Both of these pieces brought me back to my childhood somehow. Letters to X was a like a modern mad lib and Forgotten Memories reminded me of the many summers I spent camping with family staring up at the stars, which anyone can really relate to. I think both of these are very inviting and relatable.
Letters to X is made to fit your story in whatever way you please. It made me nostalgic to make something reminiscent of a mad lib. But, it was such a different experience as an adult. As a kid, comedy was the goal in most of the mad libs we tried. Here, these are realistic topics and I feel like that influenced word choices I made. It’s almost like a prompt too.
It’s strange how we are given so much freedom to customize the story with our word choices, but we are also given the option to see the work written out by someone else. This kind of made the story feel like it already existed in someone else’s life, we are just putting the pieces together. Still, it was an interesting piece.
The visuals of Forgotten Nights were intentionally simplistic and, honestly, my first impression wasn’t the best because of it. Once I read that it was an auditory poem, it made more sense. The walkthrough of this piece was pretty easy to follow and I enjoyed the author’s use of audio once I started to pick up on some of the themes of memory. As I was trying to pick up those themes, I had to laugh because of how fast I forgot what some of the lines were as they were speaking them. It worked perfectly.
I found the clicking of the stars intriguing because it felt so random, but the outcome worked almost every time for me. I’ll admit sometimes the lines lost me when I heard them repeat it too many times, it took me out a bit. Either way, the customization of the poems allowed me to take something new from it every time. It amazes me that even as the lines change, they feel united as a poem no matter what.
Wow, this class really broadened my horizons by learning something I had never touched before, which is so interesting. The last time was blackout poetry; this time is Letters to X, which seems like crossword puzzles while creating artwork.
After reading the author’s statement, I learned that an interface called Letters to X uses handwritten letters as a springboard for developing “new” social media. It is also a critique of how digital devices impair interpersonal relationships.
On the website, we can click the bottom we want, and then some letters will display the letter accordingly. When the letter is shown, we can fill in the blank to complete it and thus create a new letter, personally.
Following the instructions, I wrote the first letter to Derick, my friend, to show my gratitude. I feel the website is more like a temple for writing, so we need to fill in the blanks and edit any part if we want.
Here is the piece I made myself.
Well, to be honest with you guys, there is no Derick in my life. I don’t have such a good BF or even a BF. Still waiting…
Forgotten Nights is a really beautiful elit work which combing audio and visual perfectly.
I like the simplicity of the page design: black night sky background, the moon in the middle, so many stars around the moon spread out on the page. There are four buttons at the bottom of the page: Another Night, Reveal Stars, About, Stop. As a casual person, every time I read elit, I don’t read the About or Guidance first, but explore in my own way. Only after I’ve figured out the rules on my own will I check the About to make sure I’m on track.
“This is a breaking memory…, this is an aftermath memory…, this is a lamplight memory… ” Every time I click on a star it disappears, thus constituting another night, leading to another audio mini-poem. When I click on a blank space, a new star may or may not appear. Clicking on the ANOTHER NIGHT button changes the entire order of the stars. Overall, each time the night sky changes, the corresponding poem changes. I love the concept it reflects: each night’s starry sky is unique, and so are the memories.
The most surprising thing for me was the REVEAL STARS button. I didn’t notice any change in the starry sky when I clicked it at first. Later, when I long pressed it, countless darker stars (the stars that were previously erased) all appeared in the night sky, which is stunning. I tried to think about the meaning of the author’s design of this button, as it did not seem to have the function to connect with the poem. I think these stars are all memories. Whether they are memories that we want to erase or memories that we want to keep, their existance is beautiful. They make up the whole of us.
I always read the author’s statement before I make a choice on which ELit piece I want to read. And Forgotten Nights immediately stuck out to me. Spoken word poetry is one of my favorite forms of poetry. I also love anything to do with astronomy. I instantly knew this was the piece that I was going to dive into for this week.
