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Insights from #Elitclass (…and the UCI World bike championships #Bergen2017)

Hi #elitclass,

Another great week!  I look forward to each of our conversations in earnest, and this week you were all very thoughtful in your blogs (and in your grappling with these layered new forms of storytelling we explicated together).

Daniel Klaussen lead us out the gate on Monday morning with an insightful presentation of Hobo Lobo of Hamelin.  Thank you for selecting this whimsical and yet profound piece for us to explore and reflect upon together.

This whimsy yet onerous web pop-up comic is more than frivolous fairy-tale (an obvious remix of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  Rather, it is a kind of dark satire into the perils of fascism (it also works as a searing critique of current politics, social issues, and mediascape).  HoboLoboIn a richly illustrated world a wolf character called “Hobo Lobo” agrees to eliminate the rat population which has served as the corrupt mayor’s political scapegoat (a useful distraction from his own will to power and greed).  Along the way the “fourth estate” is exposed as a major player in the resulting evil.  Meanwhile, the lobo who is a hobo, represents a kind of deeply flawed ethical ambivalence in the midst of a corrupt world.  We all spoke about the political dimensions of the work, and Daniel mentioned his appreciation of the art work, and the innovative technical aspect is that uses layers to produce a three dimensional parallax effect.  The close reading we pushed as a class really opened up the power of the piece.  I especially liked the way we considered the close of the piece, and it ambiguity as a special kind of effectiveness considering the political dimensions addressed in the piece.

On Wednesday Marie followed up with a really smart comparative presentation on two generative bot pieces:  @pentametron & @poem.exe.   In choosing these pieces, Marie had us collectively consider the notion of machine made poetry, algorithmic writing, and the general #elit genre of generative literature.  In looking closely at these pieces together, some basic but important questions came up, including “What acts of writing are included in this kind of literary production?” and also “What role does the reader play in this kind of literary production?”.  The tension arising from machine generated text and human cognitive guidance/interpretation is central to the body of work.  Marie mentioned important forebears including OuiLiPo, conceptual poetry, found poetry, and flarf poetry.  In these forms of poetic expression, emphasis is placed on the production process rather than the text.  In a sense, there is no need to really read the work, as much is there is a call to consider the idea of the work.  Thank you Marie for a thoughtful engagement of poetry in the digital age.

Finally, Daniel was able to address the second piece that he selected for his particular interest – Dwarf Fortress.  This game-come-elit-text is notable for its emergent game play, it’s text based graphics, and it’s essentially open-ended infinite nature (sandbox genre).  In thinking about this work, we also considered role-playing influences in storytelling, as well the idea of a cult following for a game, and the active online fan community that emerges to keep the endless possibilities of the text alive.

So…this coming week is the infamous UCI World Championship bike racing week.  The rumors have abounded regarding the number of international visitors to our lovely city of Bergen.  It will certainly effect our public transportation, so as per collegial advice, there will be no meetings next week.

On Monday 25/9/17 we will pick up where we left off with Robert’s presentation of  Inanimate Alice Vol 1 and Inanimate Alice Vol 4.  

Your #elit choices for reflection your next blog post include Inanimate Alice or @pentametron & @poem.exe.

Please post that blog by 25/9/17.  See you then!

And until then, enjoy the unusual week in our lovely Bergen!

Dr. Zamora



Thoughts on a great week in #elitclass

We kicked off our #elit discussion earlier in the week with three very different #elit pieces from the first volume (-texts that certainly represent the vast diversity of the field).  We also “warmed up” our critical acumen for electronic literature in general by doing a few “walkthrough” discussions of these pieces.

