Getting to the “Meat” of the Matter…

Despite what my featured image says, I was, in fact, not feeling okay.

Hey~

I’m glad to report that I’m not yet dead. glad may be an overstatement but eh I’d like to get my M.A. first after all the trouble Unfortunately, though, I have been very sick for the past few weeks. Flu. Upper respiratory infection. 103 degree fever. Hacking every other minute. congestion. insomnia. The whole nine yards. It can really slow you down.

I tried my best to work through it. My alchemist mentor proved very helpful during this time. She’s a little rough around the edges but quite thoughtful and very resourceful. After I wrote about my ideas for what I want to focus on in the Field Guide and tweeted some inquiries @vladaslaughter, I was able to engage in some thoughtful discussion.

I think we were able to narrow down more of my focus. Also, we discussed the idea of being an “antibiotic” more than an exact cure (inspired, largely, by my recent stint on doxycycline hyclate helluva a drug). In regards to digital well-being, it may be more apt to think of our field guide as more of an antibiotic than a prescribed “cure”. We’re trying to alleviate symptoms rather than eliminate the infection (as that would kind of mean destroying the Internet???). Getting rid of the bad bacteria so the good bacteria can continue to do its job. Idk. It’s something we’re thinking of~

Vlada helped me refine my focus further by providing some insightful commentary on a very interesting article about initiating humane design for the web. I think this source will be beneficial if I can pursue the topic I’d like to. This source doesn’t place the entirety of the blame on users. Rather, it places much responsibility on corporations and governments to regulate social media and intervene in our interactions with it. Some may find this invasive but I do think some changes need to be made in order to mitigate some of our interactions with social media right now which are definitely contributing to why some of are veering towards performing our lives rather than living them.

Anyway, that’s about all for me this week. I’m going to get back to resting for the time being. Don’t want to work myself to near death again. Being unable to breathe made me realize that I kinda like being able to actually???

Share any thoughts you have about anything I’ve discussed down below~

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~Till next time~

Daily Digital Alchemies

I brushed off my poetry skills and shared a nice little work of book spine poetry this week (inspired by my new mentor).

Additionally, I shared how exactly “being on empty” has felt all week. Not great. 0/10 would not recommend.

I had another fun exchange with my mentor this week. Admittedly, this is a more fun exchange than one strictly about “business” but I do think it may be interesting to check out. Vlada’s snark may give mine a run for its money….

~Stay healthy all~

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The Gif That Keeps on Giffing…

Hey~

Welcome back to my humble little dark corner of the web ^.^ Hope everyone had a nice enough week~

My week was the usual:

hell

Anyway, that brings us nicely to the topic at hand:  GIFs~

hard¬†g¬†don’t @ me i’ll fight you

This week, we got to continue our exploration of new forms of digital content creation by discussing the gif. Now, if you’re like most Internet users these days, you are fairly familiar with the gif. Personally, I interact with the gif on a regular basis, encountering it across my social media feeds and using it to respond to other content in digital spaces. For me, and many others, these days, the gif is a standard of communication online.

In our class Studio Visit this week with Brian Lamb (@brlamb) we got to discuss more about communication of information in online spaces as well as a little about other concerns of being a digital citizen. Mainly, we focused on what the gif means to us and how we use it to communicate online. Brian described gifs as a “more expressive emoji” which I think is a fairly accurate interpretation though I do believe that gifs carry more context due to *mostly* coming from source content that is embedded in our culture somehow. In this way, a gif can have an inherent meaning to it before it is co-opted and remixed. I find the layering of meaning inherent in much of new media to be of great interest. Layered meaning is nothing new but I think there’s something¬†different¬†going on with gifs and memes. They are being remixed and co-opted at such a rate that their meanings are often vast and varied depending upon what corner of the web you find yourself in. When there is so much meaning, is there really¬†any¬†meaning? All if these things, because of rather than in spite of their layered meanings, seem to become this new kind of digital blank canvas upon which any expression can be placed. I think it’s fascinating.

That said, this ubiquity of reaction gifs and the like does concern me. I’m mainly concerned because the majority of gifs are recycled rather than made. Most of us don’t make gifs every time we want to use one. Rather, we select a gif or a meme from a repository of collected media. This limits our expressions to the options provided by a certain platform. It’s a peculiar curation of not just our emotional expressions but of digital culture. It’s this illusion of authenticity in expression. Often, like Brian, many of us describe gifs as allowing us to be¬†more¬†expressive online. But, is that really true when we consider the reality of so much digital content being “corralled” and commodified in order for easier consumption?