At first, I was a bit confused as to how this piece worked. I figured out that the poem started with one star, and it allowed you to add stars as you read the poem. I played around with it by manipulate the night sky to control the poem. The author laid out the words and it was up to the reader to choose the words and how the poem flowed. I thought that this was a great concept.I thought this piece was a great example of creating a new piece of art from the materials provided. The concept is simple yet profound. I appreciated the minimalistic aspect of this piece compared to other pieces that we have reviewed
I thought the word choices and the message was very well written. I liked the tone of the speaker’s voice. It was almost monotone, but it still had feeling and depth. I think the speaker’s voice was a great choice for this piece, and it added another layer.
As a writer and artist, myself, I enjoy combining two different art forms to make a creative piece. I think the author did a great job of that with this piece. It offered the reader the experience to manipulate their own poem journey. I like how technology has changed the way we view art and poetry.
Letters to X was a fun and sentimental read. At first I was sort of expecting to read letters to an actual ex from one writer. But before reading I read the preview of what the Elit would actually be centered around and it grabbed my attention. Knowing that these were all collections of letters to someone, anyone was fun to read. Most of the time my mind wanted to think these letters were romantic. But the more that I read, the more I saw that wasn’t the case. Some of these letters didn’t all seem romantic even though they mentioned the word love. Some of them I assumed were letters to friends, mom or dad, siblings, and partners.
When I first started to read, I realized there was the handwritten version as well as the typed version. Which I am happy about. It’s not that I can’t read in cursive but the messy text almost made it kind of harder to read. Then I noticed there were blank lines through the text. At first I thought things were gone in order to maybe protect the privacy of the person writing the letter. It wasn’t towards half way reading the letters I got curious to see if the blank spaces did anything. I moved my mouse over the spaces and saw nothing, so I clicked the spaces to then find out I could type in the blanks. So I went back to reading the letters again. I read them slowly and carefully as I placed my own words in the blank to create the same or now a new version of the letter.
I enjoyed this piece because it was sentimental and cute in my opinion. And I liked how I was kind of able to also create my own letter to X. Here’s what I did.
I am really getting into this Electronic Literature! At first I was a little thrown off, as I am more traditional when it comes to my reading style. I enjoy being able to open a book ( especially a hard cover), get a great wif of the smell of a new book, and dive in. I enjoy placing a book mark, or anything I can find to stick their to hold my place, but this is honestly turning out to be quite exciting. I was nervous because I tend to distract myself on the computer and phone, so to use it to read felt a little like a set up for me. I must say those these last few weeks I have really dived in to the E-Lit readings and have found myself engaged and fascinated with them.
This week the first E-Lit piece was called Letter to X. By the name alone I knew this was going to be something in journal style, which I truly enjoy. It’s something about reading something personal to someone that makes you feel more connected to the author. As I read the authors statement I then leaned that he had friends of his produce the letters we would be reading which then made me more interested. The fact that he told them it would be anonymous also gave the hint that they would write whatever their heart desired and hold nothing back.
Once you open the piece you see the letters have blanks, again it’s the aspect that you are able to connect with the author by being able to manipulate something within the piece gives it this fun interact trait. It is a deep think piece though. As you go through them it makes you think about who you would be saying this too, and why have you not taken the opportunity to say this yet, or even if that person is gone why didn’t you say it sooner. Giving it this interactive method really helps the reader to be connected to to it and it something of their own. These are also inspirations for great journal writing ideas, creating letters and maybe even filling in some of the blanks later. Overall the them of this piece was concise, yet each page gave it’s own uniqueness with a different topic, or story to tell ( letter to write). I loved the idea that he also used the original handwriting of those who wrote it, making it more authentic with keeping in touch with those who helped to make this think piece come to life.
my Grandmother recently just passed away and the funeral was on Tuesday of this week. I’m numb when it comes to topic like this because I try to keep myself in a happy mood because that’s what others like out of me. This actually helped me to think about the feelings and place them somewhere, instead of just keeping them inside and saying the words “I’m fine”
The next work was called Forgotten Nights and this one was another think piece. I don’t think the people who chose these for their presentations even knew they would be doing almost two similar pieces, when it comes to the attitude and feelings it gets out of the reader, for this week on purpose. it worked out beautifully.
