@MyDtcAccount – Jonathan Crabtree
Donna Leishman’s work “Redridinghood” puts a twist on the familiar story of the sweet little girl who goes to Grandma’s, and encounters a wolf along the way. What I found intriguing was a thought that occured to me halfway through. In print literature, there is a set series of events and happenings. You don’t control what happens, nor do you control when it happens. But, when you read a print edition of a book, you’re mind is opened up to a plethora of possibilites in regards to visualization of the characters, creating a certain “voice” in your head of what the characters must sound like, and imagining the setting and all the colors of the environment. When viewing an electronic piece such as Redridinghood, however, it is backwards. Sure, you may have control over several factors like when the story progresses, choosing what the character does in a certain event, or anything else that comes from the increased interactivity that electronic media offers the user. But the author provides the visuals, provides the voices (though there were no words in this specific example), and provides the colors that make up the environment. Personally, I feel like this detracts from the overall sense of satisfaction that I get from reading a book.
One way that the affordances of having a story told in an electronic medium does enhance the work is the ability to play a set type of music for each situation in the story. Music evokes a certain mood, which changes our perception of the story and how we read it. McLuhan touched on this, saying that “media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act – the way we perceive the world” (41).
@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 poem created on a computer that has visual effects as well as words. This piece is an example of electronic literature. Katherine Hayles, the author of “Electronic Literature: What is it?” explains why this piece would not be considered print. Electronic literature is “a first-generation digital object created on a computer and (usually) meant to be read on a computer” (Hayles). This does not include pieces, such as word documents, were the work can be read in print. Shy Boy was created to be read on a computer because the words move and disappear. The movement of the words allows the reader to come closer to the overall meaning of the poem. The poem tells of the feelings of a shy boy. He wants to fade into the background and vanish. During Shy Boy, the word ‘vanish’ actually disappears, adding emphasis on the boy’s emotions. Shy Boy cannot be told the same way in a print version. The reader would not have the same experience with Shy Boy in just print, which is the author’s intention. This electronic literature piece was create by the author for the purpose of experiencing it on the computer. Electronic literature “challenges us to re-think our assumptions of what literature can do and be” (Hayles). Literature is no longer just print. Authors can have moving words, sound and moving images to better convey their message to the reader.
Of the three electronic literature pieces that I viewed, I would have to say that Ad Verbum would be the one I choose to evaluate. First of all, Ad Verbum is a piece of interactive fiction (Par. 10) that relies on word play and other strategies in order to beat. This work is classified as interactive fiction because of it’s high reliance on it’s game element in order to progress the story. This work is not one that relies on art but rather narrative (Par. 10). This piece is a prime example of digital born work. Hayles claims that ““Unlike a print book, electronic text literally cannot be accessed without running the code. Critics and scholars of digital art and literature should therefore properly consider the source code to be part of the work, a position underscored by authors who embed in the code information or interpretive comments crucial to understanding the work.” In this case, Ad Verbum would not be able to run without the use of code and if it could be used with code, it could not be fully utilized i.e. one would not be able to experience this work fully without being digital, “a first-generation digital object created on a computer and meant to be read on a computer”. Ad Verbum itself was created on a computer and must be experienced as such. This piece of interactive fiction is a digital-born work because of it’s reliance on the digital aspect of it’s nature.
“”Literature” is a complex web of activities that includes much more than conventional images of writing and reading” (Hayles). This progressive idea of the term thus includes electronic literature like “Shy Boy” by Thomas Swiss. “Unlike a print book, electronic text literally cannot be accessed without running the code” (Halyes). In Swiss’ piece there is moving text and fading colors with an underlying musical tone that evokes emotions that wouldn’t otherwise be summoned if the poem had been written on a sheet of paper. Electronic literature is all about breaking the boundaries of traditional forms of communication and adding new levels of immediacy. “Shy Boy” progresses with or without the reader, causing a feeling of excitement as the code runs its course, presenting an emotional story that captures the reader’s attention and demand continuous thought. “Digital born” pieces of literature are defined by their inability to be reproduced in physical form. Electronic literature must be created digitally and must remain digital. Using a technological medium such as the computer screen “urges the user to not only look at the interface, but to actively participate in the communication…” (Looy and Baetens 10). “Shy Boy” does just that. Although it is a very short piece, it captures a universal human experience and incorporates neutral colors, muted music and fading text in order to present an story that could not otherwise be told if this literature was printed into a book or article. Electronic literature is all about experiences what cannot be had in the physical realm.