I find myself torn when I consider questions like this. Ideally, I¬†do¬†believe that new media and online spaces afford us¬†more¬†opportunities to connect, to express ourselves, to construct ourselves, to participate in life. But, I also understand that the commercialization of new media and online spaces interrupts these processes and turns them into for-profit enterprises under the guise of innovation and convenience. I’m victim to this myself (I started this post with a gif from Giphy even though I’m very capable of making my own). I guess I’m left to believe that possibility is something the Internet can provide but is not an inherent quality. Again, I think it comes down to usage. If one doesn’t use the Internet to explore themselves then they will never think of the Internet as a place where that is possible.

All this said, I want to reiterate that I¬†do¬†believe new media can be a conduit for very profound and powerful messages. It can also be a way to share a meme or a gif about nothing much at all. The Internet, in some ways, is like the traditional faerie realms of old: mercurial, ambivalent, and capricious at best. Everything you say can be both taken at face value and also imbued with a multiplicity of meaning. It’s never a dull day in digital spaces, to say the least.

The Arganee Cafe

Speaking of “no dull days in digital spaces”, this week we were introduced to the Arganee cafe. In order to describe our experience of exploring this new space, we were asked to create gifs (full circle, eh?) ^.^ I had some fun with mine. I giffed some scenes from¬†Scott Pilgrim.

dismantlingthegov

Think I captured the essence of something….

Feel free to check out My Make for this activity ^.^

(I also highly recommend checking out @masooch‘s Make too~¬†I died.)

In addition to exploring the Arganee cafe, we were also asked to imagine a digital alchemist persona¬†again. Originally, I was going to “recycle” my twisted, little faerie but I don’t really want to disturb her (she can be scary >.<). Rather, I decided to create a new digital alchemist. Though she clearly still has a #aesthetic, I imagine her as less of a foreboding presence and more of a sentinel-avenger type. I’m always going on about how I’m dtf (down to¬†fight) so I figured I’d channel that fighting spirit into a character all its own. Be sure to check her out on Twitter (she may be a bit¬†shy standoffish at first but don’t worry, she cares). You can learn more about her character, as well, by checking out My Make for my rage-filled avengeress~

She totally has a theme song btw

don’t shame me billie eilish is #goals

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Bonus Post

This week, in my post for the field guide, I shared a podcast episode exploring the gif medium and some of the concerns surrounding gifs I mentioned above. I highly recommend checking it out and giving the podcast a listen~

Daily Digital Alchemies

I actually have two bonus posts this week if you count the post I did for DDA304 where I explored what is lost but, also, what can be gained in translation~

My second DDA is one I submitted! I’m happy to see it being used and to see the different responses others have to it. For my response, I decided, actually, to alter a gif I made for my thesis project (and didn’t end up using):

degenerate.gif

I made the image kaleidoscopic and then added a rippling water effect to it to give it a reflection. I think it looks like the sky over one pesky little faerie’s Arganee home. What do you think?

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~Till next time~

This Post Goes Out to My FBI Agent (Thanks for Always Being There)~

fbiselfie

mulderscreaming

How my FBI agent probably looks most of the time~¬†I’ve missed you over the shutdown T_T

Anyway….

I’m back¬†and better than ever.

Hope you haven’t missed me too much ūüėČ I’ll try to make up for lost time and get right into the snarky commentary~

Big Brother is Watching You

usausausausausausausa

“How do we know who, what to trust online anymore?…What keeps you up at night or worried about your own internet activity?”

I see we’re starting off light this semester.

Anyway, what¬†doesn’t¬†concern me about using the internet anymore??? It seems like every other day we learn about some new way the government has been tracking our internet activity or about some third-party company or multi-million dollar company (here’s looking at you Zuckerburg >.>) making stupid amounts money selling our data to the highest bidder. That was the story last year and it’s still the story this year. Third-party tracking, learning algorithms, privacy–the issues with all of those things are only getting worse as the internet becomes more ubiquitous and people become more inclined/manipulated to plug-in. The internet is becoming more convenient. It’s more convenient to go paperless with most information these days, to auto-save passwords, to venmo, to group chat, etc. The decision to forego privacy for convenience is becoming more and more voluntary, the methods driving this shift decidedly more and more nefarious.

