Who wants the best toy ever conceived? Why everyone of course! Imagine it now, your very own Slinky! Just joking, it’s myBALL: the dream toy of tomorrow. This bad boy does it all: plays roll and catch; give your kids someone to talk to; helps with indoctrinating racial prejudice and best of all, can be dressed up like your favourite financial institution. That’s myBALL, the toy that replaces any need for human contract for the kids and eliminates any point in having kids for the parents.
Tag Archives: ELC1
It’s not uncommon for a reviewer’s opinion to be affected by the amount of time they spend with a literary work. Depending on their mood at the moment of engagement, a piece of significant length may seem daunting and tedious or generous and epic. A short work may not provide enough substance to satisfy the audience, or it could effectively utilize its size to leave a concise and powerful impact. In the world of electronic literature, there seems to be a place for works of all sizes. Whether an e-lit piece is considered long, short, or somewhere in between, there is a frequent amount of success achieved in establishing content which is both captivating and enduring all the same.
A short piece within the ELC Volume 1 collection which I feel does a good job in harnessing the parameters of its length is “The Cape” by J.R. Carpenter. The piece uses only 9 simplistic pages to tell the story of a trip to Cape Cod. While there is a linear sequence to how each page is presented, the simplicity of the events which unfold makes it seem like their order isn’t really all that important. It ends up feeling like a collection of memorable yet interchangeable event in the narrator’s trip; kind of like how a “perfect day” is usually made up of a number of ideal elements. Due to the short length of the piece, it is all together easy and compelling to experience the story in different chronological arrangements. The images of Cape Cod remain fresh because they can always be revisited instantaneously. I believe that this convenience is the greatest attribute when speaking upon this works length. It is no trouble to dive into and enjoy the story as it is laid out; but it can also be tinkered with and still maintain the same beautiful imagery within the viewer’s mind. I believe that had Carpenter chosen to extend the number of moments in the story, she could potentially have lost the effect due to tedium. In addition, the length of this piece also allows the content to be digested in a reasonable time frame; giving way to more immediate contemplation on the themes presented within. The themes of memories and belief in the realistic accounts of narrators are ideas which are not easy to gather from just one view of this piece. That is why the story’s volume cannot be too overwhelming in content. Indeed, “Cape Cod” is a commendable example of how efficient, provoking and entertaining a piece can be when kept short and simple.
Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw, is the electronic literature piece I have chosen from the ELC1 to review this week. Deviant is a visual narrative, a with story with no words or voices, simply an interactive animated story. It recreates the true story of an 11 year old girl in 1696 Scotland who was believed (at that time at least) to have become possessed by evil spirits. She blamed up to twenty local townsfolk for her possession, accusing them of being witches; an investigation was held and seven were found guilty. One of the men killed himself in jail, the other three women and three men were strangled, their bodies burned. It is now generally thought that Christian was most likely manipulated by the local priest and doctor.
Donna Leishman’s Deviant is as strange as the story of Christian Shaw. The story starts with an upside down tree. When reader clicks it an odd little town appears. There are four large buildings, a treed area with a lake, a church and a small house on the left, apart from the rest of the town, as well a large hill in the foreground. One of the trees has a ladder going up to it, like a tree house. The reader, who must seek out clues with the mouse on the screen to see parts of the story, first notices that the buildings make music when you run the mouse over them, eery electronic organ music that makes some of the trees grow larger and blossom. The blossoms can be knocked to the ground by the reader. This weird, childish activity sets the tone for the story.
This is the first electronic piece that I don’t want to give to many details about what unfolds because it is a story, with a beginning and end, although possibly not ordered like one would find in a book; to tell you what happens would spoil it. I will say that Leishman has created the first piece of electronic literature that really got to me. It was scary, not in the horror movie sense, although maybe it actually was a little bit, but mostly in the tension that is created by the cheerful yet disturbing design and churchy music. It made me feel the same way I did when I saw the movie There Will Be Blood, tense and on edge. It was so atmospheric that I felt like something fucked up was going to happen at every movement of the mouse. And every time I watch it I see a new clue, another glimpse in strange Christian’s childlike (and possibly demonic) mind, which adds to the haunting feeling it evokes. This is the first piece of electronic literature that uses the platform perfectly. It is my favourite so far.
I know the author, Donna Leishman, has discussed Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw in this blog, but I have chosen not to read it until after I am finished my review, and then any extra things I have to add after reading her post I will put in the comments section.
The Tranquility of the Surreal
by Sophia M.
“Tao” is a short cinematographic Flash poem, created by Alan Sondheim and Reiner Strasser, that combines film, poetry and limited interactivity with haunting, melodic music to create a surreal yet soothing meditative experience. By utilizing the strengths of the work’s three individual elements to create cohesion and mood, “Tao” presents an ethereal moment that is simultaneously haunting, peaceful, beautiful and surreal.
“Tao” consists of three main elements: two screens playing the same 38 seconds of film, a short poem, and an audio track. The film shows identical views of Great Salt Lake in Utah (and in the distance the shores of Antelope Island) as viewed from the window of a moving vehicle. Both films feature an animated element of a large, amorphous, disk-like shape (comprised of fragmented frames of the film) that floats, pivots and undulates across the screens. As the film plays, a red line scrolls beneath the screens and slowly reveals the three lines of a short poem. As the words unfold, the reader can interact with the video, rotating both films so that the road either slopes into itself, away from itself, or progresses in tandem. The separate elements of film and text are united by the work’s soundtrack, which consists of a shakuhachi (Japanese flute) and faint, ghostly singing.
