Category Archives: student blogs

Week Two: Tailspin


Tailspin, by Christine Wilks

First: the title. Before I even opened the link to read Tailspin, the title was already evoking images of being out of control, dizzy, and of plummeting or falling. It turns out that these images are appropriate to the theme of tailspin. Yet the title does double duty; it is also a reference to George’s time served in the Air Cadets.

The Electronic Literature Collection, where Tailspin can be accessed, refers to the piece as one that succeeds at “metaphorically associating imperfect hearing with imperfect communication”. Told from two perspectives: George, an older man who suffers from Tinnitus and partial deafness, and his daughter, Karen, the piece uses sound and short bursts of text to create the sense of overwhelming frustration and disconnect experienced by the two.

When the reader opens Tailspin, they are met with a white, patterned background overlaid with a number of ever-spinning spirals. When the reader hovers over the spirals, they activate the text and sounds associated with that piece of the story. Throughout the story, and in addition to any additional sounds, there is the sound of a constant, slightly rapid heartbeat.  

This is an effective element within the story because it creates a sense of unease that the reader shares with both Karen and George. Karen (and her two children) fear George because of his angry outburst. They cannot relate to him or understand him. At one point during the dinner, “Karen turns, catches a fleeting glimpse of hateful anger on her father’s face. He was looking at Chloe. She sees fear in her youngest child”. Karen can relate to this fear; she grew up trying to find ways to avoid her father’s anger, trying to be as quiet as possible.

There is a parallel that can be drawn from the text when Lauren, Karen’s other daughter, is told to ask Grandad when she wants something. She says that she never will; she is too apprehensive of George. Karen, when she is a child, is also told to ask her father when she wants something: “Mummy’s busy. Ask Daddy, she says, like always”. Karen is also reluctant to approach George. Both Karen and her children are fearful prompting an outburst from George.

George also suffers from a constant state of unease. His Tinnitus is made worse by the sounds of the children. He says, “Anything can set it off: loud noises, high pitched, piercing noises…alarms”. He once tried a hearing aid, but that too made his Tinnitus worse. When the reader activates this piece of text, a sharp, shrill sound accompanies it. And that is not the first time that the reader is treated to George’s experience. There are frequent overwhelming assaults of the electronic sounds of videogames, jumbled voices, and the too-loud clatter of silverware and glasses. The only time George seems to experience relief is when he imagines what it would be like to glide through the silent sky like a bird.

At one point, the background changes to the wispy blue and white of a sky and the sounds of birds fill the air as George flashes back to the day that he joined the Air Cadets.

It is assumed by both Karen and the reader that George was a pilot. Yet it turns out that he was “nothing more than an aircraft fitter”. Karen admits to making assumptions as a child.

This is not the only example to a lack of communication and understanding between father and daughter. Karen continues to try to sell her father on the idea of a hearing aid. She seems unaware that the hearing aid made George uncomfortable and worsened his Tinnitus. Karen cannot comprehend why George becomes so angry when she again brings up the subject. So at dinner, while Karen is sitting on her father’s deaf side, she acts as if he isn’t even there, as if he is a blank wall. George feels as if he might as well be invisible.

One of the last bursts of text reveals that George witnessed a young man burn to death in a plane that had crashed. An image of a plane spiraling while a man’s voice repeatedly begs, “help me, help me” accompanies the text “cowardly relief/ he failed/ thank God/ for his deaf ear”. This seems to be the reveal of how George went from having ambitions of being a pilot to becoming an aircraft fitter. He mentions how heroes usually die young, and he seems to see himself as a coward.

The piece concludes with the image of what looks to be a ladder in the center of a pulsating sound wave spiral which takes up the entire screen.

A Reaction to "Tailspin"’s Visual Vertigo

Undoubtedly, Christine Wilks captures the breeding tension of an uncomfortable family dinner between three generations of people in her piece of electronic literature, "Tailspin." What I especially liked about this piece was how it still functioned as what we would consider a "normal" narrative, in that I still got a feel for a "structured" plot, characters, setting, and meaning, in comparison to the works we read last week. Even though it was broken up and the reader could read the paragraphs in different order, you are still able to arrive to the same conclusion of the piece at the end. Additionally, I liked the fact that you could hover over the spirals and have the text, sound, and visuals, which helps to immerse the reader in that bubbling tension of the family. From the video game noises and characters, piercing sharp noises of the hearing aid, loudness of the plane, and the scraping of utensils against plates, it partly echoes the last iteration of the work, which warns the reader to cling on to the deafness of it all.

