Blog #8: Checking out First Draft of the Revolution

Checking out First Draft of the Revolution
By Andaiye Hall

Upon first opening the e-lit piece I was surprised when I got no music in the background. I immediately checked my sound. I guess I have preconceived notions based on the e-lit pieces that we have read this far. All e-lit pieces should have animations, music, pictures (videos) and more than just words. I liked how the first page was actually like a real book. Once I started reading, I immediately wondered how long the piece was going to be. I considered this e-lit piece to be really simple and bland from what I read through. There weren't a lot of things going on to keep my interest especially without the other types of e-lit that we have read. It was pretty much like a typical book except you would be apart of the writer/author in the story.

When I got to the first draft, I thought that this was the last page of the story. Once I clicked the first bold sentence(s), I assumed that it was my choice on how I wanted to send my letter. I tried fixing all according to how I wanted it to be and when I clicked everything nothing happened. I did notice after certain clicks I couldn't go back using a click to the previous version. I didn't try pressing the previous button though. I saw no instructions saying edit all of the letter to continue. I feel like I truly experienced just working with the first draft and I liked the pop ups with how the narrator was thinking.

In terms of design, it kind of reminded me of my PowerPoint produced e-literature. Mine does have alot more things to catch the readers interest and actually keep it. I think it's so important when authors produce e-lit they make sure to actually utilize most if not all the tools provided in this format. I think this reading kind of fails to keep interest for people who are mostly visual.

Writing Processes in “First Draft of the Revolution”

first-draft“First Draft of the Revolution” by Emily Short is a very fascinating piece. From the eloquent book that opens up as the reader begins, to the beautiful calligraphy on each page (or letter rather) definitely fits the time period of the piece and helps to create a more realistic experience. As a writer myself, a reader of other’s work, and a writing consultant/coach I was all to ecstatic at the fact that this very piece centers around the idea and analyzation of writing processes. To draft, revise, edit, and publish is the routine of my life in many different aspects; this piece spoke to that for me. As the piece begins, the reader is drawn in by a bit of backstory before the first letter is shown, and is then immediately able to start making changes in the letters to be sent to the recipient (mostly Juliette writing to her husband and so on, but sometimes Juliette and her former convent mother superior are conversing back and forth as well).

Although this piece can definitely lose its reader in that it can be predictable (at times) and somewhat dreadfully boring to just keep clicking and revising to progress to the next letter, it is held together by a sort of pragmatic ideal about writing, what it is made of, and how it is carried out. To look at each line, the way it is worded, the possible changes, and thoughts behind the changes to be made not only says so much in regard to the character, but also in the way any individual partakes in the act of writing. One is able to organize their thoughts, see what is working and/or not working in real time, consider the audience and the best possible way to convey what is meant. “First Draft of the Revolution” emphasizes the importance of being particular about the words used, what message is being sent, if something is getting across to the reader in the right way, and how to fix it if it is not.

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The way one speaks and writes, and their process in doing such, reveals so much about them. From this work I suggest that Juliette is somewhat submissive. She also second guesses herself and doesn’t seem to take many real risks in the beginning of this chain of letters back and forth to her husband. Before revisions are made, Juliette’s character seems to always want to tone down or get rid of altogether something of significance that may alter the outcome completely. Henri is very stern and upright if you will. He doesn’t seem to quiver or show too many signs of indecisiveness as much as Juliette does. He is strong and structured in the way that he prepares to write and then carries out that task. These characteristics speak heavily about the ways in which both men and women were perceived and still are. I appreciate the idea of a letter in itself being the focal point of the this piece of electronic literature. The letter definitely still correlates with the time period, but it slows things down and allows the reader to feel as though they are actually taking their time to craft these messages and advance the story in whichever way they choose.

All in all, this piece is packed with the momentousness of internalizing the writing process to produce not only logical pieces of written work but well-written and effective ones too. If one is not interested in delving that far into discussion about writing then I don’t know what they might take away from a piece like this, but it can still be enjoyable to navigate through.

 


Blog #7: On Visiting Thermophile Land

On Visiting Thermophile Land
By Andaiye Hall

This was completely awesome to take part in especially now that we are all adults. This allowed us to use our imagination like we did when we were children. I really got the sense that kids could enjoy this type of game but the thing is the internet is really dangerous. We would have make sure all users are actually children and not pedophiles.

