Re-imagining Assemblage in the Taroko Gorge Remix Collection~

Some Reassembly Required…

Taroko Gorge (2009) is a work of generative poetry created by Nick Monfort and inspired by a body of poetry written about the Taiwanese national park of the same name. Lines of poetry are generated via a JavaScript program, designed to format each line of the work in a specific way. Monfort states, “…this generator forms strophes that begin and end with a “path” line and may have one or more more static “site” lines in between. Between each pair of such strophes is a “cave” line that trails off, as if into darkness, like the tunnels in the park that were carved by Chiang Kai-shek‘s Nationalist army.” Essentially, the work is designed to generate a pattern that alternates between providing a pairing or grouping of lines and a singular line. That singular line always ends with an em-dash, inviting readers into the void beyond the text. Inviting readers to walk beyond where the sidewalk ends. This text is produced limitlessly, the poem without an end until the reader decides to stop reading and exit the screen.  The work’s generative programming challenges traditional notions of authorship and of agency in navigating a text (how do I know when to stop reading?), has inspired multiple creative and compelling remixes (which I’ll get to), and was not very interesting to me at first (tbh).

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 shitHeck 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.

Taroko Gorge 1

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.

5-paulhan

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.

Along the Briny Beach

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.

Tokyo Garage 1

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.

Sources

Taroko Gorge collection

“Literary Texts as Cognitive Assemblages: The Case of Electronic Literature”

 

~Till next time~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

 

 

Advertisements

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Journalism!

“It’s like journalism–only better.” (pg. 6, slide 3)

This is bad

My Second Rodeo

So….that Hobo Lobo of Hamelin is some story, right? Some great work of far-off, far-fetched fiction, right? Like, could you even imagine living in a world like that???? Wild, right?

nervous laughter

I’m dying

WildHelp.

Alright, alright. Enough thinly veiled references to the blazing “hugest” dumpster fire politics in the greatest country in the world have become. However cathartic it may be…. 

I’m ready for Ashton Kutcher to pop out and reveal America’s been punked.

I remember when I first read Stevan Živadinovic’s Hobo Lobo a few years back, during election year, I believe. I was blown away, then, by how poignant the piece seemed. The allusions to socio-political points of contention such as xenophobia, nationalism, and big news media corporations (like Fox News) seemed so clear and so powerful, especially when paired with the invocations of Big Brother and the Fourth Estate. These complex, complicate, and, often, dark concepts seemed such a contrast, too, to the storybook, Dr-Seuss-esque elements used to convey them. It was shocking to see these elements so overtly packaged for consumption by the youth. Indoctrination is supposed to be subtle, you know?

Hobo Lobo seemed to be as much a modern reimagining of The Pied Piper medieval folktale as it was scathing commentary on contemporary politics, the 24/7 news cycle, and the effects of late-capitalism on the US.

Now, the work is f*cking horrifying.

the horror

If Hobo Lobo was too close for comfort before, now it’s a living nightmare.

I mean, look at this face:

Dick's bulbous head.png

Could use more orange….

Nightmare fuel.

And, that’s just the imagery. When paired with the actual language used in this work, Hobo Lobo becomes highly unsettling. In fact, despite this work being ELit, I found it very difficult not to read it as I would a traditional narrative. The work, though, I think lends itself to that kind of reading–being modeled after a hybrid of the standard design of a pop-up storybook and the typical design of comic books. Unlike comic books proper, though, pages shift fluidly into each other, elements of both language and imagery flowing from one “panel” to the next, creating a “poly-linear timeline” and a kind of “infinite canvas”. Time seems to progress as the work “flows” from one event into the next. Persistence of narrative occurs in that the imagery of each page coincides with the lexia beneath it, nothing de-contextualized about it. In fact, everything seems embedded in a thinly-veiled context–i.e a not veiled at all one #didn’teventry~ The pieces of propaganda strewn purposefully in the background of most panels seem to reinforce a socio-political reading.

1st screen_LI

I mean, you can’t reference Big Brother and not expect the ghost of Orwell to ruin the party. That’s his thing.

Hobo Lobo is a work that is meant to be read. Even the pages that do not make use of lexia, use images and sound–like pipe music and the laughter of children, the resolute thud of stone against earth–to convey not-totally-illusive narrative.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I mean, these images are narrative. Even if I did not have the accompanying limerick to direct my interpretation, I think I could figure out the story. 

