Hopeful Monster: Exploring an ELit Frankenstein of Hypertext & Kinetic Poetry~

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This week, we’ve finally begun our much-anticipated exploration of Elit. (Perhaps, it’s only much-anticipated on my end though…?)

Delving into Elit ❤

As I may have mentioned before, I’ve taken a few courses already on ELiterature and networked narratives. And so, I’ve already developed a bit of a soft spot for the genre. I find the experimentation and spontaneity and interactivity of Elit to be engaging in a way that is not better than traditional literature but that allows for more of my senses to be involved in the experience of the work. It’s different. Especially when it comes to poetry and prose shared in this genre, I find something special and almost magickal about the work.

I’ve often heard criticism that digital work–writing and art, particularly–are somehow less meaningful for their “digital-ness.” Like, because a work is made to be experienced through a digital interface, it is somehow inherently less capable of  conveying meaning or initiating meaningful dialogue. Or, more simply, it’s just less.

That line of thinking couldn’t be farther from my own. More, it couldn’t be farther from the truth of my own experience of both interacting with works of Elit and with making my own work of Elit.

Two particular works of Elit that come to mind when I think of ones that have touched me are Jason Nelson’s This is How You Will Die and Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive. I mentioned Nelson’s work earlier when discussing Dada in new digital media and have written at length about this particular work. Nelson’s work is a kind of kinetic poetry with a dash of generative fiction thrown in. As for Porpentine’s work, I went into great detail about my thoughts on this piece here.  The “story” is a work of hypertext fiction created using Twine (a platform of which I’m not so much a fan myself but that seems to work amazingly for other people) and it is an absolutely beautiful work. I love everything about it from the diction used to the background sounds and the colours. Read my full review of it if you want but I found this work of Elit to be a particularly poignant articulation and exploration of experiencing trauma and moving on from it. (*Fun fact, this work was on display at the Whitney Museum’s 2017 Biennial exhibit and I got to see it~)

Revisiting EPoetry and Prose ❤

For this week, I decided to explore another work of EPoetry/Prose from the 3rd volume of the Elit collection. The work I chose is Ask Me for the Moon by John David Zuern. It is a work of kinetic poetry. The lines of the poetry in the piece ebb and flow into each other likes waves on the shore of a beach.

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*The work starts with one line of poetry that overlaps and fades until it becomes the horizon for a slowly increasing cityscape–that of Waikīkī, this work being set in Hawaii.

Once you enter the work–by clicking on the screen in order to “ask me for the moon”–there are also missing spaces in some of the lines and particular quoted phrases in some of the lines too. These differences in the lines are filled in by excerpts from related works once the poem finishes ebbing and flowing out and from the screen. The poem will fade into the background and either the quoted phrase or the blank space will be emphasized as an excerpt from another work fades in on the screen.

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The contents of the introduced excerpts revolve around the colonization and industrialization of Hawaii. More, around the commodification of the islands’ themselves, their natural resources, and the natives’ culture. The seen vs. the unseen is also invoked by this piece as the images one clicks to engage with the poetry are of different kinds of labor and work–the line of these images cutting across a beach scene at night. In the editorial statement for this work, these decisions are described as such:

“John David Zuern’s Ask Me For the Moon is a digital poem created in Adobe Flash using juxtaposed images, words, and sounds, to create the feeling of the labor behind the scenes at a Hawaii resort. The images and colors (black, white, and turquoise dominate) paint a picture of Waikiki that is emphasized in Zuern’s notes on the piece, which observe that at the time the piece was made there was approximately one worker for every two and a half visitors to Waikiki. The text of the piece plays over the faded gray landscape of the island, while the moving pictures depict fragments of labor moving through like waves along the shore. The visual poetics serve as a poignant reminder of how much work is done at night, out of sight of the tourists who swarm the island.”

Zuern says of his own work, “I was looking for a way to bring concrete details of my experience of working in Waikīkī into some kind of dialogue with what I was learning about the history and politics of the tourism industry in Hawai‘i. I wanted the poetry to quote but also, in a sense, to inhabit and illuminate the writing of philosophers and critics, calling attention to their own deployment of image and metaphor. At the time, it seemed important to keep the file size as small as possible, and notions of compression and constraint wound up governing many of my formal considerations, including my decision to write in haiku, to employ a somewhat restricted vocabulary and palette, and to include small images with minimal animation.”

