenes: Shower, Bedroom, Outside, Kitchen, Living Room, Office, and Main Street. In addition to the game pieces, each of the scenes contained moving images, songs, and sounds that were activated by dragging the mouse over them. In the living room, the TV played Oprah; An answering machine in the bedroom played messages.

In terms of grasping the theme of the piece, the interview clips were most enlightening. The women talk about body image, about graying hair, and overpriced clothes. One woman discusses how the expensive clothes and jewelry that she wears makes people think a certain way about her, but she isn't that person. They person that she is on the outside is not who she is on the inside.

In one scene, there is a sound clip of a man reading a Bible passage about a woman's place in society. One interview clip is simply a woman's voice saying, "He said he loved me". Another sound byte in the office scene notes that emotions have no place in the workplace.

This piece makes the reader think about all the parts that make you who you are-- all of the pieces of self. Who are you? Are you one person in one context and a completely different person in another? Who are you seen as?

This piece has no real, solid ending, and I think that is done with purpose. This is the type of piece that you should spend time thinking about long after you've finished reading it.

Response to "Inanimate Alice" Episode 4

By far, this has been the most game-based piece of electronic literature in class that we have read so far. Ultimately, this episode of "Inanimate Alice" is highly visual and has a lot of emphasis on using first person POV through out its video game-esque narrative. The author uses a lot of real life photographs to build up the setting that is essentially all around you, and even incorporates an element of self-exploration to navigate the end of the story. It's a choose-your-own-adventure without words, and acts as if you're exploring the world inside of a video game, which is definitely a neat element to add to the multidimensional feel that elit allows the reader.

However, the question of electronic literature truly being "literally" can truly be contested here. Since it relies so much of techniques associated with gaming, as well as visuals (pictures, ect.,) does it stay consistent with what classifies something as literature?

In my opinion, yes, I do find this piece literary, but I don't think I would have if I did not make a mistake first.

Originally, I was under the impression we were reading "Inanimate Alice" from the beginning; thus, I started with episode one, which I felt was less like a video game and more like a story. The plot was simple: Alice's dad gets lost, and she and her mom, Ming, get into their jeep to search for them... Does that sound familiar? What struck me most about "Episode 4" was that it shows its complexity as a piece of literature by introducing intertextuality. When in England, Alice's friends ask her to make stories of them, and she shows them how easy "storytelling" and making them can be. As an example, she subtly references the plot of the first episode, but the way she does it makes seem as if, maybe, it had never really happened to her...

Alice, then, becomes this unreliable narrator, and now the reader is more closely reading the text of this fluctuating storyline. We are analyzing her words and trying to make connections and critical analyses of the narrative. Additionally, her friend "Brad" follows her to the fourth episode, the imaginary one she drew back in episode one, and acts as an imaginary friend and "guardian" of sorts. It adds more depth and complexity then just being a shallowly visual experience - for me, it makes me question who Alice is, why she is "inanimate"; ultimately, the question of what is real and what isn't within the story keeps the audience on their toes, and becomes a driving motivation to read the piece of electronic literature.

Blog #4- Inanimate Alice

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https://padlet.com/embed/tl3o2nyw8joh

Inanimate Alice was probably my favorite Elit I have read so far. I love the flow of it and how you must get through one part in order to reach the next. Compared to other Elit pieces, this one was the least confusing and had a beginning, middle and end like most literature I read. I guess I am still in my comfort zone when it comes to a piece of literatures structure, but I am hoping by the end of the semester to come out of that comfort zone.

I believe the images/clips and sounds were the most important feature to this piece. The music would increase as the climax began to form and it would become silent at moments where you could picture Alice in this small, dark and scary place. The images basically told the entire story with only a few words when necessary and that is what I enjoy reading the most. I like when you can put a “face” to the “sounds.” I was a little confused as to why the story began with this girl who was about to die when the stairs collapsed as she was walking up them, but then I realized that when she started talking about her old life and discussing her new life, it was a flashback. I have always heard that right before you die you may see your entire life in a matter of seconds and that is what I thought was going on here. Alice was appreciating her past, even the parts that were not so great. She was especially fond of the present, well not the present of her almost dying, but the present of where her life was at at the moment.

