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“I, You, We” by Waber and Pimble

Review by Carly McDiarmid
Dan Waber and Jason Pimble’s Electronic Literature piece is a 3D Java collage of different sized texts of different colors. This poem is a part of Harvard University’s Dudley House in spring 2005, in the Infinity exhibit; the Infinity exhibit was an exhibition of visual poetry and artwork built from/ on/ and around letters and words. Waber and Pimble describe this poem as an “infinite cube that can be rotated endlessly without returning to the same view.” The piece utilizes three colors: green, blue and red.

The words you (Blue), and we (light green), are spread across the readers gaze. A singular word “I”, which is red, is centered at the bottom of the screen. Flowing throughout these 3 words are many different dark green words; the authors express these words as “a river of verbs.” This text is a pleasant and readable piece. Whether one is searching for the deeper meaning of the poem, or just playing around with the flow, this piece is quite enjoyable. But, what is the purpose of this poem?

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Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales

By Megan Finnerty & Salome Fornier-Hanlon

Review

“Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales” by Edward Falco, Mary Pinto and Will Stauffer-Norris, is a visual poetry piece that combines eight abstract chemical and light created photographs, each depicting different lands, with their own constructed texts whose content and formatting reflect the art upon which they are displayed. Each of the eight compositions play with the relationship between colour, scene and language; the colours of the pieces being reinforced through text, as their names provide further description of the scene or story written. With the implementation of flash, “Chemical Landscapes” becomes an engaging work, the text making a temporary appearance as it quickly fades out, leaving the reader to grasp onto small snippets of text, and either replay the same poem to try and read more, or venture onto another; creating his own internal landscape and its story with the words he has absorbed.

While “Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales” is an enthralling work, I found myself confused and disoriented due to the failure of the author’s conveyance of their message or intent. While this visual piece is clever and intriguing as it lures in the reader by its evanescence and romantically worded prose, the concept of the collaborators of having a reader jump from scene to scene all the while procuring random ideas to construct a new story or meaning was far from being executed by my exploration of their work. My first impression of what this piece was trying to project was a representation of the ocean through art, text and movement, relating content to interface and behaviour. The words fade in onto a background of what looked like a seascape for all but two (one which mirrored rain, and another of purple, which I was not too sure what landscape it projected), and then faded out to white. This dynamic struck me as wonderful in representing the undulating and recessive nature of an ocean tide, requiring us to replay the scene over and over to grasp the full text, replicating the in and out movement of waves on shore. Eventually, however, novelty wore off, leaving me more frustrated than mesmerized. The necessity for me to repeat the same text over and over to read the entire poem became exasperating, leading me to cheat and pause the flash. I became further disappointed when I realized that most of the poems had nothing to do with the sea, their text not only suggesting a different landscape, but pieced together in a very un-fluid manner, random ideas and words popping in from nowhere. In the end, I still appreciate the piece for its visual execution, and though abstract, the beauty in the prose it displays. If the authors had successfully communicated their philosophy behind this work, “Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales” would be a very powerfully moving piece of e-poetry; a truly engrossing visual, mental, and sensational experience of art, movement and textual meaning.

Response

Thank you for your thoughtful review, Salome!

I find myself in agreement with much of what you had to say about “Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales”. While I too at first found myself completely mesmerized by the mimicking of the ocean tides and the lovely combinations of colour and texture, I soon became quite frustrated. Having to call the text back by clicking on it again and again did not appear to be a huge concern initially, but I quickly became annoyed, as I could not find myself being able to get through the entire piece in one viewing. I realize the creator intended this to be the case, however having to go back and re-click it multiple times to complete the reading, I found myself losing focus quite easily. That lost focus caused me to have to read the pieces several times before I actually absorbed the content of each one of them as a whole. The piece does in fact create a slightly different experience with each reading, however they all caused me to experience the same aggravation. That being said, I did however enjoy how Falco’s words so nicely matched the visual landscapes created by Mary Pinto. Softer colours were effectively used to create more serene landscapes, accompanied by calmer, more tranquil content, while the poems that portrayed more stressful scenes of nature were amongst a darker, slightly edgier landscape, visually elevating the intensity.

Using ‘Visual Poetry or Narrative’ as a keyword is very appropriate for this piece, as these “landscapes” were thoughtfully created using only chemicals, a flashlight, and a darkroom. However, while I did find myself admiring the beautiful visual atmosphere this array of works provides, I personally found myself a bit more engrossed with the importance of time in this piece rather than its visuals, as the visuals quickly disappeared with the text.

