J. R. Carpenter’s The Cape, is an interesting form of a hypertext poem using both words and images combined. It is about a woman who seems to be young, visiting her grandmother and uncle in Cape Cod. Although it is believed that the images, maps, data, video, etc. all seem to be factual, we know this not to be true because Carpenter explains it in her description about Cape Cod being a real place, but the pictures and characters are not real or not real in their size. It discusses its history with old black and white photos.
When entering this piece I was tempted to click on an “out-of-order” image when given multiple options, but because of the type of reader I am in which I like things to go from start to finish, I decided on clicking the first image on the top left which was the window of a house. The first few lines describe the woman’s location of where she was or was going and who she would be seeing out in Cape Cod. All of this came along side a compass and an image of what is believed to be her Grandmother’s house because she discusses her grandma living in “Cape Cod with a Cape Cod house” and her uncle living in the same place, but not in that “type” of house so ultimately I saw this house as the “Cape Cod” house. A portion of a map is also provided in order to help the reader get a better understanding of its location.
The next image was interesting because once I scrolled over the larger image, a piece in the middle began floating away slowly. Under that, the image starts moving very slowly as it reveals itself. Fortunately, I was able to find a way to see the image as a whole because I was not seeing the whole picture. By clicking the image and dragging it a little, the entire image pops out in full and we can see it is a person standing on the beach dressed as if it were freezing outside. This goes along with the text describing how in the winter they would walk on the beach.
The next image over is revealing a map and discussing how because this was from so long ago, everything is in black and white. All images still remain black and white as I scroll through. The slow revealing of the images given in some of the sections seem to be slow because back in history everything was slower. Now people are always moving so quickly and not taking the time to really see things anymore. These slow, old images come out little by little allowing the reader to take their time with it.
The last image is interesting because I expect another part of the story, but instead the reader chooses to explain the story and why they did the things they did. For example, it is explained that navigating the piece is fine in anyway chosen, but the narrator does from left to right. There is also a comment box for the reader which I have not come across in any other Elit piece. Overall, I was not a fan of this piece. It was slow and a little boring to me because the black and white images revealed so slowly. I like fast- paced pieces with sounds to help capture my attention.
With Those We Love Alive is a game built to be an interactive storytelling world of a whole new outlook on elit. Gameplay consists of reading and clicking links, with a platform provided by shifting background colors blistering meaningful words. It’s not your typical game that you would think would be played on a game console or phone for instance. This is a game that will have you traveling through a portal created by your own mind and it’s outcome.
Language is everything in this game, and Porpentine uses it to eerie and mesmerizing effect. Caromine, one of many names serves the Empress, a multi-faceted being whose appearance naked bone, spider legs, moth fur, slithering coils is determined by players’ own choices. Although technically a prisoner, Caromine has the run of the palace and city — she can visit a glass and leafbone garden filled with half-sunken statues, meditate by an inky, dead lake, and sip intoxicating potions at the dream. Some of the language usage and word placement seems to be of a weird and ironic kind. But it best served the underlying message the author was trying to portray.
There is a central question to With Those We Love Alive: “Are you part of the world, one with others, a person, or are you alone and apart?” And unlike the game’s other choices, this one has a right answer.
This piece gave me mixed emotions, I didn’t know whether to prepare myself for an inspiring piece, or a history lesson. Clicking into this bland black and white template that would let me select from nine picture frames. Researching this piece, I didn’t find much but only about the author himself and how he discovered his own life writing this piece. Hitting each square from left to right, and even out of order, just made me frustrated that there was no substance or structure to follow. The images and lack of color gives me a very old feel just like the books I did not want to read back in grammar school. The story is so short and bland that it almost gave me the impression that the author became lazy in the midst of it all. The way he seemed lazy in making it, I felt lazy having to read it. Call me a new soul, but I was eagerly looking for color, character, the climax, a conclusion, SOMETHING! It needed to know this story was going to progressively get somewhere, and that’s what frustrated me the most was that it didn’t.
At first I clicked too fast, and a sign flashed in front of me saying ‘You don’t have the right attitude in front of a computer.. You either click too fast, you use too much force, or you’re too tense…etc.’ I slowed down and a text similar to a poem started to appear on the page, one word with each click.
The lines that I found interesting were,“Your body became mine,but mine, mine muscles, nerves overused, abused, neglected, You don’t feel my pain.”
As I was reading these lines it made me slow down and click after reading each word several times, allowing the next word to appear. These words caught my attention and made me realize how overworked and overused our bodies and minds truly are- and we take it for granted. Even as I was forced to slow down and click slower. The slide that immediately appears after these lines is “Rest” which then leads you to a visual exercise of putting your head on your legs, hanging your arms to the side, and simply breathing. At the end of the text, it states “How to relax a computer? How to massage a computer?” and with one click, a yellow circle appears with what looks like text that I cannot read because it moves across the page so quickly. I tried several times to get to this point “Separation” but failed to comprehend its last word.