I also enjoyed the story inside of the story which discussed Alice’s game that she created. A lot of the icons were clickable and made this more interesting and interactive. After Alice got back to talking about the present situation she was in and having to go through this place in order to survive, I found myself frustrated by getting the pointed fingers wrong in order to get out. Unlike Alice, as the reader, we did have an easy way out. We could simple “ask Brad” for the directions in order to leave, but unfortunately that is not how life really works. I tried to be in the moment and do it on my own, but after a while I had to come back to reality so I gave up and let Brad basically take control of the situation.

Overall, I really enjoyed this piece and it helped me into thinking more about my own piece of Elit that I would like to put together. This gave me the idea or theme about life in general and how we really do not have control over what happens, but at the same time our decisions effect our actions and how things turn out.

So for my Elit piece I was thinking that because we do not get to choose the lives we are born into, but we get to choose the decisions we make in our lives, I would have this huge dice to start off my piece in which there are 6 different types of life you can get when clicking and rolling the dice, whatever you get is what you are stuck with throughout the piece. 6 choices because the dice is 6 sided of course. Throughout the piece sometimes you have to keep rolling the dice and others you must choose a path indicating that sometimes we do have choices and sometimes things happen by chance or by luck. There will be several ending points depending on the choices you have made throughout this piece or your “life.” One will be death, another will be higher education or maybe being homeless or even starting a family. Your choices will lead you down this path, but the key is to answer and do things honestly. Like the way you would in real life. I want to use images, text and maybe some sound, but nothing too overwhelming.


Ally’s Elit World 2016-10-18 16:59:00

It is because of readings like this one that I have learned to love eliterature. I am loving these readings that make me feel different emotions when navigating through. It was obvious hat Alice needed help throughout this story and I felt as if I was the only one who could be that person for her to help her. Thinking back, I wonder why I didn't feel pressured like maybe if I couldn't save her she would end up dying because of me. Instead, I was motivated because she kept popping up and it would remind me why I had to get through the story so that I could save her and keep her from falling. I enjoyed the fact that I was scared. The reading stimulated my emotions but it gave me a drive to want to finish. I was very intrigued. This has been the piece where I show most interest from start to finish. Inanimate Alice contained music that was fitting to the story. It was music I had never heard of before which helped me concentrate and stay focused. It added a little mystery to the piece.


Listening to the music made me think of my final elit piece and what I want to work on and it reminded me how music will play a big part. I would also like to add a game somewhere in my story. It was fun to play a quick game while being scared for Alice's life. Depending on what I want to write about, I'll see if a game will fit. I had fun with the game during Inatimate Alice but I can also see how someone would be distracted my it and not enjoy playing. I definitely want to navigate the reader through my story and help them feel what I feel as the writer. That is when I will feel successful and be proud of my Elit piece.

Bog Post #4: Inanimate Alice Episode 4 and reviewing my own e-lit piece

Image result for inanimate alice episode 4

Wow! I believe this piece is my favorite one thus far. As I began, I got a creepy vibe coming from the digital sounds and the dark picture the narrative was showing. Going through a story about a 14 year old girl named Alice that was stuck on a halfway broken staircase on her way to the top of a building. Scared to fall to her death, through a creative and digitally interactive lens, the author decide to show different elements of the life of Alice that lead to that exact point in her troubled survival. Clicking through, I reviewed hypertext and slow paced pictures and media. The music played fitting to the setting of the story in Moscow, Russia. It helped play a role in placement, made me fell as if I were present in that exact country.

As the author encourages you to click through the narrative, it takes you on stairs that go up , and up, and up, until you have reached a point mid-way where you can play a game that eventually leads you through dark and spooky rooms to the top of the building whee the story comes to a halt. She showed something that seemed like a tablet to me that would help navigate readers through the story. I enjoyed having a side panel part that helped keep you in track through this confusing piece of elit.

What caught me by surprise was when she was explaining how she began to love her life in Russia, to a text box popping up saying,” I’m going to die”. As she feared for her life, a game of different realms pops up to help you save her life. I felt as if her life was in my hands at that point. I felt in the rooms myself and I was kind of scared as some points which I believe was the point the author was trying to entail.