The first up was Donna Leishman’s RedRidinghood.  This interactive narrative is a provocative re-interpretation of the well known French fairytale, and it invokes an ominous, dark, mysterious, and decidedly adult tone.  With jazzy, contemporary background music, an urban setting, the highly stylized comic imagery of this piece announces itself as a clear “re-working” of a classic.  It challenges the assumptions which stem from reading/knowing this age-old children’s tale.  This version seems to unfold in three parts, beginning with a city highrise location.  The second part of the text covers the forest/meadow interlude. Finally the third section of this narrative takes place upon arrival at “Grandma’s house”.  The text is interactive throughout, the reader is choosing outcomes through a variety of link options.  The reader is forced to seek for hard-to-come-by links which are for the most part hidden.  There are definitely elements to discover that are not easily noticed (including a revealing and dark diary which provides insight into Redridinghood’s psyche).  The necessary “active search” for links (that are veiled from reader’s immediate access) seems to suggest an emphasis on all things “hidden”.  Things are not what they seem.  There is more than meets the eye.  There are dark realities that exist beyond the surface.  This is most definitely a psychological piece, charged with frightening twists and uncanny discoveries.  Was Redridinghood violated?  Or was she a complicit agent in her own adulteration?  The text provides complicated layers which render this question difficult to answer.  This story seems to insist that there is indeed more than meets the eye at first.

I also asked all of you to read read both Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky and Soliloquy from Electronic Literature Collection Vol.  1.  I thought that by reading these e-lit texts they would further deepen our initial familiarity with the potential of Electronic Literature.  I also felt that by considering these texts together in a comparative light, we would be able to further hone our analytical skills regarding Electronic Literature.

I am including here my own brief analysis of these two texts (published in ELMCIP), in order to extend what we able to say by the close of class:

Subjectivity and Language in Sharif Ezzat’s “Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky” & Kenneth Goldsmith’s “Soliloquy”

By Mia Zamora, PhD

“Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky” is a flash-hypertext poem.  Elegant and ethereal, the screen is a dark night sky with a constellation of stars that become the access point for further poetic lexia.  Readers can explore the sky of interconnected poems at random.  There is an introductory voice-over poem in Arabic (with translation on screen in English).  The text is laced with ambient sounds of wind-chimes, offering the effect of a recollection of a distant place, a place of purity/simplicity, perhaps the “village” of one’s origin.  The tone of the text is soothing, calming, and dreamlike.  This lovely piece includes a reflective narrative voice who repeats “I am full of stories”, perhaps reminding the reader of that universal aspect of our human condition: that we are all “full of stories” – we are all a small universe within the larger universe.  In this piece, subjectivity through words is achieved in the most traditional sense.  There is a clear and stable “I” that is full of stories.  That subject is established through his many stories which manifest in centered verse in the middle of the screen when clicking on a glimmering constellation.  The reader wanders through the cosmos with the mouse, hovering on certain stars to reveal a variety of poetic verse which represent the texture of certain lives. “Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky” reminds us that our subjectivity is only apprehendable through narration, through words, through stories past on through time.  In a subtle and wistful way, this text traverses an essential tension that is a part of the human experience.  It prompts us to think about the ways in which we are inherently connected in both time and space, as well as the sting of our profound singularity.

Subjectivity is grappled with in different but equally poignant ways in the Kenneth Goldmith’s “Soliloquy”.  Goldsmith is reflective of his “bound” subjectivity through expendable words.  In exploring this idea, he documents of every word he utters during the week of April 15-21, 1996, from the moment he woke up that Monday morning to the moment he went to sleep on Sunday night.  “Soliloquy” is a clever kind of provocation, as it is a web version-of a book edition-of a gallery installation. It is a week’s worth of the artist’s spoken language captured in a veiled database.  The reader opens the text by clicking on the prologue quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Don’t, for heaven’s sake be afraid of talking nonsense!  But you must pay attention to your nonsense.”  By clicking on the quote you gain access to his web catalogue of a week’s worth of spoken words, all in chronological order, but what is striking upon entering the text is the encounter of the blank screen of white.  In order to reveal his lost words, you must mouse over the screen and a sentence of the carefully transcribed lexia appears (and disappears) as soon as the mouse moves on.  The provocation is in the transient disposal of our words, as well as the utter banality of so much of what we say. Words are lost to the world as quickly as they are uttered, and what is left is like an empty canvas with a haunting afterlife.  Words are rendered in “Soliloquy” like fleeting ghosts or traces that can be glimpsed but not captured.   The title of the piece lends further comment, with it’s dramatic allusion to the inner life as a kind of performance.

