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Review #3

Poiesis as referred to in the ELC1 is a term used to describe the continual construction of the electronic environment by its creators and receivers. Two additional works that I have chosen for discussion include: ‘Cruising’ by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar, and ‘Girls’ Day Out’ by Kerry Lawrynovicz. These works serve as forms of electronic poetry that use poietic strategies to reveal their various meanings.

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Keeping it Short and Simple: A Review of “The Cape”

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.

Jay Buchanan

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Negativity of the Urban Life: Review on “Urbanalities”

Chris Joseph’s work “Urbanalities” is a series of seven visual pieces that demonstrates the destruction and chaos of urban life.  Each scene in particular targets a certain idea about the city and how people view it to be; along with this, each person have a different aspect of how they view the city.

As I was watching the seven scenes unfold, there were a few scenes in particular that stood out to me specifically the portion with the sniper and the ticking clock scene.  The sniper scene reminded me of a revolution but exclusively the Chilean Coup d’Etat in 1973.  Perhaps my family’s background was an influence on me but as I saw the target moving around the screen it reminded me of the paranoia that occurred during that time.  Anyone could have been killed for doing anything; doing one small thing and you would be dead.  This piece is not relatively old, but other viewers would have a different idea on what the sniper scene could be about.  Another view that could be suggested would be about the amount of crime and corruption that is dwelling in urban settings; how things of violent nature is ignored by the public and there is nothing that could be done about it.

The ticking clock scene was a part of the visualization that ties in with the theme of urban culture, chaos and destruction; where there is no time to reconstruct an establishment of order.  The clock constantly ticking away makes the viewer feel anxious, as if time were wasting away and they have not completed their task and it must be put off until the next day.  The rushing of time reminds me of Canada’s response to vaccinating the country for the H1N1 virus.  Much was said about how prepared we were but with the flu season coming we are quickly running out of time.

Joseph’s work cannot be summed up due to the various scenes that he plays with to portray urban life in an artistic form.  What was enjoyable was the fact that the idea of Dada-ism was highly an influence to the piece.  The strict colours of white, black, red and blue where strung throughout the piece, gave it a sense of disorder but a conservative outlook on the publication, which again reflects the lifestyle of those living in the city.  The idea of Dada is especially enjoyable because of its nature of an idea as a random art form; again, reflects how random urban life is perceived.  The scenes of the moving target and the ticking clock are constant reminders of the fear of the city for it is constantly changing.   The randomness of this work would have particular views for each individual and in this case I had viewed it in a negative fashion.


–Stephanie Moreno

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Review – Tao: The Tranquility of the Surreal

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.

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“Fishnets Look Better on Shaved Legs”

            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.

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ELC Review 2- Urbanalities

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.

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ELC Review- Keyword: “Games”

 The Electronic Literature Collection has been divided up into keywords for easy navigation. Under the keyword, “Games” falls seven different pieces; some of which do the keyword justice and some that fall short. Digital gaming is broad sector consisting of video, arcade and computer games; a category too broad to place the pieces of this keyword under. Even if we place it under the category of computer games, it still doesn’t really live up to the expectations of a computer game. The aim of the pieces in this keyword is to use text and interactivity (Taking advantage of the computer input devices) to convey a message or a story to the reader.

A computer game should be able to keep an individual engaged. Using tasks that lead up to a goal, points, rankings, etc. the gamer should remain entertained. Many of the games in the ELC are dynamic in the sense that they have the potential to be different each time they are played. However, many of the games were too difficult to understand because the instructions were too broad and there were not clear guidelines. For many of the more complicated ones I just gave up (Ex. Jean-Pierre Balpe ou les Lettres Dérangées). Also, in a few of them there was no real “Right” or “Wrong” therefore there was no indication or incentive to the gamer on how well they were doing. The issue of accessibility was also a problem. Numerous games require complicated downloads (All Roads, Bad Machine, and Savoir-Faire ) which many people wouldn’t want to accept for the risk of their computer being harmed by potential viruses.

There is a lot of potential under the keyword “Games” for the pieces to be engaging, entertaining and enticing to modern generations considering the widespread interest and consummation of digital gaming. On the other hand, in the couple cases of games under this keyword that I actually liked (Stud Poetry, for example), I don’t think had much literary value. In the case of the ELC, I don’t think digital gaming and literature seem to mesh well. A gain in one of those elements seems to be a loss in the other. All-in-all, I’d rather just read a novel or a poem and play my digital games separately. Besides Stud Poetry (Which took up about four hours of my Saturday afternoon) and carrier (becoming symborg), I wasn’t engaged by the pieces under this category in the ELC and I can’t say I’d recommend them. Using the keyword “Games” to classify these pieces gives the individual a misguided preconception with high standards that aren’t fufilled.


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