Anyway, regardless of what contemporary parallels I draw from the content, I believe  Živadinovic’s Hobo Lobo is a compelling work of Elit, whose language, design, and aesthetic all work in tandem to immerse readers in this upside-down, surreal-but-hyper-real, topsy-turvy caricature world.  It’s combination of whimsical, folktale, Dr. Seuss-esque with snarky, political satire is both charming and revealing of the dark truth of indoctrination: that it’s all child’s play until the stone bites the dust and you’re swallowed whole.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

References How I know my sh*t:

Elmcip “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin”

I ❤ E-Poetry “Hobo Lobo of Hamelin”

****

~Till next time~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

 

Viva La…Russian Revolution???: Analyzing Neo-Futurism & The Mutability of Reality and Story in Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky

Здравствуйте~

Reality remains fatal, a bullet in the brain ~

In the names of progress and peace, what would you sacrifice? Some of your freedoms? Most of your voice? All of your body? Replace your autonomy with technology, swap democracy for technocracy? These questions seem to be at the narrative heart of Illya Szilak’s Reconstructing Mayakovsky (2008), a work of Eliterature (ELit) heavily inspired by the rise of both terrorist activity and technological advancement in the early 21st century as well as by the life and literature of early 20th century Russian Futurist writer and revolutionary Vladimir Mayakovsky. Szilak’s work seems to ask readers to not only immerse themselves in its rich narrative aspects but to consider, conceptually, the nature of reality and the complex relationships of story to reality, of self to machine, and of machine to nature. The work accomplishes this feat through a combination of textual, historical, navigational, and aesthetic “mechanisms” all working in tandem alongside reimagined, Neo-Futurist ideology to construct an experience that “promotes an idiosyncratic reading” (Gauthier) of the piece and reveals the mutability of meaning (story) and of humanity (the self).

OnewOrld, the world of Reconstructing Mayakovsky, is one in which humanity, and its propensity towards violence and chaos, has been abandoned for the seeming safety of virtual reality. “Inhabitants who survived a major cataclysm…live in hibernation units immersed in a virtual world” (Gauthier). The program and its safety are guaranteed by the Monad Global Attention Group, the financial investors behind the OnewOrld project. According to the short video clip–that ostensibly adopts the traditional style of a financial investment PowerPoint– found when one clicks on the “Movies” mechanism–hovering in the starry pocket of an otherwise infinitely dark and empty universe main interface screen–“real bodies cost money” and “the end of profitability is near”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Physical reality has become unstable and so must be converted to a virtual system. This story, the overt one, plays out in 46 chapters whose text can be accessed via clicking on the “Mechanism B” mechanism floating in the aforementioned abysmal/primordial miasma (Gauthier).

Oneword background

Example of the Chapters + Some background info on OnewOrld~

Audio versions of the chapters can be found by clicking on the “Audio Podcasts” mechanism. The OnewOrld language is English that has been translated into French and then back into English using the Babelfish program–literally removing it that much further from ourselves. This makes the language read/sound quite mechanical, adding additional complexity as well as a sense of eeriness to readings. These chapters float chaotically in no specific order in their own, bright red or solid black pocket universes of the site. Readers are given no directions on how to navigate the narrative nor interpret the mechanical language within. Instead, readers seem asked to construct meaning on their own as though the work were one large, deconstructed poem, whose inherent order matters less than a reading’s interpretation.

This format lends itself to the idea that navigating an ELit piece is also, “an act of producing a work’s signifying properties in the moment of engagement with them” (Pressman). Meaning cannot be interpreted in this work until a node–a hyperlink, in this case–is clicked and its encoded lexia accessed. Even then, though, there is no promise of revelation. What do 46 chapters mean when, “We reject the absolute truth of the number”? Or, when “The difference between a lie and the truth rests in its utility”? This lack of inherent meaning seems to both be at odds and celebrate the work’s Neo-Futurist undertones. Futurism was an early 20th century art movement that rejected the past and the mere idea of the past influencing the future and instead celebrated the future, the youth, speed, dynamism, violence, and, above all else, the machine. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism calls for the abolishment of libraries and museums and, most famously, compares the automobile to the splendor of “the Victory of Samothrace”. Bold. But, also an ideology that seems promoted in Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

That said, while attributing meaning of this otherwise seemingly disjointed work through a kind of Neo-Futurism reading would be easy, it seems not to suffice. Contradicting elements appear throughout the piece, promoting violence but also a way for “non-violently defining, creating, and animating the world”. Pieces irreverently discard the human and its agency but also claim, “In so far as we are bodies and minds We are the embodiment of nature In so far as we use technology as an extension of our bodies and minds there are choices we can make [sic]”. These contradictions complicate any simple understanding or navigation of Reconstructing Mayakovsky.

