“With Those We Love Alive”- a visual adanvature without visuality
My first feeling when I played with it is ” It is so smart!” and “Maybe I can make one”. It is a twine game that readers are able to be physically involed in the plot, and whatever they choose, it will change the plot. A reader is also a writer.
Basiclly, I can read a fundanmental framwork set by the author. Whatever I chose, I would have same hyperlinks to go. “Balcony”,”Your chambers”, “Garden”, “Workshop” and “City” are a basic trial.
What I found interetsting is there are more possibilities we can create. We are able to connect or embed ourselves in the plot by mixing our personalities into it. When I went to some hyperlinks, I found they are optional when I clicked them, I could choose the month of my birth, my elements, my eye color, the equipment and materials I had. It’s very intriguous because it comes different consequencies based on different choices.
Compared with former pieces, “With those we love alive” is not surprising. It has basic features of an elite and the interactions are not advanced. It is not bothered by techniques, and is pure and reable literature. But it is meaningful in the time when we are beginning our first elit. WHY COULD NOT I MAKE A PIECE LIKE THAT? Even though I am a not skillful programmer and I don’t know how to visualize my elit, I can still make an excellent piece! The piece inspires me a lot and I am happy to see more possibilities.
“Hi Muck A Muck: Play Chinese an Interative Poem”- I am pride to see my language shown in elite.
I love the piece.
It is so culture-related. The first page and navigation are touching. It is a man who is reading his language, missing his home. His tears as well as his emotion is an direction for us to read the piece.
When I heared the audio, they talk about China Town and Chinese women are not allowed. I was so upset and I can understand how difficult Chinese immigrantes are in foreign countries. The background music is from a restaurant nosie to a flute, which illustrates the life of a China Town and people’s strong emotion – nostalgia.
The page touches me – my land is my body. You may see rivers, moutains, and poetry on an human body. They represent “my” homeland and “my” culture. “My blood is China, which makes me who I am”. Especially when Chinese are away from thier land, we carry with our indentities everywhere. China is our nature.
It is an emtional piece. I am deeply touched by every pages. It not only shows “a deep engagement with issues of racism, intercultural exchange, imitation, history, economics, and Chinese immigration to Canada”, but also it tells a story, a life story, about every Chinese away from our country and every Chinese who are missing thier country. I can find myself in it.
“With Those We Love Alive” is a hypertext E-lit piece and Twine game by Porpentine. The title is derived from the 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.”
It is a nightmarish experience in an unknown world. You are given a name. You are living a life in the game. In a world that is full of self-harm, abuse, and violence. You were asked to get works for a monstrous empress. Her abdomen is swollen, and she smells like dead candy. Like a monster. You had a chance to explore into the field. In the palace, there are balcony, chambers, garden, workshop, and city. You could explore into those places, but you would find you are returned to the palace again and again. You are isolated, waiting to be noticed, waiting for something to happen. Then you had to sleep in your chambers to advance the process. You got messages. You get works to do. You were employed by the empress to do works for her, such as making a gift for the ceremony or designing a weapon for her, although these tasks seemed to make no sense. The empress hunted people. Everyone was fearful to be the victims so they did not dare to question the custom. It is a dream of trauma. You went through it.
During the adventure, I was asked to draw sigils on my skin of: New beginnings, Relationship with the chasm, Shame, Insight, Influencing this outcome, Pain, Severing, A thought loop, and what I feel. Those sigils are like imprinting about what I suffered and experienced. Tangible and compelling. This interaction process really is a distinct feature of this E-lit piece. Drawing sigils as a part of the gameplay is an impressive interaction for me. Physically. The influence is really profound. Sigils that readers draw on their skin represent their emotional symbols. Check out here for sigils. You will see various kinds of sigils that people draw. Like a exposure of what inner traumas they have. They are physical remarks of what violence and trauma bring to us.
Here are my sigils
A question is asked if we are part of the world or alone. Does being part of the world with others mean conniving the society full of abusing? I am not sure, but in this world I think it does. If we choose to be part of the world, we would participate in the eradication of the princess-spores, put them to death. We would be merciful if we choose to be alone and separated from others. In this mundanely monstrous world, You work for the cruel empress. She has supreme power in her field. “Power is wounded by anything that refuses to be destroyed by it”. If we choose to be apart, we are the ones that were not destroyed by power.
In the note of this piece, the author writes: “Punishment isn’t for people who do bad things. Punishment is an energy that flows toward the weak, predictable as water. Punishment happens to those who cannot stop it from happening.” Then the result would be that those who fail to question the bad things get the punishment. Like the following picture shows.
She comes. Sedina, with whom You hate the world together. You have most of the conversations with her in this game. She is considered as the representative of hope in some ways, but it is she that told you that “hope is a shameful thing”. I have a personal estimation that maybe she is another me. She came to remind me of hope in this dark world. She reminds me of my bravery to get over my trauma. Recover. And get energized.
Sedina, so as “I”, see this place clearly. We are not what we choose to be. We are trapped and we have no power. This point also is conveyed in the playing procedure. With many only one-choice hypertexts, we seemed to follow a fixed path of life. We are pushed to move forward. We have no choice.
Sedina has scars on her appearance. She said: “What they did to me on the outside, they did to you on inside”. It sounds like the trauma that they did to “me” is inner and spiritual. The trauma is very deep. Porpentine states: “In most media there’s an unspoken belief that feminine lifeforms can’t survive on their own, can’t have spaces of their own, can’t have relationships of their own.I try to go against this with basically everything I make.” We can survive through those traumas.