For his purposes, I think Zuern’s work becomes a compelling commentary. At first, I was thrown off by the constrained format and the minimal amount of direction/interactivity of the work but once I realized the scope of the content of the work, I began to appreciate the aesthetic and technical decisions of the work. It’s definitely more simple than many other contemporary works of Elit but I think that simplicity makes a statement about what is being lost. In that way, I think this work transcends itself.

What do you think, though? More, what do you feel when engaging with this work? Do you feel the loss, the longing for a return to something simpler? Or, do you feel something else?

On Making Our Own Elit

If we are making our own works of Elit, I’m definitely interested in making a work of EPoetry/Prose. So far, I’ve translated my poetry into metalworks (which is a process, let me tell you) but I would like to expand into Elit with it. The work of Elit I created before was one of prose and so I would definitely like to expand upon what I can do with Elit and the medium.

That said, I would like to express concern with the time-frame for creating this Elit piece–if we are. I had an entire semester to work on the other piece of Elit I made and during that semester I was learning how to use many different kinds of tools and whatnot to create my piece. It was a whole, long process. And, even then, it was still a struggle to create the work I did due to how long it takes to do anything/translate anything it seems into a digital format as well as how overall challenging and strenuous it can be. There were many, many ideas and drafts scrapped along the way.

Anyway, I guess I just want to both inform, maybe, expectations as well as ask for a clearer understanding of what will be expected of us if we are making a work of Elit.

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Links

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Goodies

Porpentine’s Twitter

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Bots & Whatnot~

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Beep-Beep-Boo-Bot: Revisiting Bots

So, at this point in my exploration of the digital humanities, I’m not unfamiliar with bots. In fact, I’ve written about them at length before. More, I’ve written about the ethics or lack thereof of bots here.

This isn’t to say that I’ve, by any means, said all there is to say about bots, just that I have thought about them and their functions in detail before. And, more, as far as interacting with and creating bots, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Anyway, that disclosed, let’s get to this week’s activities!

First, after discussing what a bot is for those who are unfamiliar with them, we explored some different bots on Twitter. I decided to check out some of the bots mentioned in this article by Lainna Fader. Since I already do follow a lot of bots (mostly sappy poetry ones #itswhoiamasapersonsorrynotsorry), I wanted to check out some ones that come highly recommended~

Two of my favorites were the @420worldclock bot and the @wikisext bot. Totally nsfw but pretty Great~ @420worldclock seems to co-opt the the adage I’m writing this at 4:20pm AHHHHH btw~ “It’s always happy hour somewhere” to “It’s 4:20 somewhere” and tweet out about that.

Meanwhile, @wikisext is pretty self-explanatory, no???

Personally, I think this bot gives Great advice >.< Totally recommend checking out for yourself~ (if it’s your cup of tea)

After interacting with and exploring a few bots, next, we put our newly-found bot prowess to the test to see if we could differentiate between bot poetry and, you know, traditional poetry. Not as easy as it sounds???

Check it:

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For the most part, I was able to identify Poe, Dickinson, Neruda, some Keats, and some Blake but, in my opinion, including e.e. cummings was just unfair >.> I mean, have you read his work??? Come on!

There were also some really Great works that totally should be famous poems. Like, look at this:

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Genius. Absolutely Great.

…Anyway, moving on~

I found it interesting to see just how similar some bot-generated poetry could be to works written by people. For some of the works, it was easily to spot the thing that made the poetry come alive. That human hand. But, for a surprising number, it was rather difficult to identify them as bot-generated. I’m not sure what that implicates for the future of the medium and of technology but it’s certainly interesting.

Revisiting Making Bots

After exploring the medium and discussing some of the functions and applications of bots, both positive and nefarious, we got to the crux of the matter: making our bots.

