Reflections

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Welcome to the course archive for the Fall 2008 version ENGL 343 (Textual Media). The class is long over, but much of our online activity is archived here. You can start off with the course guidelines and calendar and move on to some interesting posts by (now former) ENGL 343 students.

Textual Media

This has been an interesting class, I have been introduced to new things that I never would have experienced or appreciated. I can not say that I have enjoyed all the types of work that we looked at but there have been a few that I thought were interesting i.e. My Boyfriend came back from the war piece. I never really appreciated the saying that a picture has a thousand words until after we dissected that piece in class. Also the Nine piece was amazing because you have the picture with the words, and it represents this persons life history. I can not really say that I enjoyed the hypertext and the interactive fiction section of the course. I found those very frustrating and not enjoyable at all. I definitely did learn new things in this class, I learned that there are different structures of interactive narratives, and that what may work well for once does not necessarily do the same for the others. I also learned that there are different aspects of interactivity in electronic literature. The aspect of this class that really coalesced these points for me was when I did my textual media experiment. I had to think about these ideas, who my audience is, and what my point of view is before I started working on it. During the course of the experiment, I had to implement the different aspects of electronic literature that I had learned in this course. This really made me appreciate all the other works that we looked at in the course of the semester. I am glad that I had exposed myself to this different genre of literature instead of taking the normal print form, that was required for my literature requirement. Thanks for a Knowledgeable semester.

Hypertext

The notion of what makes a good hypertext is really up to the reader. There are certain criteria that a hypertext should cover. Each hypertext should have a good number of links that the reader can follow. The hypertext should be coherent and provide form that is characteristic that has organization. It should also intrigue the reader and make them want to follow the links. The medium employed in the hypertext should have the capacity to fully engage.

The great thing about firefly is that allowed the user to click on a line how many times it wants and still make sense and not change the outcome of the poem. Deena Larsen did a great job in investing to making sure that there were enough adverbs, adjectives, etc., that made things easier for the user.

The firefly poem is full of imagery that allows the user to imagination to be captured, and keeps them enthralled to the poem so that they continue to click on the hypertext. The poems themselves are not that long, they are usually about 4-5 lines.  The author made this piece in such a way that the user could read and look for new forms of imagery throughout the text.

Between Hegirascope and Firefly, I felt that Firefly was the most user friendly. I could simply not grasp Hegirascope, it through me for a loop. The reason why Firefly is user friendly is because it allows the user to have control on how fast they want to go. It also allows the user to have an easy accessibility to text by simply clicking on a line of text.

I actually rather enjoyed the textual media experiment! I say “actually” because at first I was not sure how I felt about having to create one of the things that I had struggled so much with understanding. There was a lot of thought process and a lot of kicking around random ideas.

Things I would keep the same:

* Assigning several weeks in advanced to allow for time to wonder, get lost, formulate a plan, get lost and reformulate said plan (annnnddd… repeat.)

* Leaving the assignment open for interpretation.. after all, EL is all interpretation! Allowing students to do whatever topic through whatever media is a big plus to NOT becoming overwhelmed with the assignment. It allows for us to use any avenue of creation we want.

* Even though it obviously wont be done for the first time again, obviously, I like when a professor allows for input before assigning a big project.

Things I would possibly change:

* Maybe create some sort of checkpoint halfway through just to see where students stand, even if its just a blog explaining the brainstorming process thus far.

Good assignment!

Body Part

Old Draft, why not post it

Running full speed, looking back at Nick, waiting for him to throw the ball, I slip on the autemn dew of the Sunday grass and fall backwards. Suddenly my arm feels really weird. Later my friends said they heard the snap. I stand up and my arm looks even weirder than it feels, the middle of my forearm is bent inward like an elbow at a 45 degree angle. I wasn’t going to get the ball. I hurry over to Chris, who is on the other team, and ask, “Chris, does this look normal? Its just a muscle cramp, right?” it wasn’t a muscle cramp. “After the play, man.” he replies. “No, Chris, look at this!” He whips his head in the direction of my arm, “Holy shit!” The game is halted to get the wound (me) off the field and into a car to take me home. The car wasn’t driven by one of my friends because we were all 14, rather it was driven by a one of the juniors that had come to inflict pain on our smaller, less developed frames by way of football. I thinks, after seeing the mangled skin, muscle, and bone stemming from my arm, those plans changed.