Tbh, though, I don’t find myself as concerned with being tracked these days. It just seems like such a given, now.¬†Of course, someone or some corporation is surveilling me and making money off of it. Of course some shady entity is using the internet to manipulate not only people but concepts like reality and truth. It’s¬†so¬†easy. Really, check out how stupid easy it is:

These are 2 of my fave videos of all time and I share them a lot~

Truth doesn’t matter anymore. Facts don’t matter.¬†Unless they’re alternative facts…. While I’m a strong believer that the great thing about facts is that they don’t change whether you believe in them or not, an increasingly horrifying number of people seem to be of the mind that facts are things one can choose to arbitrarily believe in or deny, as if facts have somehow rumors or hearsay. It’s a troubling ideology that has only been galvanized and perpetuated and even weaponized (here’s looking at you Russia >.>) by internet intervention.

Rather than the internet being this place for creative enterprise and the free exchange of ideas, it has become this thriving cesspool of misinformation and bigotry that has gained a sphere of IRL influence that is expanding at an alarming rate.

And, it’s not very clear to me if more or less regulation will alleviate any of these issues. There’s never been a space like the internet before and it’s challenging to make decisions about the space. To make matters worse, many of the people in positions to make decisions about this space are older persons who, quite frankly, don’t even have a basic knowledge of how to convert a Word doc to a PDF or an idea of the different between Facebook and the internet let alone the knowledge necessary to pose meaningful sanctions on what information third-party servers can make a market of.

This is only a small curation of the many issues with the internet I have that keep me and many other people up at night. While I really want to be hopeful and believe that the internet can be this place for the democratization of information and this place for creative and free exchange, the current reality complicates this idealistic vision and the current sociocultural and political environment does not seem supportive of it. There are these little pocket realms where these ideals seem embraced–AO3, closed-species communities, select Reddit and Twitter threads, etc.–but for the most part, there is a lot to be desired.

All this said, I think it is more important than ever that media literacy and digital literacies be an integral part of education. Despite everything, I am a firm believer that education and knowledge bring the understanding and empathy necessary to overcome any kind of ignorance or intolerance and really instigate change. Facts and truth will never matter again unless we are actively teaching people that they¬†do. We don’t have to be the loudest voice–just the most consistent. Hope may be the spark but education is what keeps that light at the end of the tunnel bright and burning.

To me, alchemy is nothing more than the pursuit of knowledge, digital alchemy the pursuit of digital knowledge. It is also the pursuit for best practice, making it an ever-changing kind of “magic”. But, above all else, it is meant to be illuminating. This semester, I hope we are able to cast a little light of our own~

I’ve been feeling rather “dim” lately and I could really use a little light.

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I’m the Map, I’m the Map, I’m the…

If you need a little pick-me-up after such a bleak post, I highly suggest you check out my own personal map of the internet and my interactions with it. While I’ve still got my reservations, I think I express my hopes for the internet in an articulate, albeit embellished and a little bit pretentious¬†I quoted Van Gogh like an assh*ole???, way.I’m not a total killjoy¬†make some noise just mostly one–it’s kind of my #brand~ ^.^

Sweet Screams

Zero stars????? What’s a girl gotta do to get some stars??? Go give me some love~

Daily Digital Alchemies

I made a gif in Giphy for #dda238 and for #dda240, I took a swing at NJ Transit ^.^ one of my fave #pastimes~

~Till next time~

Shadow Girl Reflects II: Stories as Constellations

I think one of the most exciting–but terrifying–aspects of networked narratives is the inability to “pin them down.” They are constantly shifting creatures unto themselves. Stars in the night sky, telling a different tale with every step taken. From one view, this idea twinkles. But, from another, it doesn’t even register. The scope is ambiguous, subjective. Perhaps unreal. We try to make charts and maps but new information is always coming in. Things that once shined, dim. And, things that didn’t exist, do. How is anyone supposed to account for that other than to create an account of the changes?