Now, as I mentioned, I’ve already made a bot. This pesky, circle-talking faerie… (she talks a little very-scary but don’t worry too much~ she’s harmless ^.^)

So, I didn’t really experience much difficulty in the process of creating one. It took me some time to come up with a format for the things I wanted the bot to say, though. I got a topic I wasn’t overly enthused with discussing thank Alan. So, that took some time to develop. I came up with some Great hashtags, though, in my opinion… #zuckers, #zuckit, #zuckoff…. I mean, come on–those are Great ^.^

I didn’t really get much interaction with my bot-generated content, though. One person outside of the #netnarr scope did like a tweet, which was marginally exciting:

Aside from that interaction, the most I got on my tweets was a comment here:

and a retweet here:

along with a few likes here and there as well~

I’d say some of my replies to some tweets got more interaction. For example, this thread:

It generated some interaction amongst multiple users in the #netnarr sphere, at least. Other than that, I mostly felt like I was having one-sided conversations with other users~ (which, isn’t really all that different from most conversations I’ve had with other Twitter accounts tbh~ in my experience, most aren’t super responsive to comments??).

Don’t think I really influenced anyone all that much with my tweets but maybe some targeted hashtags could change that?? I’m not interested in keeping this bot running past this week, though. I like my personal account to be more organic~

I mean, look at the difference in my bot-reading that only a few days made:

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Added a few of my accounts for comparison~

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My bot-rating jumped from 29% before using bot-generated content to 41% after incorporating only a few days worth of bot-generated content. It’s kind of odd that it’s the same percentage though as my other account, @hellsskell24, which has never had any bot content on it. And, to be honest, I kind of expected my actual bot account, @noxsiog, to have a higher bot-rating. I mean, it is a bot.

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting experience. I wish we could have generated more discussion within the #netnarr thread, at least, but I still like this approach to teaching bots. It’s interactive and creative~

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Links

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Killing It: Some spooky/creepy/disturbing little stories I wrote inspired by bot prompts/nonsense #shamelessselfpromotion

Goodies

Some bots I highly recommend following:

@DothTheDoth

@SICKOFWOLVES

*I mean, this is Great.

@DarkRothko

@s8n

~Till Next Time~

Gaming the System

*Much less fun than it sounds~

Painting the Town Red

This week, we talked about redlining–basically denying services either directly or indirectly to residents in certain areas of a city or town based upon the ethnic makeup of the residents. More specifically, we talked about the idea of digital redlining and how online algorithms can play a part in the contemporary implementation of redlining practices.

In order to learn more about digital redlining and how it works, we watched a fascinating talk led by Chris Gilliard:

Aside from this talk, Chris also contributed to this article about how digital redlining operates at the university level. Essentially, the appropriate use policies (AUPs) can become knowledge-blocks for many students at community institutions. Being that community colleges are typically populated by working-class individuals, many of whom come from a more ethnically diverse background, this problem becomes one of digital redlining.

Because online spaces are where an increasing number of people primarily get their information from, restrictions such as these become not just issues of inequality and accessibility but of ethics as well. If the flow of information is restricted, then people simply cannot make informed decisions about things that can greatly affect the quality of their lives. More, by restricting access of certain knowledge, power is given to those who are not restricted. A game in which certain players are given all the knowledge and all the power while others are left totally unawares is not much of a game. At least, it’s not a very fun game, to say the least.

What I find particularly awful about the whole issue is that those who are being most affected by digital redlining are the ones who would have no idea, who are not informed and have no means of becoming informed. That is the game. This is especially sickening considering how often technology and the Internet are lauded as being “great equalizers”. The truth that so few have access those is that both could not be any farther from. You might even consider digital redlining the 2.0 version of the original–now new and improved.

Painting Newark, NJ Red

In order to learn just how close to home the issue of redlining is, this week in class we investigated possible instances of it occurring in nearby Newark, NJ. The activity asked us first to review this map charting inequality in the city and then to choose from a variety of other services to see if the locations of those services were possibly affected by the inequality of wealth revealed in the initial map.

I chose to see if there was any correlation between the historical redlining of Newark and the location of license plate reader (LPR) cameras. This is what I found:

https://h5p.org/h5p/embed/215322

In researching whether or not a kind of redlining is still present in Essex County, specifically in Newark, NJ, I noticed a possible correlation between LPR camera locations and the location of Newark’s poorer areas.

According to the LPR map, there is a cluster of LPR cameras located in the center of Newark, sandwiched between 2 areas (Third Ward and the Ironbound) identified by the inequality tracking map as “hazardous” zones. Now, this cluster could be related to the close proximity of Newark Penn Station–a major travel hub–but upon inspection of other large, travel hubs in the area, like the nearby Paterson rail station, that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, there’s only 1 LPR location remotely near the Paterson rail station compared to the 5 LPR locations within a few blocks of each other near Newark Penn Station.