Again, I found the use of sound to be particularly effective in utilizing the potential of elit again. More specifically, I liked that Wilks used the video game Animal Crossing without ever explicitly mentioning it; however, she used the character art, as well as various sounds from the game, to add to what the grandfather was confusedly and angrily seeing and hearing. For an outsider of the video game, I can imagine it also gives off a weird, unsettling feeling too, with the noises so distinct to the game; I know if I didn't know the reference, it would come off as a nightmarish, twisted cartoon. It definitely added to the overall feeling Wilks was getting at, too.

Ultimately, I really liked this specific piece of elit, and that it drew from the interesting parallel between deafness and ignorance, or at the very least, wishing to forget. With its complex meaning, a narrative that you could follow, and effective computational elements, it helped pull the whole piece of electronic literature together to make it very compelling and satisfying.

Spinning Tales

tailspin

As soon as the world of Tailspin by Christine Wilks is open, there is movement and sound. Intricate designs grow and move in the background as the shape of an ear appears. If one did not read the description of the piece before entering, the ear would seem confusing, but after reading, it becomes clear that sound is crucial to this piece because of the grandfather’s tinnitus. I tried to do some research behind spiral shapes and their meanings, but did not stumble across anything that made it clear why the author chose to have swirling spirals as the point on a screen to click on. The reason could have very well been because Wilks just needed a shape or a spot for the reader to click. As you roll over the spirals, words fade into view to reveal part of a story. What happens next will be different for every reader because one may not roll over the spirals in the same order as another. I like the fact that everything does connect. The spirals could have been blurbs of unrelated pieces of text, but it connected to a larger story.

black-spirals

The story mostly centered around the lives of the mother, her two boys, the dad, and the grandfather. There are moments in the story that trails back to when the grandfather was in the war. Animations and caricatures sometimes moved across the screen as the story unfolded. At times, rolling over a spiral would result in the background transforming into a sky and plane would fly around. Once all of the black spirals on a single page is rolled over, a blue spiral will appear usually toward the center of the page to click on and move the reader to the next set of pieces to the story. I felt there was some sort of clear ending even though it may seem impossible in any type of electronic literature setting. There was a point where I was able to get to a red spiral in the center, and that brought me to the credits.

blue-spiral

Some of the spirals will have noses associated with them, in addition to the ongoing clinking of the grandchildren’s toys and the buzzing of tinnitus in the grandfather’s ear. Moments of the story even went back to when the grandfather might have been flying a plane and bullet sounds will blare out of the speakers. I can understand the feel the author might have been going for with such intense sound throughout the piece. The feel of the world reminds me of simulators that let individuals experience the kind of illness or disability another person has. I feel that the world is a great way to step into another person’s shoes and get to experience what is happening from the grandfather’s point of view. I can only imagine how annoying the constant ringing and buzzing is to him. All of the different moving parts on the screen emphasize how distracting it is to have so much going on at once.

The ability for a person to hear and the implications that the text makes allude to the fact that hearing is vital to human life. While some with hearing defects learn about the world in a different way to be able to adjust/adapt, if one is able to hear, they are automatically at an advantage and have a different view of the world than others. I felt a sort of weight once the author wrote “He can’t hear birdsong anymore” (Wilks “Tailspin”). I also felt there was a very distinct way in which the author went about sound so differently, and that was manifested when I’d roll over a piece of text and hear some of the words within it in a muffled shout. This aspect was creepy at first, but it is such a prevalent and striking detail. Overall, I didn’t know how much I would like this piece when I first started navigating it, but I feel like I found more joy in picking it apart than actually being immersed in the world and getting to go through it and navigate it.


Tailspin Reaction

I enjoyed the layout of Tailspin by Christine Wilks. There are many things I can say about this piece on not only the story line but the layout as well.  There were several characters that were mentioned throughout the story. Such as; Daddy, Moma, Edna, Karen, Lauren and Chloe. I could not tell who the narrator of the story was. Sometimes it felt like it was a girl telling the story but then at times I felt a boy was talking. That was one part that confused me along with other things.

