Tag Archives: Katherine Hayles

“Shy Boy”

@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: Electronic Literature


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.