All in all, I enjoyed to purity of how the piece opens your eyes to what the world has become blind to. There are many ways during our everyday lives where we lose touch with reality.
The Beauty of e-poetry
“Sooth” David Jhave Johnston
Since childhood, my favorite type of writing has always been poetry. I always looked at it as a chance to put into words a certain feeling or emotion that you want someone else to read and feel. Being raised in a house full of boys, I always found it hard to express myself in a way that others would understand. Technology is and has always been a big part of my life. Having the privilege to read electronic literature and electronic poetry has opened up a whole new world and way of reading that I greatly enjoy. Discovering e-poetry is something that I find great for readers that already enjoy reading and writing poetry.
Electronic poetry is a good tool to help convey the emotion behind the written piece in clever ways that cannot be done on tangible pieces. The piece “Sooth” by Johnston is the piece I will be reviewing. This specific piece draws upon series of love poems recreated into a piece of electronic poetry. The basis behind this piece is the tone and how it’s portrayed within the realm of technology. Instead of flipping through a book, you are forced to electronically travel through several love poems. Sooth is a set of love poems interactively triggered by clicks on each video in tune to display words of a poem. Sounds associated with each phrase are mapped to audio which pans and volume shifts in space as the saying flies through each picture. These phrases are intended to display a certain emotion and/ or behavior within each poem. Interestingly the title “Sooth” means truth. Each poem is derived back to these title theme, presenting words of truth and thoughtful emotional themes.
Upon opening Johnston’s work, the reader is introduced to a dark screen with grey text, forcing the reader to select a poem from the left menu hypertexts. The first of these poems is the piece named “Sooth”. Clicking on the title links starts a video, in this case wind moving ferns. Each new click of the screen introduces new phrases of the poem. The words glide smoothly on to the screen and seem to rustle in the wind with the ferns. The poem and video are combined with sounds of birds, water, and music. With each click and introduction of new words to the screen, the video pans to a different aspect of the landscape and the tone and quality of the color of the video screen changes. As you click on the video and the phrases load, you can see that as the poem continues to pop up on your screen the emotion of the video gets stronger, the music becomes louder, and the colors become more darker.
The second poem, “Weeds” which shows a close up panning of a woman laying down, resting. Their eyes open and close intermittently. There appears to be a strong focus on appearance and texture, of the skin, clothes, and even words. The word choices and movement of each line delivery are both eradicating and interesting. Various words are brought on to the screen and float around. Flashing and fading in and out the same way that the first poem does. The color tone of the screen changes constantly, altering the mood of the poem in front of you as a written piece could never portray.
The third poem, “Body” follows the same format. The video is an image of a color changing scenery of what could be the curves of a body or the outline of a landscape. The words come on the screen in clicks in the same way as the previous poems, overlapping and creating alternating stanzas of compelling language and beautiful words. What stood out to me most in this one was how fast the words would fade out, I thought there was a deeper meaning behind that, but I wasn’t too sure.
“Root” is set to a flowing water in a calming background image that features the poems lines swirling and flowing back and forth as soon as they appear on screen, moving with the flowing water. Once I thought the last one was fast paced, this one went even faster, I could barely make out the words at this point. I had to play it a few time to get the words again and again. Each new line seems to be a complete thought, each which flows together nicely with the next. So if the author intended it to be face paced and unreadable, than they succeeded.
“Soul” is a poem in which the background is dark with a fish breathing through its gill very deeply. Each new word comes up twice above the fish. Once in large letters that fades out in the background and is replaced with each click and introduction of a new word, plus a smaller pairing that is always in motion alternating in size and brightness with each other word. The words of this poem are about sex and love, an interesting pairing against such a non-sexual or romantic background setting. At first the language is set in French until you realize there is a button on the bottom that lets you change the language in English. After that sigh of relief that you can actually understand the poem, you than read and realize that this poem had deep sex meanings that came out of nowhere. I guess it was fitting with the whole “love” topic.
The final poem in the series is “Snow.” This still video features and extreme close-up of clean, perfect, snow with a small strip of blue at the top of what looks like the sky. Each phrase appears in white, an interesting choice against a white background that can make them almost unreadable, but each set of words floats up to the blue sky above it, making each phrase legible. The poem features lines about being together and alone at the same time. As the sounds becomes deeper, and the background becomes more of a blur, the words get stronger and begin to shake showing some type of reaction towards that certain part of the piece. The author really made the music match the effect of every word and meaning towards the poems.