I liked how I had to click on the different spinny things to continue the readings. One thing I would have changed with that part is including numbers on each swirl. I had no idea if I was hovering over the right swirls in the right order because they are all over the page with no obvious sequence. This caused confusing for me when reading the story because I was never sure if I was reading it in the right order. I did like that once I hovered over every swirl, a blue one would pop up in the middle to allow me to continue with the storyline.

There was a lot of imagery going on with this story. A few things I remember while going on this electronic literature adventure are: airplanes, the old phones you have to put your finger in to dial numbers, hearing aids, burning fires, war, dud ear, birds, etc. I noticed that the mom was the nicer one of the two parents. I kind of got the feeling that with the two parents there is sort of a "good cop bad cop" action going on and the mom would be considered the good cop while the dad is the bad cop.
I also got the feeling that maybe he is a veteran who suffers from depression from being in the war? I got that idea just from hearing how angry he is and how he yells at the children and how he, "never listens". But then it is mentioned that the child thought that he was always a war pilot when in reality he later found out that the dad lied and he was just an aircraft fitter. Although he was just an aircraft fitter, his children seem to believe he is a hero anyway.

Ally’s Elit World 2016-09-20 19:59:00

With my first Elit blog assignment, I have discovered that there can be some technical difficulties. When working with regular, non electronic literature, all a writer needs is his or her pen and paper and they are good to go. When working with Elit, there are more challenges a writer will face. For example, my first assignment was to read a hyper text and then blog about it. I could not read any of the readings assigned because apparently my Adobe Flash Player is out of date. Why wouldn't it be? Why wouldn't my mom's laptop be missing the ONE thing needed to complete this assignement?! So with that incident, I have learned that Elit might not work 100% of the time. There will be obstacles I'll have to face and work around. My current obstacle is this Adobe Flash Player. Even after downloading it, I am still unable to open the readings. The way I can work around my obstacle is to use the computers at school (I'm sure adobe flash player is up to date) so that I can complete my assignments. Eliterature involves a whole different world of electronics where programs need to be downloaded and computers need to be running and keyboards need to be working. Without just one of those things, the literature can't be completed! This is something I am going to have to learn to work with.

The Aftermath of Confusion

Endless stairs of future

Just from reading the description before I began and entered Sharif Ezzat’s world, I was interested in how the idea was going to be executed. I really liked the idea of traditions between parent and child, and it sounded as though I wasn’t going to really know where I would end up or what I would be reading at any given moment. I really love how the sky became even more filled with stars as the narrator spoke in Arabic, asking questions about what the reader wanted to read. The music created an ambiance that is very calming and set the tone for the entire experience. The world is very dream like. Maybe it is just me, but the poems did not read like poems, but rather personal journals or just individual stories at times. There is no real vivid imagery in the poems. For example, I would like to know how the landscape that his uncle’s wife hated looked. The language is intriguing, but sometimes empty and I am not sure what to make of it.

The concept for Soliloquy by Kenneth Goldsmith is very unique and different. I don’t think I have seen anything like it before. I remember coming across this one as I was looking through the volumes. I remember my eyes widening as I realized how many words were possibly going to appear on the page, and then I became anxious as if I had to find them all and go through them all. I am not sure why those feelings came over me, but they did. It is interesting to see the choppiness of the entire piece and to read different blurbs of speech at different parts of the day. I never knew what my mouse was going to roll over and how much would appear. On one hand, I wanted to keep rolling my mouse around the page just out of curiosity, and on the other hand I felt as though the set up of the piece was a burden. I do, however, love the fact that once the mouse moves from one place the text fades away. On the web, we can get get back to it and just roll our mouse over it again, but during the day we can’t really say something exactly how we said it before unless we are paying close attention to ourselves in that way.

