All posts by robchain

Galatea

I can’t remember who it was, but someone (possibly multiple people) in class mentioned that the piece of Galatea was creepy, and I wholeheartedly agree. During the presentation of it I kept being reminded of a similar feeling I got while watching a movie in the past, of course I can’t remember which movie this was, but the point is that the main character was conversing with a being that was equal to God/a God and the conversation was very eerie because the deity was very detached from the troubles and suffering of the main character. This is how I felt throughout the piece of Galatea, the female “entity” that we’re communicating with—the sculpture—seemed disconnected and detached from whatever was happening around her. Sort of as if she thought herself above the topics and conversation we were trying to communicate with her. I was also reminded about another character from a different story—a comic this time around, named “Gantz”. The being in question is sort of all-knowing while at the same time very much mortal as human beings, but although it faces the exact same threat of mass extinction, it is unable to relate to human despair in the face of death. I’m sort of rambling here, but my point is that the being implies that because of its lack of human characteristics, it is by definition godlike. Which is the exact same eerie feeling that this piece gave me as we walked through it. Galatea’s answers struck me as coming from a place of all-knowing, while at the same time indifferent.

With that part out of the way, let’s talk about the design—minimalistic. The piece is basically just text that somewhat scrolls down as you progress through the story. Both different and yet similar to the various hypertexts we’ve walked through in class, it focuses on the content more so than the visual design. The design isn’t nonexistent however, the design of Galatea is sort of in the same vein as the design of a novel with the intricate work of making text flow naturally and effortlessly—but that’s as far as it goes for the design aspect of the piece.

The “condition” system of the piece is interesting as I’ve played around with Inklewriter for my own piece. Apparently, from what I could gather during the presentation of Galatea, there are different endings wholly dependent of what sort of mood one establishes and which choices one makes throughout the piece—and some ending are only obtainable by following a set of exact actions and conversations. Just from my very limited knowledge about condition systems, I can tell that there is an enormous amount of work and time put into this piece for all of the different parts to function just as intended. Something that hit me as interesting was the idea that if you just continue the conversation and you don’t trigger any red flags that lead you towards an ending in any direction, you could potentially just keep the story going on forever.

This piece made me consider making something similar, but apparently you need to download a specific software to be able to run this system. Which is unfortunately, in every instance where you need to download a software, because it is automatically going to limit the people who invest any time into this piece. If this could be run from a website, the reach to grab the attention of more viewers would expand exponentially—but in a way it is sort of appropriate that only a certain number of people get to invest their time in Galatea, as both the e-lit and as the distinguished sculpture art.


Queerskins

This might be my favorite piece of e-lit so far. This might be the most intriguing piece of e-lit I’ve seen so far. At the ‘work website’-webpage I barely glanced over the work “transmedia”. I know I’d read / heard it before, but couldn’t quite place its meaning at that moment — but, oh boy, did I get a nice reminder of its definition.

Going through Queerskins: a novel, I was introduced to a means of presentation which I hadn’t considered as an option so far in our classes. Each division of chapters hold their own number of medias used to present the story. These options are either, short snippets of videos, excerpts of written diary entries, or — sometimes even — a few still photography. These different medias are all combined in to a single piece in an effort to instill atmosphere and presenting a story through the reader placing themselves in the character’s place — instead of simply presenting it as one would in a strictly written piece of media. And as far as I’m concerned, it worked. It seems to me that video clips is the most frequently used form of presentation in this piece, but the choice to make them short and narrated gives the illusion that they’re just as much diary entries as the physically written parts of the piece. This is sort of ingenious, because the author is basically feeding the reader the same story with two different medias which is made so similar and intertwined between each other that the reader is offered various choices that still are very similar to one another. The diary entries are a nice break from the more frequently used video clips while people usually think of video as a welcomed break from reading, only here it’s reversed.

The content of Queerskins, at its face value, seemed to me to be limited in its nature — but once I got past the Missouri chapter I started to realize how big the picture actually was. I was drawn to the story of Sebastian and the way in which it was presented. It got my brain going and I was able to pour some of the inspiration I gathered from this piece into my own project for the class. Although I didn’t finish Queerskins, I did bookmark it so that I could come back to it at a later time, after all, I think I could learn a few thinks from the execution of the presentation in this piece. There’s certainly a great deal of things I would like to add to my “wish list” regarding my own project.