I first interacted with the piece in class. Until I read the directions I was pretty much lost. A part of me felt like the directions for day 1, day 2 and etc needed to be followed completely for the correct experience. With all the other stuff I needed to do for other classes, Theophile land drifted away from memory soon after class. I had created an account and the rest of it was up to me. There were no acidoquiloniusA we miss you-come back messages in my phone or newsletters talking about this whole other world. No one was telling me come back to Thermophile Land. I was just MIA and noone cared. A lost thermophile drifted away at sea. Finally that lost thermophile made its way back and came home. After finally fulfilling my worldly duties, once I arrived I had one notification from another acido about how our pre-date night was. I quickly read the directions and "contradict" stood out. I reread the persons one over and over again. I felt like speaking correctly would be out of character. It was like I needed to think like this thermophile and I wasn't sure how to. I followed suit off of the other acidos I read and came up with madeup words that sounded real for this fictitious place.

As much as I tried to leave myself behind as a human, my personality still followed into my experience as a thermophile. I never consulted my gender description acido because I don't believe a gender can really describe who you are inside in this world or another world. I knew I was being myself. However I saw other thermophiles stuck to the book so to speak.

Overall this piece of netprov was pretty fun and I enjoyed working with the other students. I felt extra cautious to get into any argument or fight with any of the other thermophile people because I knew they're human just like I am. I kind of wanted to know who everyone partaking in it was and I guess some of them I will never know. I look forward to working with more netprov in the future.

first draft of the revolution

Once I realized what this piece of electronic literature was doing, I was delighted! I loved this concept of rewriting and watching the draft in process - I think that's genius.

However, I got stuck very quickly, I feel. Maybe the piece is short, or maybe I just don't know what I'm doing, but I cannot get passed changing the last part of page four. It keeps telling me to change the last bit before she signs her name, and I keep doing it- it keeps cycling between three phrases, and there is no where else for me to click. I wish there was a help / guide button or something to tell me what to do in case I get stuck like this, because I feel like I'm not thoroughly experiencing the piece. Or, if it really is that short, I wished the author expanded more (however, I don't think that's the case.) I hope we can go through this more for class, as I want to know about this feminist revolution that we are helping our narrator draft.

Blog #8- First Draft of the Revolution

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https://www.thespace.org/resource/games-people-who-dont-play-games

      Unfortunately, I was not able to play this interactive Elit piece. I tried several times throughout the week, but was unsuccessful in accessing it. I did however watch the 7 minute video on how to play and the process behind Emily Short and Liza Daly’s “First Draft of the Revolution.” I thought about what the title meant and the word draft can pertain to two different meanings. First, it could focus on the draft from the window that is mentioned in the beginning of the piece and second, it could focus on the idea of a war draft. Revolution is mentioned so war is what automatically pops into my mind and then after reading the description I see that it is during the French Revolution.

As the video plays, the reader navigates through a letter that the wife, Juliette, writes to her husband, Henri, who seems to be very controlling of her. I wondered to myself as to why the letter had a scroller when it was so short. What was the reason we needed to scroll down a letter that stopped at mid page. After getting into the video even more I saw that this was an editing process of the original letter Juliette has created.

I do not like normally editing my own papers so I am assuming if I was actually able to get to play I would have felt a bit of frustration editing Juliette’s letter. I believe that maybe that is what the authors wanted their reader’s to feel because as I read along with the letter I felt as thought Juliette may have been frustrated with her husband for sending her away. The concept of editing was interesting in a way that we were pretty much in the mind of Juliette, what she was thinking about each and every line composed, we were able to see and feel. One thing that did surprise me was the fact that we could not change the line, “Your obedient wife, Juliette.” That was the one line I wanted to change immediately after seeing we were able to edit it and once I saw we were unable I once again felt that frustration. I am assuming that because the husband is so controlling of his wife that we cannot change that fact. He wants her to be obedient of him and that is how she must remain.

Overall, I did enjoy watching the video and really wished I could have went through this piece myself, but I did get a pretty good understanding of it from what I saw. I cannot wait to go over it in class today and see what is was that I missed about the Elit piece because I was very limited to what the reader wanted me to see. I feel an appreciation for Elit even more now because I like the fact that I have a sense of freedom of allowing myself to go through the pieces on my own. I felt caged in with this one!


First Draft of the Revolution

Alternative history is a fascinating field – it explores what would happen if certain events played out differently than they did in real life. What if the D-Day invasion had failed? What if the Confederacy had won the Civil War? These opportunities to explore alternate worlds open up untold possibilities for authors and storytellers.