Most of these contradictions can be seen when the overt narrative of the work is compared to its accompanying manifesto, which can be found by clicking on the “Manifesto” mechanism. A condensed version of the manifesto titled “a petit Manifesto: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the movies” can be read on the screen that first appears or a longer version of the manifesto, “Do You Think Malaria Makes Me Delirious?”, can be accessed by clicking “download print version”. The condensed version hits some of the manifesto’s highlights such as, “All realities are virtual, but few of us can live here”, “Art is to life as Kitsch is to death” and “EVERYTHING HAS BECOME US, But we are nowhere in the world” while the longer version elaborates on these subjects and many more–such as poetry, language, memory, religion, humor (“We believe that all humans can laugh but most jokes don’t translate well”), etc.–eventually concluding that, “Our future demands a feminine art that knows and appreciates the body and its ornaments” (Szilak). Not very Futurist proper and, in comparison to the narrative aspect of Reconstructing Mayakovsky, this manifesto seems to contrast greatly. In fact, it seems to be a rebuke.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The manifesto reads as quite a scathing critique of the virtual, technocratic world of Reconstructing Mayakovsky but also of some of the key tenets of Futurism, adding an element of self-awareness the Futurists themselves seemed to lack to the work itself if not the narrative within. Additionally, the manifesto seems to challenge notions of reality and perception, stating, as mentioned earlier, “When the wor(l)d has any meaning The difference between a lie and the truth rests in its utility [sic]”. Reconstructing Mayakovsky, then, becomes a mirror for readers, inviting them to explore the relationship between truth and perception of truth via its decontextualized, free-associative interface and its Neo-Futurist framework which invites a kind of contradictory, Orwellian “doublethink”.

Perhaps, though, some of these contradictions can be reconciled in Mayakovsky himself, who is a main character introduced into the world of the narrative aspect of this piece but who is also the author of much of the conceptual underpinnings of Reconstructing Mayakovsky. More, perhaps taking a closer look at Russian Futurism specifically and its conceptual underpinnings can bring a degree of understanding to an otherwise nebulous and mercurial work.

Vladimir Mayakovsky was born in the Russian Empire, pre-revolutions, in what is now  the country of Georgia. He came of age and became a writer and artist during a time of ideological upheaval as well as national and cultural revolution. In the early 20th century, Mayakovsky joined the Russian Futurist movement, an art movement that was influenced by Italian Futurism’s ideology which promoted/idealized modernization but that also, almost antithetically, appreciated traditional Russian folk art and life. Many members of this movement, like Mayakovsky, sought to dismantle the Tsarist autocracy that had been governing Russian for hundreds of years and replace it with some form of socialism–communism most commonly. Many artists from the movement participated in the generation and proliferation of Bolshevik propaganda.

Most members of the movement rejected the work of the so-called, “Great Masters”. One of the most famous Russian Futurist manifestos Mayakovsky contributed to, “A Slap in The Face of Public Taste”, proclaims, “The past constricts us. Academia and Pushkin make less sense than hieroglyphics. [burn] Dump Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard the ship of Modernity” (Burliuk et al. as quoted in Lawton). Essentially, the Old Masters are dead and should stay dead.

Many Futurists also came to reject the title of Futurism itself, Mayakovsky stating in a short essay titled “We, Too, Want Meat!” (1914), “What’s a Futurist? I don’t know. I never heard of such a thing. There have never been any”. Perhaps this rejection is what led to the eventual dissolution of the movement. Perhaps is was the fall of the Russian empire. Perhaps it was always just disillusionment in need of voice and performance….

Regardless, the movement essentially dissolved in Europe with the onset of World War I and dissolved in Russia after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the assassinations of the last of the Romanov family, and the rise of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Mayakovsky continued writing in the “Futurist spirit” though, penning multiple books of surreal, decontextualized, or otherwise counter to poetry and becoming an outspoken spokesman for the Communist party until his suicide in 1930. A bullet in the brain heart.

In many ways, Mayakovsky embodies the ideals Reconstructing Mayakovsky espouses–which makes sense. (The work is literally titled Reconstructing Mayakovsky and, in the piece, Mayakovsky’s character is resurrected.) Evoking Mayakovsky is evoking the complex, often contradictory nature of Russian Futurism–its promotion of both the machine and traditional folk art–but also of that time period of upheaval and revolution in which the movement and Mayakovsky existed. “We believe that art is the memory of the future and memory is the art of the past”, the manifesto states. Mayakovsky is both the art and the memory. Reality is what exists in between, is what exists in the vast blackness surrounding “Manifesto” and “Movies”.

The “Archive” mechanism seems to also enhance the idea of reality being made mostly of what is remembered and created. This mechanism consists of images, documents, and articles related to events referenced in the narrative aspect of the work. In this way, the reader and the reader’s reality are being tied to the reality of Reconstructing Mayakovsky as all of the events referenced in the narrative aspect of the work have a basis in our reality (i.e. the bombing of Nagasaki, the existence of complexity theory, etc), making questions about the reality of Reconstructing Mayakovsky also questions about our reality.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some examples of the Archives referencing Mechanism B~

And, again, readers are given no directions for how to navigate this space of stacked images. The onus of coherence and persistence of narrative falls on the reader. This decontextualization seems another callback to Futurism while the compilation of meaningful subject matter seems to be what connects the overall concept back to Russian Futurism (which still values the traditional or “sentimental”) specifically.