Red Riding Hood was the most interesting of the three, but also the most uncomfortable to me. I was excited for it because I am very familiar with the story, and also did a project on it in Writing for Cyberspace where my group collaborated to create a modern version honed in on today’s technology and how it can be dangerous. In this piece, though, I did not understand the twists and turn that the author was taking. I jumped into all three of these worlds without any previous knowledge of anything associated with it and I felt like this had something to do with how I reacted. I felt that Red Riding Hood had this really storyline-like interactive format, but didn’t really allow you to do much. There was one point where I wanted to click to make her dream, but I couldn’t and I had to choose to wake her up. The option, that turned out not to be an option, made me mad because I kept thinking about all of the things that I wouldn’t know about now. I couldn’t understand what happened at the end of the piece either. To me, it looked as though Red was just laying on the bed and then someone (I’m guessing the wolf) comes to stand beside her and that is it. It had a dark and menacing quality to it and the music really helped to drive the story forward, but I still felt confused throughout the entire piece. I feel like once I know more about it and look up more on the piece I will begin to be able to understand it better and appreciate the decisions the author made.

Overall, I liked surfing through the three pieces. I even went back and forth through them simultaneously, after I surfed them individually, to get a feel of coming in and out of the different worlds. I must say It would be a very hard decision if I had to choose one that I liked the best because I honestly have my reservations about all of them and maybe it was because of the time of day that I looked at them; I may not have been at my most receptive. I definitely want to go back to each world and experience again in a different space and at a different time and see if it makes  a difference to how I respond to it.


A Postmodern Fairytale: Leishman’s RedRidinghood

Out of all the works we were to look at this week, Donna Leishman's RedRidinghood grabbed my attention the most. I think what intrigued me was in the dark, distorted, and underlying sexual atmosphere within the piece, as opposed to the overall animated interactive narrative. While navigating the living digital story was an adventure in itself and added another dimension to reading and analyzing the fairytale, I think what worked for this piece was the fact it was so crudely drawn and animated, as well as the grotesque music and images we receive from RedRidinghood. Additionally, Leishman manages to achieve this effect because of the inspiration behind it; while experiencing the piece, I stuck around for the credits, and noticed that the author could not have done it without Angela Carter, because it would have been "impossible."

I was familiar with Carter's name because of having the pleasure of reading Wise Children, as well as reading some excerpts from her notable twisted take on fairytales.  When I saw her name at the end of the credits, Leishman's digital piece made a lot more sense to me. Of course, I immediately went to find the specific twist on Red Riding Hood that Leishman was inspired by, where I found the excerpt from In The Company of Wolves. In that specific narrative, Carter subverts the traditional ending of the story of inevitable death into a "happy," sexual one. Instead of either Little Red or the Wolf ending up dead, depending on what tales you read, it ends with them becoming lustful, taboo, and contented lovers.

I went back to Leishman's piece and explored it again, and definitely appreciated it more. Ultimately, her twist on Carter's own twist shows the new dimension in which literature can continue to exist and thrive in; through this element, Leishman demonstrates the thrill of tackling the computational narrative. Like Carter's story, it brings the same, if not more, perverse feelings, which we can see exemplified through the art itself. Leishman shows us the grotesque images of the child Little Red pregnant at the end of the story with the gun to her head, she shows us the lucid, weird montage that Little Red dreams in the field of cross-like flowers that make it nightmarish, and she shows us the suggestion of her impregnation with the cells splitting (which additionally insinuates The Wolf raping her while she sleeps). Additionally, the industrialized setting of her journey also adds to the feeling of postmodern unrest with the fairy tale. However, most unsettling of all, as I said before, is the background music. Again, it adds to that "lucid" and "nightmarish" vibe that the story is striving for; while Carter achieves the same thing with her words, Leishman takes it to another level through the different facets elit creates for the reader. In the end, I think that is what is most important as we start our journey in the class to understanding electronic literature; for me, this story illustrated the potential of the narrative world it can electronically create and exploit for the reader's own interdisciplinary pleasure.

Blog #1: My Response to "Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky"

My Response to "Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky"
By Andaiye Hall

Once I started reading, I immediately fell in love with this piece. Originally, I was going to write regarding Red Riding Hood by Donna Lieshman. I like the feeling I got when I started reading the story. Instead of just starting to read, I had to press Enter. I had to double check with myself to make sure that I was really ready to enter this new world/dimension. The sentences appeared on the screen and the narrator spoke in Arabic. They had a very soothing voice and seemed to say the intro in a calm melody.This added to the effectiveness of how the story's message was relayed. Since I couldn't understand, I was forced to keep watching the sentences appear. At times, I had to start over if I had missed a sentence.

