Author Archives: salomeH

The Moment Literature Danced

Not too long ago, literature was a pretty straightforward concept for me to define. Literature can be poetry, stories, books, newspapers, indeed, literature to me was anything that I could read, and, for the most part, that stayed put as I read it. Ever since taking the Culture and Technology English course at Capilano University, however, my entire conception of what literature is has shifted.

As our class clicked through the multiplicity of electronic works in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 site, I came to appreciate the more abstract forms literature could take; words forming in a dance of looping string, a story told through my curious clicks, a poem that immersed me in its textual, visual, musical painting. No longer is literature an activity where I simply sit and scan words on a page or screen, my comprehension dependent on the ability to decode words, but is a dynamic interaction with textual and visual elements, where comprehension may not be the end result, but, indeed nor is it meant to be like I used to believe.
In the earlier stages of interacting with this foreign world of words and stories, the frustrations of my confusion was indeed a common feeling. More often than not, the pieces evoked thoughts of loss, futility and anger. Why is it that I value this new form of literature then, if my experiences seem to be more predominantly negative? The answer is simple: because I felt something. The electronic literature collection not only forced me to engage with the texts presented to me (or that I had to find for myself), they manifested stronger emotions than I had experienced with any other assigned book, article, or poem in print or as a pdf. Never before had I felt like destroying a certain author’s work, and never before had I been mesmerized and fascinated by simple words on a screen, their meaning redefined through various motional or interactive elements, and the barriers of language and thought disintegrating through the imaginative execution of textual art. Not only has my aesthetic view to defining literature has changed, but my understanding of its emotional power has evolved as well.

Though I might have once seen the concept of literature as a finished and closed book, my recent experiences with the ELC-1 has reopened it to a chapter I had never read. My views of the what literature is capable of now exceeds that of the enthralling story, and informative essay, and acknowledges the artistry of literary presentation, as well as the involving and interactive characteristics literature can take. My relationship with literature has been changed for the better, my engagement one that dreams of the vast possibilities and interpretations written language can take. Forget plot outlines, trains of thought, the consistency my literary concept of yore described… the static view is gone; I now read for the thrill of the literary unexpected.

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Connecting Stars, Connecting Lives

What is it about the glimmering points in the sky that fascinate us so? What is it about them that has compelled all man at some point in his life to stare at them in wonder; wonder about what secrets or wisdom they hide? “Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky,” an electronic literature piece created by Sharif Ezzat, is a captivating contemplation of the power the celestial has in connecting all people through the sharing of stories and relationships.

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Pulling Strings To Say It Right

What happens when you can not only construct a visual of meaning in your minds eye, but the words play out the dynamic essence of the words they describe right in front of your eyes? What you get is Dan Waber’s piece “Strings”, a compelling poetic work that represents the different characteristics of the various exchanges inherent to human life, and to literary connection with the depiction of a string forming and reforming words, moving them, and making them interact with each other, as we would in our daily and textual relationships.
With every slide, each representing a certain theme, we are shown both a linguistic and motional display of the thoughts being played out; from the “yes/no” tug of war of the string showing the nature of argument, to the indecisive and teasing floating of yeses, nos and maybes, tentatively and shyly interacting on the screen, to the poetic and romantic display of the words “your arms around me”, by implementing the rotation of the string in a circle to convey the connection and intimacy that one feels in a romantic relationship
Dan Waber’s portrayal of these living words, listing and acting the different engaging connections we partake in and exhibit not only helps us connect to the ideas and emotions revealed through use of a winsome choreography of text, but also makes us connect to the writer himself in the mimicking of a writers hand by illustrating the word creation in handwriting, both conveying the writer’s personal imprint of the piece, and the journey with Waber as his hand moulds the “string” into the particular words he deems perfect for the illustration of the thoughts he wants to share with the reader.
“Strings” is a titillating experience for the reader, engaging him in an insight to the dynamism and effectively charming way words can demonstrate and reveal the various everyday relationships that take place between combatants, friends, lovers, and even the ethereal connection between reader and author. While the genre of electronic literature and poetry may seem intimidating to traditional and conventional reader, “Strings” is a appealing and refreshing introduction to this new and growing medium.

