We all had the pleasure of passing another insightful #elitclass (despite the collective stress) thanks to two smart presentations by both Sun & Maura. This was the week of #elit dystopias. I couldn’t think of a more fitting moment to consider the way that” life imitates art” as much as “art imitates life”. These were not easy pieces to decipher, but Sun & Maura were able to astutely deconstruct the inner workings of these challenging texts, via both navigational insight and interpretative prowess.
Letter to Linus
I am so glad that Sun selected Letter to Linus, a six-node-hyptertext that is an important comment on the struggle between “creative potentiality and the juridical and economic forces that would regulate, patent, and encrypt language.” (ELC 2) The piece is a work of electronic fiction based on the structure of a cube – it comprises six pages, each of which links to four others. The reader begins with a picture of an unfolded cube and a phrase in each square, and when the reader has finished reading a poem, they can choose a phrase related to a verb at the end of the last stanza, moving on to the next poem. In this dystopian multidimensional “communique”, all of the poems are about the human need for language and expression.
The letter writer begs Linus to return because communication systems are falling apart. Libraries are in ruins. The government and corporations seem to be patentening languages. Local dialects are fading out. Words are bought and sold, churning out new languages each year. While the rich can speak freely, the poor must pirate dictionaries. The government has patented language for security purposes. Once the reader finds out that people need to pay to use words, it makes the writer’s decision to illegally write to Linus more compelling as there is a sense of urgency. In short, the citizens of this future have no way of communicating news or feelings to each other, leaving the world in a state of ignorance and mistrust. Sun’s questions, interactive prompts, the TED talk she shared, and her astute close readings helped us see the significance of both our words and our silences, and the role that language plays in the attibution and distribution of power. The piece is indeed about language, power, and the significance of multilieracies in our world. Who gets to speak, in what spaces, and for what reasons? Who upholds the languages we are forced to speak? An how are other languages unauthorized? When do our silences say more than any words we may offer?
Next up was Maura’s thoughtful presentation on Reconstructing Mayakovsky. I think she did a great job of making sense of this purposely “non-sensical” pastiche. Reconstructing Mayakovsky is both an elaborate and challenging piece. This complex hybrid media “novel” gives us a trace-glimpse of a world from the future – a dystopia where uncertainty and discord have been eliminated through the corporatized promise of “freedom” and the power of technology. Reconstructing Mayakovsky revisits the past to make sense of our chaotic present. (Just as “Past Me” Maura has to deal with “Present Me” Maura – see her tweet below).
Author and digital artist, Illya Szilak, uses a variety of medias and methods, including manifestos, texts, animations, podcasts, music, and data visualisations. Her interactive multimodal multivalent mediascape-come-novel employs a variety of fiction genres to bring to life Vladimir Mayakovsky – a Russian Futurist poet who killed himself in 1930 at the age of thirty-six. If you haven’t had a chance yet, is worth taking a bit of time to read Maura’s blog which is a thoughtful analysis of all that is at work in this complex and layered work of art:
Invitations for next week!
Your to-do list:
Read Amber’s selection: Redshift & Portalmetal
Read Karel’s selection: RedRidinghood
Take a deep breath, practice patience, and I will see you next week!