My favorite part of the game (also the most confusing part) is about distilling the dreams of children. “My” (the character’s) mother gave “me” a cup to drink and “I” will no long dream. Is it another type of adult abuse? When children lose their ability to dream, they lose innocence. They are forced to grow. I kind of feel that way. It is vague to tell but also have connections with previous contents. It is a ritual, at least to my estimation. Like the ceremony of empress, like the re-applying process of hormone. “She gave you the cup. You drank it, because she was your mother.” Very customary like a routine in your life.
Living in a world full of abuse, violence, and harms, “every day is damage”. That is the main theme in the world of “With Those We Love Alive”. It calls back some dark old days of the players. Anyway, a very impressive game.
(*I recommend checking out my first post on this work before delving into this one~)
Porpentine’s With Those We Love Aliveis a dark, twisted, and fantastical Twine game that invites readers to become participants in the act of experiential inscription by asking readers to draw sigils on themselves as they work through the piece. These sigils are meant to represent experiences typically invisible or intangible or hidden like “new beginnings” or “pain you can’t show” or “shame that taught the ocean everything it knows”. Of the work and its design, Porpentine states, “After playing, the reader has a tangible record of their own choices and identity beliefs in the drawings on one’s skin.” These physical acts of personal and social inscription paired with the work’s re-imagining of abuse, loss, and trauma is meant to provide readers with new insight into the complex and often complicated and conflicting mechanics behind both. More, readers are able to make these experiences their own and engage in a kind of self-reclamation and renewal through in-scripting their lived experiences themselves on their person. In many ways, this work seems to encourage and be designed to help readers navigate the recursive nature of abuse and trauma and realize it is not something to overcome and defeat so much as cope with and manage day-by-day (a very difficult lesson to learn through any other way than experience).
This work, like Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself, affected me deeply ad personally. I found the recursive/looping interface Twine affords to provide an apt representation of the cyclical nature of trauma and abuse. It never really ends so much as loops back on itself, moving from good to bad and back again. Balance is found within making piece with the loop and learning to navigate those forward and backwards motions (“Every day is damage”). Moving forward can mean going backwards (returning to your “chambers” every night or checking on the “statues in the garden”, peeking through the telescope on the balcony to the “wastes”) and vice-versa because progress has no set direction. Progress is a process.
Narratively and word-choice-wise, I found this work also to be dead-on. Throughout the piece, our narrator (who is also you as indicated by the use of the second-person POV–“you make a diadem out of heretic bone and fleshsilk”, “you drag the glass across your skin”, “you no longer dream”, you receive a letter from the people “whose blood is your blood”, etc.) mentions losing the ability to dream as well as mentions seeing dead people wherever they go. “A dead person stares at you from beneath the lake.” “A dead person stares at you from the trees”, “a dead person stares at you from behind the hamper.” This loss of dreams seems to communicate the lasting trauma of abuse on the subconscious while seeing dead people everywhere seems meant to illustrate how trauma and abuse colour how you see the world. It’s a kind of living death, every memory another murder. You cannot forget but you also cannot move forward unless you forget. The evil, larval queen is representative of the power an abuser has over the abused, even long after the experience. That power never fades, merely manifests in different ways, requiring different things from you along the way. Accomplishing those things brings “little pride”.
When our friend, Sedina, appears, so does hope, though. Sedina’s presence seems to represent the importance of having a way to discuss or illustrate or otherwise work through/have an outlet for your trauma. There is no escape without that. Also, though, there is no escape without reclamation and reconciliation. “i’msorryforeverything”–It’s important to apologize to yourself, to be able to forgive yourself, even if it’s the last thing you want to do. You need to be able to own what happened to you in order to learn how to live through it. While “there are many ways to destroy someone”, it is important to learn that “power is wounded by anything that refuses to be destroyed by it”. Experiencing trauma, being abused–it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. The only way to beat it, though, is to live through it.
Perhaps, again, I am imposing too much of my own lived experience on a work. But, given the the invitation of this work to write how I feel all over my skin, I would say my reaction to its content is not only welcome but desired. By drawing my experience of this work out on my skin, I am connecting the content directly to myself. “What they did to me on the outside, they did to you on the inside”–this story is not mean to occur purely within a screen. At least half of it must occur inside of me. On me. I become a canvas, the art a record of my navigation through this piece, yes, but also a record of everything I have survived.
Overall, I find the design and content of Porpentine’s work to create a compelling narrative and illustration of how trauma and abuse are cyclical experiences that can have lasting and haunting effects. Through this work, we can gain new insight into our own traumas as well as insight into the varied nature of trauma itself. We can understand we have been traumatized and still hurt and long for the people we trusted and who betrayed that trust. We can understand holding onto letters from those who have hurt us because we used to loved them. We can understand that trauma is like being a “chasm person”, separated from everyone, a feeling of being bottomless and empty, of being good for nothing better than swallowing everything you come in contact with. Hope can feel like a shameful thing, when you exist as a chasm. With Those You Love Alive captures all of this nuance and asks you to remember it as an experience–so you won’t forget it. So you won’t forget you lived through it.
*For this piece, too, I wrote another post about it a while back. This post goes a lot more in-depth about the narrative aspects of the work and its symbolism. At the time, I was working on a project meant to explore the cyclical nature of abuse and so I was very taken with this work. Really, this post is an in-depth look at this piece. I could go on and on about everything I loved about this work and what it represents. Like, reading it was a turning point in my life. I still think about aspects of this work from time to time in my on life. It left a lasting impression on me and I highly recommend reading my other post on it. This post is more of a continuation to my first.
*I also wrote a prior post on this week’s other work we’re reviewing High Muck A Muck if you’d like to check it out. That’s another very profound and compelling work that explores the complexity of navigating a multi-faceted identity in our increasingly global community.
