Category Archives: student blogs

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.


Being @SpencerPratt and own e-lit project

Spencer Pratt has over 1 million followers, but what would happend if he lost his phone and it was founs by a british poet?

In 2013 was an on the TV show Big brother his twitter starting to post strange tweets. The tweets was strange for several reasons. First, on Big brother you are not aloved to have a phone or computere, second the tweets was about that he was Spencer Pratt and so on.

The mysterie man was revalede as Tempspence who was an obscure British poet. When he “found” Spencer Pratt’s phone, he sussenly got Spencer’s 1 million Twitter followers.

After three weeks there the followers and Tempspence played poetry gameson Pratts twitter, Pratt was done with the show was aloved to use his twitter again he saw his twitter and asked who the poet was.

It was later revaled that it was actuall Pratt himself with the help of Mark C Marino and Rob Wittig. Over the course of 3 weeks, Tempspence generated hundreds of Tweets.tjat Pratts follower played with and had fun with

 

My opinion with this e-lit is I think is really funny and intresting. I think is cool how a celeberty can engange his followers to actuall make Netprov, also netprov is a fun way to make poems. Netprov is a great way to make litrature and you dont know what you will get in the end.

 

Own e-lit project

For my own e-lit project I have plans to make a textbased interactive collection about depression. I will take inspiration from other e-lits like “Like stars in a clear night sky”. Im not quite sure how it should look like and what mechanics i will i use to engage the reader, but im a try and fail person that like to experience with differnt styles and tools so I get something done.

I will writte about depression because i think its a important subject to shine light on. Also in the three e-lit collection its almost a lack of works that are about this subject.

The text I will use (I think) is actuall not my own texts but lyrics from songs that helped me when I had a big problem with deppression a somethime ago. This Is maybe cheathing but I will make the reader fell how i felt when i’d listen to this songs.

To end this weeks blogg post heres is one of my favorite songs that helped my alot back in the days. See you soon

 


#5 My hustle is just too crazy. I’m trying to take over the world! – Spencer Pratt.

After it was my turn on Monday to talk about High Muck a Muck in my #elitclass, one of my classmates chose something quite different for her presentation on Wednesday: Being Spencer Pratt, our first #netprov.
I have to admit – when I was younger I loved The Hills and absolutely hated Spencer Pratt (basically just because Lauren Conrad was my favorite character of the show and she hated Spencer). It’s been a long time since I last saw the show or paid attention to anyone who was part of it, but when Sophia started her presentation with a couple clips from the show, I really wanted to rewatch The Hills immediately (and well, may roommate and me might or might not be binge-watching the show now).

What is it about?
Being Spencer Pratt is about .. well .. being Spencer Pratt? Or more precisely: someone pretending to be Spencer Pratt on Twitter. Here’s a short version of the story: Apparently, Pratt lost his new phone and his Twitteraccount got hijacked while he and his wife Heidi were part of the UK’s edition of Celebrity Big Brother. At first, the hijacker pretended to be Pratt tweeting from the set of the TV show, but after some time he outed himself to be a poet from the UK who tried to improve his career. While he was in control of the Twitterfeed, the poet replied to Tweets, retweeted people and played games with Pratt’s followers.

What’s the deal with it?
As mentioned before, Being Spencer Pratt is a #netprov, a networked improv narrative, and nothing is as it seems. Temspence, how the project was names by the fan-community, was a collaboration of ELit writers Mark C. Marino and Rob Witting – and Spencer Pratt. Yes, that’s right; one of the biggest villains in the history of Reality TV  (not my name for him, but apparently some articles refer to Pratt as exactly that) pitched the idea to Marino who was one of his teachers at USC and soon, the project came to live.

Why should we care?
Being Spencer Pratt is about pretending to be someone else. Marino and Wittig made people believe (at least for the first couple of tweets) that it was the real Spencer Pratt tweeting from the CBB-house, where the contestants usually are not allowed to have their phones with them. After that, they pretended to be a British poet who wants to become famous, but even that is not who they really are.
The project questions our perception of the authenticity, reality and identity of and in social media and reminds us not to take everything we see online for the truth.
Especially today, in a time where everything that we encounter on social media can be manipulated with Photoshop, filters, or just a pseudonym, it is hard to forget that not everything we see online is real, that people pretend to be someone they are actually not. As we expose ourselves to social media everyday, we should remind us that everyone is telling a story online – and stories are not always real and true.