My own project:

Mia proposed that I consider a hypertext tool named “Inklewriter” to see whether or not that’s a media that I can use for me project. Although I’m not entirely satisfied with its “somewhat” limited functions, I’m thinking it’s at least a safe choice for me to be able to use to flesh out the content. I’ll more than likely feel like the visual and atmosphere aspect of the piece would be lost — unless I did some severe changes to the setting altogether.

The way I look at it now is I have to focus on the complicated design of the pathing system to the piece. There’s a red line through the content that the reader is supposed to follow, and then there’s the multiple diverging paths that lead to extra information and extra choices. I need to find a way to make all of that intricate content flow naturally while it’s also manageable for someone like me who’s never tried to work with either Inklewriter or Twine before. I’ve done some research into Twine and I’m starting to think that Twine might be the right option for me, but I need to play around with it more before I can tell.


On ‘Being Spencer Pratt’

It’s probably fair to say that most people have watched some reality shows — and I’ve watched my fair share myself — but I’ve never watched a single episode of the Hills, nor did I have any idea who Spencer Pratt was until Sophie’s presentation on “Being Spencer Pratt”. I was delighted to find that he is, by my estimation, a real prankster. The idea of taking control of a celebrity’s twitter account and posting as a fabricated British poet, posting, playing, and pranking the unaware celebrity seems like an idea that we would see more often by now. Or do we? The idea of placing a piece of internet-based improvisation with the intention of having people deemed either authentic or fake is fascinating. The world wide web must be the easiest platform out there to convey an opinion of statement and just watch people duke it out at each other over its authenticity. As some old and wise wizard of the web may or may not have said at one point or another; “only a fool would take anything posted here as fact”.

Once an actor step in front of a camera they become a character, and we as the viewers are made aware that he is a character. Well, who’s to say that once a person sits down in front of a computer screen they don’t become a character? Who’s to say that doesn’t happen all the time on the internet? It is common knowledge in the Youtube community that most Youtube “celebrities” who sit down in front of a camera are playing a character. Would that make most Twitter “celebrities” only characters as well then? If there hadn’t been a reveal of the entire project at the end of “Being Spencer Pratt”, we might’ve been bamboozled into thinking that it was all real — except for the part where the fake British poet incorrectly used a few British slangs and people called him out on it — it could’ve been a perfect crime. (And they would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling Brits)

Do you think there exists ghost tweeters? The term “ghost writer” is used for music artist — and maybe most specifically rappers — who can’t come up with lyrics on their own, so they hire ghost writers to either finish up their work or even write the whole thing by themselves. Are we going to live to see the day when the scandal of Donald Trump’s ghost tweeter is revealed? What a time to be alive.


High Muck a Muck

First of all I had to look up the phrase “high much a muck”. I can only recall one other instance of ever hearing this and it is in the song Wonderboy by the band Tenacious D. I even had to look up the lyrics of the song to be able to compare the two different usages. In the song the lyrics go: “High above the mucky-muck, castle in the clouds. There sits Wonderboy, sitting oh so proudly.” The way the phrase is worded is different but I think there’s room for interpretation there.

The definition of the phrase “high muck a muck” goes like this however; “an important, influential, or high-ranking person, especially one who is pompous or conceited.” That’s all fine and dandy, but the issue comes when interpreting the entire piece of electronic literature itself.

Before I start off talking about the parts I didn’t get about “High Muck a Muck”, I’d like to point out what I appreciated the most: the presentation. Talk about a visually gorgeous work of e-lit. The combination between water color painting and a map looked stunning, and the combination of an exposed body serving as the landmass across a map looked pretty cool—and not to mention the “hotspots” placed across the map giving the reader different responses depending on their shape and size.

This piece made me think several stories I’ve heard—but admittedly haven’t researched enough on my own—of the rail road work in the United States in the period where the rail road companies worked to connect the west coast with the east coast, and create a “highway” across the mainland. This thought came to me first and foremost because of the combination of the music—which sounds like the combination between a melancholy and tranquil song played on a wooden flute—and the various references to Asian culture and heritage spread across the work. (There’s also a gong placed in the a few times, which immediately directs me to an Asian.)

And then once you click on the option of “Canada” we actually get to see rail roads, people carrying tools, and a sigil that says, “Canadian Pacific Rail Way”. Like I mentioned earlier, I admit to not know much about this, but with the combination everything I’ve seen in this piece I’m thinking the piece is predominantly working around the immigration of people of Asian to the west—in this case Canada, and even more specifically; Nelson, Vancouver, Richmond, and Victoria.

The stories that I’ve heard surrounding the rail road work in the United States were horrendous. We’re talking working conditions that killed people, and companies that would rather see their workers die in the ditches so that they could get out of paying them for their work. Apparently, if memory serves me right, Asian immigrants were exploited because of their willingness to accept awful work for awful pay when others would refuse to work under the same conditions.