The idea of the sky at night, with the simplicity and beauty of the stars accompanied by the moon, is something a lot of us have taken for granted. Stars have always stuck with me since I was little girl. My dad use to tell me all the time he named a star after me and every night on our way home we would play a game of following it and it always led us home. I never knew if it was the same star, and I knew it really wasn’t my star, but it was such a special gift for me.
This author made different stars tell a different tale which is so becoming. Looking at the night sky for some is relaxing, because they tend to make up what they see the stars forming, similar to cloud gazing as well. This was a unique twist on something that everyone can possibly relate too. Even the fact that some of the stars didn’t tell a story was a great idea, because as you look in the night sky not all stars shine as bright as the other, but still helps to show the bigger picture being presented.
I felt connected to this piece as it brought me back to my childhood which I liked. I could see how some may find this a bit distracted or could click on the stars and could possibly become disinterested when they don’t find the stars with the stories, so him having the button revealing the stars that tell stories was a great idea to some of us who may be in a bit of a hurry to get to the content. I would have liked to hear some type of melody or white sound in the back as well to accompany the great pieces. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed both of these pictures this week.
Starting with Letters to X, I really enjoyed it. After reading the work summary, I thought it was interesting and looked forward to diving into it. When I started clicking around, I immediately thought of Mad Libs. I loved how it gave that nostalgic feeling and allowed us to make the letter our own. My favorite letter was the love one, but I’m a sucker for love. I also love letters, which is why I enjoyed this work so much.
Now here are my questions about this piece. What was the significance of allowing the letters to be layered? Why could we only fill in the blanks for the letters in the second column? The summary discusses how this catalyzes a “new” social media for people to speak about topics they wouldn’t usually email, text, or post. However, I didn’t get that from this piece. Though the topics were more unconventional than typical social media topics, saying it’s a catalyst for a “new” social media seems like a stretch to me. Lastly, what did the new project feature do? Not sure if it was just me and my computer, but the new project feature brought me to a blank page, and there was nothing to type or click on. I was so confused since I was looking forward to seeing what it did. All in all, this was a delightful piece to explore.
Just by looking at the title, Letters to X made me think of two things: one of my Creative Nonfiction assignments from last semester (letters to a stranger), and algebra. I’ll admit that it mostly made me think of that letters to a stranger assignment, but the addition of the variable just gives off an almost bittersweet vibe– the concrete nature of most math is black-and-white, almost a comfort, and a reflection of what truth really is. But then there’s also the variable. The variables, in this case, are the collaborators and the people in their lives.
What’s most interesting to me isn’t the generative nature of this piece, surprisingly. I really loved that the Blackout Poetry Tool allows readers to create a piece from the piece last week, and loved that about this one as well. What did catch my attention was if you wanted to, you could layer every piece on top of one another, scans with the blacked-out words for blank spaces and pieces you could fill in for yourself alike. It looks like a blob when you do layer everything on top of each other, but I think that’s significant regardless of whether or not this was intentional on the part of the author, Jessica Barness.
From that simple detail, it serves as a reminder to me that the world will throw so many words at you and say so many things– good and bad. It all becomes this big mess of static after a while, especially considering the natural tendency for our minds to remember the bad whether consciously or subconsciously. But here’s the thing about all that: even though it might still hurt to think about or hear those things, it doesn’t matter when there’s a Word that never changes and recognizes you where you’re at but still speaks life over you and encourages you and tells you how to be better. There’s hardly ever been a more valuable lesson that I’ve learned than that.
And based on the project notes tab, it seems that the white-noise-ish nature of language as of late is part of the point– especially as it relates to technology and social media. We put so much out and replicate so many ideas so easily and in so many ways that it’s either sensory overload or it’s mind-numbing.