So, perhaps the cluster of LPR locations in Newark relates more to the “hazardous” designation of the overall area? What do you think?

My Make

Personally, I was quite surprised to notice a possible correlation even though I, myself, having grown up nearby, know there areas of Newark I want to avoid, especially at certain times. Driving into Newark this weekend, actually, for a concert, I found myself thinking more deeply about the issue of potholes on 21–the main drag through the city. 21 stretches across Essex county and into Bergen county–where I now reside. There is a clear distinction between the amount of potholes encountered, though, between the two counties. More specifically, between the city limits of Newark and the surrounding areas. Seems potholes on 21 are more worth filling outside of the city >.>

Returning to Sound

In contrast to the rather depressing topic of redlining and its digital counterpart, this week also had us finishing up our work on interacting with empathy games. (I think an empathy game about digital redlining could be pretty good, yeah?)

Anyway, this other activity had us recording questions about empathy games designed by students in Prof. Maha Bali’s class in Cairo, Egypt. Prof. Bali’s students would then record and upload their responses to the shared padlet. Once all the audio components were available, we had to download them and use them to create a new, cohesive whole–an “interview” of sorts in Audacity.

Now, I don’t really like working with audio myself but I think my project turned out pretty well. There are some rough patches in it and, of course, there’s how awful I think I sound recorded but, other than those *minor* issues, I am pleasantly surprised with how my interview turned out. But, don’t take my word for it.

Have a listen yourself:

Mainly, I think my intonation is off in some places and conflicts with prior recordings which makes it obvious that this was not recorded all at once. Also, for some reason, I think I sound more condescending in places where I didn’t intend to and I don’t know why???? Audio is weird.

But, again, what do you think?

I was going for this being like a podcast of sorts–hence the jazzy intro and outro~ Does that vibe come through or nah? What’s your impression of this work?

Jazzy Intro & Outro

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

~Till next time~

Throwing Those Games Together~

(Heads up: This post may not be as put-together as usual due to the holiday weekend and because I’ve been doing research for my thesis proposal >.<)

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What Makes a Game???

In class this week, we continued our discussions from last week about 1) games, specifically online/electronic games, and 2) audio and using it as a medium for storytelling. Both lines of inquiry still new to me and a little daunting tbh~

Anyway, to begin with, we watched a video that talked about the different ways you can classify games. Check it:

More specifically, this video talked about classifying game-play via what of 3 aspects–Planning, Practice, or Improvisation–a creator wants to emphasize. As I had never heard of doing this before, I found it to be interesting. I tend to classify what few games I’ve come into contact with along much simpler lines–is it a fighting game? (like Smash Brothers or Mortal Kombat), a strategy game? (like Minecraft or chess), is it a “story” game? (like Assassin’s Creed or The Game of Life), or is it a “silly” game? (like Super Mario Cart or Cards Against Humanity).

Kind of similar but still different. Of course, my simpler classifications don’t necessarily address “combination games” or ones that utilize multiple aspects of game-play which is becoming increasing popular to do (which is a good way to appeal to a larger audience–so long as each aspect is appropriately juggled–but also a super easy way to please no one by trying to please everyone~).

After talking about the ins-and-outs of game-play as a whole, we moved on to discussing what we personally value in a game. In order to do this, we actually wrote out our thoughts on the classroom’s whiteboard. This way, we could see everyone’s thoughts and the overlap. Here are my thoughts:

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And here are everyone’s thoughts:

Even though I don’t play many fighting games, I do find those to be interesting–because of the inherent conflict, probably–and so most of my thoughts about what makes for good game-play revolve around them. I want the ability to level-up or to activate certain “powers” or special abilities and of course I want worthwhile match-ups and an interesting overall conflict. That quality could be broadened to be an interesting story-line period. Most of us seemed to value a compelling story-line–we want to relate to not only the characters but the story they are acting out. (In hindsight, it’s interesting that we all seemed to answer this question through the lens of us playing as characters in a story scenario~)

Other traits that we all seemed to agree were valuable in a game were there being a tutorial mode or else clearly explained directions, being able to auto-save our place in game, and there being an expansive “world” to the game.

