Sooth and Seperation


I will begin by reflecting on the piece I would have to say I enjoyed more so out of the two for this week. Honestly, and wholeheartedly, I did not enjoy either one in the way that I might have with other pieces this semester. In a brief discussion last night with a few fellow class members, there was talk of the pieces being quite boring and simple. I alluded to the fact that our progression with navigating electronic literature in the class has gone from such simple and classic pieces like Twelve Blue to more multimodal and even more intellectually challenging pieces. I brought up the question of whether readers of e lit, after a while, form a sort of preconceived idea about what a piece of e lit contains  because many can have varying forms of interactivity and multimodality, while others are meant to be a single click until he end of the piece. Can we not enjoy simplistic pieces for what they are anymore, and does interpretations of what e lit should be in an individual’s own biased option then affect the way that one is able to appreciate it?

To retreat from the tangent that I just partook in, Sooth (a noun meaning truth) by David Jhave Johnston was my preferred piece of the two pieces being presented tonight. The fact that the author intended for the images and music within the piece to be purposefully different from what a love poem might be associated with only added tot he intrigue. To me, the animated poems coupled with the looping videos and sounds only brought more… well… truth to what love really is or can be instead of the fairytale versions many people tend to associate with it. Like in the description, one is left to contemplate more deeply about the body, soul, and subconscious in ways that they might not have if they were to look at love on only a surface level. The poem “snow” in itself brought to question many concepts from biochemistry, interestingly, and ideas of looking at the self as an osmotic being (able to gradually process and take in information).

In terms of navigating through the poem, it took me a while to figure out that some of the separate pages lets you click on an open space in the box where the video place and the next line will appear in that area. However, sometimes you can click anywhere and the lines will only appear in a certain area and then zip and zoom to a different area within the box constantly moving. At first, I was frustrated and distracted by this because I couldn’t really get a good sense of what was being communicated if the words were moving and fading too fast, but I came across some scholarly commentary that put things into perspective. Jonathan Baillehache from the University of Georgia in his review of the piece states, “Clicking on the videos does not simple display the text, as in the turning of a page; it disturbs it, it shuffles the lines and complicates the reading experience with he intrusion of more sound, movement and color. Clicking is an act of destruction and disturbance of the text as much as it is a necessary operation to build it and proceed with the reading” (Baillehache, par. 3). This idea really brought things into a new light for me and the way that I looked at the piece.


As for the second piece Separation, it was written in the hospital under the effects of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) where one cannot work without the computer, but working with a computer is as much of a challenge as not working with it. I can understand the intended purpose of trying to get the reader or navigator to feel what someone else feels who has RSI, but in agreement with a fellow graduate student, Hailey, it reminded me of Tailspin by (author) in Volume 2 which emphasized the effects of Tinnitus in an old man and the repercussions it has on his life and his family’s lives. I am not sure, though, what to make of it and I want to do some more exploring and navigating through the piece a few more times.



Works Cited

Baillehache, Jonathan. “David Jhave Johnston, Sooth.” Hyperrhiz, 2013,

Antiseptic and Ambiguity

The electronic literature piece "Separation" by Annie Abrahams is a strange look at the relationship between the human body and the computer.  The user must click continuously to force each word onto the screen, and every so often, the piece interrupts the text with a prompt to engage in a physical exercise.  I'm assuming there is a special way to get to the end of the text, but I just continuously got a pop-up box that told me I didn't have the right attitude toward my computer.  I didn't really like this piece, but I can definitely respect the stylistic choices the creator made. 

The introduction to the piece says that the author made it during a stay in the hospital.  The sterile white background and black text definitely give off the same rigid, antiseptic sense of confinement as a hospital stay.  To me, this was the most haunting aspect of the piece.  Having to click to get each word to appear also evokes the strain and effort a sick/injured person might feel when trying to accomplish a task or make sense of the world through a pain-killer fog.  Adding to the whole hospital patient effect, the exercises the piece makes the reader engage in are reminiscent of physical rehabilitation or occupational therapy.

The ambiguity in the actual text prompts the reader to reflect on their relationship to technology.  At first, I thought the text was alluding to a dysfunctional romantic relationship between two human beings, but as it continues (and once the reader looks at the intro and editorial comments) it becomes apparent that the text is actually talking about the relationship between a human being and their computer.  I have used this kind of technique before in my own fiction writing (I once wrote a piece where malaria is talking to a human it has killed, but the language is similar to a break-up note), but I still found myself blind-sided when I realized what the author of "Separation" was doing.  By tricking the reader into thinking they're reading about a romantic relationship, "Separation" draws the reader in and makes them become more emotionally engaged than they would if they knew from the beginning that the text is about a computer.  It also makes the reader consider just how much time and attention they give to something that is supposed to be a simple electronic tool.  I can say, to my own deep shame, that there are some relationships in my life that I would mourn less than the destruction of my laptop.  There are also some relationships in my life that were begun, or are still made possible by, my computer.  It's troubling to see just how parasitic the relationship between man and machine can be.  If not parasitic, then humans and computers are at least commensals (one gets a benefit, while the other is not majorly harmed).      