We are writing more now than we ever have, yet screen correspondence as an everyday social activity may not effectively relay deeper emotions that were once historically expressed on paper.
project notes, Letters to X, Jessica Barness
And because of that, I’d agree with Barness that there is an emotional disconnect with most writing (or really, typing) of things using technology with a screen. With a screen, we don’t get the added emotional texture of words scribbled out instead of backspaced, handwriting versus font, or sometimes ink that looks like watercolor where tears might have fallen in the process of writing rather than the reader never knowing those tears fell on the keyboard. Sure, typing things on a computer may make reading the text itself easier, but I do wonder: does it carry the same weight it was meant to or that it could if it was handwritten?
The handwriting looks a lot like mine when I’m writing something reflective. Considering the title of this piece, I decided to play around with it and found that, aside from adding words into the blanks you could also navigate through the pre-typed words and add or remove from everything else. That didn’t feel right to me, given that these letters to X were personal and profound as they were, but I went with it for the sake of going through the piece my own way.
And putting the handwritten and typed ones side by side (since I realized you can move each piece so both are visible at once) I realized that not all of the blanks on the typed piece were blacked out in the original. I didn’t type in the words I noticed myself, but I admit I was driven by them (and the podcast episode I listened to this morning about the perspective we take in the deepest valleys of our lives).
My handwriting when I’m hurting more than reminiscent is a bit taller and sharper than the one above, and though most similar to this letter, the letters flow together a bit more. While I used to love to draw as well, that was something that used to come out more when I was hurting as well. I don’t do it much anymore. I wish I’d kept it up though, because there is a lot that our words sometimes can’t express.
And I think it’s interesting how this particular one uses flowers. Plants are commonly used throughout the Bible not only as a reminder of our mortality, but also as a means of reminding us how important it is where we choose to plant ourselves (think 1 Peter 1:24-25, Job 14:7-12, Matthew 13, Jeremiah 17:7-8, etc…) That’s been something that I’ve tried to remind my brother of whenever I am fortunate enough to hear from him. Where are you planting yourself, if you’re planting yourself anywhere at all?
I try to encourage myself a lot in any writing, and the things that I might pull-quote in a blog post or highlight somehow in my journal are also written in handwriting much like this letter. So that’s what I did with this letter– I tried to encourage myself, even though I wouldn’t say I need it at the moment. You just never know when you need to go back to stuff like this.
I remember this guy in the young adults bible study I go to on Wednesday nights saying something like this:
As Christians, we too often get stuck in one extreme or the other: either we’re too caught up in how we are made righteous by the blood of Jesus and that somehow, apparently makes us “better” when we aren’t. OR the other (more common) extreme is that we get too caught up in how unworthy, undeserving, and sinful we are that we forget we are made righteous and given grace only through the blood of Jesus. Yes, we need to recognize where we’re at to become better still, but we too often sit in the guilt and shame that Jesus already defeated when He died and rose again.
Nate (kind of, it’s paraphrased)
So being able to edit a piece like this took patience (since you can’t move the cursor to the pre-typed words you want to edit with a click), but it was so worth it. And because of the commentary that Barness intends through the methods of navigation and the layering of the typed text over the handwriting (especially for me, since my handwriting changes based on my own state of mind) just added such a texture to it that I definitely loved and appreciated more than even the Blackout Poetry Tool. More of this piece becomes the reader’s, but there’s a limit to that. There’s still this texture that comes from the handwriting of someone else and their own thoughts and meanings.
Jessica Barnes’ work here is pretty cool in that it, in itself within this Electronic Literature collection that we are diving into throughout this course, is a compilation itself. There is something very inviting about diving into letters written by people that we don’t know. There really are no stakes to be had in doing so, not like the personal truths and self-world building that may arise in reading, say, your parents, lovers, or best friends private letters. Perhaps they will write some juicy tidbit on our mutual friend Terry, or they will reveal some secret hobby that they have, or better yet, maybe they will have something bad to write about… me! In this case reading letters has stakes, it has consequences, but in Letters to X, the consequences are not directly related to our own individual journey’s.