The word “Sooth” has the same root as the word “truth”. By the end of the series of love poems, it is evident that these poems are meant to be a quest for truth: The truth about the self and the other, for instance, or the fact that both are indistinguishable (“i sooth i with u / u sooth u with i”). Overall, the author did a great job utilizing the music, moving dramatic images, deep words giving them its meaning, and the way the words faded jumping at you in each poem. I enjoyed reading the e-lit series of love poems as it reminds me of my favorite kind of work as a kid, and that was writing poetry. Hopefully I am inspired enough to go back to what inspires me most to write, poetry is a dead art that I must reach back into.
"With Those We Love Alive" is actually similar to what I managed to create for my individual piece on the surface. It uses the same platform, Twine, but the story branches a lot more. I got stuck at the part in the piece where I was exploring the castle/estate thing of the Empress, so I'm really not sure how the rest of the piece functions. I did like that my option referred to childhood as a "larval state," though.
I already posted my idea for a Thermophiles article title in the shared document, but I will post it here as well (because, honestly, I can't remember where it's supposed to go). My title idea was "Contextualizing Our First NetProv Experience."
With Those We Love Alive (Bhagavad Gita: Better to live on beggar’s bread
with those we love alive, than taste their blood in rich feasts spread, and guiltily survive)
(we see all of these images in the poem to come – beggars surviving in spite of their surroundings, others that have become inhuman, alien by thriving on the blood of those that must die to keep them alive)
Loving the way this starts.. I noticed that the first lines can turn pink (the way forward) – i like them setting you up in a sense…. dont know how to answer the element question ( i picked mud) – this feels very existential and cool in one sense and hokie like a horoscope on the other hand…
cant get a handle on the music – ethereal/industrial
So now you’re in some sort of a science fiction type story – seems futuristic at first, the idea of the skull empress and that you have a skill that is identifiable – but the description of the Empress is creepy and seems like a more primitive world – like a creature, not a person (picking plant matter off her skull?)… now we get into psionics – sending messages through thought/brain waves – this is definitely sci-fi – and creepy. I wish there were more options for things to do – every time it says “wait” or “leave”, i wish there was an alternative to that choice
Ha – now we have options – they dont take you far, but point to an odd world – with things not of this world (leafbone? even glass flowers on iron stalks seems odd)….
I did the meditations – holding my breath… the blue background is soothing…
So the words that you click arent always instructions or directions – when i find the chest under my bed and it talks about the estroglyphs and spiroglyphs on my body (neither of which is an actual thing but must be some sort of astral version of glyph pictograms), the actionable word is “precious”. Why?
This whole thing is set up like the earliest versions of choose your own adventure games (like Dungeons and Dragons) where you get only the tiniest bit of information about the options available to you…
I write that and then I reach the canal where there is far more description that at any other point in the story. Why? Either these realizations are critical to the story or it is simply showing us that you learn about a city from its poorest members; that gods and censurs and smoke and all the trappings of the palace are little compared to what these “urchins” and others are going through. This contains a startling sentence:
Whoa. Also a kid wearing a fractured skull like an “opera mask” – so something has happened in this world where there were humans, but now there are alternate forms of life – rat kids, “urchins”, dust striders”… the more I click, the more new lines i get – ligabirds, spidercats… I manage to get at least a dozen different images here.
I notice much of this points to a lack of water – there is much dust and mud and the barren hulls of ships… obviously all of this in a dry canal.
More and more disturbing imagery – back to the throne room and we find imagery of a beetle queen and a dead person “swinging their legs” on the balcony. Does that mean a dead person reanimated? or swinging like he’s been hung? This is more than just interesting e-lit, it really is a game. It took me a while to figure out that I had to sleep in order to get a message pinned to my door. I made the diadem – and she wears it… interesting options – and strong messages. Choosing an homage to power, loyalty, or death? And even more death imagery with the options to wrap the gift in skin or a funeral shroud. I thought when I got to the end of the ceremony, it was the end of the game. Not so… The letter from my people elicits anger and/or longing? Then perhaps I am here of my own free will? Trying to make a pilgrimage of some sort?
Music and colors change when the empress is “hunting humans”. It feels like we are here now to do something for these people that are getting killed, but its a bit confusing when it talks about “the custom”. The custom of allowing the empress to hunt humans? To not fight back? This game is getting long… Already 20 minutes… I made the bow and kept jumping to places I thought I had seen, although the lake says there is a “dead person below the water” which freaked me out a bit. This game is interesting in that it keeps adding just enough to keep you engaged. Interesting that when we see her again, we would get to choose what she looks like – coils, claws, etc….
