Textual Media Experiment

Working individually or in small groups, students will construct their own experiment in textual media this semester. More than technical innovation, I’ll be looking for creativity, an awareness of the issues at work, and a sense of serious playfulness.

Your audience includes our Textual Media class, but of course, since this project is digital and likely online, it may eventually be seen by a much larger audience — something to keep in mind as you work on your project.

The degree of narrative coherence, interactivity, and closure you aim for will be up to you or your group to decide.

The subject of your digital text is also up to you. It may be wholly original or it may make use of existing texts or media (within copyright limits). It may be a personal memory, a creative story, a manifesto, a mashup, a parody of some official discourse, and the list goes on.

Baseline Requirements

  1. The new media text itself. This may be purely text, or it may incorporate images, video, or audio. There is no minimum length requirement in terms of words. Instead, consider how long you want to engage your readers. Aspire for a work that is not instantly over. The best experiments will invite exploration or contemplation, as well as the sense that there is both representational and evocative meaning at work.
  2. An artist’s statement. This is a 500-word essay (written individually, even if you work in a group) that outlines the goals of your project. What were you trying to achieve? What effect or meanings were you after? What subtextual meanings were you trying to evoke? Why did the project take the form it did? Explain why you chose to work in this specific medium, and how that medium afforded narrative opportunities that meshed with the themes of your work. Here I’ll be looking for evidence that you’ve absorbed and thought about many of the issues we discussed throughout the semester regarding electronic literature, narration, points of view, texture, embodiment, etc.
  3. A reflective essay. This is a 500-word essay (written individually even if you work in a group) in which you evaluate how your project lived up to your initial goals. You will also consider the difficulties and epiphanies that occurred along the way as you created your project.

Possible Tools and Platforms

  • The most comprehensive list of tools is the Digital Research Tools wiki
  • An interactive map using Google Maps (like 21 Steps)
  • Annotated or Interactive YouTube video (described here)
  • An interactive multimedia timeline (using a tool like Dipity)
  • Twitter (examples of a Twitter Novel…)
  • Trailfire (using it to “talk back” perhaps to an existing online text)
  • Multimedia hypertexts, created using NVu (installed in the campus labs)

Possible Source Materials

Possible Places to Host the Experiment

  • GMU students are able to create and host their own websites on a GMU server. If these instructions aren’t enough, the staff at the STAR lab in the JC can help
  • Smaller projects can be hosted directly on this blog. For example, I’ve installed a feature that allows you to create an interactive Google Map right here. (You can also create a map directly on Google Maps.)

The experiment will be due December 2, and we will use that day and the following class day to present the works to the class. The experiment and reflective essay count for 20 percent of the final semester grade.

27 thoughts on “Textual Media Experiment”

  1. Although the assignment is indeed vague, I don’t feel that it’s a problem. I think that for this type of assignment, the directions must be somewhat vague in order for a wider variety of projects to be made. The amount of creativity allowed seems to be very high which also helps to encourage projects which are different from one another. I can’t think of any changes I’d would like to see… Perhaps I like it as vague as it is..

  2. I would be interested in having a workshop inside or outside of class devoted to better learning how to use the various possible forms to create a textual media experiment.

  3. I think the vaguest portion is the sentence that states that we need to have “Transformative use of the techniques afforded by digital media.” I’m not quite sure what that means, but I guess it has something to do with originality. After all, you wouldn’t want us all to turn in altered Hegirascopes now would you? The fact that Google Maps was included as a medium intrigues me. What could we do with that?

    As far as suggestions, I can’t say that I have any solid ones. Maybe be more specific about what constitutes “original writing”? As we said in class, Orson Whales was original even though it was really created out of 3 existing works. So, originality can be subjective. I suppose the degree of narrative coherence could also be touched upon. After all, if I created something that had 25 unrelated images and 100 words chosen at random, did I really accomplish anything?

  4. Possibly provide an array of examples of works that have been done so we have something to ‘aspire’ to create, should it be comparative to the works we have reviewed in class?  More detailed, less detailed?

    Concerns would be in the past when we did the map projects– you laid out the various software that could be used to complete the project, it would or may be helpful if you did this for this project as well.  E.g., if its similar to the drawer media work, then only an HTML editor/web composer is needed.  But if a flash presentation is warranted, different SW would be needed etc..  How complex does it need to be?