And in the end?
Now after I got to know this piece and spent some time thinking about the motifs and themes behind it, I have to say that even though I might never be his biggest fan, I think Pratt surely knows how to gain attention online. On a another note, intended or not, his project raises awareness of the authenticity of the „perfect life“ how it is often suggested online. It teaches us to question the things we see on social media – whether it is Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform.

On a further note
I still haven’t figured out if my project is going to include poetry or short stories. I usually write in German and I feel like translating poems/short stories into English would make them lose something. So I might have to come up with something completely new, but for that I definitely need more time than just a few days to be creative enough to come up with a new storyline. I really liked the design and the idea of High Muck a Muck and I really liked the idea of Being Spencer Pratt – maybe I will be able to write something that is a combination of both topics? I’m not sure yet.
I haven’t though about a way to visualize the poetry/short story yet, but simply because I do not know about the options I have. I really plan on looking into that this week, but I feel like I’m gonna choose my way of visualization when I know for sure what my project’s gonna be.


On “Reality” or “Being @spencerpratt,” netprov and ourselves.

Image result for spencer and heidi

Well — as was evident in my presentation on Wednesday — netprov has captured my heart. To be honest, I discovered “Being Spencer Pratt” first and foremost because Pratt’s name popped out to me in the e-lit collection. I’m happy to report my media interests have once again led me somewhere fabulous.

Netprov stands for networked improv narrative, and select elements of a netprov include the use of multiple media, real-time exposure and the incorporation of breaking news. Netprovs are often parodic and satirical and are designed to be incomplete. Taking cues from traditional improv acting, the form is big on “yes and.” Another motto? As improv hero Del Close once said: “Play and go deep.”

The history of netprov is long and fantastic (look up “Invisible Seattle,” “I Work For The Web”, “One Week, No Phone,” “Grace, Wit and Charm” and “Workstudy Seth” for a taste). In very early 2013, Netprov pioneers Mark Marino and Rob Wittig set upon their newest venture. Originally dubbed “Reality,” the project would come to be known as “Tempspence” or “Being @spencerpratt.” On January 1st, 2013, Heidi Montag, Pratt’s wife, tweeted about how Pratt had lost his brand new phone somewhere in the UK as the result of a crazy New Year’s Eve. People responded as they do to any tweet by a star, but updates ceased as the couple set forth into a month of filming a season in the phone-less Big Brother UK house. And then a tweet came from Pratt himself. A bunch of tweets, that is.

“Testing … testing… ”
“OMG!”
“Woh.”
“Yes, cheers, everyone, this is actually Spencer Pratt.”
“And I am married to Heidi Montag. Wow.”

Over the course of a week, it was discovered that an imposter had found Pratt’s phone and taken over his Twitter (though die hard fans could see this right away). The imposter soon revealed himself to be an unknown British poet (“Tempspence”) who was happy to use the accounts one million followers to gain a bit of exposure. He continued to tweet from Pratt’s account, playing games with followers who loyally returned to engage day after day.

Soon enough (upon leaving the Big Brother house) Pratt confronted Tempspence.

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 8.20.42 PM.pngT

The game was up.

And yet …

There’s a kicker: none of this was real. While Temspence wasn’t Spencer, Tempspence wasn’t Tempspence either. Tempspence was Rob Wittig and Mark Marino. Spencer Pratt, a master of contrived character who had been a student in one of Marino’s classes at USC (where he learned the wonder of netprov) had offered the pair use of his Twitter account while he worked on Big Brother. What resulted was a piece of e-lit that questions what it means to be “real” and how we relate to our social media personalities. And a 33 page PDF of tweets.

The editor’s comment from the E-Lit Collection Volume 3 says it well: “Marino and Wittig’s repurposing of a celebrity identity offers a compelling example of the unreliable narrator in an age of social media and the unexpected reactions that this mode of digital storytelling can inspire when a tiny bubble of fiction is dropped into everyday life.”

Uff-da. That’s a lot to chew on.