All in all, I believe this piece was successful in showing how navigating through different segments can really play a role in the inter-activeness elit has to offer. Being able to navigate ans ultimately helping save the life of Alice, the author put you in a game or a somewhat kind of setting or feeling like you were a part of the story. You were Alice, and you were in power making decisions as the where you would go next.

**For my own Elit piece!

As with most of my work, I would like for my project to be both personal and very hard to stop reading. Exploring my experiences through life can help me create a poem that can take you through every aspect of the particular part of my life or my encounter with this situation. I want to state a point in time without telling the reader what it really is. This gives the reader power in deciding what I was writing about the whole time. I’d like to create a hypertext piece that explores a point in my life where I experienced a hardship. I will have readers navigate through hypertext and put themselves in my shoes page by page until eventually the aspect of the matter of what I was speaking pf becomes evident. People can feel, hear, and know what pain I went through from a simple elit narrative. Poetry to me helps bring out a deeper emotion that flows when it comes to my own personal writing. This will help spark emotions within my paper making it a very successful one. I look forward to exploring realms that I can express and create this piece for my project.


Blog Post #3: A review on High Muck A Muck!

From the video, Mahjong, featuring community members of Nelson, BC

The e-lit story High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese is an interactive poem, created through an interdisciplinary collaboration of Canadian artists, programmers and community members. The project entails an interactive website, 8 videos and an interactive gallery that exemplifies the works of these Chinese disciplines. High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese explores the theme of Chinese immigration to the west coast of Canada – both historical and the contemporary tensions that exist in and between these narratives. Trying to interpret a complex narrative such as High Much a Muck.

High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese troubles the cliché of historical tales of Chinese immigration by exposing this classic narrative against one of mobility driven by the exigencies of contemporary global capitalism. Disrupting a charming world of hand-painted graphics and traditional Chinese music is the winking gleam of a highly adaptable, well molded, digital class. As we take our chances and enter the modals of blue digital ink splatter, the myth of immigration as a pathway to increased fortune and happiness disintegrates from within and around through unknown portals. The journey may take you nowhere, the winnings of the game may be less than fortunate.

Within each piece of blue ink splatters that I selected, I noticed more and more how tradition became more rich through every piece of this narrative. This piece was excellent in displaying rich culture norms of china and a great platform to tell a never ending story and digital variations of a Chinese poem.


Inanimate Alice

Inanimate Alice is a digital novel that incorporates visual, sound and interactive elements. In one description I read, it is called “transmedial” – a storytelling technique that utilizes multiple digital platforms and formats. It even includes a game within the game for the player if they choose. The overarching theme of this story for me was a sense of loneliness and feeling out of place. In this Episode 4 (of which I discovered there at least six episodes), Alice discusses moving to a new city  in England. There is heavy digital/electronic/industrial overtones here – from the staticky soundtrack that accompanies most of the game to the repeated imagery of buildings, factories and urban decay.  I get the sense that it’s important we recognize that this is not just a story about a human individual, but how she relates to the urban landscape and (as I found out later) to the digital world. In the telling of the immediate setting for the story (Alice climbing the stairs of a rickety factory and getting stuck), I notice that the words take on the motions of a person – like climbing the stairs or “struggling” to get up on the platform after the stairs collapsed. Interesting to see human characteristics animating previously inanimate words. I notice early on that as the scenes progress, boxes are revealed on the right side of the screen, making it possible to view any section of the story at any time, but only after the scenes have been revealed in order the first time. I would note that this is kind of like memories of how you got to a certain point in your life (or predicament) – like once it happens, you can think back and try to figure out how you got there, but can run through the memories in any order you choose.

Alice’s recollections of Moscow show that she reflects on the same parts of that city as the one she’s in. Very industrial with fences, lots of buildings and walls and even stairs. The stairs I sense are a critical symbol in her story.  The literal stairs that brought her to where she is can also be a metaphor for the experiences she’s had that brought her out of Russia and into England. Yet, just as the stairs are swept out from under her, the experiences that brought her to England haven’t necessarily given her the sense of belonging or satisfaction she had hoped for, and now she’s left, marooned or stuck in a sense, in a new place, with no way to go back and only an unmarked path to go forward.