    Regarding the subject:
    “The subject of your digital text is also up to you. It may be wholly original or it may make use of existing texts or media (within copyright limits). It may be a personal memory, a creative story, a manifesto, an artist’s statement, a parody of some official discourse, and the list goes on.”

    Some works such as the bird work did not necessarily have > 500 words in it, so the 500 words or 2 (100) words is a strict requirement?  As far as content I suppose we would need more time to think of and consider what kind of work we would create…

  5. My primary concern is how I’m going to create a piece online when I have no experience whatsoever with working with Flash or programs that make the media we have seen in class. Other than that, provocative assignment.

  6. My biggest concern about the project is that I would like to do it individually.

    Other than that, I’d like to see some light reading/homework assignments that are specifically geared towards helping us make a hypertext. We’ve gone over them, but I have no idea how to actually make one. Also, because we haven’t gone over the creating of hypertexts, I’d like to see that part of the assignment de-emphasized as far as grading goes. Also, maybe an entire class dedicated to the basic forms this project could manifest itself in might be a good idea.

    As far as the assignment itself goes, I don’t know how much more specific it should be. Given the multitude of ways this could be preformed, I don’t know how much restriction we should have.

  7. I would like some other possible forms of this experiment. I am familiar with some of the possible forms given, but I would like to have more options. If we are not good with formatting hypertext and flash poetry would be a challenge, to say the least. In addition, a YouTube video would be a good idea but is impossible without the right equiptment needed.

    I am familiar with Google Maps and Twitter, but am confused on how these applications would make this experiment possible…

  8. I like the fact that the assignment is somewhat vague.  I’ve been trying to find new forms through which I can present my writing, and I think this is a great opportunity to do that.  I think you should leave the assignment open ended like this.  It will be interesting to see the variety of things people come up with.  Should we use some of pieces we’ve been studying in class as examples?  If so, which ones would you suggest we take another look at?  I’m a little concerned, because although it sounds like a cool project, I’m not that familiar with creating hypertexts/flash.  Can you direct us to mini tutorials that might help get us started?

  9. I think there’s probably going to be a lot of resistance to the assignment since I’m sure a lot of people aren’t comfortable with ideas like web design and HTML.  Still, eletronic media can be created very easily even in programs that should be more familiar, like Powerpoint.  I think the focus should rest on the creativity and innovation over the technical experience.

  10. I like this idea, and have logistical questions that have to do with the final presentation of the piece.

    1. Where would be web hosting be, and will we be using the Mason webspace, or could private hosting be used instead?

    2. Will there be an initial approval of topic, and checkpoints leading up until Dec. 2?

    3. How many people can be in a group?

    4. Can a group use a digital media form other than what has been suggested?

  11. Concerns: graded on content and assignment outlines vs. digital and online abilities (ie, i have none); how many is a group? pair vs. group;

    Suggestions: keep at individual or group (some like to work individually [such as myself sometimes], some like to work in groups);

    Opinion: I think the assignment sounds interesting; it would be neat to see what others in the class would come up with (myself included, bc I am at a loss for the moment), personally, I would like to see the guidelines stay pretty open for interpretation. I work better with less limitations, and I think that is a big part of Textual Media.. being able to create what.how.why the creator wants; adding a lot of guidelines could stifle the artistic.creative.interpretive.critical side. However, I think it is important that we know what specific things you are looking for: length.sound.topic[political.religious.life.simply making a point].so on and so forth.

  12. Sorry…I’m a little lost here.  I can tackle the writing aspect and pictures, but I’m not sure about the other forms.  I feel like I am being asked to create an artwork without knowledge of the proper tools. 

  13. I understand attempting to ensure that each student puts in a relatively equal amount of effort for this assignment, but doing so for this particular task seems impossible.  As such, I question the need for a minimum wordcount on the creative portion of the assignment, and would suggest leaving such an arbitrary metric for the reflective essay only.  If the piece does not address the concerns of new media, it should be fairly obvious without counting words/images.  Perhaps imply that if the piece submitted is especially small, a particularly powerful reflective essay is needed to justify its merit, maybe scaling the size of the reflective essay in inverse proportion to the piece’s size.