I Leave Bits of Me Everywhere
poem-words are my clothing,
stripped late at night
a trail from the threshold to the foot of bed
along the stairs lay verbs the actions i need to climb twelve steps at 2 am
a vowel left adjacent to toothbrush i get sloppy with tartar and allusions
over the cornice of mirror, hangs a strand of pearly metaphors
a simile in my sink
a limerick needing to be laundered the clothes hamper is full of rimes & meters in want of mending
kick off the shoes,
make a pile of cacophony wrap myself in the plum flannel of sonnet
hair up-tied with haiku
find the resting place for naked poet...
in ambiance i light a candle
a sestina goes up in flames.
The piece is a sort of reinterpretation. They are real pieces with which you can made up and know a person. But this time, it is not “pieces of her”, but “pieces of herself”. Find the secrets? Because you are not going to find the original “her” but create a new “her”.
You can choose from seven scenes. My favorite is the “outside”. When I grabbed a little baby in the street, the old song “When I was a little girl” rose. I can see her childhood, she played in the yard and enjoyed sun. It is so imagery.
There is a technical problem for me, I cannot download the exe.file. But except the technical complexity, it is a very smart piece.
I cannot move in! That’s disappointing. It may be something wrong with my computer. But many players show their processes on YouTube.
They are creative but a little dark (lol).
This piece maximizes the interaction between elite and readers. It is very intelligent design and requests a high technical level. It is more close to artificial intelligence, like Siri, but it is a insightful approach to produce elites.
“This was the hardest thing to internalize; that something permanent but invisible had happened.” The Raven Boys– Maggie Stiefvater
In Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself, the embodiment and construction of feminine identity as well as the relationship of the female self to public and private space is explored. This work of Elit operates through a drag-and-drop interface which allows readers to comb through different environments of the work for icons that can be “dragged” and “dropped” on the female, paper-doll-like motif adjacent to her environment. In this way, readers are able to see how a woman’s environment inscribes itself upon her. More, readers are able to explore how different contexts, such as home, community, and work, affect construction of identity and perception of the self. “Dropping” an icon on the paper doll triggers an audio clip that typically reveals something about how the space being explored imprints itself emotionally or physically on the woman. The icons themselves, paired with the nearly 400 pictures used to create this piece, seem to denote more than their mere connotation would suggest as well (i.e. blood drop icons in the shower room, diary entries and hidden keys in the bedroom, a fetus en-wombed by a church, a sex toy behind a discreet couch cushion etc.). The mere act of uncovering these icons seems reflective of the many layers of feminine identity and the further act of layering these icons atop the paper doll motif seems to suggest the multiplicity, the mutability, and precarious balancing of feminine embodiment. How each sound is layered atop another until there is a steady cacophony of steadily increasing headache-fuel seems to only further illustrate how jarring and overwhelming a task it is to be all these women–at once. Though seemingly simple in design, operation, and presentation of its ideas, Davis’ work is quite a compelling and profound exploration of the intricacies at work in constructing feminine identity as well as a frightening one in how accurately and heartbreakingly it articulates how social and cultural contexts can be all-consuming.
Perhaps it is because of my own context–my gender identity, my age, my education–but I found this work to be particularly poignant. Especially as I combed through the unspecified, female narrator’s private spaces–their bedroom, their bathroom, their kitchen, their living room–I felt this growing lump in my throat, this increasing ache in my chest. The diary entry in the hamper–“In my dreams, I’m home but it’s not really home. And I don’t recognize the town but I know where everything is. So why do I keep running into things…”–reminded me of my own journal, sitting beside me as I write this post, and all of the secret parts of me inside its page no one will ever know. The rain cloud in the bedroom reminded me of the nights no one will ever see. The narrator recalling how hard they tried to but never could quite recreate their own mother’s passed-down recipes–“In the kitchen, where she was forever looking for the right ingredients”—that hurt. It hurt me but also made me ache for all the girls and women I know who–secretly–try so hard to be half as good as their moms. Who are are always almost but never. I wonder if my own mom aches like this too? The mask at the front door in the living room and the narrator’s recollection of the monetary worth of what they’re wearing–of who gave it to them— made me remember a time when I was showered with all the gifts babe’s money could buy. I remember finding out the return on that investment did not equal love. Maybe it never could have.
To me, this work, in its content, purpose, and design, is one of the most powerful and compelling pieces of Elit I’ve come across. There’s something so inherently moving about making an unseen, hidden process–such as social inscription; more, construction of feminine identity–visible. Maybe that’s the voyeur in me but I’d also argue that Davis is placing us purposefully in the role of voyeur. But, it’s like we’re spying on ourselves. Is that really spying???? Questions of ownership of the self are raised in this piece and authenticity as a construct seems to be being challenged here. Rather than constructing who we are from navigating our environments, Davis’ work seems to posit that our environments navigate us, that our navigation of our environments is decided long before the question can be posed. According to Davis’ work, we are not imprinting ourselves on our environments. No, our environments are imprinting upon us until we are, essentially, composed entirely of pieces of our environments. This work seems to ask readers to really consider the nature of feminine agency and autonomy in a culture that poses so many, often conflicting, restrictions upon women.
Maybe my reading of this work is singular, a response to the many interactions of my life that brought me to experiencing it. But, if anything, I believe Pieces of Herself is trying to communicate the significance of lived experience. Of all women’s lived experiences. Of my lived experience. I think that’s an incredibly profound message. More, I think it should not be as revolutionary as it is and yet…. How ’bout that Kavanaugh hearing, right??