The world of electronic literature is still quite new to me, and I realize that while many pieces are extremely interactive, others leave you with no control whatsoever, forcing the viewer to go along for the ride. “Chemical Landscapes Digital Tales” is a little bit of both, leaving the viewer almost slightly deceived. At first glance, the viewer is in complete control, only to realize that the initial click is about the only control you are granted in this piece. While this piece was visually beautiful, I found that its beauty was slightly outweighed by the frustrations it caused me. 

A Few Questions…

1)   How did you guys feel about this piece? Did you experience the same frustrations that we did?

2)   Do you think the creators in this piece made a positive choice in making the reader continuously chase after the text?

3)   Do you feel that this piece may have been more or less effective with the addition of either interactive elements, or audio?

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Carrier (becoming symborg)

Carrier (becoming symborg)

Keyword: Audioooooo

Alysha Rohla

Erin Carolan

Review

Carrier (becoming symborg) is an interactive piece of electronic literature designed to make the reader feel as if they have contracted the Hepatitis C virus. Using VRML, Shockwave and Java, the authors create 3D images, moving text, etc. to give the virus an image and personality while immersing the reader into a personalized, virtual storyline. An unsettling soundtrack of eerie, electronic sounding noises (Like the kind you’d hear in a sci-fi horror flick) adds a sense of nervousness and angst to the piece. The Hepatitis C virus first asks for your name then gives you choices throughout the story leading you through 2 different story lines based on the decisions. Regardless of which route is taken, the reader is eventually told they are a carrier, a nameless number. This gives them a sense of loneliness and helplessness, a feeling that the only thing they’ve got left in the world to relate to is the virus itself. Overall I really do like the piece, but unfortunately I think it has a few flaws… My presentation unfortunately isn’t interactive like carrier, so you don’t get to choose what comes first.

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Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China

Review and Response to Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China 

Keyword: Childrens Literature

Review by Kolton Smith; Response by Alexandra Loslier

 

REVIEW:

Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China by Kate Pullinger and babel is a part of the Electronic Literature Collection and is uniquely different from other pieces. One of the main classifications this is under is children literature. Going through the piece I really couldn’t feel it. It did have a child in it, but it was not something that stood out or something that I could relate to as a child. I found that this piece offered a lot things, but Children literature wasn’t one of them. The main thing that struck my eye was that this piece is Flash based which requires the Flash plugin to be run. It offers many benefits that other traditional literature and other electronic literature don’t have. This piece uses sound and visual stimuli that go along with the story.  The sound and visuals are perfectly integrated with the text. The story allows the reader to read the text and still be able to enjoy everything else. The story is presented in a linear fashion just like traditional stories. On occasion the reader is required to progress the story by pressing “>>” or by solving a puzzle. Just like the sound and visuals, this is just another way that the story is able to keep the reader’s attention for the whole duration of the story. Along the way a chapter menu appears on the side of the piece. This allows you to progress backwards in the story, but it doesn’t allow you to go forward read the ending.  Overall the story was very amusing and was able to keep my short attention span occupied for the whole 5 minutes, which was hard for some other electronic literature pieces. This type of story has great potential in the future. It’s able to deliver a detailed rich story in a short amount of time and keep the reader entertained. Flash is very common so other stories could easily replicate this format. The only problem with this format is that being so short and having details highly compressed it’s easy to miss information that the author thinks is important. Maybe that is why I never got some parts of it. I think different people are going to get different things out of it. It’s a unique experience and I hope to read more like this in the future.

 

RESPONSE:

            This piece of electronic literature really tugged at my heartstrings. Firstly, as an only child I can really empathize with the young narrator of the story. The authors illustrated the feeling of loneliness quite well and were thoughtful in they way they used the 8 year olds voice to bring light to what some readers might have interpreted as a dark tale. The setting is a far away place, devoid of playmates and the young girl must use her imagination and her toys to create a sense of peace for herself in what seems to be a hectic and static environment.  The story truly speaks to the only child of not only this generation but of future generations as well. Although I disagree with Kolton about the applicability of the keyword “Childrens Story” I do agree that the use of flash and multimedia is very prominent and a very fitting keyword. Pullinger and Babel use static and aggressive sound, image and vocals to set a mood for the reader, a mood that is somber and tense. The sounds associated with the flash production project the idea that the future holds static filled skies and white noise in barren lands. Pullingers description of this story states that this is a part of a collection of stories that chronicle the growth of a young woman named “Alice,” and that this specific story was written in as a chapter of her early years as an 8 year old. Pullinger calls the title “Inanimate Alice,” which is strange for a children’s piece as inanimate means lifeless, dead, non-living, and dull. What I glean from this title is that the word inanimate refers to the objects, such as the Ba-Xi and her imaginary friend Brad, which Alice must use to fill the void that she feels from not having any physical contact with her playmates.  The tension felt in the story is splattered with bits of youthful naivety in both the interactivity the reader has with the electronic literature and with the sweet way a young girl describes what could be interpreted as a sad, dark and lonely place. I may not recommend this reading to an 8 year old in our present day but I can understand how the authors feel that this will be the format for children stories of the future.