Because I’m not sure how to succinctly express my thoughts on the matter (soon enough, my friends!) what follows is a copy of questions I sent one of the piece’s authors (players? writers?), the brilliant “coach” Mark Marino. Some things that came up and thoughts I had while we were chatting are italicized. Some questions are without additional comments because there’s so much I have yet to ponder. Of course I want to continue the conversation around these questions, so if anyone has any input the comments are open on the post and my inbox is waiting.

Let’s dive in:

“I understand that netprov can come in many forms (from fake twitters to fantasy football teams). The whole reason this piece stuck out to me in the first place was because when I was browsing the e-lit collection I saw Spencer’s name. How does having an already established character make the development of a netprov easier or harder? I know the audience can easily come up with a narrative about how they see Spencer reacting to the piece (not knowing he’s in on it), because they think they know him from TV — does this complicate things?”

I don’t think the idea of an established character is that important overall, except maybe if we’re talking about audience interest; incorporating an already known player is a good way to get new people into netprov. In the case of one of my favorite forms of netprov: the celebrity baby Instagram …it just makes things a little more fun.

“I love this quote of Rob [Wittig]’s from the interview with Kate Durbin: “The truth of it is that it’s not just Spencer and our poet who perform their identity self-consciously in Twitter . . . pretty much everyone is doing it, all the time. Who is the real Twitter you? The grumpy one from this morning, or the drunk one from last night? The bitter-breakup you or the new-love-affair you? The job hunter or the job hater? Language is performed and written language in social media is very much performed — because of timing, how you reply and retweet others, how you spell and misspell. And our recent netprov (networked improv narrative) projects had played with all that. And Spencer himself enjoyed playing netprov and figured out it would be a great form to use to explore these issues of “reality.”
When it comes down to it, is there anything we can’t label a netprov? How come only some of them are perceived as art?”
It’s official: I think anyone involved in social media really is netprov-ing all the time. The idea behind only some of these netprovs being pieces of merit is similar to how every piece of writing isn’t labeled literature. Definitions are hazy and you can, of course, argue any which way for something or other to be labeled as you see fit. We may never agree on a set definition (thanks Marcel Duchamp) but people are really enjoying those Taco Bell tweets.
I know netprov is best enjoyed in “real time.” Do you think the luster is lost when we look at these projects after the fact?
Mark brought up a really interesting point here that brought us into a discussion of time, the then, the now and the sublime. We can attach an emotion to something in the past, but its impossible to know now how anything really was; memories can change and one person’s past may be radically different from another’s. The question, instead should maybe be, “Was there ever luster?” They need to teach netprov in philosophy courses.
You went into the project with Spencer’s account already having almost a million followers. These followers definitely weren’t following because they wanted an art piece — how does this play into the engagement and experience? Did anyone unfollow/react adversely?
How much of this was planned out in advance? How long did it take to plan the project? Were the producers in on it?
Here we chatted about the making of a netprov which is fascinating but not necessary for this post. Our #elit class will have the opportunity to see this first hand in a few weeks!
A quote from your website: “We ask: how good — how funny, how deep, how moving, how memorable — can netprovs get?” Do we have an answer? Do we need a connection (ie. Spencer being a real person and the tie to you with Workstudy Seth) to reality to make them moving?

Does it depend on the reader?

Today, how should the project be read for maximum effect? It would definitely be more memorable to have it popping up in real time on your phone. Is it like a performance art piece in that when it’s over it’s over?

Back to then versus now. This conversation could go on eternally.

We get to a point in the piece when the character is revealed to not be Spencer, yet the followers are still interested. How might this change if they knew it was all a hoax?

It’s rare that people are pleased when the curtain is pulled back. Blurring reality is part of what makes it what it is, so it’s good we don’t know. They’d probably be mad, maybe lose interest? I would just want to know the details.

Lastly, Spencer just made his newborn an Instagram account (much like DJ Khaled is posting on his baby Asahd’s behalf). Has the form run astray, or are people just not sure they’re netprov-ing? We see stuff like fake celebrity twitters all the time; people just retweet stuff that looks legitimate. Is this a form of (albeit not purposeful) netprov? Is it art if people are using it for retweets? Will any art form ever be sacred anymore … if any ever were?
My conclusion: Probably not. But again — were they ever? In any case I’m happy Gunner Pratt’s IG is verified.