Although I haven’t been able to go through the entire piece as much as I’d like to, I’ve found that I enjoyed it so far and I’d like to highlight the aesthetics and atmosphere surrounding the piece the most, and I ended up placing the literature part second to the presentation—for now.


Hunt for the Gay Planet

I’ve choose to write about “Hunt for the Gay Planet. I’ll start off clarifying that everyone and their grandmother have made the comparison between this piece and Quing’s Quest—but I’ll do it one more time just for good measures.

Both pieces have the same—either horrible or comforting depending on how you think of it—design to their format. There’s a dark background, giving the allusion to the vast universe and space travel, and then there’s the colorful text on top of it. Nothing too revolutionary here in that sense, but at the same time it is a nice throwback to how a huge chunk of early internet web-design looked. This was in the time period that we like to call “the wild west” of the internet, for good reasons.

The design is either really off-putting, or nostalgic—in my opinion it is both, but it still comes off as very hard to look at. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing since I’m thinking that the callback is intentional and a part of the overarching theme of the piece. Both pieces use the color pink to in their text, it works better in Quing’s Quest as the text is actually (in my personal opinion) easier on the eyes compared to the white text on black background design choice of Hunt for the Gay Planet.

As far as the content goes however, Quing’s Quest comes out on top against Hunt for the Gay again. A few of us spoke up during the last class presentation on Hunt for the Gay Planet, and for the most part people thought the content was lacking, the writing was off, and the representation was weak. My overall impression of the piece was that it wanted to dive into an issue regarding representation of LGBTQ in video games (Star Wars: The Old Republic to be specific), but in its attempt, it barely even reached far enough to scratch it. Someone said in class that they missed the variety and options that Quing’s Quest offered compared to Hunt for the Gay Planet, and honesty, I didn’t even think about that during our presentation—but I wholeheartedly agree. The “hypertext” format itself is rather limiting when it comes to any kind of extravaganza—so the only real strength of the format, besides the writing and story, is the option to add multiple choices of how to venture through and discover the piece, and Quing’s Quest did this right. Even if some of the choices were limited to options like “change outfit”, or “use the toilet”, or even “take a selfie”—it’s still something, and it’s appreciated.

I remember hearing about the “controversy” of the “gay planet” and thinking that this is A. a cash grab, and B. this is pretty weak bait if they intentionally wanted to start a discussion or outrage for some publicity, which is wholly possible, but a risky move on their part.

We’ve spent some time discussing whether or not some of the pieces we’ve gone through can be categorized as either games, or pieces of literature, or both—and I think both Hunt for the Gay Planet and Quing’s Quest can be viewed as games. Visual novels are interactive games popularized in Japan during the early 90’s and still going strong to this day. The design is rather simplistic as it features a subtitle bar at the bottom for text and interactive options, while most of the screen that’s left is dedicated to presenting a static graphics of characters that interact as slideshows going

It’s not a far cry to suggest that he hypertext format as a whole and both of the pieces I’ve discussed here are rather similar in their representation. The goal is to create a game that is simplistic in design, yet full in content and replayability. Quing’s Quest falls more neatly under this category than Hunt for the Gay Planet, however, but the idea is the same and it is disappointing to see the inherent lackluster content of the latter.

It’s an understatement to say that Hunt for the Gay Planet didn’t hit its mark with the majority of our class, but I think a lot (or all) of the worthwhile discussion surrounding the piece reverts back to how it left the majority wanting more than it delivered.

Alright, that’s all for now. (I feel like this developed into more of a blog on comparing Quing’s Quest and Hunt for the Gay Planet, than purely a blog on the issue of the Hunt for the Gay Planet itself, but oh well)


Hobo Lobo of Hamelin

Blog #2: Hobo Lobo of Hamelin

I’ve chosen to write about Hobo Lobo of Hamelin for my second blog in Electronic Literature. At the start of this piece I found myself extremely bewildered. I wasn’t sure what you click or what to not click. The webpage looked at first sight to be very promising, and I suspect that exactly that is why I suspected that I was not supposed to click anything (which, when looking back at it, sort of goes against the entire premise of hypetext).

I personally found the picture-book style to be extremely enticing as I love a good tribute made to the medias of the past. But that is just about where the nod back to the collective childhood ends as the text reads “Once upon a time, in an age long forgotten because it was somewhat boring and contrived, there was this picturesque hamlet full of God-gearing wholesome people.” Right off the bat the text lets us in on it’s angle; this isn’t your run-of-the-mill picture-book story.