Blast from the Past

After discussing game-play, we were introduced to the Internet Archive’s Software Library of MS-DOS Games. Basically, it’s a collection of old online/digital games. We got to peruse the library and experience what is was like to play some older games. Once we got a bit of a feel for them, then we each chose one game we were interested in learning more about. The game that caught my fancy was Alley Cat.

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What the screen looks like when you start to play~ (I’m currently free-falling in the upper-left corner >.< But you can see Felicia in the bottom left window!)

According to the info provided in the archive, Alley Cat was a video game released by the Synapse Software Corporation (1981-1984) in 1984. There was an Atari 8-bit version of the game as well (released in 1983). Alley Cat was designed to be an action game “consisting of several mini-games tied together”. According to the Wikipedia article for this game, the several mini-games are:

  • “In one room there’s a table with a birdcage on it in the middle of the room. Here the objective is to push the birdcage off the table and then catch the bird which escapes from the broken cage.
  • In another room, there’s a fishbowl which the cat can enter and must eat all the fish while dodging electric eels and repeatedly coming up for air to avoid drowning.
  • Yet another room contains a huge chunk of cheese with a number of holes. In each hole mice appear randomly, which the cat must catch.
  • The cat may also find itself in a room with a number of sleeping dogs, some of which have feeding dishes in front of them. The cat must empty each dish without waking up any of the dogs.
  • In another challenge, the cat must collect three ferns from the top of a bookshelf while avoiding a disproportionately large spider that may lower itself upon the cat from above.”

Now, I feel I should backtrack and provide more info about the actual concept of the game in order for this above list to make sense. Basically, in Alley Cat, you’re playing as a *you guessed it* little black, alley cat–named Freddie–who is trying to reach the pretty white cat–Felicia–who lives in one of the apartments on the other side of the fence from his alley. In the process of trying to find the correct apartment Felicia is in–by jumping from garbage cans to fences to clothing lines to open apartment windows all while dodging the boots and garbage being thrown at you–you’ll end up in many different apartments that all have their own challenges to complete (as you can see from the above list).

According to WikipediaAlley Cat has 30 levels of increasing difficulty. Upon reaching level 30, though, game-play can continue indefinitely.

Now, full disclosure, I didn’t get very far trying to complete level-fucking-one. I could barely get Freddie to jump on the garbage cans lets alone get him to jump from clothing lines to open windows.

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(Actual visual of me trying to play this game >.<)

So, I would decided not call this an easy game to play. At least, not for someone’s only prior experience in playing online games is Neopets >.>

Don’t let my poor performance deter you though! Have a go at it and let me know how you do?? How would you classify this game??? Personally, I think it’s primarily a practice-focused game (the object to complete a task over and over until it is mastered) though it does have some aspect of planning to it (you’ve got to have a strategy for picking out those windows, you know??? Gotta find Felicia!).

So….What’s the Story??

So, I definitely didn’t have time this week to come up with a full backstory for this game but I did imagine that Freddie and Felicia were both feral cats who lived happily in the alley behind this apartment complex until Felicia was “rescued” by one of the tenants and adopted. That’s why she keeps peeking out the windows–trying both to escape and to tell Freddie where she is so he can come and be with her again. It’s kind of a combination “damsel-in-distress”/”forbidden romance”–’cause male feral cats typically have a bad rep and are less desired for it–story.

Sorry Felicia >.< that’s kind of my fault too~

I’d love to sit down and write this story if I get the chance but I hope my imagination is good enough for now~

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

Twit 1 & Twit 2

*So, I added my questions to the Padlet and I see that Ayah and Manar have uploaded their answers to my questions (plus another draft of their game that I really need to check out!) but I’m still working on editing the audio. Tbh, it really helps me out that we have 2 weeks to work on this project. Because so many of us are unfamiliar with working with audio, I think it’s helpful to provide us with more time to work on audio projects. The end results of our work, too, I think will benefit from that extra time to spend with them.

Goodies

*Have you check out the NetNarr Alchemy Lab??? If not, why not??? It’s so cool and it came out beautiful. It’s a great example of how all the different things we’re learning about in class–digital art, Elit, gaming, audio, etc.–cane come together to create a really compelling work of art. More, it’s a great example of how collaboration can facilitate creativity in new and fun and exciting ways ^.^ I’m so happy I to be a part of this project.

*My bone-chilling, spooky, cannibally part of the NetNarr Alchemy Lab for anyone who didn’t already check it out XD~

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~Till Next Time~