These thoughts about how stories inhabit digital spaces and take shape followed me through my journeys this week. More, thoughts about how digital mediums can influence a story’s unfolding itself kept me company. What affordances digital platforms can provide imagination and creativity–even engage it. What is possible in a networked narrative and why are these possibilities meaningful? Like, is there a larger application?

Re-imagining & Imagined Travel

Well, this week was a trip.

First, a stroll down memory lane. Re-imagining the cover art for a book from a series I really like and appreciate. You can check out the specifics here. My dabblings with Photoshop also brought back old times–from high school, where I learned how to use the program. Not going to lie, my work reveals my rustiness. But, I found the concept surrounding the work to be an enlightening exercise in thinking about the ways images convey stories in and of themselves. How, tweaking them ever so slightly can alter perception. How images are multi-faceted–given power through our perceptions of them.

From reading Elit and make my own work of Elit last semester, I know the power of a subtly or not-so-subtly placed image in a work. In some cases, it’s an “Easter Egg”, so to speak, for those who catch it. In others, it expands or extends the level of meaningful interaction with a work. Digital storytelling, in this respect, I think returns to the days of picture-books. It returns our appreciation for them as well as reinvents it.

While working on my second exercise this week, a postcard from a magickal place, I especially felt a sense of wonderment in creating with images. Perhaps that is in part because of the magickal realm I “traveled” to–look see for yourself (maybe take your chess skills out of their cerebral storage case). But, there was this sense that I was extending myself in my work–kind of allowing my readers to literally “see” inside my head. Inside my world. How I imagine. It’s something I always try to do in my more traditional storytelling ventures–something I think all of us try to do–but short of turning our work into a picture-book (with all the childlike connotations that go along with that) it’s not the always feasible or realize-able. Words can only do so much on their own. We are each unto our own imaginations.

Overall, I found myself thinking about story construction whilst working on these projects. What elements are necessary to tell a “full” story and which ones are superfluous? How many words vs. how many images. What conditions do I want to plop readers into? What associations do I want to play with? How compelling can I make this?

I felt very imaginative and I think my work reflects that, perhaps, more than anything else. Imagination is my favourite form of magic and drawing other people into it as much as I can is my favourite spell to cast.

Fold that Story

So, impromptu trips. Let’s spend a moment on those.

For those who don’t know or didn’t/couldn’t participate, Kevin (@dogtrax) started an open, networked narrative on Twitter this week using a program called Fold that Story (?) If I’m not mistaken about that last part. Anyway, participants were all given this opportunity to write blindly, as it were. Meaning this story was written in bits and pieces, of which, participants only saw a singular piece before their own bit. So, we didn’t access to the whole history of the narrative. We got 250 characters max at a time and had to come of with 250 characters of own to keep the story going. To be honest, I’m surprised this story we created wasn’t more incoherent. Check it out.

Telephone 2.0 comes to mind–that game where you try to pass along one message from person to person without it being too warped. Except, here, it’s a community of people trying to tell a story through interacting with each other, passing the message along to create.

It was a very enchanting experience and really captured the essence of the “unexpected” that I am personally really enjoying the more and more I’m able to experience it. Both times I contributed, I felt genuine surprise. In traditional literature, with all of the plot development that goes in, genuine surprise can be hard to come by–especially for more seasoned readers, if you will. So, I appreciate the small enjoyment of surprise when I can come by it.

Creative Enterprise

In the wake of all of this story experimentation, I have decided to create a tag on my blog for bot prompts and the like–work inspired by what some consider to be random nonsense. Honestly, I love the free-associative-ness of Twitterbots. I find the creativity they provoke to be fascinating and facilitating.

I have long term work I’m cultivating inspired by this tweet. It’s about necromancy and reapers and the living dead. If that interests you and you like reading indie stories, you may enjoy this series. Part I, Part II (will update as I create)

As for the more general, stand-alone prompts. I’ve got 1 so far that I submitted for a dda this week. But, I’ve got a lot of prompts lined up that I will hopefully get to this weekend ^.^ @helterskelliter on twitter if you come across any interesting or bizarre/disturbing prompts.

In the meantime, if you want to read a short and sweet story about serial/ritual murder and implied cannibalism, this story may be for you.

Until today, I was having trouble placing this independent work in the greater scheme of my learning as it pertains to this course. But, during my first Studio Visit, something kind of clicked. So, let’s talk about that now.