Both of these significant Electronic Literature texts offer us a glimpse of the way that words shape our sense of selves and our place in the world.  The affordances of the digital medium pay particular homage to the thematic concerns and poetics of these two works of art.  While Ezzat employs traditional storytelling constructs to assert a timeless connection to narrative and memory, Goldsmith provokes us to consider the self consumed and disposal aspects of the words we use.  Although the tone of these two elit texts are very different, they each elicit a deeper reflection about the dynamic world of words that shapes our human subjectivity. ______________

Congrats Fredrik on successfully kicking off your review presentations with insight.  I think your choice of Quing’s Quest VII was a fun one,  and it was a good way to start thinking about the relationship between games, elit, and communities of practice.  This was a twine made game with a quirky nostalgic soundtrack.  A parody that playfully address the subculture(s) of gaming, Quing’s Quest VII is a reversal of power fantasy in which creative non-conformists and non-“misogynerds” thrive by escaping and relaxing a bit.  Through his walkthrough and direction of discussion, Frederik spurned and extended reflection on the identity politics found in games, and in the community of players that form around them.

What is up for next week?

Please read Hobo Lobo of Hamelin and Dwarf Fortress. Daniel Klaussen will start our week with a presentation on this/these text(s).  I really look forward to hearing what he has to say about the work.

Please blog about one of these two texts, or the two texts Fredrik claimed interest in – Quing’s Quest VII, or also The Bubble Bath.

-And remember  –  keep up with the #elitclass twitter feed and tweet with our hashtag.

God helg,

Dr. Zamora

Thinking about reading…. (with “12 Blue” by Michael Joyce)

everything can be read, every surface, every silence, every breath, every vacancy, every eddy, every current, every body, every absence, every darkness, every light……

Some ideas to consider from our discussion last Wednesday:

Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue = a reading experience; a conceptual exploration.

  • Themes/Motifs: reading & flowing; water- upstream/downstream, stillness & turbulence, being submerged, fluid and changing; memory; color; nature/seasons; traces; generations (young vs. more mature); history; perception (looking); multiple paths/multiple meanings; “skyways” (routes, infrastructure, mobility); self-referencial elements
  • Character, plot and relationships: there are relationship “networks” but there was definitely some confusion – some readers knew some characters, other readers knew others, some of our knowledge of the text overlapped, some did not, etc.
  • Reading strategies:   Some click on threads or the hyperlinks within the text randomly, some readers decide to stick consistently by a certain thread color, while others might discover the titles for each of the lexia tabs and use this as an attempt to “frame” possible meanings.  Some readers think about the number 12 as a clue to a reading strategy, while some attempt  basic “note taking” and/or “mapping” in an attempt to discern patterns or meanings.
  • Many of us expressed frustration, and many felt a sense of exploration and discovery emerge after some more time spent with the text.  Some of us expressed that the piece was “writerly” but the story was never compelling because there was no cohesion.  We speculated on the effect of a lack of any discernible pathway to reading.   A lack of any identifiable closure was certainly unsettling to most of us.
  • Assessment: 12 Blue reminds us all of the active role of the reader in creation – we are “navigators” beyond just readers;   We all shared an awareness of an underlying structure that cannot/couldn’t be apprehended, but was determined by the code of the work. (This is the central illusion – that readers have agency through navigation, but still, the world is a closed design determined by the underlying code).  I think the idea of an illusion will be a key word for us to consider throughout our exploration of elit.  With Twelve Blue, we struggled to apprehend an ending (lack of closure was deemed truly unsatisfying), but some of us agreed there was beauty in the fragments.

I would like to share with you some critical/review articles. These articles give you an idea of how critics/scholars write about a text like 12 Blue:

Some follow up planning issues:

Most of you have selected a date for your presentation.   On Monday we will continue to identify the elit text you would like analyze (please have a few choices in mind, and I encourage you to select work from Vols 2 or 3).  The first presentation for your E-lit Reviews will start next week – thanks to Fredrik volunteering to kick this part of class off on Wednesday.

