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.



Twit 1 & Twit 2


Porpentine’s Twitter



So, for it being my first netprov experience, I think Thermophiles in Love went pretty well. At least, I believe I learned a lot more from the experience than I lost. I don’t think I was negatively impacted in any way by participating in this netprov. I definitely had and, I guess, still have some expectations that were not entirely met–but, we’ll get those.

Anyway, going into this TiN–I’m abbreviating it from here on out–I wasn’t really sure of what to expect. Aside from the brief tour we got of the site in class on Tuesday night, I wasn’t all that clear on how the whole experience would operate. To be honest, I was sort of assuming that this whole netprov thing would be a very “organic”, free-form experience. I mean, it’s improvisation, right? Too many rules would impinge upon that aspect.

But, that free-form, very ambiguous aspect of the space, for me, surprisingly, wasn’t totally a win. Essentially, in TiN, you are asked to assume the identity of 1 of 5 different cells and then start a dialogue. And, all you get is a little blurb about each gender and about the site–each day also only has minimal direction. Which, all of this freedom together, I would usually appreciate. It’s just, for this particular experiment and what it seems to want to accomplish, I felt like all of the freedom and ambiguity worked against it, in a way. This netprov wanted or, rather, wanted to invite participants to explore gender and/or identity on a deeper level. Then, take what was learned and see where or how it applies in your “real” (IRL) context. But, in reality, gender is, sadly, not so ambiguous. At least, in the mainstream. Gender is called a social construct because it is very structured and not widely accepted–yet–as fluid. So, I felt like there was a large disconnect between this netprov and what it was hoping to do. As I was trying to immerse myself in the narrative of this space, I found myself wishing there were more boundaries to challenge or push against. I felt like that would’ve made the netprov more poignant–allowing people who may never feel stifled by an imposed identity like gender in real life to feel imposed upon and squished into a box. I feel like I elaborated upon this idea more in a comment I left on one of the last day threads:



**I hope this is legible. Otherwise, check me out on the, “Share Your Experience as a Netprov Player” thread on TiN**

Basically, that was my only major complaint about the experience–that I felt it could’ve benefited from imposing more constraints on its participants. I think that would’ve encouraged more and deeper thought on the role of gender in our real-life society.

Anyway, moving along…. Something I noticed and sort of used to distinguish between different participants–aside from their genders, which I’ll get to in a moment–is who was using more “sciencey” lingo and who wasn’t. Some cells/characters were throwing around a whole lot of biologic/scientific/chemical terminology and some were sticking to just personifying the cells–essentially remaining very “human-like” in their expressions. I think this is something you can see very clearly just browsing through the thread titles on the forum. “Peptidoglycan thickness doesn’t matter…right?” vs.  “Never trust a person who isn’t having at least one crisis” Very different interpretations of cell- activity and of how the roles were assumed. (I found it difficult to participate in the more sciencey threads because, there, I really wasn’t familiar with the lingo. I don’t know the specific names/classifications of bacteria or the particulars of how they survive. At least, not a enough to be clever about them in a forum. So, I tended to avoid those threads.)

I think this brings us to the genders themselves now. Overall, I felt like there was decent selection of characters to choose from. I mean, like I said, they were all so broad so you could really make what you wanted of them. Which, I think, led to some confusion on the threads–everyone only had a vague idea of each gender . So, you could vastly different interpretations of each gender. For myself, I chose to be an acido and I interpreted acidos to be rather vain and self-absorbed. Overly concerned about their reputation and about whether or not they’re the center of attention. But, some people interpreted them as daredevils or as more altruistic, holier-than-thou types. So, it was interesting to see how people interpreted the stuff from the blurbs–“Always aware of being seen because you stand out” and “The Magnificent 7 rolled into a 1.” I believe there were like 2 different acidos that were trying to start cult-like followings in the threads. Acido_Ecoli and acido_tamorous? Something like that. And, there was this cell called Jason, I think, who also tried to do something similar.  Like, how very little time it takes folk to start trying to organize a belief system to fill a perceived power vacuum….smh.

Anyway, I felt like most people tried to stay close to what the blurbs said for each gender. Aside from a few outliers who were advocating for the dismantling of the system (on like day 2-3, like come on guys? at least wait till closer to the end to try to start an uprising/revolt/revolution/whatever), most participants in this space seemed game to stay on point.

That said, once the dates were started and the threads created for them, it seemed like the number of participants in TiN was halved. Like, so many of those date threads were deserted–maybe 1 or 2 comments at most. At least, for my 2 dates, I was the only cell that commented or bothered to try to create a scenario. To try and work with the few parameters we had to create our dates. None of my quadmates ever made an appearance. And, I noticed that it seemed like an admin for the side did most of the pairing up. So, what was the point of even having Mesos if they weren’t going to do their one job–to pair up quads? I don;t understand what the point of them was. To me, it seemed like toward the end of this netprov, the ball was kind of dropped. Also, I feel like people were fine interacting a large, public forum space. But, once it was narrowed down to like 4 per a thread, people lost their comfort and didn’t want to put themselves out their anymore. Which, I understand and I think is typical of online spaces in general–people talk a big game when their audience is infinite but get real quiet in one-on-one scenarios. That dates made the experience on TiN more personal and, consequently, more uncomfortable. At least, that’s my take on it. I’d love to hear what my classmates have to say (aside from Richonda and Katherine because we’ve already talked a lot about the site and ended up finding each other rather quickly on TiN afterwards).

Image courtesy of Wikipedia: Cell Mitosis