Ultimately, Davis’ Pieces of Herself operates on many levels but, perhaps most importantly, it seems to read as almost autobiographic, allowing the reader to assume the unspecified narrator’s identity as they simultaneously engage in the process, navigation, and negotiation of constructing that identity. Davis achieves this level of engagement through the drag-and-drop interface of the work, the use of audio and commentary, and the visual/design aspects working in tandem in this piece to create an inviting and immersive experience. This work left me feeling overwhelmed and naked(?) as well as left me with many questions about the complex nature of the self and its complicated presentation and representations. How much of me is me? How much is what others want me to be? How do I tell the pieces apart? And, am I broken into pieces? Scattered? Shattered?
I actually wrote about this piece a while back, during my first Elit “rodeo”. I decided to read what I had previously written until after I finished this post. Let me tell ya, it is wild. Like, reading something you wrote when you know you were an entirely different person than you are now is wild. Slightly cringe-worthy. Anyway, I figured I’d provide you with a link to that initial post for your own entertainment. Also, I think it’s interesting, in the context of reading Pieces of Herself, to compare and contrast who I am and who I was in writing. It was fun revisiting her. I miss her, who I was. I wonder if she sees who I am now and wishes she could’ve done more.
So, this work reminded me of a couple songs I thought I’d share with the class~ I couldn’t help singing them in my head as I was reading this piece and so I thought I’d share that particular level of my experience as well….
For the love of god, please never let me put references in my blog post titles again. Like I’ve made some okay ones in the past, but I’ve reached a new low with this one. Anyway, stan block b.
Before I get into the e-lit pieces we’re going to cover this week, Façade and Pieces of Herself (aka the point of reference for that blog title, but let’s forget that exists, shall we?), I’d like to touch on the shared document we wrote on in class last week, in which we brainstormed our ideas for our own e-lit pieces. I posted this:
I was thinking of having some kind of branching hypertext narrative that kind of starts off fantasy/almost children’s book-like (like this kids book I wrote recently about a baby owl) and gradually getting more realistic (Maybe even branching into autobiographic snippets???)? Maybe?? Like starts off with simple sketchy drawings with few words and what seems like a single story then you realize that there are multiple things to click on on the page (pictures or words of the text I suppose?) that branch off into other little stories (maybe connected? maybe not?). With actual pictures and more color and links to music and videos. Idk I think the transition from simple to complex/fantasy to reality would be cool to play around with. I was thinking of throwing in bits of stories I’ve already written, actually. Wondering if I could (and would be able to) have a page where readers/users/players could type in “passwords” from other parts of the piece in order to unlock other pages… Wondering how to do that… make it kind of a game.
I… think I’m being a little over-ambitious here, but BIG SHRUG. I’ve noticed I have a habit of doing Too Much sometimes. Don’t really know what more to say about that except I doubt I’ll be able to make it extremely poignant or anything… more of a mass dump of all the stories and thoughts in my head. Previews of sorts scattered through hyperlinked pages of sketches and doodles I can hopefully gather from past notebooks. I guess in a sense it’ll be a look into my head?
Not…… sure…… if that’s a good idea. BUT WE’LL SEE, I GUESS?
I’m glad I got my presentation out of the way relatively early so I can focus on this for a longer period of time.
Anyway, look forward to disjointed rambles and thinly veiled social commentary, I guess.
Okay, onto Façade.
I’m going to preface this by saying that, as of writing this post, I haven’t played the game yet. Excuses being: my everyday laptop is a Chromebook, my Windows laptop at home is too decrepit to run anything above Word these days, I’m pretending my old baby Gateway laptop doesn’t exist (plus it could barely run Undertale), and my Fancy New Desktop stopped connecting to its monitor.
But I know Façade. I know it from back in my YouTube days, when I religiously watched Let’s Players. There wasn’t a cryaotic, markiplier, or jacksepticeye vid I hadn’t seen back then. But anyway. Most of the youtubers I watched played it at some point, so I’d skimmed their playthroughs out of curiosity.
And lemme tell you. This game is wild.
User-input-dominated. Incredibly intelligent. Wildly open-ended. I don’t even know how many endings there are with this game, but I know they can get… interesting.
Hopefully I’ll be able to play it at some point, and when I do I’ll be sure to link either a video or my commentary on it [HERE]. If you see no link, please carry on reading and pray I get my life together some day. *wink + finger guns*
Alrighty, onto Pieces of Herself.
First impression of the little point-and-click story is Wow, these controls are wonky. The side-scrolling was incredibly frustratingly sensitive and it was a little difficult to drag the little objects over to the “doll” on the left side of the screen. Plus it looked like you could still click on the areas where the objects were, but it didn’t do anything, so it gave me a little paranoid feeling that I was missing something (OOF. INTENTIONAL?). I can’t complain too much about the sounds, as the cacophony of sound effects and music clips was undoubtedly intentional.
The overall sense I got from the game, while ominous and foreboding from the black-and-white and jauntiness of the programming, was overwhelming. All the societal expectations of being “female” (whatever that means, amirite?) and being A Good Wife/Girlfriend/Daughter/Woman/Girl (Eeugh.) were expertly represented. Be timid but not boring. Be social but not too much so. Be sexual but no, not like that.(don’t think I didn’t peep that hidden vibe in the living room) Women are meant to be contradictions in society, therefore. But then it’s seen as frustrating when we contradict ourselves…?
That’s… does that make sense? Man, I don’t even know.