Technical Difficulties Notwithstanding

(Anyone else scrolling through AO3 before this discussion or was that just me?)

So, I couldn’t figure out how to get my stupid mic to work for this Studio Visit (soundcloud). Which was a bummer. But, it didn’t end up taking anything away from my communication and my ability to interact with Elizabeth Minke and Flourish Klink (especially Flourish which was so cool ^.^ to like interact with a active creator in this field~~excuse the fangirling but, it’s kind of appropriate *nudge, nudge*). Anyway, one of the major things I took away from the discussion we had was this idea that writing fanfic and engaging with it can pave the way for larger accomplishments. Small acts of creativity can build upon each other or can inspire larger acts. In essence, you need these smaller acts in order for the larger ones to take shape.

In this way, my short stories are facilitators of greater creative thought. They exercise my imagination. Feed it. Nourish it. Nurture it. And, more creativity is never a bad thing when it comes to thinking about digital spaces and networked narratives.

Of course, this discussion on fanfiction and fan culture was infinitely fascinating and I still haven’t really wrapped my thoughts around all of its great points. Honestly, I don’t think I can. But, some other stand-out concepts for me were “tags” and “the illusion of representation.”

Being a fairly avid reader of fanfic, I’m pretty familiar with the functions of tags in the community. They help organize, mainly, and they help moderate–so people don’t have to read things that trigger them in some way or things that they just don’t enjoy or appreciate in a narrative. Having someone ask me in the chat about how tags censure was kind of shocking to me because of my own understandings. Tagging is voluntary–not strictly imposed. Creators, of their own volition, tag their work. And, the intent is to make the fandom space a safe environment. It is not to censure. I mean, in the fandoms I’m a part of, at least, I’ve never seen it used in a nefarious, agenda-forwarding way. Tags are a moderating force not a censuring one.

As for the illusion of representation, I definitely know it exists but, as a young white woman, I don’t think my personal context lends itself to me fully realizing how much of an issue this is. In one sense, I think that there is a lot to appreciate about the representation in fan communities. As an ace individual, I get to read stories with asexual characters I otherwise would not be able to. Mainstream media doesn’t really have a place for that or for other LGBTQA+ people (I’m aware that the respresenting ace/aro people instead of allies is a contentious issue–moving on). So, I think, in some ways, fanfic and fandom are progressive and inclusive. But, I also think they can be exclusionary in other ways, specifically when it comes to race or ethnicity. There is certainly a shortage of POC representation in these spaces. And, even going back to LGBTQA+ representation, it’s only recently that healthier depictions of same-sex couples exist. Probably because the writers using these spaces are becoming more diverse themselves.

Anyway, there is just so much to unpack from this conversation. I can’t possibly do it all in one post. In class, maybe we can get more into how fandom fosters communal creativity that can be applied to this overarching idea of the civic imagination. What is appreciated in fandom that could be more appreciated outside of it?

Last Thoughts

I don’t think I have any answers to the questions I first posed about networked narratives and their designs. As close as I can tell, digital stories are constellations–they can be pieced together from various points and these points can sometimes exist vast distances from each other. Some can be bright while others are subtle. Some may take a while to appear while others have more immediacy attached to them.

And, mapping them out is a whole other story.

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

Twitter (birdie in the upper left-hand corner or in the navigation bar below, too!)

Art Update

When enameling–adding colour to a metal surface via heat–you have to protect the side you are not adding colour to with a material called scalex. It prevents the intense heat of the kiln–that is for melting the glass particles that make enamel–from discoloring or possibly burning the metal. When you take your piece out of the kiln, the scalex, which dries to a solid substance before being put in the kiln, becomes a flimsy, paper-like layer that falls right off–revealing unharmed metal beneath. These paper remnants, I think, kind of embody that idea I mentioned earlier–doing small things for a larger creative act to shine.

1500 degrees does a number

I just wanted to share this mini-epiphany with you all.

Catch you on the flip-side!

Living Dead Girl

Past Andromeda, the Milky Way. One arm of a downward spiral–there.¬†Over an asteroid belt. A disparaged god of the Underworld. A sea god without a sea. Another god¬†kicked on their¬†rotund keester. Two hot heads and¬†their harems. Another asteroid belt. Then brothers, Horror,¬†Terror. A god of war.¬†There. Past one lone sentry. Through a corroding atmosphere to¬†blue. Vivid. To green. Alive.¬†There.