I couldn’t help but smile once I noticed that the jovial music was coming closer with the turn of each now page. It is such a small addition to the piece, yet it made all the difference in my experience of reading through it. The merry music paints the picture of something festive and sociable happening right around the corner. An allusive hint at some joyful event taking place.

But this feeling of merriness changed right quick once you start to recognize the literature that most likely inspired the story, “Pied Piper of Hamelin”. I had no previous recollection of the name “Hamelin”, so the similarity was lost on me until I clicked the “10”-button on page 3 and the eerie and unsettling music started playing.

At the “11”-button on page 3 the mood and music changes abruptly and we’re introduced to the silent horror of an unspoken massacre. The music remains eerie and unnerving, but the text is completely gone—the only thing we’re left with is a series of illustrations which tells of the explicit killing that is taking place, but without saying anything. It’s clever in the sense that although children viewing this would probably realize that something is terribly wrong, they probably couldn’t tell exactly what’s happened, but most adult could because the implication is that strong—put together with the fact that most adults would be able to recognize the source material at this point.

There is clearly a deal of political connotations and implications in this piece as there were several terms thrown at us whenever the talk-show parts happened.

And what was that part about the Mayor standing in his office naked and smeared in blood all over his body and face? And did anyone else notice the border between button “2” and “3”? It was filled with what looked like guts that was being used as isolation between the walls separating the Mayor’s office and the waiting room. I’m suspected that it is supposed to be a callback to the killing of the rats—but I’m not sure why. I mean, yeah, the two conspired to rid the town of the “rat” problem, and they went through with it, but was that supposed to be the main point of the piece? And why? I don’t know—but it was weird. Seeing the Mayor naked all of a sudden threw me off the piece more than it absorbed me.

In conclusion, I thought the piece was innovative with its usage of a traditional medium to tell its story in such a modern setting. The piece was easy to read through—except for my personal hiccups in the beginning with how to navigate—and quickly teaches the reader how to read the e-lit.

—Robert


First blog post

Blog #1: Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky

I’ve chosen to write about ‘Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky’ for my first blog in Electronic Literature. Although I looked through all the three recommended pieces of electronic literature, this one was the only one that really stood out to me.

You are completely free to choose how to navigate this piece, as it is a compilation of various short stories which, to me at least, didn’t immediately relate to each other. Instead this piece comes off as simply different works that make up the stories that makes up a person—or possibly multiple people. The freedom in choosing where to go in Clear Night Sky was similar to some of the other works we’ve already looked at earlier, such as 12 Blue for instance. Simply go wherever you please and start exploring.

“Shall I tell you about the boy that dreams the world” was the title of the first option that caught my interest, without knowing anything about what I was about to click, I choose the most intriguing title. The piece presents itself very neatly and organized, and the only real interactive part that follows once we enter this link is the option to scroll down or up again. Nothing mind-blowing, but that’s probably not what this piece is going for either. There’s a feeling of serenity to this piece, so it follows if this is supposed to be laidback and not revolutionary in the community of electronic literature—less is more here, in a sense, because more would ruin the pace and the overarching theme.

A somewhat clever and cute touch to this piece is that the unique blue stars on the night sky—that serves as the hyperlinks used to navigate between the work—happen to change locations on the night sky whenever you start the electronic literature over again. It’s not a consequential part of the piece, just a nice touch.

Visually these short stories are structured as poems or rhymes, but to my knowledge they are simply short stories that as delivered as narrations from a third party. We’re told the stories as if from an old grandparent-figure that’s entertaining their grandchildren with various stories that they’ve accumulated over the years. The stories as read as simple texts, no real flexing of eloquence or prowess, simply just short and nice stories.

The themes within the short stories themselves vary greatly from each other, but with the overarching motif of space, stars, and vastness—I think we are supposed to take from the motifs a feeling of greatness and unite, in the same sense that these stories are different from each other, they are all still part of a greater picture.

The music is very soothing and strikes me as trying to make the reader relaxed and tranquil. There’s a great deal of soft chimes, or windchimes, accompanied by the occasional chirping of birds, which culminates in therapeutic music that lends itself to the relaxed feel of the texts.

Finishing reading through the different pieces makes you think that this is the re-telling of a person’s most defining moments in life—the ones that shaped him. It makes me sort of think of this piece as a very graphically enhanced biography—sort of, in a weird way.

That’s it for me now, looking forward to blogpost #2.

—Robert