Ultimately, the decontextualization of this piece allows for multiple readings of this work and, so, multiple constructions of reality, something that becomes apparent to readers as they attempt to, almost like “astronauts”, forge connections in that amorphous, black space between content and meaning. Additionally, the resurrection of Mayakovsky in this work resurrects and brings into question the ideals and contradictions of Russian Futurism, further complicating the understanding of thi piece and ensuring that no easy answers bring reconciliation. Through concept, design, and aesthetic, Reconstructing Mayakovsky seems programmed to function as an exploration of the contradictory nature of reality, perception, and the relationship of the self to both. Or, perhaps, it is meant to be a joke and its meaning just “does not translate well”.

Works Cited

Gauthier, Joelle . July 25, 2011. ”  Reconstructing Mayakovsky  “. Sheet in the NT2 Laboratory Directory of Hypermedia Arts and Literatures. Online on the NT2 Laboratory website. <http://nt2.uqam.ca/en/repertoire/reconstructing-mayakovsky >. Accessed September 23, 2018

Lawton, Anna M. Russian futurism through its manifestoes, 1912-1928. Cornell Univ Pr, 1988.

Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. “The futurist manifesto.” Le Figaro 20 (1909): 39-44.

Pressman, Jessica, and N. Katherine Hayles. “Navigating Electronic Literature.” Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (ebsite)(2008).

Szilak, Illya. Reconstructing Mayakovsky. June 2008. Web Design and Development: Cloudred. Art for animation and graphic design for manifesto: Pelin Kirca. Original music for animation: Itir Saran.

Further References:

http://pelinkirca.com/reconstructed/

http://cellproject.net/creative-work/reconstructing-mayakovsky-2

https://www.theartstory.org/movement-russian-futurism.htm

https://helenbledsoe.com/?p=238https://helenbledsoe.com/?p=238

https://www.estorickcollection.com/exhibitions/a-slap-in-the-face-futurists-in-russia

****

До свидания!

~Till next time~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

Diving Back In

“‘…there is no story at all; there are only readings’ (124)”.

I don’t know why WordPress is throwing my links all over the page like this. I had to cut a bunch of links to make the post remotely legible. I’ve tried many different things to fix the problem and I think it’s just a system error for the time being. Believe me, I’m annoyed about it too >.>

Flux & Flow

So…. I’m back at it again.

damndanielgif

Doing the ELit thing, writing the feelings whatever those are down, being “insightful”… You know, the usual.

Anyway, let’s get down to business.

I don’t remember what I thought of Jessica Pressman’s “Navigating Electronic Literature” the first time I read it eons and eons ago but this time around, I found it to be thought-provoking, informative, and intellectually engaging. The article articulates the challenges and nuances of interacting with ELit, especially in a classroom setting, rather well. In my experience, I’ve found just articulating what ELit can be and what it can do to be a challenge in and of itself. So, kudos Jessica~

Fantasticmr.foxyeahgif

Pressman’s emphasis on navigation in ELit texts, too, I found particularly deft. Having a wonderful wealth of experience interacting with ELit–even creating my own work!–myself, I know how integral to a work its navigation can be–but, also, how much confusion a work’s navigation can create. More than that, I know how a work’s navigation can complicate reader/interactor understanding of literary purpose and overall merit.

If anything, this time around, I was most interested in the points Pressman was making about problems of conceptualizing, or, really, re-conceptualizing storytelling and authorship when it comes to ELit. Do affordances such as hyperlinking allow readers enough agency to make them co-authors of an ELit work, like Landow suggests? Or, are readers merely explorers of a work, trying to uncover all avenues of story rather than decide them? More, to what extent do readers decide meaning in works like this? Can an inherent meaning be embedded/programmed in these works anymore than meaning can be imbued in a written text? Or, is meaning ultimately decided by the reader?

Are there any stories at all in Elit? Or, is it all just readings?

I don’t have any answers and I love it.

The experimental, the uncertainty, the trans-formative, the de-contextualized, the room for possibility—is what I love about ELit. To me, it is the curiosity and the search for discovery and meaning-making that ELit spurs that makes ELit literary/a literary experience. The literariness exists in what we are given/in what we receive from a work, the questions it generates and the challenges it creates and asks us to tackle.