I knew the guy that drove me home, his name was Jacob. He was the assistant swim coach at our local pool. He was a fairly nice guy over the summer, when his friends weren’t around. During the the school months, however, he was kind of a jerk, trying to keep up his bad-ass reputation I guess. He wasn’t a bad-ass on the drive to my house, he was scared out of hs mind. The drive from the park to my house takes maybe three minutes, it took us, what felt like ten. He was driving slower than three year olds’ on their big wheels. When we got to my house, he pulled into my  drive way, which made my dad stop his yard work, opened my door and said to my father “Mr. Parker, I think your son broke his arm.” Wow, ya think, dumb ass? I arm is bent in a ridiculously unnatural angle and there is a knot of flesh the side of a grapefruit at the bent. I really wanted to say that, but, hey, the guy just did me a favor. My dad’s response to Jacob’s statement still rings in my ears as clear as it was that day “Oh, god damn it, Alex!” Alex is what he calls me because we have the same name. Ah, yes, my loving father. I don’t think he was really mad at me, in fact I know he wasn’t, he was just really freaked out because this was the first time either of his children got really hurt. After my dad’s eloquint and hospitalable greeting Jacob exits stage right and my father, my younger sister and I get in the car and head to the hospital.

We get to the hospital and check in; the hospital is a little more dilibrate than I had hoped in having someone see me, but I am seen by a nurse before a few patients partly because of their curtousy and partly because they were really grossed out my my arm. I am given pain killers just after the adrenalin wears off, so I only feel the full magnitude of my injury for a few moments. The doctor I get is sort of a jokester, but when I bring up the question of “You’ve seen worse breaks, right?” he responses ”This one’s pretty bad.” which is doctor code for “Hell no, kid! Your, shit is fuck up!” And I was I was thinking same thing, I just hoped he wasn’t. Don’t ever ask a doctor how bad your injury is because I think they are obligated to tell you the truth and if you have to ask that, chances are, you won’t like what they have to say. Instead, ask your doctor “Will I be okay?” or “Can you fix this?” those questions tented to receive a happier, less devistating answer.

In any case, I have to have surgery and the doctor tells me that he is going to try to set the bones without metal plates but if it’s not stable enough he will have to put them in. He would tell me after the surgery what he did. When I woke up in my room six hours after going under and two hours after surgery I knew. The pain in my arm was unexplainable. It was sharp, throbbing, shooting, and stinging all at the same time. I knew that I had plates in my arm.

Today I am fully recovered but I have two three and a half inch scars on each side of my arm and metal plates around both the radius and the ulna which are secured by metal screws. My dad says that the doctor could have done a better job in making the scars less visible but I like them the way they are. They are a reminder of the that day, of who I was that day, of what my family and friends were like that day, and how all of those things have changed in the eight years since then. So this is the condensed version (yes, there’s more) of what caused those scars on my arm. I find it simply fasinating how parts of a person’s body can tell a story. Move over, I think it is fantastic how those stories can show you something deep and unseen about that person.

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Nine

Nine is a visual interactive fiction, that utilizes nine title puzzle to tell a story. There is one title that is an empty space, so that the user can rearrange the title in a way that will formulate a complete picture. But as the user grabs one of the titles to move, the image fades into another image in a continuous loop with interchanging pictures. As the titles are being moved text appears in the vacated white space. The constant shifting out of focus of the images in the piece causes tension within the story. The text is the story about the authors life history, how he was born to a Cherokee mother an Island father and adopted by white parents.

There are twelve different images in the story. The pieces are not read until the user figures out the picture. Examples of the images are a baby, a face, fall leaves, outdoor water picture, and someone pointing at you. There is also a famous story of the Sequoa.  The puzzle s a metaphor for his life, there is always going to be one blank space… a missing piece no matter what. The piece seems simple at first but gets really deep and complex at the end. 

This piece symbolizes how our lives are constantly in motion, when the events that occur in our lives shift with the ending of one and the beginning of the other with no dividing line being evident.

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http://www.samplereality.com/gmu/fall2008/343/guidelines/textual-media-experiment/

A mash-up of Afro Samurai and Method Man’s Bring the Pain. Couldn’t figure out how to embed the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWZmthBpLF4

Second Life is an upcoming virtual world that is becoming more popular every day. People can log on and make an alter ego, where they can control their every decision. You can do anything from go shopping with actual money to be physical with other virtual people.