Being a woman, I’d like to think I’m over those kinds of expectations and I’m currently actually living as myself, but I suppose there are those self-conscious moments of Am I allowed to do this? or Is it my place to say that/have that opinion? I catch myself seconds later, because maaaaan heck that mentality. I’m allowed to have whatever opinion I want (within reason, tho, let’s be real), and being a woman shouldn’t deter me of choices I make.
(Oof, I’m listening to some inspiration music at the moment so pardon the Emo Turn this post has taken.)
Story-wise, though I feel like a lot of the environment’s little voice clips and such can be relatable and the overall story can be up to interpretation, I know there is an actual story to go along with this particular woman’s environment. Something to do with mental health and gender identity and coming to terms with (and hopefully defying) societal expectations. There really is no “end” that I could find, which only adds to the ominousness of the “Main St.” scene. Did something happen? What’s with the hospital? The cop cars? The car on the far right? What happened to this woman?
I’m looking forward to discussing this piece more in class. This piece as well as Façade. I hope we get to play both, and that we don’t have any more technical problems. Lookin @ you, wi-fi. Get your life together.
I enjoy reading the piece. It is intriguing. I went through an emotional reverse when I read it. I held a high expectation to it, but the “nonsense” shown later astonished me. But it also excited me that I feel a strong intention of the author.
The author Alan Bigelow is a professor in the Interdisciplinary Studies. “Interdisciplinary” would be the theme through the whole piece. Here to learn more about Bigelow: https://www.medaille.edu/alan-bigelow-phd
Walkthrough & Analysis
The first part is “strip”.
It uses comic strips to answer “deep philosophical questions”.
The opening comic is quite interpretative. A woman or man always says, “I am leaving you and finding the real meaning of life.” THEN they runs away with the other man or woman and falls in a new loop. “What is the right answer of life?” that is a philosophical question that has never ever been answered. The starting page reveals the theme of ” strip” part. It speaks of those” nonsense” and tricky questions that we try to but fail to answer in the life.
When we read those questions in advance, we would really think of those philosophically. Whereas, the author gives us a “… “. It is really creepy that we might feel ” a load of bull”, but they are so true that we cannot say they are wrong. The author gives us an interdisciplinary perspectives. He questions what real philosophy is. Should it really base on Aristotle, Schopenhauer or Kant? His answer is NO. Philosophy is about life. We saw things from angles, we got disparate interpretations. Those questions have never ever had “right” answers.
Those strips from the Gloden Age of American Comics are recreated and be given different understandings. #Reconstructing Mayakovsky. It breaks a regular cognitive in literacies and constructs old literature in a new way.
The next part is “Brain”. This part is ” science of idiot”.
The title is a paradox. As the reader asked above:” Who is the idiot?” Who is the author addressing? The idiots could be science itself or the one who believes the “science” is the science. If those scientifical elements have no meanings when they get together, what does the fact really do to us? The author reminds of us reading what behind the “facts” and do not be fooled by “idiots”.
Interestingly, you cannot go back after finishing a topic. I feel like it is a deliberate design. We do not look back what we read as they are nothing. We should feel what we read and remember the astonishing moment. It is a sensation that let us ask WHY? What is the author want to tell us? When science is not presented traditionally, should we accept it traditionally? When things go out of expectation, can we fit in immediately? Can we turn our mind to identify what it is?
That is also a rule in reading elit. We cannot predict what will happen next but we should keep going and exploring.
The last part is “S“. It speaks of ” Higher Math.”
Those ” Googleplex”, “Geometry”, “Irrational Numbers”, ” Addition”, and “Subtraction” are not talk about mathematics. Rather, they applied to explain “values” things. But is it really “valueless”? or how do we define the “value”? Bigelow plays a tricky game with us. He let us hold a high expectation to that stuff. But he fails us. “If you are too serious with them, you are out.” He intends to involve us in playing and enjoy the electronic tour. Science and math should belong to everyone.
Bigelow is not the first one who jokes the science. It reminds me of the Ig Nobel Prize.
According to Improbable Research, Ig Noble Prize awards unusual and imaginative achievements in science, medicine, and technology. Click to know more: https://www.improbable.com/ig/.
Let us learn more about Ig Nobel Prize 2018:
Finally, here is a math test for you.
Again, DO BE SERIOUS. Whatever you choose, the result would be the same.
All in all. Bigelow shows us the possibility of playing knowledge and language. The philosophy, science and math are humorous but satirical. They are connected with politics, ethics and social problems. They are thought-provoking and let us ponder what the real issues behind. They are presented as the powerful language that raises new awareness. The interdisciplinary reconstructing demonstrates more possibilities of elit.
I hecked up, friends. Y’know how you have a thing to do sometimes, but you’re like “mehhh I can wait a bit; I need to rest right now, but I’ll get to it” and then you just… fall asleep?
Case in point: this blog post.
But that’s okay! Because I got to read Brainstrips just after I woke up. And what a wild ride that was.
It’s interesting reading something so offhandedly deep and philosophical so early in the morning, because in that still-tired state, you both miss things and catch things and basically get a whole different story than you would while reading it when you’re fully awake.
Maybe that doesn’t make much sense.
Anyway. I got to experience both Brainstrips and the Taroko Gorge remixes, but I’ll be chatting here about the former just based on the bigger impact it had on me. (Sorry, Vee ;u; )
The “comic” / e-lit piece had what seemed like 2 layers to me (probably more to be honest, but I’m capping it at 2): the ridiculous humor layer, and the serious layer. I considered calling the second layer the “Things We Don’t Want To Talk About Because They’re Too Off-puttingly Serious” layer but the title seems too long to keep typing.
The humor of that first layer is one I’ve seen around the internet a lot, particularly in nihilistic games/posts/etc. A kind of “hahahahah this makes no sense but it’s okay we’re all dying inside” kind of millennial humor.