While I think the binary–stories/readings–is apt in some ways for describing differences between ELit and traditional literature, forgetting that there are readers behind both– story and reading–neglects a vital aspect of understanding new forms of digital literature and media. The underlying depth to ELit, I believe, is something that has to be realized in the reader.

Underlying Depth

And sometimes the nights last for months

And sometimes the nights last for months… Maria Guia Pimpao (I have the Google Arts & Culture extension on my browser which allows a new work of art to be the background whenever I open a new tab. When I opened a new tab to open Twelve Blue, this was the image that popped up and I thought it was rather appropriate, considering the work I was about to read, and so I wanted to share it with you~ #theinternetworksinmysteriousways

“So a random set of meanings has softly gathered around the word the way lint collects. The mind does that.” from On Being Blue William Gass

In my opinion, Michael Joyce’s Twelve Blue is one of those powerful works of ELit. Like, it’s a seminal work for a reason not just that it was the first work of Elit. I think I forgot that until I “reread” it this weekend.

The work is a piece of “simple”, hyperlink fiction, progression through the work and its lexia triggered by the reader clicking on one link or “thread” to open a new window with new lexia and so on. Readers aren’t really given a set story or direction–there are no guiding signs or whatnot (other than a “Begin” button when one first opens the work).

Here are the first few “pages” I read:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Instead of clicking “all over” the threads, which I know from prior experience with the work would take me on all kinds of adventures, I decided to click on the links provided from one page to the next–just to see where the story goes, trying for a “pure reading”, so to speak. This went well…till I came across just a screen with a painting on it??? I had to click on the painting and, the next screen I got, didn’t have a link to click on??? So, I had to dive into the sea of threads anyway #whatever~~~~

But, it was interesting to just see where the work would take me (not purely on its own–as I was clicking on the agents spurring the story forward). I read a few excerpts about Lisle and her daughter and then about Javier(?) and his daughter. Nothing that really connected in any linear way. It’s clear from the text, though, that this “story” is taking place across multiple time periods and generations. I read about an accidental drowning that took place years ago and then I read a selection about the friend of the girlfriend, who’s boyfriend drowned, and how this friend remembered the somber atmosphere at school in the days following the mysterious accident. No clear time line is established and yet, the sense of time passing and moving, the sense of people holding on and letting go of time, is so vivid and so visceral. (“What choice do we have but love, what season after?”)

The design and navigation of this work is a topic of discussion that could–and will–continue for a while but the actual text of this work is so rich and fascinating in its own right. Small example but, I mean, how many creative and inventive uses of the word blue did you note while reading this work??? (“She had never been lonelier, never more blue.”) And did you notice each page is titled differently–mostly related to blue words, though–in the tab?? (i.e cornflower)

A strong swimmer out of grief

“She became a strong swimmer out of grief.” This page, in particular, touched me. The longing and sorrow are somehow enhanced that much more my this work’s infinite loop, like there’s always this girl on the edge of the ocean, longing for the mother she never knew.

There’s something distinctly literary about this work’s text, if not its nonlinear navigation. To me, though, if anything, the infinite looping in on itself of this work only serves to enhance the story it is “weaving”/telling. Each page is like a still life, perhaps disconnected from some greater whole, but capable of telling a compelling story in and of itself. For some, that disconnectedness may translate as “brokenness”, the lack of coherence or persistence of narrative over time, as a fault, but, again, I find the questions that exist in those perceived narrative “gaps” in works of ELit like Twelve Blue to be what keeps me coming back. Though, of course, I want answers, I also enjoy not knowing. It creates this mental space for me to explore possibilities–something not always offered IRL, where “pinning things down” is so highly valued these days.

Additionally, I think Twelve Blue gives readers a slight taste of the reciprocity ELit is renown for. (At least, it’s one of my fave parts of ELit.) This reciprocity is realized in the simple act of the readers clicking a link on the screen and being rewarded with a new screen, with new information. The work functions on reader input–slight reader input but still an action the reader must take in order for the work to “move on”. That’s a smidge more agency than most traditional forms of literature have been able to allow for a long time.

Riding the Waves

All in all, if you couldn’t tell, I’m looking forward to diving back into ELit and discovering new ways to tell compelling stories through new digital media. I think Twelve Blue is an excellent place to wade in with. It’s new in many ways but also recognizable in others. And, of course, the work is so beautifully, heart-breakingly, heart-achingly written.

I hope the rest of our class is at least half-excited as I am looking forward to diving in deep on ELit!

****

Links

Hypothes.is

*Feel free to check out some of my notes on this week’s article and respond to them if anything I’ve said resonates or triggers another idea~ Though I’ve been resistant in the past to using hypothes.is, lately, I’ve found it to be a good tool for taking notes maybe I just don’t like being told I have to use it and now that I don’t have to use it, I’ve got to rebel in the other direction????