Taken separately the individual elements of poetry, film and song are strong enough to stand as complete pieces on their own, however, it is the seamless melding of these fractions that makes “Tao” a truly impressive work. The Taoist idea of existing in harmony is exemplified by the way the three media mesh together to form a cohesive whole, and the perfect balance allows the work to achieve a moment of tranquility that is unusual for the often frenetic, overwhelming medium of electronic literature.
As a meditative, transient moment, “Tao” is a success, however, the overall tranquility does not mean that “Tao” lacks conflict. Chaos and violence are suggested within the text of the poem, creating a dichotomy between the meditative balance of the form and the hostility of the content. Explosions are suggested in the text “earth blown out to stars,” however, far from being grisly, there is a serene acceptance of the chaos, as if it takes place in another place and time. The surreal quality of the film and the haunting tone of the music denude “Tao” of a firm grounding in reality, allowing it to escape into the realm of the surreal, further achieving the effect of an otherworldly calm.
Though short in length, “Tao” is a strong poetic work that functions within a realm of dualities that are simultaneously placid and violent, realistic and surreal. Running along the highway of a haunting melodic soundscape, “Tao” delves deep into the poetry not only of words, but also of images and sounds. Uniting elements of video, text and song, “Tao” achieves the difficult task of balancing poetic tranquility with concepts of destruction and disillusionment, creating an idyll moment of digital calm that is a pleasure to watch and absorb.
A strong feeling of nostalgia arises as Shelley Jackson’s semi-autobiographical work my body – a Wunderkammer reminds the reader of awkward teenage years spent struggling to discover one’s own identity. Jackson’s raw and honest reflection of life is revealed through an anecdotal tour of her body, and establishes an intimate connection between reader and writer. This captivating piece invites the reader to identify with each reflection, providing a strangely inviting story for those willing to spend the time getting to know Jackson from the outside, in.
my body – a Wunderkammer begins with the presentation of an interactive body, labelled and modelled in Jackson’s likeness. Each part of the body is connected to another through hypertext links that, one by one, reveal personal anecdotes from Jackson’s life. We are invited to explore her body, and in turn piece together these memoires to ultimately gain a better understanding of Jackson’s journey of self-discovery. The reader learns that Jackson’s dissatisfaction with her “different” body (in comparison to her peers’) turns into appreciation as she realizes there is more to beauty than what the conventional ideas of it dictate. She embraces her “unconventional” qualities – her manly arms and hairy legs – and uses them to shape her identity. Each story, though quirky and bizarre, is in some way endearing, revealing how Jackson’s imperfections have formed her identity as both an author and an individual.
As an author, Shelley Jackson finds the relationship between human identity and the physical body to be the muse for the majority of her work. In keeping true to this theme, my body is a perfect vessel for Jackson to deliver and develop her autobiographical reflection of her relationship between body and soul. She brings to light the power possessed by the human body in the discovery of personal identity. Jackson’s interactive body, though virtual, is real in the sense that its imperfections are highlighted rather than hidden. It is these imperfections that set her apart from the rest of the world, and allow Jackson to learn more about herself as an individual.
By offering up an intimate reflection of her struggles with image and identity, Jackson gives the reader the opportunity to reflect upon their own stories. She acknowledges that the process of discovering one’s identity is not an easy feat. She urges her readers to not become caught up in trying to remodel themselves to fit a certain mould, but rather to create and fill their own. Jackson ultimately invites her readers to reflect upon their own identities, and the level of comfort they have within their own skin. This captivating piece leaves the reader with much to think about in terms of the strength of the relationship they have with their body. Jackson delivers a delightfully honest reflection, deconstructing the body piece by piece to ultimately reconstruct an understanding of the importance of personal identity.
Urbanalities is a non-interactive piece of electronic literature depicting the nature of urban life. Authors Babel and Escha take an antagonistic view which touches on major issues of urbanization including, discrimination, stresses of everyday living, life on the streets, loose morals, and consumerism. Each of these issues is poetically illustrated throughout eight separate scenes that are just absorbed as would a movie or television show. Urbanalities is set up like a comic strip with the addition of movement and sound. It makes you think twice about the developed world.
Urbanalities is an engaging piece from start to finish. It’s made appealing through the use of bold colours and images as well as a soundtrack that is appropriate and ties in seamlessly with the piece. Each scene describes a different issue, and with that a different vibe that many urban dwellers can relate to or have witnessed. Unlike many of the other non-interactive pieces of the ELC1, Urbanalities is easy enough to understand and successfully maintains the attention of the viewer.
Along with the positive aspects of urbanization, come many downfalls which are highlighted in this piece using the bold colours, images and sound mentioned above. It forces the individual to re-access their own life with regards to the major downfalls and raises questions such as “Am I contributing to these problems?” and “What can I do to stop this?”. After engaging in this piece, the viewer feels encouraged to slow down and not get caught up in all these pitfalls of urban life.
Urbanalities is well put together, bold, clear and memorable. When compared to man of the other pieces, Urbanalities gets its’ message across clear to the viewer. It seems professionally put together and is therefore more interesting to the viewer. The print moves quickly but it repeats to connect the idea. Another great feature of the piece is the bar at the top of the screen which allows the viewer to backtrack at their own discretion. The only issue that the viewer may have with this piece is that it’s quite lengthy, and with no pause button their attention needs to remain on the screen for the full ten minutes.
Overall this is a very entertaining piece of electronic literature. The authors’ antagonistic views on urban living come across in a very engaging medium. It’s not very often that we as a society are forced to sit back and really contemplate how we live. Urbanalities effectively embodies the problems of modern, urban society in a bold, entertaining and thought-provoking format which keeps the viewer engaged from beginning to end.
Carrier (becoming symborg)
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.