As Marino said, we’re “taking part in the performativity that is existence.” “With netprov, you can play in a safe space that’s supposed to be artistic. You can play with the idea of producing yourself. Anytime someone tweets “I hate Spencer Pratt” they’re playing a game and hating the persona — and creating it.”

With netprov, you’re able to enter a realm of people’s minds and intervene in popular culture while still having the ability to be creative. You encourage others to be creative as well. It makes you wonder about yourself; it makes you wonder about the whole freakin’ world. There are still many questions, but — like with a netprov  —incompleteness is part of the fun.

Image result for hummingbird

Now onto the next order of business …

Every time I sit down to figure out what I want my final project to be a million ideas rush through my head and I get excited about something new. I know I want to do something that has to do with netprov (surprise surprise), and I want to use my own social media accounts as base. One idea I have that I want to workshop a bit is taking my own Instagram account and writing a sort of “behind the scenes” conversation behind the curation of it as a conversation between myself and an “Instagram curator” I hired to make my feed spectacular for my time abroad. The idea is that someone else is behind everything I post, telling me what would be the most “me” and helping to create this perceived image of my self and my time in Norway. I can incorporate elements of my own trip planning such as a linked google calendar made “public,” my personal twitter, email and call logs, and can either use my already posted Instagrams and work backwards changing captions and “commenting” as curator or create a new account. I know I need to figure out logistics (and maybe tomorrow I’ll have a completely new idea!) but I’m liking the sound of this for now. We’re all really playing curator to our own lives online, so let’s bring it back around.


Façade and my own elit

Façade is an award-winning AI-based game where your choices of conversation decide whether the married couple (the main characters of the story) stay together or not.

After some downloading issues and whatnot I finally got to install the game. Five minutes later I was ready to dive into the life of the married couple… The loading screen certainly took longer than the promised “no more than 60 seconds” (and the computer I used is not usually slow, so I figured it was the game)… After restarting the game a few times, I still could not actually get to the game-part of the game, so eventually I moved to another computer – this time with a Windows 7 os instead of using a Mac.

This is the first time I have downloaded a piece of elit and I must say I prefer being able to discover them online without having to download it. Though, eventually, about an hour after I would have started discovering the piece if it would have been online, I was finally ready to discover Façade… Well, at least if it was not for the “Decompressing Façade sounds, this may take up to 30 minutes. Thanks for your patience!” thing that popped up just when I thought the game was done installing. And honestly, I was about to run out of patience.

A while later I could finally try Façade, and my expectations were actually rather good despite all the installation issues.

 

The game starts with Trip inviting me over to his and Grace’s apartment at eight pm the same night. (The first time I went through the game I did not have sound on and saw only a black screen, so it was the second time I actually discovered this.)

As I was choosing my character’s name, I could not find anything close to my actual name so I just went with Liz eventually. Trip and Grace starts off the story with an argument, and it is obvious they argue a lot judging by the way they talk to eachother. Trip greets me, then goes to get Grace – and once again they start to argue. I feel like a bother to them already.

The first piece of information I gather is that Grace seems nervous and judging by the answering machine on their phone they just moved into a new place together. It also turns out I was the one to introduce Grace and Trip – ten years ago – during senior year in college. That is interesting. They then start to fight right in front of me, how rude. Without me getting the chance to say or do anything (as I was just observing them), Trip pushes me out of the apartment. Again, how rude.

The second walkthrough went a bit better. At least they served me a drink. But Grace seemed just more miserable as time went by.

When I tell them to stop arguing, Trip keeps asking if I think he is angry… Arguing and angry are two different things, but ok. Also I tried my best to help them, but after listening to them argue and realizing that Trip must be very controlling, that Grace is not happy, and everything… I did not want to save their marriage, honestly.

When I asked Grace if she is happy, she asks if I think she is depressed. So obviously I was having some trouble communicating with these two. I wonder if this is intentional from the game’s side or not.

After all, these two just kept arguing no matter what I did. At least that is how it seemed to me. The second playthrough ended with Trip leaving the apartment saying he wanted a divorce. And after my second walkthrough, I was done listening to people argue for today.

 

Did I like Façade? Kind of. It seemed hopeless to save their marriage even though I read it is possible. Honestly though I did not really want to, they did not really seem good for each other, and Grace seemed really unhappy. In the end Trip actually yelled at me, saying I caused arguing for saying how they were angry and depressed – which I never actually said, so maybe the communication part of the piece was not the best (unless this was intentional).