"separation" and "sooth"

While I can appreciate the concept that "Separation" was getting at, in terms of inducing empathy in the reader for people who have experienced RSI, the piece was incredibly frustrating. While the poem forced the reader to click away slowly, as people with RSI are instructed to do, it felt like torture - not just because of the purposeful pace, but because of the quality of the poem. Personally, I felt like the words were empty, meaningless, and were terribly confessional - if the words had been more interesting or significant, I felt like that would have balanced out having to wait awhile between clicks to progress in the piece. Also, while the last two lines definitely made the piece more intriguing, I still feel like it didn't do it for me; overall, I just really wasn't a fan of this piece, and I hope we can discuss its meaning further in class.

In terms of the piece "Sooth," I was excited with the idea of it. I liked the concept of each video correlating with interactive lines of poetry; however, after a few minutes of experiencing the piece, I felt just as uncomfortable as when we had read "Tailspin," but maybe even more so. While I think distorted sounds and creepy music are effective in shaping specific atmospheres, I wasn't sure how it was supposed to coincide with the poet's point in "Sooth." By the end of the poems, I wasn't too sure what it was about, and I think it would've been better if there was a more central idea and corresponding videos to go along with it. I think the author just went with videos that were easiest to loop for the effect that he wanted. 

Ally’s Elit World 2016-11-29 04:22:00

Sooth is a piece that conveniently ties well together with Separation! Sooth is Epoetry that involves clicking interaction with the reader in order for the poems to be continued. I like the sounds visuals that are provided with each poem. The one that scared me the most with sound and visual was the poem, "weeds". The camera work around the hospital patient was distracting from the words on the screen. As the camera went around the body starting from the legs working its way up to the face, I was getting more and more anxious that the face was going to have some type of bandages or bruises because the person did have a hospital gown on. When I saw the person did not appear to be injured I felt more at ease but then I got anxious again when the patient's eye opened and looked right into the camera. I felt her staring at me while I was trying to read the poem and again I was distracted. I immediately changed the poem since I did feel like I was being watched. The other poems worked well with sound and imagery. The poem, "root" contained my favorite sounds. It went nicely with the images because I saw water and heard droplets of rain into a pond of some sort. It was quite soothing. Oh would you look at that.... soothing.... and the title of the piece is called.... sooth. I didn't even plan that. This was an interesting piece and very interactive which I love. I would just change that one part of the woman in the hospital bed. Other than that, I did enjoy it overall. 

Ally’s Elit World 2016-11-29 03:49:00

Alexandra Sabogal
Doctor Zamora
Writing Electronic Literature
28 November 2016

Before choosing my piece, I saw myself picking one with lots of visuals and cool sounds. It was what I always noticed in every other piece and was what stood out to me the most. The fact that the piece I chose has no sound or out of the ordinary visuals is very interesting.

Annie Abraham’s Separation was a piece of Elit that caught my attention from the very beginning. It starts off with a blank screen leaving the reader to wonder what to do next. Naturally, we click to see if we can trigger anything on the screen. Once the reader clicks the screen, a word pops up. It starts off with, “lonely”...leaving the reader to realize he/she has the power to make all of the words appear with just a click of a mouse.

I love when pieces involve the reader. This piece is extremely interactive. The whole piece is a poem about separation. The poem appears to be about a person writing about how this one person they are addicted to isn’t good for them. I assumed it was a person writing to their significant other.

After every couple of lines, a screen pops up with a breathing technique. Each one helps the reader disconnect, stretch and focus. For example, the first exercise is called “show the pain”. In this exercise, the reader is asked to open their mouth and lips as wide as possible, simultaneously raising their eyebrows as high as possible. They have to hold for counts of 5 and repeat until the red bar goes away. The second exercise that pops up is called, “caress your back”. The reader is asked to put their arm behind their head with the palm touching their back. Hold onto their elbow with the other hand and gently pull, across and down. Go to the point where they feel a stretch in your shoulder and upper arm and hold this position. Repeat both sides several times. These exercises definitely come off as random when reading the poem especially if you didn’t read the intro to the piece.

The intro talks about how the text was originally written by a patient in a hospital in 2001. The patient was being asked to use a tool to prevent RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). This tool was the collection of exercises of the brain and body.

Here is a bit of the intro to help explain the piece:

“All computer workers tend to forget their body, and so risk to be a victim of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) one day. The visitors of 'separation' are constraint to click slowly (, as someone recovering from rsi) to see appearing one word at a time of the text. Every now and then a exercise is proposed and all interaction with the computer is postponed. (A recovering rsi patient needs to do this kind of exercises.)
The text seems to be about a separation between human beings, only the last two phrases reveal that it's about a separation between a human being and a computer.”

After reading the intro, I knew the poem was dedicated to the person’s computer. It made total sense! The lines that stuck out to me the most were “You never need a break and when you are down it’s me who has to repair you. You won’t repair me”. I found these lines powerful because there is so much truth to these words. When my computer is down, I have to take it to get looked at or read the manual that came with it to help it work again. I do my best to help the computer because I need it for work and pleasure. I have grown so attached to it that when it is down, I freak out and do my best to make it work again. When I am down and broken, the computer doesn’t fix me. When I am sad and going through a rough patch, the computer isn’t asking for help to make me work again. I do more for the computer than it does for me. So why am I so attached to it? Later on in the poem it says, “From now on I will use you and I won’t let you take me over again”. This is something that stayed with me after reading this piece. I will not let my computer take over me and neither should anyone else. We are in control. We are the users of technology. Technology does not control us.