It’s Been Real…Or Has It???

Featured Image credits to Serkan for making such a cool custom gif!

Hey~

So, I made it to the end of the semester. More, I somehow made it to the end of my graduate program!!!! I’m going to have my M.A. in like two weeks??? I mean, I have to wait for the actual degree to be mailed to me but the ceremony of it all is happening in two weeks!!!!

It has not exactly been smooth sailing. But, I managed not to be thrown overboard which I count as a primary accomplishment this last semester. Every new semester and, really, every new chapter of my life teaches me how to be a better sailor of rough waters. Each semester comes with its new challenges and new expectations. In NetNarr this semester, it was a definite challenge to balance completing my thesis as well as stay on top of course assignments. There were times where it was hard for me to even choose to work on a NetNarr assignment because I felt like it was taking away valuable time from my thesis. All semester I really felt like I was creating sub-par work–which, true or not, cut into my own self-esteem. I hold myself to high standards when it comes to my academics and I definitely felt strain semester in regards to my work. All that said, I am proud of what I have accomplished in NetNarr and I am incredibly grateful for all the supportive people I have met along the way.

First and foremost, so much of my installation for my thesis project would not have been possible were it not for the amazing support I received from my NetNarr classmates. I was very self-conscious about having an entire portion of the class revolve around my own “silly” project. More, I was self-conscious that it was being treated like a Studio Visit as if I were in the same league as some of our amazing guests like Chris Gilliard or Alex Saum, both tour de forces of intellect and creativity. But, my classmates were all very invested and also interested in my actual work. Serkan even came in with a hand-made tiger mask and everyone participated with the project. The footage that was taken by my classmates is invaluable and really helps bring my whole project to life. It’s a living experience on my website now. (For anyone who hasn’t yet, I strongly recommend checking out my acknowledgements. I am so grateful for all of the support I received, more grateful than I can ever fully express in words.)

Additionally, I am really grateful for all of the discussion I engaged in with my classmates and our Studio Visit guests during NetNarr. From my past experiences in NetNarr and my own research into digital culture, I know I bring a certain level of insight to the table but I was really impressed by the thoughtfulness so many of my classmates have in regards to digital concerns, especially concerns about privacy and about self-representation. I think we were all very overwhlemed by what Chris Gilliard shared with us about surveillance in digital spaces. For myself, I was deeply disturbed by how easily citizens who are not under investigation for any crimes can be monitored. That knowledge, though deeply disturbing, I believe is important when it comes to any discussion about regulating online spaces. That so many people are invested in this problem and are concerned about it gives me hope for the future.

I found it deeply moving, as well, to hear from Alex Saum this semester. Her work has inspired so much of the creative aspects of my thesis project. More, her perspective on online issues is so on the pulse and seems to be in line with my own concerns. Saum’s SELFIEPOETRY and #YOLO projects are exploring issues of self and of self-representation in online spaces that most concern me; primarily, I am concerned about where we are in these spaces and these spaces allow us to be whole in new ways but also irreparably fragmented. I find this all so fascinating. For me, Saum summarized some of my concerns succinctly when she said, “Works of art are always representations; They aren’t me.” At least, this thought lies at the heart of some of my own thinking on the issue of self-representation in digital spaces. Who is art for? Who are we for in this new digital landscape? What constitutes a person, what should matter in that regard? Who has the authority to decide what should matter? I was so deeply moved by Alex Saum and much of her perspective on online issues not only informed by own research but also legitimized its importance.

Speaking of Saum’s work, though, I am disappointed I was unable to create a #finsta for my final field guide project as I originally expressed interest in doing. In complete contrast to my thesis project, I wanted to explore how evaluative features and social curation in online spaces limits who we can be. I hoped to accomplish this feat by creating a #finsta (fake Instagram) account that would help me explore the nature of content creation and of evaluative features.

That didn’t happen.

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Made a cool gif though~

I ran out of time to create an additional component, like a finsta, that would have allowed me to explore/subvert what I was going for. I do think I wrote a comprehensive piece on the topic of social curation in online spaces and I am proud of the research I did for that. (I never really could get into the whole “alchemist conversation” thing you were going for but I do think I tried to engage with my alchemist in meaningful ways on Twitter the Arganee cafe rooftop. Check out Vlada and see for yourself though. Beware, though. She’s a little snarky. I wonder where she gets that from…) I wish I could have had more time for the creative aspect of my research but I also feel like my creative quota for the class was met through different activities over the semester. For example, making my Twitter bot was a whole thing. So much creative and technical energy was exerted this semester not just to get my bot going but to get everyone else’s bot in the class up and working. I mean, after the whole “Russian interference in our democratic election process” thing I get why Twitter added more hoops to jump through. But still. It made for a lot of work on my end.

One of my favorite creative enterprises from this class as well as one of my fave assignments was making and exploring gifs. I love memes and I do think they are pique art at the moment but I find gifs to be so evocative. While I do think reaction gifs are limiting our own means of expression in some ways, I think the process of making one’s own gifs returns some of that autonomy to users. More, I think it is incredibly important to help writers in this age build digital skills, especially skils that help writers engage with a contemporary audience. New media like gifs and memes is the substance of the Internet in 2019. Knowing how to make new media helps make one literate in the area. I firmly believe that and I hope NetNarr continues with activities that help familiarize students not only with using new media but with making it. Most of us agree, I believe, that in order for any of the issues addressed in the field guide to be “fixed”, developing digital literacy practices is absolutely integral. In order to develop digital literacy and help people become more critical of the content they consume online, people need to become more familiar with new media and with how it is constructed. That provides perspective which opens new doors. Were people more informed, I highly believe that our current digital and media landscape would look much different. Somehow, knowledge and information and critical thinking are subversive. Go figure.

Overall, I think this semester 1) inspired me to somehow be even more critical and subversive in regards to my thesis and 2) helped me be more aware of just how little privacy we truly have online. NetNarr this semester has made me think twice before selecting auto-fill options and before allowing different apps to have access to my location. I mean, it’s fun to joke about the CIA/NSA/[insert shady government agency here] agent assigned to me but it’s a whole other thing to realize just how deep data tracking runs and how many people are making bank off of selling my personal information to the highest bidder. If I think about it too long, it really does disturb me. That said, again, I do think that NetNarr this semester has demonstrated that there are a lot of concerned citizens and ones that are willing to realize and actualize their concerns. Whether or not a candidate for a government office supports greater transparency or, better, a complete overhaul when it comes to online data tracking is important to my generation. We want a safer Internet and we want an Internet that can still be this place for the free exchange of ideas, for change. We know we deserve better.  I think NetNarr, classes like NetNarr, and the students in these classes are paving the way for IRL change.

Thank you for everything always.

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Links Roll Call

My Blog Duh

My NetNarr Blog Posts

My Daily Digital Alchemies

My Field Guide Entry

Somni Porta: 1, 2, 3,

My Makes: 1, 2,

My Giphy

My Hypthes.is

Vlada’s Hypothes.is

My Twitter Visualization:

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I don’t feel like this captures all of our interactions this year???

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Anyway, I guess that’s all folks. I’m not sure exactly where digital travels will take me next but I’ll always be a tweet a way from crashing the #netnarr party ^.^

~So, till next time, friends~

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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.

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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~

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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:

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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!

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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 ^.^~

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