Tweet tweet…

*Feel free to follow me on Twitter as well~ In between sharing sappy poetry and prose, I sometimes say some witty things??? #debatable??? #claimthecave

~Till next time ^.^~

hannibalwinkingsexilygif

It’s Been Real (Or Has It…???) ^.^~

Farewell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

(Just kidding This simulation’s graphic’s are super real >.<)

So, it’s the end of another semester spent traversing the weird, wild web, huh? Time definitely flew by this semester! It feels like just yesterday we were talking about the terrors of online data tracking… or maybe I’m just having flashbacks of Zuckerberg testifying before Congress >.>

zuckerberg-data-01

Anyway…

This semester was definitely wild. I can honestly say I was not expecting to do as much work as I managed to pull off this semester. Check it:

Weekly Blog Posts (I did all 14! Really, wild~)

Daily Digital Alchemies (Somehow did all of these too??? And only came in at 5th place…)

Makes (And I did all these??? And only made it to 4th place -_-…sensing a pattern)

That is a lot of work. Time-consuming work. I don’t know about everyone else this semester, but it takes me a minimum of one day to write up a blog post and another to edit. That’s not to mention how long it takes to complete the week’s actual digital activities. For example, my Audacity post, my Audacity Interview post, and my posts on both Neo-Dadaism and Selfies took significantly longer time to complete. This is because 1) I am still very unfamiliar with working with audio and 2) some subjects require much more research in order to write a thoughtful/insightful post about them. The post on selfies was, after all, done in conjunction with a Twitter chat I ran on selfies as art as well (which I reflected about in another post). All this is to say that I did put a lot of effort and time and thought into my work every week. Nothing was ever hastily thrown together and I always tried to be thoughtful in my reflections.

On Twitter, too, I tried to participate regularly throughout the semester. I tweeted out @netnarr every time I posted on my blog and used #netnarr as well. I always did at least 2 DDAs a week, as well. (And, I think I tried to approach both creatively–using imaginative titles and images.) More towards the beginning of the semester, I also used the #netnarrlinks to share some interesting articles/videos I found on topics I thought relevant to the course. (Or, just interesting to me ^.^) While I’m not sure if all this activity counts as “robust use” of the platform, I would definitely say it demonstrates diligence.

2018-01-23

Activity on my account from 1/23/18

2018-05-05 (5)

Compared to activity on my account from 5/5/18

2018-01-23 (1)

1/23/18

2018-05-05 (7)

5/5/18

(Check your own Twitter activity)

As you can see, I definitely increased my activity on the platform and began posting more regularly to Twitter. More, my posting seems to have become more organized–I have more regular times of activity as well as more regular usage of hashtags and links. Retweets are still my most popular form of Twitter usage but I have certainly upped my game overall on the platform this semester.

2018-03-02 (1)_LI

1/23/18

2018-03-02 (2)_LI

1/23/18

2018-05-05 (2)

5/5/18

2018-05-05 (4)_LI

5/5/18

More than all that, though, I’ve become a part of a community on Twitter. Not just my activity itself on the platform increased but my level of engagement with the platform. Before getting involved with this course and the digital humanities, I never thought of Twitter has a place capable of fostering community. But, it really is. I learned so many tips and tricks from fellow users online.

Which brings me to another point: collaboration. Twitter makes collaborating with other people so very easy. For example, one of the extra projects I participated in this semester was largely facilitated through Twitter. The NetNarr Alchemy Lab is a collaborative work, put together by so many very talented digital alchemists. Essentially, it’s an online interactive storytelling project in which I was invited to participate. You can read all about my own contribution here and the ins n’ outs of working on it but I just want to say that this was one of my most favourite activities I participated in this semester (though it wasn’t part of the course proper). Also, I want to thank everyone who reached out to me on Twitter and helped me with this project. Again, without the online community, I’m not sure how any of this would have been accomplished. Not easily, for sure.

Additionally, I did try to use my Hypothes.is as well towards the start of the semester. We kind of bailed on it as a class, though, so I hope my lack of “robust” usage of the tool will not count against me. Interestingly enough, though, I did end up using the annotating tool for another course this semester–a course on research and theory (I made 96 annotations for just that course). So, though I did not get to use my Hypothes.is know-how in this course, know it did still come in handy elsewhere~

Honestly, I’m fairly proud of all the work I accomplished in this course. My favourite assignments have to be the ones related to selfies, to memes, and to gifs. I think my Make on the #SelfieUnselfie project is one of my most meaningful, digital works to date. And, my Make on “Gifing” digital life still makes me actually laugh out loud. More, discussing memes as art objects inspired me focus my thesis on researching Neo-Dadaism in new digital media (specifically on researching the emergence of the Internet meme as a resurgence of Dada idealism). So, our discussions on these topics in class, specifically on digital art, definitely inspired me to think more deeply about the content.