Just past the lively green. Beyond less lively, uniform rows of¬†grey, stone and marble etched in never-words –never who they were, never all they were. Never enough. A lone home, tall and still.¬†Don’t want to disturb the neighbors. Sneak a peek through a crack in the curtains, see only dark.

Inside, mattresses are pressed to walls. Black curtains to glass–both window and mirror. Smoke still stains the air from hastily snuffed candles. Day collapsed into night faster than expected.¬†Damn day-light savings¬†saving¬†who¬†exactly?¬†

Within a ring of salt, a bundle of blankets–quilts, actually. Hand-made. Patchwork. Rough around the edges but holding true. The lump stirs. A pale foot, toenails lacquered an icy, chipping blue, emerges out from under a raggedy edge. Silver threads like comet trails weave themselves in between toes. Tangled, the foot cannot retreat back beneath the safety of its quilted fortress.

A groan. Resigned. Defeated. It echoes as loudly as it can in a room with padded walls. Silvery-blonde separates itself from silvery textile. Eyes deep as the dark space between stars appear next, eyebrows above them furrowedРin frustration, yes, but, also, with the distinct slant of fear. Speckled across the rest of the face is cosmic dust, freckles that fade outward from a nose crooked gently to the left.

With haste, a ghostly pale hands reaches for the unruly threads holding the foot hostage. Tears at empty air–another groan, wearier–before locating its target.¬†This would be easier with a light. But the candles had to go.¬†Light attracts¬†them. Mosquitoes too.

Frantic fingers find frayed, ruthless wardens just when it no longer matters. Clueless moonlight filters into the otherwise darkened space through that overlooked crack in the curtains. With it, a breach in the salt circle is revealed. Obviously made by a struggling limb or two.

Blood younger, the quilted bundle may have jumped to re-seal the breach. Place every pesky grain back into place. Now, though, it knows better. Knows some boundaries, like those at the end of a beloved quilt, once torn, worn, cannot be repaired. No matter how many stars are wished upon.

Should’ve learned to sew. Like Nana¬†told me to. Warned me it’d come in handy.

Warned me.

Now, at the window, a hollowed eye-socket peers in. Breeze–that should not have penetrated solid glass– ruffles¬†the curtains. Blows them aside. The bundle shivers. Frost pricks at the corners of eyes now the darkest things in the room.

Outside, hollow gazes. They outnumber the stones. Swallow them whole.

Swallow me.

It’s an honour, I was told. Banshee wails, still faint hums, begin to rattle glass. Rattle bone.¬†To see, is an honour.¬†To be¬†what I am is a¬†gift. From the universe.

The bundle is shed. Salt kicked aside. A candle rolls into shadow, disappears from existence until a dull thud bounces off eardrums.

Towards the window, wails become unified. One entity. An ever-present scream. Muted in the waking hours. Blood-curdling now. A crack spiderwebs across glass. It will shatter. Soon. If I allow it.

What I was never told, my hands find the battered, vibrating window’s frame, was that there is more than one¬†universe.¬†A necromancer is weeping inside a universe.¬†But, a universe also weeps inside a necromancer. Never stops. You can try to shut it out.

Or–an edge found, a hard shove, splinters fly–

you can let it in~

fullsizerender-1

Stars are not surrounded by darkness. They’re surrounded by emptiness.

 

 

Exploring the Elements

***Earth, Wind, Fire, & Air by the Hex Girls was playing in my head throughout working on this exercise just so you know***

Because I’ve always been an avid fan of faeries and fantasy in general, the elements and their power has also been of interest to me. In particular, fey seem to embody our ideas of natural power and magic. Also, it is interesting to think of the elements themselves as these kind of “old gods”, embodiments of the most ancient of magicks and power. At least, it’s interesting to me. I’d sooner put my money¬†on the power of a storm or of a volcano or of a tornado than on any deity housed in some overrated book.

Anyway, let’s get to what examples of earth, fire, water, and air I was able to scrap together. I had a rougher time finding some than others. (Not for a lack of trying I’ll have you know…. ¬†Does that sound too defensive?)

Fire

“Some say the world will end in fire.