  14. Concerns:  My biggest concern is probably just the electronic execution of the project. (Lack of technological experience with setting up html’s, etc.)

    Ideas: I really liked the concept and formatting of “My Body: A Wunderkammer”, but I’m not sure as to the level of experience one would have to have to create a page like this. I like this idea, though, of the initial presentation of a “whole subject” that is dissected when the user clicks on particular links. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a body like the one in “Wunderkammer” (or even contain the author’s theme), it could be a landscape or an inantimate object, etc. It could be more of a metaphorical representation, utilizing the interplay of metonymy or semiotics as well. With this being said, the project could study how the created pieces create and convey meaning to viewers.  

  15. Whenever I think about this ‘assignment’ I get a knot in my stomach, because I’m not sure where to begin or how to even begin. Would you be able to show some simpler examples of projects done in the past? This way we would have even the slightest hint of what to do. More structure or a ‘how to’ would be appreciated.

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    Initially, I was concerned about the instructions. Once they were finalized however, clarity set in and the project seemed possible. As Professor Sample went over the project several times, it helped to give me ideas on the project medium I would later choose. The only change I would consider making is re-ordering the steps in the textual media project itself—the artist’s statement should probably come first as it is the “outline” for the project. Once you have written this, it makes it much easier. I think most everyone in the class all started out wanting to do something HUGE and it became daunting so we had to scale back, but overall I think the results were great. Leaving the options wide-open but supplying a few example mediums was a good mixture. It allowed one to use an existing medium (Google Maps) or one could also create his or her own medium if inclined.


    After actually completing the experiment (and especially after seeing other’s projects during the presentations) I wasn’t as intimidated by all of the options that were out there for us to utilize. I just wish I had this confidence before I began working with my chosen platform. I really enjoyed coming up with a new media object, it forced me to branch out from my dedication to pen & paper or Microsoft Word and alter the actual context of my creative fiction – which ended up creating new subtextual concepts for it. In terms of future students, I think it would be helpful if the guidelines to the experiment are given at the beginning of the semester so students can have time to experiment with various platforms before selecting one. Also, maybe if one or two classes during the middle of the semester were designed for help sessions where students could bring their projects to class with them and trouble shoot with their classmates who may offer some critical advice on how to fix things, edit things, etc. 

  18. Initially, I was very anxious about creating a textual media experiment.  I invested a lot of time developing an idea only to discover that I could not implement it because I do not know to work with HTML.  At that point, I was TOTALLY FREAKED!  I was so relieved when I visited Google Maps and watched the tutorial.  Google Maps was just the Prozac I needed.  I am amazed that format was so easy to use.  Actually, Google Maps was easier to use than trying to figure out how to post this blog.  I can honestly say that creating the project was fun!   There was an added benefit of the projects that I did not expect.  Watching the class presentations gave me a fresh perspective and a new appreciation for electronic literature.  It was inspiring to watch each artist present his or her project and see the uniqueness of each person’s subject and design.  All of the projects are amazing and demonstrate the diversity of our creative expression.  Thanks everyone for a great experience!

  19. The experiment was extremely daunting at first, because I hadn’t had much experience working with programs outside of class.  I feel as though my initial idea was exciting, though pretty ambitious considering my lack of knowledge with said programs.  So, I opted for something that I was familiar with that allowed me to be more creative when working with backgrounds, etc. Using MySpace eased my anxiety because I had used it before. However, I was surprised at how much it changed in the ways the user was to edit the page. That was the only real thing that tripped me us. I feel as though it would have been helpful to have some kind of check points throughout the semester involving the project. Or maybe, one of the blogs could have the topic of how the progress of the projects is going. Having some date to set for the student to be accountable for a certain amount of work would be helpful, because then you and the student could see what needs to be done.  Overall, I enjoyed developing the idea, I just wish I had more time and more knowledge to increase the appearance and depth of the project.

  20. After finishing my project and seeing everyone’s, I think this assignment was a pretty good success. The fact that we were kind of thrown into the assignment and had to fend for ourselves resulted in a more genuine experience of creating a piece of textual media. I think if this project were to be assigned again, a week of workshop style classes would be great to cover the different mediums students used this time around such as Google maps, twitter, html, and others. It was nice to study different types of textual media forms throughout the semester and end on creating out own, yet there was minimal practice on actual creation. I think the assignment was excellent and successfully culminates all the things we learned over the semester.