According to Urban Dictionary, Second Life is defined as, “A virtual world in which a desperately lonely person can adopt an alter ego and live out an utterly pointless existence every bit as mundane as their non-virtual life. The “noughties” version of Dungeons and Dragons but without the trolls and orcs. A baffling and ultimately sad indictment of how people interact today.” Although this definition is funny and interesting, Second Life doesnt necessarily have to be for loners. It can be useful for shy or busy people, who dont have the communication skills or time to go out and experience the real world.

MTV did a documentary on this new way of life. I found it interesting how serious the users take it. According to secondlife.com, Second Life is, “Second Life® is a 3-D virtual world created by its Residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of Residents from around the globe.” I do think that Second Life can be a positive experience for some, I in no way think it can replace your “First Life.”

Webkinz

I recently discovered this unique world that has captured kids imagination. Its called webkinz, I came across this over thanksgiving break when my nieces and nephews age 4 and 7 had asked that I buy them this stuffed animal. Its not only a stuffed animal, in each animal there is a code that you enter in this website website http://www.webkinz.com/us_en/. You enter your code so that you can adopt your pet into webkinz world. Here all the stuffed animals come to life. You get to name your pet and choose their sex. After a successful adoption you are shown to your room, where you start with a 2000 dollars in kinz cash so that you can decorate your room, buy new furniture, clothes and food for your pet. To earn more money there are an array of quizzes for every age group that is a fun way to learn and earn more money, to more items for your pet like pools, TV, refrigerator etc. There also arcade games as well. The pets rely on their owners for food, exercise, and all their other needs. There is a meter that keeps track of there feeling such as the happy meter, healthy meter, and hungry meter etc. The other fun thing about this site is that it allows the kids to invite their friends to come and see their rooms, they can play games with their friends and also chat with their friends.

This website allows kids to interact with their stuffed animals as if it were a really pet. They can have fun as well as learn responsibility. This is an amazing concept that utilizes kids penchant for loving animals and also introduces the kids to the computer and the different methods of interacting online.

Whale hunt

I believe that John Harris piece Whale Hunt is both a narration and database. What made me categorize this piece as a narration is due to Mieke Bal criteria for a narrative which is as follows: it should contain both an actor and a narrator; it also should contain three distinct levels consisting of the text, the story, and fabula; and its ‘contents’ should be “a series of connected events caused or experienced by actors”. All of these criterions are present in this piece. There is a story being told with the pictures, the person in the picture is the actor and the photographer is the narrator. There is also small captions that inform the user on what is going on and the locations. Therefore there is enough information being given in this piece to equate to be a narration. I thinks that this piece is really amazing, because of the great photography. The picture tells the story it starts from the airport towards their destination and you see them actually hunting the whale. The user feels like they are part of the story because they don’t have to rely on their imagination when going through this piece, they can actually see the story as it unfolds. What makes me think of this piece as a database is when Lev Manovich states that “database represents the world as a list of items and it refuses to order this list.” That is what Whale hunt is a database of pictures taken during a trip. 

While I suppose Jason Nelson could be considered somewhat of a creative genious, I think that the way his head works is completely unique from any sane person on this planet. While we have worked with multiple pieces of his work, I am still drawn back to the Bomar Gene. Normally hypertexts like this that  are seemingly so abstract are unappealing to me. I don’t want to have to draw insights on human romantic relationships from a hypertext of a wagging dog’s tail. While the Bomar Gene had some abstract genes, It also had genes that really appealed to me.

The stories on the side of the window gave the hypertext a personal and more meaningful appeal. They were all stories that were strange accounts of what we can assume are actual documented incidents that left me with an eery empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. The genre of the stories made me feel like there was something I wasn’t quite getting, that I could feel a meaning in the pit of my stomach but I just couldn’t figure out what it was., or I hadn’t quite reached it yet, or maybe I just wasn’t looking at the work collectively enough, or maybe there was riddle behind the gene names that would make the meaning less evasive. I was particularly fascinated with the Felton Color Gene, I remember telling all of my roommates and people I talked to that week about it. It was just so strange, morbid, and peaceful all at once. That someone would take that authority into their hands in order to save a girls life. That someone would be gifted enough to understand another so unlike her mentally. It just really struck a cord with me.