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favour fire…”

Like our good friend, Robert Frost, I, too, favour fire and had little difficulty with procuring examples of the element. For my literal example, I looked no further than the stove (don’t mind the grime ūüėõ I know it’s long overdue for a scrub). And, for my less literal representation, I looked to another of my art projects. Last semester, for a class, I dabbled in book art–which is, essentially, re-purposing a book as material for an art piece. For the project, I played off the title of the book,¬†City of Fallen Angels, and made each cover into a scene–one side was a heavenly scene while the other was “hellish.” You’re looking at the hellish side here. Basically, I cut out the cover with my jeweler’s saw and then riveted a piece of copper to it. That piece of copper looks like flames because I chased a design onto the metal with a hammer and then gave the whole piece a heat patina, which gives the copper that reddish, almost burnt look. (This is the same technique I used on that wing necklace from this post.)

Art is usually the first place my mind goes to when I think of the metaphorical.

Water

pisces

Pisces ~ Feb.19-Mar. 20

Not going to lie–as a Pisces myself, I thought finding examples of water would be pretty easy for me. Like, the universe would lend its hand so that I could find some really nice shots. But, uhm, that didn’t really happen. There’s a little brook, I guess, that runs through campus at Kean that came in handy though. (This is one of the cleaner sections of it….)

As for my metaphorical example, you could say the universe took pity. I truck for a local water department drove by like just when I was thinking about what I could do. Just managed to snap a pic of it so please excuse the quality–and the melting snow drops! Though, I think those are most appropriate. Honestly, all things considered, everything about this one moment did come together rather fluidly.

Air

“…a presence like a shadow on suspended dust.” ~ Red Dragon,¬†Thomas Harris

I struggled with thinking of how to capture an example of air–until it hit me in the face.¬†Literally. The wind has been killer around here lately and is a perfect example of how powerful air can be once it gets going. Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself. (Really,¬†click¬†that link.) Honestly, I used to live in south Florida–where hurricane season is the actual name for the summer/fall period of the year–so¬†wind¬†should have been something I thought of sooner.

As for my second example, again, I looked towards my art. Here, I have one of my earlier works. It’s a locket shaped like a cloud with these “windy” pieces of sheet metal riveted onto its lid. The swirls are meant to be representative of stormy winds blowing in. It’s counter intuitive that they’re made out of metal though, huh? Even so, I think their shapes and positioning capture this “light and airy” feeling.

Earth

Gaea [jee-uh]

noun

  1. ancient Greek goddess of the earth; mother of the Titans

I found it rather difficult to pick examples for this element. This is largely due to the fact that my idea of earth includes all the natural and the organic. So, with such a broad outlook, it becomes to difficult to makes choices. In the end, I ended up taking a pic of my own, snowy backyard. I like that I was able to include a very noticeable touch of the weather.

As for finding a more metaphorical example for earth, I feel like I had to compromise. I don’t really think I got a great example here. But, I feel like it captures the simplicity of the idea of what earth is for a lot of people–the outdoors. It’s that section in a bookstore people who frequent bookstores like myself usually skip past ^.^

Anyway, hope you enjoyed walking through these bits and pieces of my week with me, exploring everyday examples of alchemy. Let me know your thoughts!

Finding Value & Purpose

Digital Alchemy. Cool phrase but, what does it mean?

So, I’m not going to lie. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about alchemy is FMA (Fullmetal Alchemist)–Brotherhood, of course, though I don’t believe I really¬†need¬†to specify that. For those who may not be familiar though, FMA is a manga with an¬†anime adaptation that revolves around the lives of two brothers–the Elrics–who tried to use alchemy to bring their mother back to life–emphasis on¬†tried. See, the art of alchemy requires an exchange–in the FMA world, that exchange must be one thing for something else of equal value. What do you suppose is of equal value to a human soul? If you answered nothing¬†good, you were so close! Case in fact, a human soul costs¬†nothing good +¬†an arm and a leg.

fmasweetarmour

(Joking aside, this is a phenomenal series about so much more than what little I’ve mentioned and it is totally worth a watch if you get the chance ^.^)

Anyway, enough with the silly side of my impressions. What else comes to mind when I think of Digital Alchemy? Well, again, I get caught on that latter word–Alchemy. To me, alchemy embodies this idea of converting the mundane and worthless into something precious and valuable. More, alchemy identifies this very¬†human desire for and belief in magic–magic that transforms the unwanted into the invaluable. Throughout history, we as humans have¬†craved¬†that kind of power. Revered the art of it as something magickal. Mystical. Refining. Redemptive, perhaps.