So this elit, with all the arguing, did not really get me in the best of moods. Though I will probably end up playing it again someday just to see different outcomes. Façade is alright, but far from my favorite.

 

For the second part of this blogpost, I am to talk about what I want to do for my own piece of electronic literature. Since the beginning of the semester I have wanted to create a work of hypertext fiction where one makes choices that influence the story, but had no ideas on themes or topics or anything on how to actually create it.

After a while I discovered Twine, and tried it out for about an hour or so just playing around. And even though I am sure that using html and css all on my own would give me more freedom and ways of customization, I think Twine will be easier and more problem-free. Therefore, unless we are introduced to something even better, I will use Twine to create my hypertext fiction.

My piece of elit will consist of many small poems (usually four lines each) where the reader decides where to go next by clicking a word within the poem and then getting a new poem to read along with a few new clickable words within that poem. At least this is my idea right now. The choices will change the story in some way, and have twists and turns – some more expected than others.

The theme of the piece will be life. The reader will be able to create a life story and decide its path by making choices. The story will start out with the main character as a child, through teenage years, into adulthood and if they choose wisely – elderly.

I have several little poems written already – some which I am happier with than others. I am not sure if all of them will be used, but even if I do use them all I imagine I still need more. I have been writing poems on and off for some years now, but most of them do not fit into my piece of elit – meaning all poems in the piece will be new and written for the elit.

The design I imagine will be simplistic, both because I want the reader to focus on the text and because I think in this setting it will be a nice metaphor when it comes to the topic of life.

I am not sure of how many poems I will need, but I think that will become more clear as I start working on the Twine and decide exactly how the poems are pierced together into stories.

Writing poems that reflect a character of all ages will be a challenge, but I think a fun one. I think child will be difficult since it has been a while since I was a child myself, but maybe elderly will be even more challenging since I have never been one. Nonetheless I look forward to giving it a try.

All in all, I am really excited to create my own elit!

 

Thank you for reading.

 

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#5 Pretending to be someone, pretending to be themself

In this weeks elit class we talked about pretending to be someone who is pretending to be themself by looking at Being Spencer Pratt, a netprov where reality star Spencer Pratt let Mark C. Marino and Rob Wittig take over his phone as a young, british poet while he was locked in The Celebrity Big Brother house.

My first thought when hearing about this piece, was that someone was making fun of Spencer Pratt. I would have never in my wildest dream imagined he was in on it. To me Spencer Pratt is the ultimate bad boy (and not in the good sort of sexy way, just as a horrible person), I remember watching The Hills when I was younger, and he was always the cause for the worst drama.

But oh how young and innocent I was. Obviously reality tv is not real, and Spencer Pratt was acting himself on the show. If he wants to stay in the spotlight, he has to still be the character, but now he has to keep it up on his social media (or at least a more mature version of it). I think that it is really interesting, that there is a thought behind his life on SoMe, that all of it is almost acted, and that the public never gets to actually peak in to his life.

This pretending to be yourself business has inspired a bit of my own elit piece for my final project. I’ve always sort of admired, but also pitied all the girls who overshare on Instagram (like Karen, we don’t care what you had for dinner #vegan #dinnertime). I think there must be a huge need for attention, that maybe comes from a huge insecurity behind the need to share everything, all the time. I therefore want to do that, through a fictive character, whose face is never shown. At the same time I want to use twitter to represent what she is actually thinking, and expose her insecurities. I think the story needs a climax or an ending in some way, but I’m still working on that bit.

The big question with these kind of pieces is if they are actually literature. I don’t know if there is an actual answer to that question. In a way everything with text is literature, if there is a story in it. But on the other hand using Twitter and Instagram won’t make a coherent story, unless people actually go through it all the way. Either way I think there is a narrative on all social media accounts. It’s a way to get a glimpse into someone’s life or at least the story they want to tell about themself.

I think the main thing I learned this week is that I should get better at not judging a book by its cover, which is ironic in a class where the books are not on paper.