Impactful, though, they are. And a great deal of them are wonderfully and sincerely written. Which makes the option to fill in certain blanks throughout FEEL as if there were consequences. As if I were defiling a strangers work, while though (I’m keeping kayfabe here for anyone who has been following all of my professional wrestling musings) they may not ever come into contact with me, there is still a tangible influence in how I serve to a tiny moment within this world, within this existence, as I can play a hand in a creation of another.
It is a fun little gimmick, that would be just so if these were some silly letters, the kinds that my friends and I would pass around in school to confuse someone – completely void of sincerity or truthfulness. What also really intrigues me is that some of the letters cannot be altered as a means of reminding us that though our actions will always be done, their traces can cease to remain.
Letters to X. vol/1, an e-lit piece by Jessica Barnes, is sort of a digital adaptation of a handful of written letters. The author’s statement explains that she asked friends to handwrite letters to ‘x’ (the recipient could be whoever they wanted) on a subject they would not typically post online. The letters were then used for the e-literature piece, with names and certain other words redacted out, available in their original forms and in editable templates in a “mad-libs” style. The templates can be filled in and edited completely, can be dragged around the screen, overlaid with each other and with the original scans of the letters, and saved to your computer or printed. It is interacted with primarily by clicking, typing, and dragging.
The piece is, according to the author’s statement, meant to make the reader think about social media, but that’s not really what I was thinking about as I explored the piece. Instead, I was thinking about how fun writing letters is, even though I rarely do so, and how I’d love to do it more. Now that everything is digitized and it’s so easy to quickly text, call, email, or DM, there’s something special about sending and receiving a letter. It’s an indication that someone really took the extra time to communicate with you, that they wanted to send you something special. When my girlfriend was still in undergrad in Savannah, Georgia, we would sometimes write each other letters. It’s not like we didn’t text every day and call frequently, but the letters were fun and special.
Because each letter is fully customizable in this e-lit piece, not just the blank spaces, it really presents some unique opportunities for storytelling. You can get an idea from a letter template, fill it in, and then switch around and change whatever words you want in order to create a new meaning. You can turn the letters into anything you want, giving you limitless possibilities even with only 16 templates. This, then, is where it becomes literary, at least to my mind, because it allows you to create stories, and/or to imagine what stories the original letters told prior to being redacted. I had fun with the piece, using some letter templates to get out thoughts in my head and to tell some tiny stories. One of the letters even reminded me of the character Snufkin from The Moomins, so I filled it in and edited it to reflect that further!
forgotten nights by Peter Hebden is one of the pieces that I began to explore on my own while I was trying to pick a piece to focus on for my presentation. I cannot express enough how much I love this piece. It is an audio poem that you can alter by adding or removing stars from the night sky by clicking. The interface is simple, really. Click around on the sky to add stars where available. Hover over the moon to reveal a play button, then click it to hear a version of the poem read aloud.
The poem is not randomly generated, with each change you make to the night sky changing one or more lines of poetry. It may be tempting to think that selecting every star will reveal one final, “true” poem, but there are so many stars available to click that it would be difficult to reveal them all, not to mention that that’s not the point. Now that we’ve seen more and more examples of e-lit and hopefully gotten more comfortable with the idea that there’s no single, correct meaning to be found in these pieces, I think that forgotten nights is a beautiful exploration of poetry and of user-driven change within a piece. To really experience forgotten nights, I think it is essential that you play around with it multiple times, seeing how additions and subtractions in the night sky alter the poem being read.
In a way, I think that the unique story that gets told depending on the different number of stars in the sky reflects how each human being has a different experience with the night sky. One rendition of the poem states that the narrators father taught them to look up to the stars when they have questions. Another rendition speaks of a person who enjoys laying in the grass in the dark, looking up whenver they have questions. One person was taught about the stars by their father. One came across them more organically, seeking an answer in the sky. It makes me think about how everyone has a different relationship with the stars and the night sky. Some people are enraptured by it, others hardly notice it, and many of us fall somewhere in between. There’s no doubt, though, that stars have captured human attention for ages; just look at all the constellation myths we have.
The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s Fall 2022 Electronic Literature course.