While belief and, subsequently, faith are not concepts¬†I put much stock in myself, I do understand them to be in and of themselves just as powerful, if not more so, than the objects of their attentions. So, to me, it is not just the word but the belief in alchemy and what it represents about people which¬†most captures me. Magic–specifically as it pertains to faeries, but that‘s another story–and the ideas of it have always fascinated me. There’s nothing that speaks more to who we are as humans, it seems, than our beliefs in the fantastical, in the awesome, and in the otherworldly. We want so much more than ourselves. Want to believe in it. Want it to be real.

Some, I believe, have attributed this kind of desire to greed. Humans are greedy, always wanting more. Never satisfied. And, in some respects, I agree that humans can be very greedy creatures. But, I think our beliefs in magic like alchemy also speak to something inherently different. That is, a desire to galvanize so thoroughly there is nothing but gold. We have always wanted to make the ordinary precious because, otherwise, what value is there really to those ordinary things? If something has no assignable, tangible worth to it, why keep it? Why bother? Alchemy was a way to instill not just worth and value and reverence but also purpose.

When it comes to thinking about alchemy and how it pertains to storytelling, both the digital and traditional kinds, this idea of alchemy’s ability to instill worth and meaning¬†stands out. Writing and storytelling is a way to galvanize our experiences and turn them into something that matters. Also, it is a way to immortalize what has happened, immortality another subject alchemy concerned itself with. Digital alchemy, perhaps, is more concerned with the former–because the ability to engage with many digital pieces hinges upon the technology that is available and, since technology is currently ever-evolving, achieving immortality in the genre poses some unique issues still being worked out. (I know preservation efforts are under way, at least. But that, too, is another topic for another conversation).

Back to digital alchemy and storytelling as a whole, I think a large component of it returns¬†to this core idea of wanting to transform the mundane and ordinary into something that has value,¬†meaningfulness, and agency. Working in an online space allows for so much transformation to occur as well as transportation–ideas and stories can travel just about anywhere anytime. And, isn’t there power in that? Creating something that matters and can reach so many people? Creating something that can connect? Facilitate a new kind of bond? (I’m reminded of the Japanese practice of¬†kintsugi–repairing broken objects with gold, fortifying cracks by galvanizing them, turning damage into something precious, something more valuable for¬†it. And, again, FMA comes to mind. The Elric brothers sought to alleviate their pain through alchemy only to incur even greater damage for their efforts–but, that damage ended up serving a purpose in that it taught them something about the value of life itself. Taught them that life is precious because it ends. They learned that alchemy is not an antidote. Not an altar to sacrifice yourself upon. Not a means to avoid the inevitable. Magic, despite all our hopes, is not a cure-all. It can be, in time, a restorative, though. Because, magic is not just what we take of it but also what we make¬†of it. Transformative. Restorative. Like our own experiences themselves, magic is about perspective, about the pursuit of something beyond just ourselves. It is longing to transcend, to transform, to overcome.)

Overall, I guess I see writing itself as a form of alchemy that seeks to transform not just the regular minutiae of everyday but also the unwanted parts of life and experience into something that has value and purpose so it can¬†matter¬†to other people.¬†Speak¬†to them. Facilitate transformation and renewal–for ourselves and for others.

Storytelling seeks to be magic, digital storytelling to be modern magic.

 

**Hope you enjoyed my thoughts on digital alchemy. I’m very excited to begin my apprenticeship as a digital alchemist ^.^ I had so much fun last semester delving into elit so I can only imagine that joy will grow this semester!

Sorry I left early last week, btw! It’s not ’cause of anything anyone said, I just had a train to catch! 3 actually, when all is said and done, but if I miss that first one, it throws everything else off! Hope that doesn’t become an issue this semester for anyone!

Also, this blog was the one I used for cataloging my Elit experiences from last semester. Figured I’d re-purpose it since I think my past thoughts and feelings could be insightful at some point. Feel free to check out those old posts too, if you want!!

Catch you on the flip-side!**