 

 


Façade

Façade is a video game that takes place in the apartment of a couple, Trip and Grace, that invited the player for a visit. Then the conflict arises, Trip and Grace start arguing, and using language processing software the game allows the player to interact with the couple and their argument. Now there is three outcomes to this game, as far as I have understood, you can get kicked out, you can get them to reconcile or you can drive them to split up.

I have to be honest, I never got any other ending than getting asked to leave/kicked out, I watched someone else play and get the “true” ending the “win”. It was very cool, I don’t know how long I would have had to play to get to that ending though, it was a long process.

Façade 2

The story.

The story about a couple with problems and you as a player trying to fix it is dependent on how invested you get in finding out the “secrets” of the game. I was done with the story after the first attempt, the jagged way the name you choose, and the rest of the line is connected is not always smooth, as seen in the video I linked above. It was still cool to see the secrets, but I don’t think I would have played the game for hours to get there myself.

What I liked.

The way your input is read and interpreted by the AI, is what I find really interesting about this game, the AI is quite good at catching the meaning of what you want to say, even if it’s very spelling sensitive. After reading  about the AI I was interested to find that it does not just recognize the words and sentences, like a chatbot might, but it tries to understand the meaning behind and using that with the context it was said in to create an appropriate response. Very cool stuff, I am going to read more about the AI aspect later. I was amazed by how much work that is behind the AI and text processing and analyzing.

All in all.

I was not that griped with the story, I think it needs you to either get emotionally attached to the characters or to get invested in the story, I just looked it up on YouTube. But as a whole I think its wort checking out.

 

 

 

 

Class project.

Now for a bit about my project for this class, I am planning on making a small 2D game, I am thinking about using unity for this project, but that’s not set in stone.

I am planning on making electronic literature without much text, there will be text, but I want it to be about the ambiguity that is people. I am thinking the game will be a small map with a few other characters (5-7), that all live in their own biomes, and the player can interact with the different characters with “dialogue”. The dialogue is not full lines of language with meaning, the dialogue is going to be obfuscated, most likely different versions of “bla bla bla”.

Now the point of this is to make the player interact whit these other people without thinking about meaning, but reaction. The characters will change appearance vice, in reaction to the player input, there will also be a limitation of interaction, representing the limited time a person has in life.

I don’t know how good this “game” actually will be, but this is my aspiration, this is my artistic vision for it. It remains to be seen how much of this will work out in the end.


High Muck a Muck

I spent some time  interacting with the electronic literature High Much a Much: Playing Chinese, and I will in this blogpost share my thoughts and observation regarding this interactive poem. 

 

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The website adresses racism, intercultural exchange, imitation, history and economics regarding Chinese immigration to Canada. The story is about Chinese immigrants who move to Canada, where their culture is thrown away and illegitimate.

One of the creators of the piece is Fred Wah, who grew up in Nelson, B.C. Canada,  working in his father’s Chinese restaurant. He is passionate about telling the story of his «blood ancestry» and his «passing» privilege mixed with the complexity of his racialized family identity.

The piece relies on its modality; it is not just a narrative – it only makes sense by combining the different modalities. The piece relies on its pictures, the meaning in the text, the sound and the non-linear narrative.

The webpage has calming, traditional Chinese music from the start-page and through the narrative to set the mood. The music is mellow and kind of melancholy. The drawings are soft and hand-drawn, and it looks like the artist used watercolors, creating vibes of tradition and older times. The pages looks like old paper, and the artist is using traditional artifacts to create a vivid narrative. You get the feeling of it being a folk-tale; an old story which has been passed down orally and which reveals the customs of these difficult times and their culture.

A multimodal text will always be a product of a culture. By combining the visual and the verbal, the artists creates a deeper understanding of the content; the sadness and hard times of the immigrants. When reading this interactive narrative the modalities creates different expectations to each other. It is important to publish this kind of storys to raise awareness of the struggles of ethnic group meeting western culture, fight against racism and prejudice, and in this case raise criticism in Canada and internationally.

High Muck a Muck is like a kind of a game whose primary purpose is something other than entertainment. When you do it in this way and the readers interact with the story, puts themselves in the refugee shoes and through hyperlinks read about what the refugees went through, it makes it real. The piece make an impact and engage the players.