I feel like I need to break the cycle of whats happening – when the “pink spore” are trying to escape, letting them go seems like the way to do that, but im back in the chambers again. We keep having to reapply hormones.. it seems like courage to me, to stay with the program. I am feeling that my character is a stranger in a strange land – trying to figure out how to break the chain and understand whats going on. The visitor that is a friend speaks to an experience so horrible that it blocks out all of “real life” – I feel like this could be a link to the idea of losing all your dreams as well. The failure to save the girl or protect in her in some way is a guilt that seems to block everything. I find it fascinating that the character has to go through an experience that defines an emotion before drawing a sigul on their skin – like you have to go through the metaphorical fire of life and let it burn you before you can understand it. As I am making things for the Empress, I am trying to find things to kill her. I now believe she is keeping me here, it is not my choice.
When the female visitor compliments my dress it is my first hint of gender… perhaps that’s why I couldn’t kill the princess spawn.. was it a motherly instinct? There is a relationship here but I can’t tell if its sexual, communal, friend, family or what…
Back in the city, the canal is now flooded – another series of very amazing descriptions – about moons rolling across the water, fish with dream tumors, etc, etc. All this seems to be happening apart and completely separate of what happens at the palace. Is this a commentary on how little politics intersects with real life?
When I let the girl know how much things are bothering me, she gives me the green fluid. The screen turns blue/green and gives way to happier music. This is definitely some kind of hallucinogen or drug that helps you escape life.. Wait. I am talking to a “dead friend”? Is that a metaphor? The music still seems happy and positive – is this a good thing? I think the idea here is that we are getting a better appreciation of life in whatever forms visits itself upon us.
Ok – so now it appears this is an assassination plot? This is pretty wild – seems like the plot is more concrete that I had assumed.
When the assassin fails and is called a “witch” we realize the truth of who we are – and the fact that nature now serves the bug queen and can be conquered (or must be conquered to escape) is fascinating.. Underscores the ongoing human effort to subdue nature and all its parts. The music is much more exciting here – like a march. This game has gone on nearly an hour, yet it is interesting. The last word in this world is “fight”. Then we are taken to another world – instantly recognizable as another place. Rejecting what is dead and dying or what would withhold life from us seems to be the crux of this story. That, and that relationship and memories, can overcome being chained to a particular place or emotion. I should say that I like the way this was structured – the way the scenes were paced and even gave you a chance to catch your breath (by meditating or “sleeping” for example).
Because this piece gives you the option of “reading” it in any direction, I am purposefully opting to select the squares that I hit at random. The imagery evokes an old-timey picture postcard type of feel. The use of letters and lines puts every image in the category. The idea of a whistle is a kind of a lonely sound to me.. although it seems like it is the only way a grandfather and grandchild can connect. Also, on the page where they have the radio clip, it indicates that “turbulent air” is the key difference between a whistle and just blowing air. So you need some sort of turbulence or disturbance to make things interesting. It seems like the girl on the Cape is wishing for some sort of turbulence to make things interesting. The story is so short there is almost nothing to it. I get a lonely feeling from this progression – the lack of people (there are only two), the black and white imagery, the sparseness of the landscapes. Although, saying that, I feel like part of the message here is about how much better the Cape was when it was sparse – when you could be alone enough to go behind a giant rock and practice whistling. It seems like something that would work best when you are alone on a giant empty beach – not in the midst of a lot of people. The author even mentions how whistling is better in winter when everyone is gone, and the slide shows structures and beach but no people. One slide seems to show the progression of more and more people or signs of life on the Cape as the years pass by. Even the maps themselves move across the screen, giving the sense of progress. (Even if the author would rather things did NOT progress). It seems like a giant homage to the “way things were”, whether it be in grandma or uncle’s time, or even earlier. The slide that points out the Cape in the Holocene period is talking about the way the land was arrayed 10,000 years ago. That’s the good old days! It’s funny – when I went back and looked at the captions for all the images, I was surprised to be reminded that the whole story is about a single visit. The sense I get from it is much more about memories that have been ingrained over a period of years. It is surprising and somewhat moving to me that the memory would be imprinted because of the sparse empty (cold?) beach and this place called Cape Cod. Her memories also go against everything I think of when I think of Cape Cod, which is wealth and privilege, not cold beaches. The kicker is at the end where the author says she doesn’t even have a picture of her grandmother (which means the person by the big boulder near her grandmother’s house is… who?). So does the memory of whistling, of a sound that exists on the air and is gone, a metaphor for our relatives, especially those that we barely see, that impact our lives in the most random of ways and then are gone again, never to be seen again? The color choices, particularly the maps and technical language/symbols adds to the impersonal nature of this story and provides an interesting juxtaposition with what should be a fairly personal story, about a child and a relative spending time in Cape Cod.
This is what I think of when I think of Cape Cod….
Also my two cents for a title for Thermophiles in Love is: Learning to Love your Cell (or you can do it “Learning to Love your Cell(f))
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.
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).