  21. I enjoyed the process of creating my own little piece of textural media, but I wish I could have worked on the project over a longer period of time.  I like what someone else suggested about giving future students the guidelines earlier in the semester.  In my case, I could have expanded on my Dipity timeline.  Nonetheless, I think the experiment was a good starting point.  It seems like everyone had an intriguing project that they could perhaps work on in the future.  I plan on adding to my Dipity timeline, and I suggest you guys make one, too!

  22. Sorry this past week has been crazy with finals and I just remembered to post my comment. While I felt incredibly intimidated at first at the vagueness of this project and the expectations I assumed would be held for us considering the little knowledge, if any, I have when it comes to creating hypertexts. I am happy the way my media experiment turned out and am thankful for the examples Professor Sample gave us to help guide us through the process. I enjoyed using Googlemaps. While I had these great ideas of doing something similar to 21steps I quickly realized that whatever the author used was not going to be possible for me. I wish I could have done something  more personal and interactive with my idea I am still happy witht he way it turned out, I just wish i had the knowledge and skillset to create a more interactive experiment. But altogether, once I got the ball rolling, I enjoyed creating my experiment

  23. When first assigned the Textual Media Experiment, I was really nervous. I do not have much experience in working with the options that were available to us. I really wanted to create a website, but was unsure how to go about it. If more time was provided to do the experiment, I know that I could have figured it out.

    However, I enjoyed making a story that I wrote more technical. I tried to make it more interesting my including links and images. I think the assignment was very appropriate for what we learned over the semester.

  24. I think that the textual media experiment was my favorite part of this class. After a semester of trying to define new media, it was fun to get the opportunity to try and create our own. It was interesting to get a glimpse of just how much work goes into a new media piece, and the different problems and concerns that have to be taken into consideration.
    Personally, I had pretty limited experience with HTML code, but I knew I wanted to create a piece using this format. NVU made it really easy to create simple pages link them together the way I wanted to, so that was a huge help. After the pages were complete, I ran into a lot of problems with the secure shell program while trying to upload them to the Mason server. I also had a difficult time going back and checking all the links and fixing the broken ones. Through this experience, though, I think I developed a decent understanding of how to use these different programs if I do decide to go back and add more to my piece, so I’m glad that I decided to do that.
    Looking back, I think that the broad guidelines turned out to be beneficial to the projects overall. It seemed like everyone had a unique take on this project and it was interesting to see the different ideas that people came up and produced. I do think it would have helped if a little more time was spent going over the possible websites and programs that could be used in this project. Since the focus of this class is more on the literary aspects of textual media and not the technical side, I think it would have helped the class if we had a chance to explore these options as a class.

  25. This was probably one of my favorite assignments. Mostly because it allowed me to explore a really fun and interesting time in my life but also because it was a wonderful way to tell the tale that I wanted to share. Google maps, I think, is a wonderful new way to tell stories and I would be incredibly interested to see someone with more computer savvy than I explore the possiblities of this medium. I enjoyed trying to use a medium other than microsoft word to tell a story. I think it allowed me to convey meanings and feelings that would be difficult to cature with words. For me, this assignment was a microcosm of the course as a whole in that I would have never know about, much less, explored something like this if it were not for this class and I’m gald that I did because it makes me feel wiser or more worldly. This assignment widened my scope of electonic literature because instead of interacting with the e lit I was creating it, and while it was difficult/frustrating at times it made me more aware of what goes into making e lit.

  26. I’ve had an inspiration about what might make this assignment a bit more comprehensible in the future, while still leaving it open-ended. My idea is to go back to Manovich’s article on databases versus narrative, and make one requirement of the textual media experiment that the projects fall on the narrative side of the divide. Setting this goal might give students more focus and sense of purpose in their projects. Some of the experiments resemble databases, and I would’ve liked to have seen some greater narrative framework structuring these project. Manovich’s article might give us some traction, helping us to decide what counts as a database and how to transform a simple collection of facts or images into something with more narrative texture.

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