#4 High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese

This week it is my turn to present one piece of Elit to my #elitclass. I spent quite some time figuring out which of the pieces from the ELC I should present – but I always found my way back to one piece I checked out at the beginning of my journey: High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese.
I’m not sure why I always got back to this specific piece; maybe because I liked the aesthetic of it, maybe because I liked the theme(s) of the piece, or maybe just because I had the feeling that there was more to be discovered than I already had? Anyway, I decided to go for it.

But before we dive into the piece, let’s start with some basics.
High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese is an interactive poem consisting of a website, 8 videos and an interactive gallery installation. The piece is an interdisciplinary collaboration of 9 different Canadian artists, writers, designers and digital developers who shared and transformed each other’s work over 3 years, starting in 2011.  The project was first presented in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada in 2014 and was even exhibited at the 2015 ELO Conference in our beautiful Bergen. Oh and by the way – the project has won the 2014 Spark Creativity Award from BC Creates as well as the 2015 New Media Writing Prize – need any more reasons to check it out? 

No? So let’s start 🙂
The first page of the piece welcomes us with the request to „take a gamble and enter through the Pak Ah Pu lottery card.“ According to Wikipedia Pakapoo (or Pak Ah Pu) „is a Chinese lottery game poplar in Oceania in the 19th Century, including on the Victorian Goldfields. A pakapoo ticket is bought which contains rows of characters from the Thousand Character Classic (an ancient poem in which no two words are repeated). The master ticket is kept hidden and is marked by the organiser of the game. The player marks a number of characters on their ticket. The ticket closest to the master ticket wins.“

High Muck a Muck
Source: High Muck a Muck. Playing Chinese

When we enter the piece we get confronted with the first of many poems…interpretation anyone?  (Oh and could we just take a moment to appreciate the pretty font?)

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Poem

Up next we find the „main page“ of the piece, a human torso with several blue droplets. Five of the seven darker and bigger ones signify Pacific Rim, Victoria, Vancouver, Richmond and Nelson, while the other two are called „Canada“ and „Everywhere and Nowhere“.

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Torso

Brittainy Newman points out that „[i]n Chinese medicine it is said that vital energies flow along the human body’s natural pathways, specifically linked to human organs. The cities within British Columbia are labeled on top of a drawing combined with watercolor of a human body, essentially personifying these various links with specific themes, thoughts, writings and their corresponding characters.“  (And again, could we just stop for a second and admire the pretty drawing? Or am I the only one appreciating this kind of hand-painted style?)

What is it about?
Maybe the name as well as the Chinese symbols at the beginning of the piece already gave it away, but the main topic of High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese is the historical and contemporary Chinese immigration to the west coast of Canada. According to Nicola Harwood, the curator and one of the artists, „the project approaches immigration as ‚a journey towards a new identity‘ fraught with tensions: between the old way and the new way, between races, cultures, neighborhoods, and also between different groups of Chinese immigrants such as the old laborers struggling to save money to bring their families to Canada and the new wave of immigrants from Hong Kong that come with cash and invest in property“ (Surrey.ca).
According to the authors‘ statement on the ELC web-page, „High Muck a Muck: Playing Chinese troubles the cliché of historical tales of Chinese immigration to North America’s ‚Gold Mountain‘ by juxtaposing this classic narrative of struggle against one of mobility driven by the exigencies of contemporary global capitalism“ – but more on that later in class.

Because we’re gonna explore the different parts of the piece together, I just want to show you one of my favorite parts of High Muck a Muck:

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Vancouver

If we start discovering the Vancouver-part from left to right, the first thing we’re gonna find is a video called  „Diaspora“ by Nicola Harwood . The term Diaspora is one of great importance to the whole piece and refers to „a scattered population whose origin lies within a smaller geographical locale. Diaspora can also refer to the movement of the population from its original homeland“ (thank you Wikipedia). Up next is a text which is hidden behind two men – „All dressed up and clean-shaven with no where to go, a troublemaker, that one, a yellow peril, … an Asiatic Exclusion League problem,“ –  in my opinion, this quote underlines how High Muck a Muck   „challenges the racist paradigm of an all white Canada into which Asian immigrants enter but are never fully allowed to arrive“ (Nicola Harwood) as it presents several (old-fashioned) stereotypes, such as an Asian being a „troublemaker“ and a „yellow peril“.
(As I would like for us to discuss the theme and the literary value of High Muck a Muck in class, I will not provide you with a in-depth literary analysis of the poems here.)