Regardless of if that makes sense or not, Brainstrips was intriguing in that it explored deep matters–philosophy, morality, environmental awareness–in a sort of flippant way.
Like this. Peak internet humor. Blatant use of wordart. Stock image of a button I could swear I’ve seen floating around the internet in other games/game-type things like this.
In the first section (and the other two, but I’m just focusing on the first right now) we have that comic-style lightheartedness, but with questions in the corner that would stop a person short and either a) make them squirm, or b) start a whole existential discussion that may or may not end in tears and an awkward but good-natured and consoling pat on the back.
Anyway is it just me… or does it give off that feeling like from Back to the Future 2… in a very materialistic future where Everything’s Great but really Everything’s Terrible? Maybe BttF2 is a bad example. I dunno. But do you get what I mean? Like some kind of false-utopian/actually-dystopian genre vibe?
Maybe I’m looking too much into it.
Regarding the questions, Brainstrips is absolutely literary. Comics on their own are a form of literature–a stance which I will defend to my dying breath–and Brainstrips is no different based on formatting alone.
When navigating through the text, I tried changing up what I thought would be The Correct Order of the story by clicking on questions lower on the list before the higher ones on the first page. Turns out the order didn’t matter, but just that small bit of ability to choose was… nice. And frustrating once I realized the choice didn’t matter but hey, that’s life ain’t it.
One more thing before I sign off and finally post this thing. The sounds were a crucial aspect of the piece. Ambient and creepy sometimes, loud and garish at other times, all-around off-putting and perfect the entire time. Sound in a story can make a story. Just look at horror movies/horror games. Watch them/play them with the sound off and you have a whole different experience. There are probably articles on it that’ll get all psychological and such which I’d love to look into, but! That’s for another time!
As for now, I will bid thee adieu with a final screencap from Brainstrips:
See, I’m all about challenging the academy/the establishment/whoever the authority is but, in the case of Taroko Gorge and its remixes, I was a little underwhelmed by the gauntlet being thrown down. I guess, in comparison to other works of Elit I’ve encountered, this body of work just seemed so much less??? That was until I came across an article by our friend Katherine Hayles in which she described the design of Taroko Gorge and its subsequent remixes as a kind of digital assemblage. That’s some art shit. My kind of art shit. Heck yeah. Once I donned those art lenses, I was able to see past the work’s seemingly simple interface and really take a gander and what I was looking at: neo-assemblage. Double heck yeah.
First page of Taroko Gorge for me~
So, assemblage has existed in many forms over the years. Most notably by Picasso and good ol’ Duchamp but also by artist such as Dubuffet (real cool guy with a real cool body of work) and Tatlin. Many Dadaists preferred “photomontage“, a cousin to assemblage and a precursor to Photoshop, while Neo-Dada artists, like Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, preferred to call their process of making works of art from composing found objects into different arrangements “combines“. Assemblage also brings to mind bricolage, which is a kind of “do-it-yourself” combining of seemingly disparate found objects into a whole work (a topic I’m researching for my thesis).
Anyway, art history lesson over, viewing Taroko Gorge and its subsequent remixes such as Along the Briny Beach(2012) by J.R. Carpenter and Tokyo Garage(2009) by Scott Rettberg, as contemporary assemblage, I think, generates some interesting questions about the composing process and its performance–how much of what we write is simply found language, pasted together and given meaning because we decide it has meaning? All of it. But, also, I think viewing these works as digital assemblages helps re-conceptualize the seeming nonsense of their decontextualization.
Self portrait made out of butterfly wings by Dubuffet
Assemblage was a way to help expand the mind beyond the constricting constraints of traditionalism by pairing non-like objects together and asking viewers to read them as related, as a new whole. Taroko Gorge and, especially, Along the Briny Beach, seem to do something similar in the ways both works make use of their lexia and display. Taroko Gorge places absurdly paired wording in a traditional strophic form while Along the Briny Beach does the same, even using quotes about beaches and the sea from traditional literature, but adds further complexity to the canvas, so to speak, by having 3 additional strings of lexia run horizontally across the screen, one string invisible until an image of a beach slides behind the otherwise background-colored text, revealing it. Kind of overwhelming at first, tbh. Both pose unique challenges to readers and their processes of reading and processing information. But, they also offer so many fascinating possibilities in regards to both. Like with Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue, there are no clear answers and there is certainly no easy sense of closure. Only limitless possibility. A large expanse of blank space open to interpretation.
My first page of Along the Briny Beach~
I’m reminded of what Hayles said in an earlier article of her’s we read–that there is no story; only readings. I think this concept applies to Taroko Gorge and its many remixes (and also too many works of assemblage). The traditional notion of authorship is blown out of the water by pieces like these. The program combines the text into stanzas. And, I would argue, the traditional notion of reading is also obliterated by the infinite scroll. I can’t go back. I can only watch. Watch and remember. In this way, the poem becomes a little bit mine–for as long as I can remember it. This work and its design places readers in this odd space, somewhere half-between passive observer and cognitively engaged participant. Along the Briny Beach and Tokyo Garage similarly place readers in this limbo.
My first page of my fave Tokyo Garage~
The text that slowly inches up the screen is often intellectually or aesthetically or poetically stimulating but, at the same time, its steady and unending ascent can make the text become this endless stream of nonsense, without clear purpose or intent to guide reading. In some ways, these works read as a kind of counter-to, anti-poetry. There is no inherent meaning. No specific place to start nor any closure. At the same time, though, there seems to be this invitation to meditate on the use of language to convey poetic thought and aesthetic appeal and just beauty. What does any of this language really capture? It’s all words. What is beautiful about their repetitive recombinations? Anything? What is the function of poetry and language, especially in this digital age where forms of aesthetic representation are vast and varied and so easily accessible but so rarely able to be appreciated?