QUESTIONS:

  1. How do you envision the children’s stories of the future? Do you see them being presented in such a format, why or why not?
  2. Why do you think the author’s chose such an uncomfortable soundtrack for the story, do you feel it was effective, what feeling did it evoke in you?
  3. Did you appreciate the interactivity of the story? What did it remind you of? Do you think the author used too much audience interaction, too little, or just enough?

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a review, followed by a response to that review, of “Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)]” (which will then be followed by questions)

Jen’s Review:

Memmott’s Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)] is one of sixty pieces in the Electronic Literature Collection that easily distinguishes itself against other pieces by its use of combinatorial. Memmott takes 12 very well known self-portraits of artists dismantles them and reconstructs them into an unrecognizable new self-portrait. Each piece comes with a miniature biography of the original artist, which seems oddly out of place when the picture no longer matches its description. Memmott’s use of combinatorial automatically draws the eye to the distorted image making one question the reasoning behind the destruction of a self-portrait. If this is how an artist painted him/herself, why would anyone want to destroy that self-professed image? None the less, Memmott has recreated a virtual image of these dozen artists in an ever-evolving sensation of clicks, so one must take the time to examine whether he has or has not succeeded in portraying a new image of the artist through the use of combinatorial. The message portrayed by Memmott’s work is one of self-identity, self-awareness, and self-reflection. With each new image, the viewer questions the very image that they are seeing, which further emphasizes the actual process of identification. If the original artist’s portrait is lost, how can a new identity be formed? One click may bring the predominant image of Van Gough infused with Gauguin, whereas another click will bring Renoir infused with Goya. All of these complex and convoluted creations leave the viewer questioning Memmott’s use of technique to create meaningful identity. Despite using a technique that is only possible when one destroys another’s work, these misshapen facial portraits do leave a lasting impression and an insatiable sense of curiosity over what would happen if I clicked again?

Jordan’s Response:

I agree with Jen that the author, Talan Memmott, is playing with themes of identity in his piece, Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)], although my approach to the work was far more light-hearted. Instead of seeing an attempt by Memmott to destroy or break down the artist’s self-portrait, I saw instead a playful attempt to restructure the paintings and biographies, using easily accessible images and information to create new portraits and stories. Taking advantage of the electronic format, Memmott allows the reader to change history with each click, to humorous ends, creating a giant art history mash up. In one portrait Matisse was spending time with Andy Warhol, and Degas was the personal painter to the King of Spain in 1786 (Degas was not born until 1834). Van Gogh supposedly painted The Old Musician (actually painted by Manet) and Francisco Goya started out as a junk bonds trader whose “bohemian desires were incompatible with the business world”.

A moment of honesty: due to a personal bias regarding any literature that I have to read for school (even when I helped pick it out), it actually took me a couple of minutes before I caught the misinformation; I had just assumed it would be a few lines of boring facts so I wasn’t actually processing what I was reading; I assumed it was dry, factual and academic. It wasn’t until I read that Starry Night was painted by Renoir that it struck me that most of the information was incorrect. Being outsmarted by a piece of e-literature made me take notice. Fist bump, Memmott. Respect.

Back to business. As Jen said in her review above, if the original artist’s portrait is lost, how can a new identity be formed? I don’t think that Memmott is trying to create new identities for the artists; he is instead just creating compilations of digital information, but mixed up and out of order and randomly generated, to provoke the reader to see the errors in the biographies and portraits. It is easy to see they don’t work, or fit together properly. By seeing how wrong they are, that the portrait is cut and pasted or the facts are incorrect and topsy turvy, we can witness our own process of identification, as we recognize the artist by what he wasn’t rather than what he was.

Discussion Questions:

1. In the author description, Talan Memmott states, “The piece deals with identity in an art-historical context, self-identity for any given artist, and identification as a process.” How does the electronic medium used by Memmott help him to convey this as opposed to more conventional literary or artistic formats?