It’s clear through her recollections at school and with her project that she is allied with digital technology and uses it as a pathway to make friends. She is trying to make the best of the situation she finds herself in, but has her doubts of whether it will work out. She wonders if her new friends really like her or is she is just a “novelty”. We see the indications of her wanting to do what it takes to fit in. Her parents are obviously not try to make things better for her, and both the imagery and the way she discusses her parents she tons of limitations. The home is limited because its skinny and outdated and the layout is bad (with walls everywhere and long stairs – again!). She calls it horrible but says she likes the idea that they are staying, again trying to make the best of a bad situation. Her parents seem incapable of the same emotion and its interesting how she makes a literal list of things she doesn’t like about them (very teenager-like). We never see any images of her parents. I think its interesting that school, home, friends, her project and her city are the only options to click on – like they are the only things in her world.

I should mention that I liked the idea of her building projects on her phone, but I felt it could have been more interactive for the player.  We could only really click one place at a time and had limited options.

I think her imagery of the city is fascinating. Based on everything I had seen and experienced up to this point, I expected the imagery and sounds would have been much more industrial. But the imagery was almost pastoral – the music calmer and less urgent and she even mentions how she likes the weeds and we see drawings of geese – showing us she is working to see the natural part of the city (or maybe again trying to find the silver lining in a nasty situation.)

Back to the factory, I felt like the creators did a great job using the imagery and the sounds to communicate a haunting loneliness. The idea that Alice keeps going even when she runs into obstacles is a good metaphor for how we’ve seen her conduct herself in this new city up to this point. I didn’t realize who the sketch of the boy was until I googled the story series and discovered its her imaginary digital friend Brad. This part of the story adds another layer, in that it allows the reader to either play the game by trying to escape the catacombs by themselves (or with help from Brad) or to simply read a narrative that walks them through. Both are effective, although there were images I felt like I saw in one or the other experience that weren’t present in both. I like the idea that you could get a different experience depending on what you chose. The constant image of urban decay, abandoned industry and desolate, crumbing rooms and tunnels simply underscored the loneliness that Alice must have felt and several times, she starts to give  in to paranoia, wondering if someone is watching her or if she hears something that she cannot see. The multiple faces that show up on the walls in graffiti form are very distressing. Especially this one:

alicescream

Maybe they are the ones she senses are watching her? The fact that she emerges to triumphant music and to a scene of more buildings is almost disappointing.  What about her friends? Her home? Instead, for her, the moment of success seems to be that she can see with true perspective – no longer limited, she sees the city before her – “like it all belongs to me”. Being able to see everything with clarity seems to be her victory. But I must say, that throughout the story I had assumed that getting out, or overcoming the challenge of being trapped in an abandoned building meant getting out on the ground floor. It wasn’t until the end that I realized she was escaping upward… Is the key to her happiness to not look to the next challenge until she has to, namely how to get down from the top of the building?

As for my ideas, I am sticking with my idea of using musical lyrics to tell a story between a father and son. They will each be represented by guitars. The plot structure will be an encounter between the two, in which each tries to communicate in his own “voice” (the boy with rock and roll or heavy metal lyrics and the father with blues or ’50’s rock lyrics), but they will be unable to communicate or understand each other. At the point in which clicking between the two builds the conversation to an impasse, we will transition to a scene of a concert (where the boy will have fled) and the player can hit different points on the screen to play guitar solos.  It will then transition back to the home scene and the father and son will attempt to communicate again. At some point in the back-and-forth, they will strike the correct “chord” and they will begin speaking in a common “voice” to resolve the conflict. I will need imagery of guitars for the main characters, as well as a concert and home image for the two scenes. I will then need a bank of prechosen audio snippets to represent each character’s voice, with one set for the before-concert conversation and one set for the after-concert conversation. They will be randomly chosen when the player clicks the guitars. At some point, clicking two “correct” snippets in succession will erase all of the audio snippets except two – which will represent the final exchange between the two. (in the same “voice” or song).