Tag Archives: Flash

The Cheery, Eerie World of Christian

leishman__deviant_the_possession_of_christian_shawDeviant: 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.

Jordan Harbord


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.


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Finding Synergy in Electric Poetry: A Reader’s Journey


A Review of Tao, authored by Reiner Strasser and Alan Sondheim

Reiner Strasser and Alan Sondheim’s entry, Tao, is a self described “interactive cinematographic Flash piece”. Tao opens with two matching videos, one brown and one green, shown concurrently, which are referred to by the authors as mirrors on a vehicle. In both videos, a flag flies over the ground towards a distant island acknowledged by Strasser and Sondheim as Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake. The videos are accompanied by Japanese flute music. As the videos progress, a short poem is unveiled slowly by a red cursor underneath the visuals:

“earth blown out to stars

stars blown down to earth by fast cars

baghdad and addresses of the invisible”

There are three interactive controls: underneath each video is a control that allows the reader to change the direction and flow of the flag. The third control allows the reader to begin the poem again. To watch the entire poem unfold takes 38 seconds; when the reader restart the poem, the cursor moves backwards, deleting the words before beginning again.

As I have admitted in previous comments on this blog, I have issues with a some of the pieces of the Electronic Literature Collection (ELC), Volume 1, as I have tended to judge them based on construction value and enjoyability. My immediate thoughts about this piece were, “Dueling screen savers and Spa Utopia soundtrack #7.” But my perception has changed after a discussion in class about what “literature” means, and after reading the reviews of some of the pieces from the ELC from other students. I have decided to make a concerted effort to shake the cynicism that is not allowing me to connect with the pieces. Just as the one of the concepts of Taoism is having an active and holistic conception of the world, I have decided to take an active and holistic approach to my review of this electronic poem and not regard it as “parts” to be compared and weighed but rather its merits as a whole.

Re-watching this poem with a fresh perspective made me realize that the poem is actually quite effective. Tao translates loosely in English as “way” or “route”, which nicely corresponds to the movement of the flags in the video. Even when the reader changes the direction of the wind in the video, the flag still moves along the same path. The reader can only see the journey through the reflections of the vehicle mirrors, maybe illustrating that the route one choses is sometimes only clear when reflecting on where one has come from. There is also a sense that the journey never ends, as the reader can restart the poem over and over again, still aiming for Antelope Island, but never reaching it. The use of Flash animation to convey this is very useful to the atmosphere of the poem, which, at least to me, conveyed a sort of mystical road trip (“fast cars”), a sense of uncontrolled movement from one place to another (“blown out/blown down”), and the idea that one can’t see what is ahead of them, the future, only the path that has lead them to this point (“addresses of the invisible”).

This poem by Strasser and Sondheim was an excellent place to start my attempt to end my struggle with electronic literature. I just needed to hit the restart button to find the poem was more than a sum of its parts.


Jordan Harbord


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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



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.



            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.


  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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In the White Darkness

About the Fragility of Memory

By Chris Wilcox

The short, interactive piece In the White Darkness: About the Fragility of Memory is a picture based, multimedia interface in which the user develops a similar experience to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. The work was done as a collaboration by Reiner Strasser and M.D. Coverley to give us a glimpse of what it might be like to suffer from such a disease.

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A B C, Fantasy

By Innessa Roosen

           In the Flash-animated work “The Dreamlife of Letters”, Brian Kim Stefans, author in the Electronic Literature Collection, recreates the structure of conventional poetry by bringing language to life on the screen. This particular work is an innovative response to a more traditional print text by poet and feminist literary theorist Rachel Blau DuPlessis. Adapted from Duplessis’ text, both gender and sexuality are two recurring themes featured in Stefan’s work. Continue reading

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Review: The Dreamlife of Letters

By Ady Tang

In Brian Kim Stefans’ “The Dreamlife of Letters”, he uses Flash as his medium to portray the relationship between words and letters and provides a creative animation to deliver his message. Stefans begins with a small introduction prologue and leaps into the alphabet, highlighting one letter at a time with its versatile presentations. The letters “A” through “Z” each has their own “minutes of fame” with some having more time in the spotlight than others. However, with repeated observation, it has been noticed that the letter “Q” and the letter “X” have been deprived of their minutes of fame. Continue reading

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