@MyDtcAccount – Jonathan Crabtree
For centuries, people have been writing books down on paper. Now, some authors are starting to create their work on computers. Creators have discovered that the technology now exists to be able to create a piece of art that the reader can actually interact with instead of just observing. Katherine Hayles describes something that is born digital as a “first generation digital object created on a computer and (usually) meant to be read on a computer” (1). This definition is fairly broad and generic but, in the case of the digitally born poem “Shy Boy,” object that are born digital usually implement some type of “running code,” which means that the experience is always changing for the user (3). Using “Shy Boy” as an example, this text is continuously appearing and then disappearing, forcing the reader to read at the pace that the author intended it to be read. This cannot happen with a print book, which, some may argue, is a good thing. The main point, however, is that electronic literature is different than print literature. “Shy Boy” also has soft music playing in the background, which is meant to enhance the reader’s experience. Music has been proven to evoke emotion, and that’s exactly what the author was going for when creating this poem. By making a sad story and then playing a “sad” piece of music behind it, the author is basically manipulating the reader’s emotions. By utilizing technology, people are creating pieces of art that can be enjoyed and interacted with, instead of simply absorbed.
Shy Boy is not print. Shy Boy is most definitely born digital. Katherine Hayles describes literature that is born digital as a “first generation digital object created on a computer and (usually) meant to be read on a computer” (1). Hayles also states that electronic text simply cannot be accessed without “running code” (3). It will never be the same in the form of print because the story was designed to be read on a computer with special effects and audio playing in the background. The same experience could certainly not have been achieved via print. The story takes advantage of the computer’s capabilities with sound, fading words, and various animations keep the story alive. Personally, I found the story entertaining. It would certainly not have not been the same if I read the same script on paper. The music playing in the background shows the emotions. The fading text really shows how much the shy boy wants to vanish. And the animations keep me awake. Shy Boy was a little fast paced, but I actually wanted to keep up with the story line to see what would come next. A book does not do that. You would have to read at your own pace, and put a little more effort to imagine what the shy little boy is going through. The digital experience of Shy Boy was without a doubt a work of electronic literature that was literally born digitally.
“Unlike a print book, electronic text literally cannot be accessed without running code” (Halyes). With this quote in mind, I feel that “Shy Boy” by Thomas Swiss is an accurate example a work that is “born digital.” There are many reasons why authors create digitally born works. In terms of “Shy Boy,” the reason is to evoke specific emotions. Swiss uses text animation such as fading and bold facing to set the immediate tone of the piece. The music that is used in the piece also affects the mood. Electronic literature like “Shy Boy” tends to break the mold of traditional still text such as a printed book or newspaper. By using text animation and sounds, electronic literature keeps the reader’s attention and connects with the reader more efficiently. The text in “Shy Boy” continues on with or without the reader and creates excitement. In a printed piece of literature, the plain text doesn’t ever movie or produce sound. It may provoke inner thought in emotion, but only if the reader continues to pay attention to the text. The reader’s mind can wander off at anytime and lose the connection. Electronic literature uses many tricks to keep your attention. For a piece of work to be labeled as “digitally born,” the work is created digitally. It cannot be reproduced in a physical form. That is another reason why “Shy Boy” is a great example. Electronic literature may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I feel that it really allows the reader to connect to the piece of work.