That is what I thought I would find in “First Draft of the Revolution”, the interactive epistolary novel by Emily Short and Liza Daly. (“Epistolary” meaning that it pertains to letters and letter-writing). I was drawn to it specifically because I hoped that it would present an experience that paralleled that of an alternative history narrative. While there were elements of that, the experience was not as exciting as I had hoped.

The interactive experience at the heart of “Revolution” is one in which the reader actively participates in the exchange of nearly two dozen letters between four different figures living in an alternate France in 1788 and 1789 (Juliette and Henri, a husband and wife, the mother superior from Juliette’s former convent and Henri’s sister, Alise).  While it takes place during the years of the French Revolution, it is set in a world of Short’s imagination in which magic and magicians are common.

The story itself is interactive in the sense that it uses a form of hypertext to present the player with options to choose alternate ways of wording letters back and forth. It is definitely e-literature in that the core of the entire experience is based in an exploration of linguistics and word choice. The choices are presented in the form of limited hypertext that opens a box on the screen when highlighted phrases embedded in the letters are clicked. The twist is that the reader isn’t shown the alternate wording that they can choose. Instead, they are presented with a brief blurb characterizing the fictional letter writers’ mindset (i.e. whether the wording as initially constituted would be too blunt, too subtle or whether it would be taken seriously). In some cases, you can erase a line completely. It is important to note that the alternate wording of the letter does not appear until after a choice is made. This is critical to the interactivity. The reader must consider their motive (or the characters’ motive) apart from the wording. Short describes it as an “interactive piece about the process of writing”. It was a fascinating take on how writing is an evolving process; how we as writers rarely (if ever) write something down on a page (particularly a letter to someone else) in one shot and consider it finished. It is the process of considering one’s word and tone, taking the audience or recipient into account, and choosing words that accurately convey one’s intentions that are at the heart of how this story works. The fact that Short opted to build the game around the written letter encourages the reader to take time and be patient (just as we would in writing a real letter). Unfortunately, though, if you aren’t into the idea of editing letters, there is essentially nothing else to the experience.  While the parchment-style “paper” and calligraphy looks great, there is no audio, no video and nothing to click except the lines on the page, the option to send the letter and the arrows at the top of the page that lead you backward and forward through the game. (You can’t go back and “rewrite” the letters once they’ve been sent.  Once it’s sent, it’s sent.)

The idea here is to give the reader the chance to think through their choice of wording before sending the letter off. As I played it multiple times, I found myself trying to adopt a persona for each character and crafting my letters to fit their persona. In one instance, I “played” Juliette as a brasher, straightforward woman. In another, I channeled a more submissive tone. Depending on his word choice, Henri could be caring and sensitive to his wife or harsh and unforgiving. But there was only so much I could do or choose, and that limited how much I enjoyed the experience. For instance, one must change a certain number of lines in a given letter before the option to send that letter appears at the top of the screen. You cannot, for example, send a letter without changing anything. In addition, only certain lines can be altered and, of course, there are a finite number of choices you can make when trying to alter them. I found that there are certain scenes you reach no matter what choices you make in the letters. By not allowing the reader to send letters whenever they felt like it and by limiting the variation of storylines, I felt the authors intentionally limited the experience. Short herself said that the story was not designed to be CYOA (“choose your own adventure”). She said “the interaction is all about revising the letters” and said she wanted to offer “lots of small, parallel choices submitted at once rather than a sequence of large choices submitted serially”. In that way, she said, she hoped the story “creates some of the texture and exploratory feel that (is often) missing from CYOA.” After thinking about that, I believe Short achieves her goal, but only partially. There is plenty of interaction here and a sense of exploration, but she’s right: much of it is in your mind, rather than in the game. So how much of that interaction actually impacts the game? Inkle, which co-made the code for “First Draft” with Liza Daly, answered the question this way. “We can tell you that every choice you make is discarded by the computer the moment that you commit to it. But do the choices affect the story? Yes. Of course they do. Partly because the choices are being remembered by the other data-collecting system in action during the game, which is the one that sits between your ears.  And partly because you’re performing the act of choosing.” In other words, the act of considering your choices and experiencing the narrative through your own choices is the game.   The problem for me was that with each successive experience, the pathway through this novel became more and more familiar and lost some of its thrill. With some letters, the reader is encouraged to change multiple lines; there is only one alternative to each highlighted line, and you must change all of them before you have the option to send the letter. It left my sharing the sentiments of critics at the site kotaku.com  “Seems like a nice little exercise for people who enjoy writing, but it’s not really a ‘game’. In another review, a critic said “Some branching paths and endings would have made it gratifying”.