 

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Vancouver 

The Navigation
Navigating High Muck a Muck is rather easy, even though sometimes it can be tricky – some texts disappear after a certain time and if you were just busy with something else chances are you might miss something. Basically every building, person, and icon in this piece is clickable or hides something; sometimes it’s a part of a poem, sometimes it’s a video and sometimes it’s an audio-piece. The reader can click on one of the blue droplets on the torso and can read the poem either by discovering its pieces through specific characters or simply read it entirely by clicking on the red book in the left corner. Even after I have now spent several hours working on this piece, I still feel like I haven’t found everything there is.

Random thoughts
I think High Muck a Muck is the prettiest Elit I have discovered so far. Its design was the first thing that drew my attention to this piece and I still enjoy the handwritten poems, the watercolored drawings and the way the colors are rather simple and calm.
At first, I also really liked the traditional Chinese music in the background; but after I spent a few minutes exploring the piece I had to mute it.  In her Directory Entry, Brittainy Newman states that „[t]he music is shown with purpose, supplementing the despair in Fred Wah’s writings and the repetition of the music on loop forces this upon the viewer“ and I get the point  but still, the repetition of the music started to kind of annoy me after a while.
Another thing I enjoyed was the multimediality of the piece. Especially the oral histories one can find as an addition to some of the poems were nice to listen to whereas I found some of the videos hard to follow. Their length of 4-6 minutes sometimes made it tiring forme to watch them if I couldn’t grasp their context right from the beginning.

And what’s up with the name anyway?
The term „High Muck a Muck“ refers to „a Chinook jargon for somebody in a position of authority who thinks he is more important than he actually is“ (Surrey.ca). Why does it relate to the topic of this Elit? Great question! That is something to talk about in class as well.

I’m gonna update this post after class with the things we had to say about it – so stay tuned 😉

 


Konsoll 2017 and Jake Elliott

Last week I volunteered at Konsoll Bergen, which is a videogame developer conference, the conference is a yearly event, and it was my first time attending. Now I wanted to look at a lot of different things at the conference, but one of the talks, really resonated with me in a e-lit way. That was the talk on playful text, by Jake Elliott.

konsoll2

 

Jake Elliott.

Jake Elliott makes games, music and artware, he is part of the team that makes Kentucky route zero, a game that has won several awards, among them best narrative from Game developers choice in 2015. Kentucky route zero is a point and click narrative driven game, it is set in Kentucky and the focus is debt and the people in debt, in a quote in vice the team states:  “Our experience is pretty typical: student loans, medical bills, confusing credit cards, stuff like that.”

The interesting bits of his talk is the part about generating dialog, and using generated dialog to change the story, he talked about a random drink generator they made for the game. They made tables filled with different types of alcohol, and other tables for ingredients, and by random generation you get a, pretty much, unique drink. But that is just an example of what they are doing in playful writing. At one point they have the player choose answers in a phone call, but the other side is scrambled, and you must select the answer without hearing the other end. This sets the player in charge of what they think the conversation was about.

Changing the narrative with dialog choices.

All the dialogue choices you make does not change the story in a huge way, but small things are remembered, and will come back in later dialog or text, it’s something they could not do easily if they had voice acting for the entire game. But the small things are remembered, and sometimes used later, but not always. Jake talked about creating things that not many people get to see, or not get the complexity of. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, another speaker, Ryan Duffin, from dice, talked about how much time they put into animations, and how he felt that if they spent much time on something it was a shame is not everyone would see it. On the other side of that fence is Kentucky route zero, they have a musical piece that only plays if you walk far enough out on a balcony, and that music was specially written and recorded in a church, but still they put it in a place where many people could miss it.

The writing.

Jake Elliott talked about other forms of playful writing, and it was then I noticed how much it was like electronic literature, he showed examples of hypertext, and working with twine. He mentioned Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, which is something we have looked at as inspiration for random generation of poems.

 

I am really intrigued by randomizing and using that in text, making it work, I will add the link to Jake`s talk as soon as it is online.

articles about Kentucky route zero

https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2016/06/03/kentucky-route-zero-dialogue-analysis/

http://outermode.com/kentucky-route-zero-knows-its-the-best-written-game-around