Ultimately, I think Taroko Gorge and its remixes provide a way for readers to explore their own preconceptions about language, semiotics, authorship, authorial intent, and reader expectations. The works certainly challenge many traditional conceptions of these topics. But, I think viewing these works as both digital and cognitive kinds of assemblages allows these works to become a question about the overall nature of composing, creating, and interpreting meaning and signification in online spaces as well. At the very least, doing so engaged me with the work in a new–and interesting–way and provided me with a way to develop insight I might not have otherwise.
When I was looking for the e-lit piece I wanted to present, I knew I had to pick something creative. Something story-driven and maybe just a bit weird. Don’t get me wrong, all of the pieces in the Electronic Literature Collection are extremely creative. Many are story-driven, as well. And many are so very very weird. But something about Hobo Lobo of Hamelinreally struck me as The One. Maybe it was the story line blending old fable and modern socio-political commentary. Maybe it was the blended setting of Renaissance and 21st century. Maybe it was the really cool color schemes and site design and music and sketchiness and humor and subtle (and not so much) grotesqueness of it all–
Okay, it was a lot of things, so here goes nothing.
Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is a webcomic, a medium I am relatively familiar with, posted from 2011-2014. It is, according to the Hobo Lobo ELC page, “a digital pop-up book about a city, its scruples, some rats, a wolf, his woodwind and the stuff that goes down.” Sounds simple, but it turns out to be a lot more complicated than that. Just one look at the first page gives the reader an expectation of something lighthearted and playful, but… it’s clear by the third “panel” of “page” one–(see: “coked-up rats… freaking everybody out” as citizens of Hamelin try to “get them to fuck off”)–that this story will be a lot more real than originally thought.
There are a few topics I’d like to hit in my exploration of Hobo Lobo, and I’ll put them here in a nice little list so I don’t forget:
Background – programs, author, inspiration, etc.
Story – a simple fable twisted beyond recognition
Themes – the eerie way the tale has aged and “predicted the future”
“More to come…” – ???
Will I be able to cover everything in extensive detail? Probably not. But hey, we’re all friends here. All human. Let’s just go with the flow and maybe we’ll discover some things together.
First, we’ll check out the behind the scenes, or the back end, of the piece, starting with its author.
Stevan Živadinović of San Antonio, Texas, is a graphic designer, artist, video game design teacher at a creative youth development program, creator of “comics and comic-like things,” and overall a pretty rad dude, if his Twitter and Tumblr are anything to go by. (Note: they are; he’s pretty active.)
On the main Hobo Lobo website, Živadinović has linked his professional portfolio page detailing his credentials, projects, areas of expertise, and contact links. It’s an aesthetically pleasing page with charmingly simple (yet still professional) language and a subtle, almost dry humor (see “Marketing that is dead inside,” “I make things special,” etc.) that carries over into Hobo Lobo. There’s also the quirkily “hidden” background/statistics/about/credits page helpfully titled “What is this thing?” It’s kind of like an info-dump on that page. Any questions you want answered (and others you didn’t know you wanted answered) can be found there.
Živadinović linked to a tutorial on building said framework and throwing everything together on that info-dump page I mentioned, for those crazy kids out there who want to make their own side-scrolling web comic. He claims himself that the formatting is “janky as hell” under the Technical Considerations section, but personally I find it adds to the sketchy charm of the piece.
I can’t say I’m well-versed in back end stuff like this–coding and site-building and whatnot–so I’ll cap it off here, but as far as I’ve seen, the amount of work and consideration that went into this multimedia work is incredibly impressive. Feel free to peruse those links I gave. There’s some quirky coding throughout that’s arguably as enjoyable as Hobo Lobo itself.
Ah, one more interesting thing I noticed: Živadinović mentioned some of his influences for Hobo Lobo in his parallax tutorial, one of which was MS Paint Adventures. Color me surprised, as I was neck deep in that fandom several years ago. Turns out you can never really escape Homestuck. Learning this, though, I can see the connections–the dry humor, the deep story hidden by lighthearted visuals, the charming music, the multimedia aspects. Maybe it’s fate I picked this comic, then. Or it’ll go terribly wrong and we’re in a doomed timeline, and–
Let’s move on.
ELC’s editorial statement summed up the story as: “A wolf turned Renaissance journeyman travels to the town of Hamelin where the local mayor refuses to pay him for ridding the town of ‘coked-up rats.'” That’s… honestly exactly what we have.
It’s a liner story, nothing crazy or hard to follow. Despite the multimedia aspects, a majority of the story is told through text. Let’s go with like… 35% text, 55% visual imagery, 15% cool animations, 5% rad tunes.
Those statistics are not real, I’m just conjecturing. Bottom line, there’s a lot of text / visuals.
As for content, Hobo Lobo is a curious blend of old and new–“medieval Pied Piper”/”European folktale” and the modern-day-esque, political and media disaster of a town called Hamelin. Even the characters themselves are a mix of this old and new. Heck, even the genre itself and the design choices down to the coding are a mix. It’s really cool.
We’ll read the story together in class (I’d like to get through the whole thing, as it’s not particularly long), but I’d still like to touch a bit on the main characters of Hobo Lobo.