For next week:

 1. For those of you have not identified an Elit piece to analyze, continue exploring the ELC Volumes and choose a few you would like to work with.  Keep a few preferred presentation dates in mind and be ready to negotiate that date with the rest of your classmates in class next week.

2.  Please read these three elit works from Volume 1:

Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky by Sharif Ezzat

Soliloquy by Kenneth Goldsmith

RedRidinghood by Donna Leishman

3.  Your first blog post:  Write analytically about one of those three texts:  –Like Stars in A Clear Night Sky, –Soliloquy, or –RedRidinghood.  Some questions to consider:  What are some of the significant textual elements?  How did you choose to navigate these texts?  What visual, sound, interactive elements left an impression?  What overall effect do these texts create?  What themes and symbolic language emerge in navigating the text? What is literary about the text?

Next week we will walkthrough the three texts, as a model for what your reviews may be like.  In addition, we will go over the Elit Review protocol/assignment.

Thanks for a great start to the semester….

God Helg,

Dr. Zamora

Our first #elitclass meeting

So nice to meet you on Monday morning!  I enjoyed meeting you all for the first time, and getting to know just a little bit about each of you.  I enjoyed my first official teaching day at UiB, and I can tell already that you will be a great group to work with this semester.  Please remember that I will be in Oslo from Wed-Fri this week for my Fulbright Award orientation program, so we will not meet this Wednesday (Aug. 23).

A review of what we did together on Monday:

-We introduced ourselves. (Thanks for playing along.)

-We talked/walked through the course website and syllabus.

To do for next Monday when we meet again:

-Please email me your class blog URL & your class twitter account. You should be ready to start tweeting each week with our class hashtag #elitclass (and feel free to use the hashtag #elit as well) .

-Read Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature”.  This essay is located in “About Electronic Literature:  New Horizons for the Literary”.

-Surf the Electronic Literature Collections (Vols 1, 2, and 3)!  Please spend approximately one hour checking out each of the three volumes.  Just peak around and open up different texts to discover what awaits you there.  Start to search for a few texts you might want to choose for your review presentation.  We will settle the schedule next week for your review presentations next week, so consider what date you would like to present on (and make a mental “short list” of your top choices to work with).

As you look through the Electronic Literature volumes this week, please notice the expectations & strategies you bring to the texts. What do you like & why? What frustrates you and why?  Remember to be open to new experiences, because they are there, …just waiting.

Looking forward to next Monday.

Have a great rest of this week,

Dr. Zamora

Welcome to #elitclass

Welcome to “Writing Electronic Literature”.  Soon we will meet each other for the first time as a class, and an embark on a journey that will be transformative for all of us.  Some of you might have an idea of what Electronic Literature might be, while others are really not clear.  Some of you might feel relatively self confident in a technological environment, while others might feel more than a bit of trepidation.  Whether you fall into one of these categories or the other, I guarantee you will learn a great deal in this class.  You will learn many practical things, like how to work with new technologies that you have never been introduced to before.  But more importantly, you will all learn more about yourselves.  You are invited to jump into a new realm and explore and discover.  And you will have ample chance in this class to exercise both your analytical skills, and your imagination.

I look forward to speaking with all of you soon, as we discuss what this course can mean to all of us.  We will begin by collectively considering what literature is, and what new media and the digital realm might offer to expand our understanding of what literature can be.  Throughout our class together, this blog will be our “homebase”, and soon each of you will have your own linked blogs which will be syndicated here on this site.  This e-location for our work together will house our collective reflections, our resources, and our continuing conversation throughout the semester.

Here are a few videos to get that conversation started:

“How to Read A Digital Text”



“E-Literature Explained”


“The Electronic Literature Exhibit – MLA 2012”

Looking forward to getting know of each of you and working with you this semester!


Dr. Zamora