The  music gave me an actual sound to visualizing the stars twinkling and feeling like I myself was in outer space. I loved the simple imagery that the designer chose for this piece at well. as the reader moves his or her mouse around it becomes prevalent that the blue stars carry messages and the white ones don't. I like how the reader can start wherever he/she wants and end wherever he/she wants. The music had a soothing effect as well. I feel like it opens the door to meditative thinking and reflection in the actual mind of the reader. Personally, I wanted to keep reading. It would have been nice if the designer had let the music slightly change as you pressed the different stars and read the respective messages.

This particular e-lit text allows the reader to have a small glance at each of the narrator's most memorable things/people from their past either experienced by them themselves or by their family members.The fact that this reading was relatable to a certain extent intrigued me. The narrator is so welcoming to a wide audience to be in his and his family's personal affairs. The traditional chapters of a book have been transformed into stars in this text and the author decides how long or short his chapters can be.
My key questions from this reading are:
Who is the narrator? Where were they born? How old are they? Why are they opening up themselves to the reading audience? What is the reader supposed to take away from this story? What is the symbolism of water supposed to mean? What does the author mean when they says "Shall I tell you of my water, which is getting thirsty"? How does water get thirsty? Is it a symbol for their soul somehow? How is the narrator so important that the whole world is destined to be their family? Is he or she now dead? Why is the uncle's palace unfinished? Is the uncle's palace a real place or symbolic of something else? Why did the author write in the manner that he did?

Examining Kenneth Goldsmith’s "Soliloquy"

"Soliloquy" by Kenneth Goldsmith is apparently the result of the author recording and transcribing every word he spoke in the span of a week.  It is divided by day, and then further divided by numerical pages, which seem to correspond only to the length of the content, not to any other factors (for example, a certain number does not equal a certain hour).  Each page begins with one line visible; the other lines appear and disappear as the mouse cursor moves over them. 

In one sense, "Soliloquy" functions as a cautionary piece, prompting readers to consider the sounds that spill from their lips each day (and "Soliloquy" shows us some of them, a lot of them, are just sounds). A great majority of the text in "Soliloquy" is devoted to verbal fillers and incoherent sentences.  Even when it's clear that the topic of speech is something that required a lot of thought, it comes out stunted by parasitic ums and you knows.  At first, I found this annoying because it was hard for me to make sense out of what I was reading.  I wanted full thoughts and articulate insights; after all, this guy's a writer!  Then I realized that what I wanted was dialogue and not speech.  Even knowing that this was essentially a work of creative nonfiction, that it was a real person's real words from a real week, I wanted the clarity and significance of fictional dialogue.  In short, I was holding this man to an unreal (in every sense of the word) standard.  Real people, even brilliant ones, give birth to a lot of meaningless words each day.  In helping his readers realize this, Goldsmith urges them to make every word count.  He encourages readers to make their everyday speech as meaningful as they can, with the goal of living up to the unreachable significance of fiction.  I find this quite interesting because generally an artificial thing is deemed less meaningful than a real thing.  "Soliloquy" calls that into question.  If fictional dialogue, and the amount of meaning it conveys, is the unattainable divine in this case, then readers, and the hollow ramblings they engender each day, are the lowly sinners.  The artificial is above the real.  In the words and cadence of Jerry Seinfeld, "What's up with that?"

There is also literary significance in the way that words/phrases are found and accessed in "Soliloquy."  Readers can choose to run down a page one line at a time, trying to imagine the words or reactions of the other, invisible, speaker in the conversation, or they can randomly point their cursor and see what pops up.  Oddly enough, the phrases make just as little sense in order as they do out of order.  This calls to question the way that meaning is created.  Earlier this week, I read Kenneth Bruffee's "Collaborative Learning" for another class.  Although I was reluctant to accept it at first, Bruffee asserts that meaning and knowledge are created socially, through interactions with other people.  "Soliloquy" did more to drive Brufee's point home for me than "Collaborative Learning" itself.  Seeing how disorienting and meaningless only one side of a conversation is was genuinely eye-opening. 

When one takes the two points of "Soliloquy," the comparative absurdity of real speech to fictional dialogue and the meaninglessness of only one side of a conversation, together with the title, it makes another point: there is not, nor can there ever be, such thing as a soliloquy in real life.