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Brave New World: Regressive Progress

More, newer, faster, better… these are the words that we have come to strive in achieving, science leading the way to a promising, more comfortable world. But how progressive is progress? What, in its rapid pace forward, does it leave behind? In the dystopian science-fiction novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley challenges the increasing prevalence and influence of the evolving scientific and capitalist ideal, thrusting us into a world shaped and governed by scientific control and development, eliminating the need of emotional satisfaction.
“A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.” In his opening words, Huxley transports us to the city of London AF 632 (After Ford, or AD 2540), in front of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre. Here we are presented a sterile, artificial world where science decides the future caste, purpose, and thoughts of the people, through genetic manipulation of categorized embryos, and the decanted and growing children’s subjection to hypnopaedic conditioning; values and thoughts specific to caste repeatedly played to them in their sleep. Following the World State’s permanently engrained motto, “community, identity, stability”, the notion of stability is reflected in the practice of ultimate conformity to societal values of frivolous sexuality, mass consumption, and homogeneity. When John the Savage, a man from the uncivilized land of Malpais, finds himself in the “…Brave New World! That hath such people in’t!” he is quickly horrified by a place where technical and scientific evolution had devolved humans to identical puppets, devoid of emotion, morality and a true concept of happiness and satisfaction.
Through Huxley’s portrayal of a hollow, mindless society, run by scientific control and engrossed with material satisfaction, we are bequeathed a prophetic view of where the results of industrialisation and mass consumerist culture will take us. By contrasting this futuristic society to the romantically archaeic Savage, we are revealed the repellent reality of how the growing reliance on material possession, and the use of narcotics to divert ourselves strips us of our capability to feel true emotions, and distance us from our moral values. As the acquisition of pleasure inducers, or discomfort reducers, as was represented by soma become more abundant and accessible (a gram beats a damn!), our need for moral reasoning and leverage to attach significant virtue to elation becomes reduced to insignificance, our need for quantified contentment surpassing the qualitative nature of taking the good with the bad, with time to kill. Through the growing mass commercialization of commodities, and improvement in medical and technical inventions, we risk becoming clones, by way of the amalgamation of capitalist culture and the rapid development of genetic engineering. We risk becoming devoid of individual personality, thought, and ultimately, devoid of freedom.
Brave New World provides the reader with an unsettling view on what we are putting at risk in our push for progress. While his portrayal of this World State may be melodramatic in its completely hopeless prediction of a future society, the relevance and urgency of his concerns to the changes of today’s society, compel the reader to both immerse himself in the surreality of the future, and praise that the future has not yet come.

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Fading voices, fading memories, fading books

For every technology that has been developed and that has stayed around long enough, it has been considered an improvement in Man’s history, and, ironically, has been kept alive and remembered by the book. It is ironic that a book should be so important in recording the evolution of the various inventions through time not because of the simple construction of the book in contrast to the machines it documents, but because the technology that it is remembering today, the internet, is that which will bring upon its tragic conclusion, thus the conclusion of our connection with those who touched them. With the development of e-books, the physical book is being threatened into extinction, leaving the future generations ripped off, the replacement an empty, invisible, sterile alternative.

The Internet has revolutionized the way we live our lives. Everything is but a click away, and we can read anything we want, so long as we have a screen to project the words on. While we may see this new phenomenon as miraculous in its ability to ease our reading processes, making the process of finding, reading, writing and saving works faster, the quality of experience, emotion, and personal connection has been extinguished. The book itself is an extension of the many people who have encountered it. It is the memory, as well as the preserver of past authors, owners and readers alike. A ripped page, a stained cover, markings inside, scuffs on the edges… all of these markings contain the life of those who have handled them. A math textbook is not but a stack of pages to teach you arithmetic, but is a channel through which we can connect to Darian in 1987, and find out that Rachel loved Tristan forever. Online literature and editing do not contain the tear marks that stained the paper in my diary, nor do they boast (or pity) the evolution of one’s penmanship.

Not only is there a loss of history and intimacy on an aesthetic scale, but I worry, too, that our increasing tendency to publish and save the multiplicity of works digitally will literally erase any archaeological records of the generations that are soon to come. While we preoccupy our minds with the need to make literature creation and consumption more “efficient”, the best technologies of yore are continually becoming nullified by brand new systems, incompatibility with the veteran tech making the content it contains as impossible to rediscover as Atlantis itself. Whilst the anthropologists up to today have had the already challenging tasks of deciphering ancient tomes, the challenge resembles that of breathing compared to those who will have to understand what the flash-drive in the rubble contains.

As we continue develop and use the Internet and its technologies for its increase in convenience and efficiency, our values of quantity are surpassing the quality and importance of the oldest technology known to man. As we distance ourselves from the book, so are we forgetting and isolating ourselves from our forefathers, our friends and mentors, and eventually ourselves. Our need for progress is that which will leave us behind, for our longevity resides in the book, and as we near the day where it is no longer, so do we the end of our lifetime of history.

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