That isn’t too say there weren’t subjects I found uninteresting. As mentioned before, I don’t enjoy working in audio. It’s more difficult than other mediums, yes, that’s part of why I don’t like working with audio but, also, there’s just my personal preferences. I’m a more visual person. I like art on canvas, words on the page. I like having something for my eyes to swallow, devour. Of course, I’m pleased enough with how my audio interview project turned out but, if given the choice, I would not want to repeat the project. Even having two weeks to do it, I found it to be just very complicated. More than endearing the medium to me, the project kind of turned me further off. Sorry. (I really wish my feelings were different but when I think of that project, I just remember frustration.)

Another aspect of the course I found it bit dull was the online gaming section of the course. Again, this might come down to an issue of personal preference. I just didn’t find the content to be too engaging or interesting. Also, I didn’t necessarily like looking at digital redlining as a kind of game because it’s really not. For future courses, I would like to suggest moving the issue into the area of Digital Life. (I did like my Make for this subject, though. The activity for the subject is very apt, I think. It conveys exactly what it is designed to. Also, I found the H5P tool to be fun to use. I would definitely recommend teaching future students how to use it.)

Enough with the critique!

Overall, I found this course to be fun and engaging. This semester has certainly had its ups and downs. While some activities in class came easier than others due to past experiences working with the medium, there were plenty of challenges presented by this course. This semester, I certainly had to learn how to use new tools as well as how to make peace with old rivals here’s looking at you Audacity >.>. For the most part, I think I made out pretty well. Not all of my work came out as polished as I would have liked but I still tried to do all of the work asked of me and I tried to do it well within the time constraints I had upon me. More, I tried to be creative with my work wherever I could–whether through word-play, memes, or some other insertion of my own personal panache, if you will.

Above all, I hope it comes through that I am proud of what I accomplished and of what I learned. This semester was tough but I’m tougher! I think I came out on top. But, what do you think?

Thanks for another amazing semester!

****

Links

Twitter

Poeticize the Poem (DDA Topic I submitted)

ELit Concept + Moon Girl Bot

Digital Art Referencium (Curated by me and Hailey)

Giphy

Killing It

Peace Out Goodbye GIF by GIPHY Studios Originals - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

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

Done Its Over GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

****

Links

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Goodies

Porpentine’s Twitter

Bots & Whatnot~

Funk GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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:

2018-04-15 (6)

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:

2018-04-10 (1)

Added a few of my accounts for comparison~

2018-04-15

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~

****

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

****

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 >.<)

Lets Play GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

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:

2018-04-01

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.

2018-03-27 (1)

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.

Chill Cats GIF by Jonny - Find & Share on GIPHY

(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~

****

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~

FullSizeRender (1)

~Till Next Time~

Working with Audio???

I think I’m funny~

Anyway, this week we covered an almost confusing number of different subjects. So, please bear with me as I try to get wandering, wondering thoughts together ^.^

Empathy or Lack Thereof

One of this week’s topics was that of “empathy games”. According to this article by Eric Bartelson, empathy games are ones that confront players with “real human issues…things like depression, bullying, terminal illness, or suicide”. Through playing these games and “experiencing” these issues “first-hand”, players, ideally, develop a more complex understanding of the issue and so are able thereto forth to empathize better with people going though similar issues IRL.

At least, that’s theory.

Many game designers themselves are skeptical/critical of the idea that empathy can be developed to such an extent via game-play. More, many game designers seem that empathy is a skill every game should be striving to develop and so labeling any specific set of games as “empathy games” is redundant. In this way, and as Bartelson states, the divide seems to be over whether or not empathy is “a genre or a game mechanic”. Which, to me, is an interesting division and, to be honest, since I’m not someone who plays very many games, I’m not sure what side of the divide I fall on.

Certainly, I believe that a game alone cannot develop or refine one’s own empathy. That’s the reverse of the “video games incite violence” argument–spoiler they don’t and a government bogging down discussions about any particular reforms to even entertain the notion is grossly irresponsible and tbfh stalling but I digress…>.>. Like I mentioned in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night, you can have the best message in the world in your game but if players can’t connect that message to something on the outside, if there’s no transfer then I’m not sure how it helps facilitate genuine empathy.