First, we have the story of the Mayor, whose name is literally Mayor Dick Mayor–(did I say subtle humor earlier? I take it back). The mayor runs a “progressive Fascist-Calvinist coalition government” in Hamelin–(essentially, for those like me who can’t really keep political anything straight, it’s an ultra-religious dictatorship). He’s… a terrible and corrupt politician who ignores due process, goes to psychics for advice, and wants to purge the city of rats–all for the purpose of staying in power during the next election.
Hm……… Interesting………… That’s not familiar at all………………..
He’s cryptically told to hire a professional.
Thus enters Hobo Lobo, the “protagonist” of sorts.
This “Renaissance Journeyman” rolls into town ready to accept any job he can for the barest of fees. Seems a little too good of a match for our Mayor Dick Mayor.
It’s interesting in the beginning–seeing the way these two characters are set up. The mayor gives a very established, power-driven but laissez-faire vibe. Words that come to mind when thinking about his character, to me, include: manufactured, corrupt (-ed and -ing), uncaring, misled, ignorant, perfection-seeking, power-hungry, modern (in the bleakest sense).
Hobo Lobo, on the other hand, from the very start has more of an old but carefree vibe. Words like versatile, pure (in a weird sense), supernatural/fantasy (see: page, folklore come to mind. (I’m struggling to find the right words, but basically: he’s a complex character that juxtaposes the mayor… but when you think a little harder they have some things in common. Would it be selfishness, perhaps?) You get the sense that he knows what’s up from the get-go regarding his eventual deal with the mayor, but it would seem that a more base need wins out in Lobo’s moral dilemma.
Continuing this look at blending old and new, simple and complex: the plot itself is another element. We start off with a simple story about a simple (but grim) deal made in a town–one that could take place in any setting and for now seems to be more medieval than anything–but come to realize that there are more complex things at play here. Socio-political unrest, religious zealots in power, xenophobia, genocide, the effect of the media (Fourth Estate)… All of which… is uncannily relevant.
Which brings us to the themes of Hobo Lobo.
Let’s start with the obvious. Hobo Lobo is very politically charged, showcasing political extremism, complacency for that extremism, racial and social ignorance, and overall exacerbation by the media (which, in Hobo Lobo, is aptly named “Fourth Estate” in a logo startlingly reminiscent of General Electric and another of Fox News).
As I am not particularly one for going on and on about politics, so I won’t be touching too much on it (aside from opening the floor for discussion, of course), I’ll just point out that this piece was written in 2014. While the themes were relevant back then, it was more of an extreme future–a laughable 1984-esque dystopian dream.
In our year 2018.
It’s safe to say that Stevan Živadinović predicted the future.
That’s really all I’ll say about that, unless anyone has any comments they’d like to bring up about anything socio-political or Fourth Estate. Feel free to discuss!
There is one other topic that I would like to touch on, though. The rats.
The rats, while not given much of a voice in the story, are portrayed in a somewhat polarized way. The narrator and the mayor both boast about how the rats are “freaking people out” (p. 1) and “destroying the livelihoods of taxpayers” (p.2), but on the third page, we’re given a wordless panorama of their lives–a vibrant array of who rats are as a people. You can even see it subtly throughout the second page, as rats go about their lives and get help from Lobo, as well.
It’s a brief snapshot, the beginning of the third page, but it works, because the rats’ absence is felt very strongly in the subsequent page. “This was noticed” (p. 3.2), but the mayor and media gloated of this great achievement of historical significance. It’s a testament to the rampant xenophobia/racism of today–of the fear of someone “different,” the impact of their absence to a society, and the disgusting, prideful sense of achievement when that society is consequently seen as “free” from that “different” force.
“More to come…”
The seventh page of Hobo Lobo is, in one word, haunting. You can tell on the previous page that Lobo is fed up with the mayor, with Hamelin’s ignorance, with the whole of society, and so he comes to a decision with a swift kick and a busted radio.
The anticipation that builds up with the seventh page, and the realization of what Lobo is doing–luring the town’s children in that same Pied Piper-esque way that he lured the rats to their deaths–is like watching the second shoe drop. That simple, almost righteous vibe Lobo gave off earlier crumbles away–purely visually, which is even more powerful–and you get a sick sense that there really are no “good” characters in this story.
And he must realize it, too, with that distraught, perhaps even self-loathing, look to him. This must go against everything about his character, but it must also give him some kind of twisted satisfaction to get revenge. The question is, which one wins out? Will he regret this decision or accept it and be satisfied by it?
I’m sure that that is what we would find out later on in the story… but this is the final page, and has been for about four years. According to that Info-Dump page…
… it’s been a while. That chart there represents the days between pages. It looks like an update won’t be coming in the near future. (Which is fair! It’s common in the fanfiction world; life gets in the way and updates come few and far between. It’s also a mood, I say as I recall a story I started sophomore year of high school that is only halfway finished… I’m a graduate student… Actually, Hobo Lobo started the same year I started that story. Ha. Small world.)
Anyway, honestly? This “final page” acting as an ending is… actually perfect. Hauntingly poetic. Stories with no definite ending that leave you with more questions than answers, with a sense of worry in your gut for what comes next and dreaded acceptance that you’ll never find out… they’re really cool. Especially a deeply morally-rooted and horribly relatable one as this.
Were this story to continue…what do you think the ending would be? Are the children okay? What will Lobo do? What will become of the mayor? the town?
And, considering the eerily similar state of our own society today, as touched on earlier, what does that say about the future of our society? Are we waiting for the second shoe to drop? Where are we in the Hobo Lobo story? What will become of us?
Well. I’d say that about wraps up my little exploration of Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. Props to Stevan Živadinović for “[MAKING] A THING” that would turn out to be a masterpiece on modern-day socio-political commentary and complex moral dilemma.