2. Is there a line between using other’s work to create a new story and selective, or, in this case, “collaged” plagiarism? Are we more accepting of this because it is online? What does this say about the way we judge and value information online as opposed to newspapers, books, paintings, etc.?

3. Do you consider Memmott, the author of Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)], an artist? Is there a sense of artistic skill or craft in this work? Does new media technology change the definition of what an artist is in the commonly accepted sense? If so, how has the definition shifted?


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(Psycho) Analysis of Brave New World

Danika Chrunik
Blog Presentation

(*note sorry everyone, the page numbers are off for the quotes since I am using an old copy of the book)

Adlous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, builds upon the ideas that were dominant and fresh in the early part of the twentieth century. One such idea was Psychoanalysis, propagated by Dr. Sigmund Freud. Though a psychoanalytical interpretation can be applied to any novel after the fact, I believe Huxley used elements of the approach in the creation of his characters and plot. In this novel Huxley presents a dystopic society in which various scientific and psychological techniques are used to control people from their conception to their death.

Freud divided the personality into the id, ego and super-ego. The id is home to animal urges, such as hunger or sexual desire. In babies the first facet of personality to develop is the id, they demand their impulses to be satisfied immediately. The ego develops next. It is an attempt to deal with impulses but in a way that is “socially acceptable”. In Brave New World, society does not place restrictions on the gratification of sexual desire. Children are even taught to engage in “erotic play”. The super-ego is the internalized moral values of society and the child’s parents. Since parents do not exist in the Brave New World society all values are acquired through hypnopaedia (sleep teaching) and classical conditioning.

Bernard notes that, although people can perform their jobs like adults, they are more like “[i]nfants where feeling and desire are concerned”. (102) In our society, Freud would say a person who behaves in this way has a fixation; their psychological functioning has been stunted. However, in Bernard’s society this would constitute as normal functioning. The “New World” government conditions people to have extremely powerful super-egos that actually encourage, rather than inhibit, instant gratification of id impulses. As a result the ego is diminished and people do not have to cope with conflicting emotions. This seems to create stability in society, or at least passivity. The Director understands that this type of psychological conditioning in the individual is essential to the functioning of society as a whole. “Alphas are so conditioned that they do not have to be infantile their emotional behaviour… It is their duty to be infantile, even against their inclination.” (106)

Since the general population of the Brave New world do not have families, they cannot reach psychological maturity. Controller Mond subscribes to the view that families cause “madness and suicide”(52) which was introduced by the Ford.
“Our Ford – our Freud, as, for some inscrutable reason, he chose to call himself whenever he spoke of psychological matters – Our Freud had been the first to reveal the appalling dangers of family life.” (52)

On the reservation life continues to unfold much how it does in our society. That leaves the “savages” to be raised and develop much the way we do today, though they are seen to be primitive.

Freud believed that during development, in early childhood, an Oedipus complex is created. Basically the complex causes the child to fall in love with the opposite sex parent and wish to kill the same sex parent. Huxley illustrated what Freud would have called a classic Oedipus complex in the character of John, the savage. John was very possessive of his mother, “[h]e hated Popé. He hated them all – all the men who came to see Linda.” (131) Though Popé was not John’s father he played a similar role. Durring John’s childhood Popé was Linda’s lover, the role according to Freud that a son wishes to usurp. Popé even brought him “The Complete works of William Shakespeare”, which was integral to John’s intellectual development. Despite that, John described Popé as a “[r]emorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain.” (137) John has an unconscious wish to replace Popé, which drives his unsuccessful attempt at murder.

Though Freud’s concepts have fallen out of fashion and have not been verified by research, they have not completely been disproved. Elements of Freud’s theory were the basis for more current schools of thought. In Huxley’s novel we see Freud’s theories incarnate in many characters, most notably the “savage”. Huxley showed that knowledge, used in the wrong way, can be a dangerous thing. Though we may not use psychoanalysis any more there are other theories abound. We should take Huxley’s novel as a warning, not a prophecy of what is to come, but a caution about what might be.

Possible discussion question: Freud says that the id contains sexual and aggressive tendencies. If people are able to completely succumb to their sexual id impulses, where are the aggressive impulses? In what ways does the society deal with aggression?

Works Cited:

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. 1932. London: Grafton Books, 1988.

Wade, Carole, Carol Tavris, Deborah Saucier, and Lorin Elias. Psychology. 2nd ed. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada Inc, 2007.

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