On the positive side, I think there were several points of the story in which I felt that Short’s goal of forcing the reader to think through the implications of their words was driven home in a particularly effective manner. By the middle of the story, we’ve learned that Henri believes that the bastard son that Juliette has met while in exile from Paris is actually his own son and we have several options as to how he tries to find out for sure from Juliette. I tried multiple different ways, but no matter what I did, Juliette always seemed to see right through him. We also find out that Juliette is becoming more and more attracted to the friar, but also begins to suspect he is not what he seems, even struggling with telling her husband that the friar’s ideas seem “revolutionary”. The extent of her attraction is revealed, not through the written words, but through the thoughts that are revealed while she is deciding how to phrase her latest letter to her husband.  After Henri catches on to the friar’s intentions towards his wife Juliette, he decides to write a letter to her, asking about their relationship. The first option you get is just a blank page and an encouragement to start over. Your option to rewrite starts as a single line “do you take him in place of me” – very emotional, Henri too upset to even write a greeting. He rewrites it again, with a choice to criticize her for “doing wrong”, but we are not allowed to send that. It ends up being a long letter in which he admits his relationship with Bernadette (the bastard son’s mother). He also challenges her to answer to charges that she is sleeping with the friar or in a relationship with him.  Juliette goes through similar ways of thinking, wondering how much to reveal about her feelings, but eventually simply says she has been faithful.  The one line that cannot be changed is the first one: “I have not betrayed you.” So we as the “player” are not allowed to hide that truth from Henri and Juliette apparently has no intention of trying to hide it. Could the story have been more interesting if we had been allowed to do so? Perhaps, but it would then have been the reader driving the narrative and not the reader-as-character.

I should mention that “First Draft” is set in a world that Short previously explored in interactive fiction games like “Savoir-Faire” (2002) and “Damnatio Memoriae” (2006), stories about magic-users in an alternate France of the mid-1780’s. In those stories, she explains a type of magic known as “Lavori d’Aracne” in which objects (like letters) can be linked together.  The earlier stories represent a more rudimentary form of interactive fiction. However, those earlier stories are just typewritten text and rely on the player’s input to carry the narrative.  In “First Draft”, Short has taken on much more of that job herself.) As such, the “First Draft” story is rich with parallels to the actual French Revolution, which took place in the late 1780’s. Locations and dates share significance. For instance, “First Draft” begins in the city of Grenoble in the summer of 1788, the time and setting for the first major conflict of the real French Revolution, Parallels exist throughout – from references to French churches that fell in both the fictional and real world, as well as the inherent struggle between those in power and those who aren’t. Short describes her universe of “Lavori d’Aracne” as one in which “certain anti-aristocratic forces are finally discovering how to break the magical power that has kept the nobility in power for so long.” It is not a far leap to draw a rough parallel from the anti-aristocratic forces in her stories to the actual French peasantry that finally found a way to topple the ruling religious and governmental hierarchy in the closing years of the 18th century.

“First Draft of the Revolution” was recognized by the XYZZY Awards for the Best Use of Innovation a few years ago. Rock Paper Shotgun reviewed it and praised its inventiveness, although the reviewer’s mother says “the idea was all right but the hook didn’t hook me”. That echoes something from the XYZZY review, in which it is praised as a “unique mechanic and a refreshing take on interactive text.” But once again, we find the same kind of criticism we discussed previously, as the reviewer argues that the lack of choices that I mentioned before makes it feel many times that the creator is guiding you and that “the experience comes close to feeling on rails.” The review also points out that “while the project’s website implies certain choices can have an effect on subsequent letters in the web-based version, it wasn’t clear what the effect was.” As previously mentioned, I felt the same way, finding that you were destined to arrive at certain points of the story no matter what you did or how many times you played.