I was really disappointed when we watched the viedo of Jason Nelson as he tried to explain, or rather mess with us, fool us, tease us about his work. I don’t think he was even remotely genuine in explaining his genes. They seemed too simple and from what we’ve seen from him throughout the class, it seems as if he likes to hide his deepness behind simplicity. His video showed us that he’d rather make jokes and make fun rather than make deep evocative and insightful points. But the quality and genre of his work just makes it unbelievable to me, and perhaps the only person that it is meant to have meaning for is him anyways.

Whale Hunt

I’ve been struggling to figure out whether or not to classify Jonathan Harris’ Whale Hunt as textual media or a narrative. I find the pictures interesting–except for the bloody parts–and intriguing though they have no textual writing on them at all. Though no words are really “written” to tell a story, I think each picture captures some form a story. The expressions on the people’s faces, their body movements, and their struggles are all captured and we are left to create our own story for the image. And though each image has its own story, all of the images combined make a nice slide show of the photographers journey with the hunting of the whales. It’s as if we, as the “readers,” are right there along side the entire team since the images are so clear and vivid. I guess it doesn’t really need words to tell a story and shows, rather than tells.

The concept behind Harris’ work is pretty unique and creative. With the camera snapping pictures every 5 minutes, we get a sense of action, almost like a movie. The slide show continues and documents the entire trip, hardly leaving anything out. The pictures of the food at the restaurant in the beginning and the chopped up whale meat at the end create a great beginning and end for the piece.

While not one of my favorites Implementation did seem to stand out above the other pieces we have examined through out the semester. It stood out mostly because the project could stand alone without any use of electronics. The gorilla sticker attack the creators did on the city could easily be looked at as a piece of literature or art all alone. This differs from the other pieces because without computers or technology they wouldn’t exist. They relied completely on the use of technology to get a message or theme across. Implementation used computers to enhance its project. It was used more as tool to help to viewer see the bigger story but did not solely rely on it to get its purpose across.

This just seemed to be unique in comparison to things like electronic poetry or interactive fiction. It just made me start thinking about where things are going in or could possibly go in the future. I can remember being in elementary school and needing to know the how to read card catalogs to find a book, now all you need to do is type in a title into a search engine and there you have it. I just think it’s funny that I found a project where word was on paper to be unique. Before this class I know I wouldn’t have had that mentality, it would’ve been the other way around. It very interesting to see how the written word has progressed and changed with time but has also stayed true to its roots. I think Implementation was a great example of combing new and old ways of telling a story.

Music videos are the visual scoring of a piece of music, in a way. The scoring of a movie is done after the film is complete, and works to compliment the overall piece. A good score helps to subliminally increase the emotion displayed on the screen while not taking the focus away from the film itself.

Often times music videos fail to do their simple job and overshadow the music they are supposed to be complimenting. Music videos are treated as commercials rather than vehicles in which the listening experience can be enhanced. Even good music videos seem to miss the mark. Take the Beastie Boy’s music video for “Sabotage,” for example. It is a funny and interesting spoof of 70’s cop epics, and without a doubt one of the best music videos of all times, but it completely detracts from the actual song.

I think that in lot situations, music has been demoted to a level of “complimentary art.” Music is treated less like an art form in itself, and more as a way of enhancing other works, or other daily experiences. Music is listened to while riding in a car or walking to class, but rarely is it the main focus.

            I recently came across a clip of Jakob Trollback’s new approach to the music video (which can be found here: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jakob_trollback_rethinks_the_music_video.html). The video reminded me a lot about Nippon, and got me thinking about how this abstract approach to the music video could help benefit the listener’s experience of the music.

Instead of trying to promote the artists as celebrities or making an attempt to depict of the song’s subject matter through actual images of the words, the lyrics—the actual words themselves—become the main focus. By focusing on shapes and letters and the movement in sync with the music, the viewer becomes more aware of the music’s subtleties and gains a fuller experience. They are not distracting from the music in anyway, they highlight the different parts. In a way, it is similar to a visual player that can be found on itunes or windows media player—which is basically a score of the music.

I think by taking this approach depicted here, the listener’s experience of the music can be further enhanced because it takes into consideration the relationship between form and function, unlike the music videos of today.

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