See, I believe designers can direct their messages so that they are received within IRL context. But, I also believe:

My line of thinking seems to fall in line with Simon Parkin’s thoughts in this article in which the disconnect between creator intent and game design is discussed. Basically, Parkin reiterates what I just said: a game with a good idea but a bad follow-through is kind of a problem. More, that equation can create a problem. Parkin references a study in which the game Spent–an online game about surviving poverty–and its effects are researched. What the study found was that it actually made people, even those who sympathized with the poor prior to playing the game, empathize less with poor people. Essentially, the game made people believe poof people had more choices than they actually do in reality. Colleen Macklin, a game designer cited in this article, summarizes the phenomenon, “In a game you have complete agency, but in some life situations, people have no choice. If a game is trying to create empathy in this way, it can back-fire spectacularly.”

When creating a game you hope will instill a deeper sense of empathy, intent doesn’t seem to be enough. More, you have to be careful you’re not “game-ifying” a real situation too much or else you may alter the reality of it and so muddle/not accurately portray your message.

That said, a game I think “game-ified” an IRL situation just right is Bad News. I freakin’ loved this game.

In Bad News, players become the propagators and perpetuators of “fake news” online. “Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate” the game encourages. The goal of this game is to gain as main “followers” as you can through establishing fake credibility online (mostly via Twitter). The other goal, in my opinion, is to be as obnoxious as you possibly can i.e channel Trump >.>..

I had a blast:

2018-03-20

I’ll admit, at first I was trying to be a good person and pick the “ethical” choices but once I realized that was losing me followers (and not the object of the game) I just went full on obnoxious. Spread an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory??? Sure. Smear a legit news agency cause they had the audacity to report on something bad I actually did??? Why the hell not??

What can I say?

I got into it.

Anyway, fun aside, I do think this game illustrates the point it’s trying to make pretty clearly. Though, if you don’t have the cultural context–say you live in a 1-party state or your country doesn’t have access to much technology or internet–I don’t know how well the message would stick because it’s social commentary, in a way, right? I get that this game is trying to make a point of how fake news is made and propagated but I also think it’s trying to show just how easy it is to slip into that mindset/head-space where you’re more interested in sensationalizing issues, “making headlines”, and in gaining followers than in making ethical or responsible decisions. Even if that wasn’t an objective by design, this game did a damn fine job of bringing it to attention.

But, what do you think? More, after playing a so-called “empathy game”,  how do you feel?

Amping Things Up

Switching gears this week, we also began discussing sound as a means for storytelling.

Now, I have to admit I’m not super enthused for this shift in focus. Sound is not really my medium. Don’t get me wrong, I love my podcasts–listening to them while I’m doing my make-up in the morning–and I’d probably kill someone if I couldn’t listen to my music in the car but I’m not really into or interested in playing around with sound myself. The thought just doesn’t inspire the same excitement as talking about art or Elit.

That said, I’m open to learning more about how to use sound to tell a good story. I’m so used to it being background noise, I think it’ll be cool to explore it as its own kind of art and story.

For this week’s Make, I did attempt to explore sound as a means for telling a story. Check it:

 https://soundcloud.com/kelli-hayes-365566554/frustration-1

It’s not my best work but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I’m a lot more rusty with Audacity than I thought I’d be but this video helped me out a lot. (I also totally forgot how to upload from Audacity to Soundcloud.)

Anyway, technical issues aside, the idea behind my little story here was inspired by the incessant clacking of my own keyboard. Once I decided I wanted that to be my background sound, I was able to establish the rest of the story.

IMG_6163

I added some notes in the margins once I found the sounds I wanted on freesound~

Really, my story is just a snippet of what it’s like to live online–closing yourself away to open up elsewhere, the incessant typing that gets increasing more frustrated as your message notifications keeps pinging, and the frustrated sigh that another annoying ping swallows up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the life digital means affords me but it can be freakin’ annoying sometimes~

2018-03-23

My view while workin’ on those bars~

My Make

Did you get that message??? Or, could it use some work?? Let me know and maybe you’ll get a ping-back 😉

****

Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

This Week’s Spells:

*I love this throwback DDA ^.^ The book spine poetry was one of my face DDAs from the first time around. I enjoy combining my love of books with my burgeoning love of new new digital media. This DDA also gets me to “remix” real life, removing the context from my books and placing them in a new one. I love it~

*As for this DDA, I decided to take a close-up shot of my fave pinky highlighter (J. Cat Beauty’s You Glow Girl highlighter in the shade Bella Rose for any fellow make-up junkies ^.^). It looks like a cotton-candy floss universe, doesn’t it? ❤

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Goodies

*I chose to look at the game our friends in Egypt, Ayah and Manar, are currently in the process of developing. Their game is designed to teach/inform players about illiteracy and how it affects the everyday lives of people and the choices they are able to make. Ayah and Manar talk about their game here and have a prototype you can play here. So far, I really like the project and thinks it’s shaping up to be a real learning tool. I talk more about what I think is effective so far in my comments on the posts so I highly recommend you check those out and, of course, the good work Ayah and Manar are doing!!