I came away from “First Draft” with a sense that there was good news and bad news. While I thought the whole thing was inventive and aesthetically beautiful, the limitations in the game play sapped some of the excitement and thrill. At points, it was even boring and I clicked lines randomly just to get to the next letter. I was frustrated that here weren’t more options available and that the story became predictable the more times you went through it. On the other hand, once I played it a few times, I gained a new appreciation for the way the narrative was advanced through the character’s thoughts and deliberations in conjunction with the reader’s word choices as opposed to the narrative alone. It reminded me of the fact that our own character is often held mostly below the surface and just hinted at by our words and deeds. Our thoughts provide a much clearer picture of who we are. In addition, “First Draft” shows how we can mold our relationships and alter our destinies simply by the words we chose to use and, just as importantly, the words we chose not to use. Is there perhaps a modern day lesson here for those who head to Twitter or Facebook and fire off missives without thinking them though? I think there could be, even if that wasn’t initially what the creators intended. Nevertheless, the importance of how we communicate and the importance of thinking about how we say things, not just what we say, could not be starker than it is in “First Draft”.

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First Draft of the Revolution! Or is it?

 

First reading this piece, I thought it was pretty interesting especially as an English major that I was able to “edit” the letters before sending them out on this portal piece of elit. Interesting enough, I thought there would be different outcomes, but mid-way, I was eager to reach the end. I asked myself, when will this end, and when is it over? I later wanted the piece to finish and just let me read the piece like a regular story. One of the main characters Juliette, who has left the country for the summer, and her husband Henri, who has banished his wife because of pressure from his family were in a portal filled with letters that needed to be changed.

In the beginning of the story, it is revealed that both Henri and his wife are using magic paper to deliver instant letters to each-other. The point of the story is revealed through Juliette’s and Henri’s letters to one another. Interesting enough, the reader clicked through different portals of these letters following a provided change or edit within the text. It gives you great insight on revision and also how un-done the author made the reader think these letters were.

After a while, these edits were just becoming redundant and overbearing. I wanted to read a story that was consistent and had an accurate ending. I appreciated the playful edits and renditions of letter, however, mid-way I wanted it to be over. By helping to revise their letters, the reader exposes who the characters are. She doesn’t define or change them. Juliette, Henri, and the others are meant to have consistent personalities, and there’s nothing the reader can do to alter this.

A story that was written to be before the French Revolution, I found this piece to be similar to a novella. A novella that I was forced to watch as a child with my grandmother. These shows were many based on overly dramatized plots that had loads of screaming, crying, and misunderstandings. Overall, I enjoyed the click and interactive-ness of this piece, and also how it was a dated piece meant to play out before the French Revolution, anything written back in the day paved the way as they say. It could’ve been better in the whole flow of the story but I understand there was a purpose for that in this piece.


Thermopolis In Love!

The thought of having to join a so called “game” that was more like a blogging site seemed pretty interesting at first. It was the complete opposite of what I had expected it to be. Thermopolis in love described the characters as having different genders. It made corky and cartoony connection to different types of characters and how they played roles in this particular netprov game. At first hearing the word netprov, I thought of the word improve. Improv is a term that is usually used in theatre classes and plays where characters jump into acts and have to come up with things on the spot at the top of their head. Reacting and interacting in the game, I felt like improv was very much needed in order to effectively play the game. This game gave you a chance to embrace the characteristics of the character you were given. This gave netprovers opportunities to embrace being someone or something they wouldn’t regularly be. As a so called “fac” one of the characters in the game, I felt like my own personal personality did not embody what a fac really was. Networking and interacting with other facs made me feel like I didn’t belong, therefore, making me act and speak like someone I am not. Being a fac,

Gender: Fac
Formal Classification: Facultative thermophiles
Strengths: Shape-shifting gender. You conform to whatever situation you are in.
Propensity to develop different personalities, which to you are more like modalities.
Personality is just a tool. You are up for whatever. (Can cause jealousy as you flit about doing your thing.)
Propensity to lose yourself.
Weakness: Truth is relative to you; ‘lying’ isn’t in a concept to you.
Motto: Dare To be Similar
Other Genders: Feel connected and at home with you
Occupations: Explorer, investigative reporter, private eye, spy, political strategist

I feel like I did not embody the details of being a fac that are listed above. With that being said, I found it rather difficult to relate and not sound robotic. What also threw me off, was the science and biological terms that were used in this game. I was thrown for a loop trying to decipher what words meant what in order to continue on in this game. Even towards the beginning, I didn’t understand the point of the game, but obviously given the title “ Thermopolis in Love” gave it light. All in all, I thought the concept of the game was cool, however, I feel like they could of made it more fun being interactive and playing around with the characters more.