Final Project

For my final project, I wasn’t entirely sure which genre of E-lit that I wanted to pursue as we have explored so many interesting types. Upon exploring various works over the semester, one work in particular that I was inspired by was heyharryheymatilda by Rachel Hulin. Hulin’s work is a perfect example of how we interact with the social networks we participate in. One of the things that really brought this to my attention was the use of the Instagram platform itself. In his book, Electronic Literature, Rettberg states that “Networks are both technological and social structures. For electronic literature, networks are both platform and material.”(152). I knew that I wanted to create a work that mimicked the type of intimate narrative that Hulin’s work achieves. I chose to create a piece of network fiction, specifically digital vernacular fiction.

I knew that I wanted to create a work that took a socially common practice, such as text messaging, as a way to highlight how we interact with one another through various social networks and how these interactions can be considered narratives.

For my piece, I chose to tell the story of two childhood friends through their text message conversations. Along with text shared back and forth between the two characters, I also include images in the same way that individuals share imagery with one another in social network spaces. By utilizing such a well known and commonly used platform to tell my story, the reader is able to easily connect with the narrative and the characters. To me, this is one of the best things about network fiction.

My creative process for writing this story was somewhat challenging. I am not a creative writer by nature, so it was important for me to make my narrative interesting. I didn’t want it to be seen as just a mundane conversation between two people. I wanted there to be relatable themes with interesting twists along the way.

After writing down all the separate texts between my two characters, I then went and found images from creative commons sources that would go along with certain moments in the story. After searching for what seemed like hours trying to find the perfect app or online software to create my text conversations, I finally settled on an app called “Fake Chat Story”. One of the reasons why I chose this app in particular was because I was able to personalize various settings such as the names of my characters as well as select avatars for each. This app also allows you to send images which was a feature that was important to tell my story. After recording each day’s conversation of the narrative, I then compiled all the video footage and imported them into Adobe AfterEffects. I was then able to merge all the separate videos into one cohesive piece. Overall, I enjoyed the entire process. I found it to be a fun and challenging journey exploring network fiction along with all the other types of electronic literature.

Pry-Part 2

Instead of just jumping in and finishing from where I left off, I chose to start from the beginning and read all the way through. I also took my time on each section and let each video play through its entirety. This really helped me fill in some missing pieces and helped me understand more of the story.

One of the things that I wasn’t completely sure about when I first experienced this work was whether or not Luke as James’ brother or his friend, but it was confirmed after going through and re-reading this story. In one of the sections, James mentions that Luke was Squad Leader and that he saw him as an older brother. There is also mention of how the demolition company that Luke hired James’ to work for is his dad’s company.

Some of the themes of this work were made even more obvious the more I explored it. Unrequited love, jealousy, coping with a medical condition, PTSD, friendship, guilt, anxiety, OCD, loss, the struggle of re-acclimating to life post-war to name a few.

This story about a man who joins the military and becomes friends with a woman named Jessie.It is apparent in the story that James begins to have feelings for Jessie (and borderline becomes obsessed with her), however, she and James’ buddy Luke enter into a secret relationship while they are all serving together. James becomes jealous of Jessie and Luke’s relationship and exposes it, which causes Jessie to be re-assigned. James brought an album from home with him and he puts pictures of Jessie alongside his mother’s photos, thinking that she would be flattered. However, when he shows her the album, she is not amused. James and Jessie end up having an argument about him revealing her secret relationship and as a result, Jessie does not show up for a scheduled poker game the three friends had scheduled that night. Their camp was bombarded that night, and Jessie died during the attack. James blames himself for Jessie not being at the poker game, and ultimately blames himself for her death. 6 years after serving, James and Luke return home and Luke hires James to work for him as a demolition consultant. James’ eyesight begins to worsen and it affects his performance on the job. This creates conflict and tension between the friends.

While reading this story, there is a moment where you can clearly understand how James is processing Jessie’s death. He reminds himself that she was her own person, who made her own choices.


One of the things that really stood out to me was at the very end where you see George W. Bush on the television talking about war, and when you pinch James’ eyes shut, it shows a flashback of George Bush Sr. also talking about war. I found it to be an interesting way to connect how life was for James pre and post-war.

I thoroughly enjoyed exploring this work. The use of various media elements kept me engaged the entire time and I really enjoyed going back and re-exploring sections to make various connections.


I have had the pleasure of viewing this work last semester in another class and I think it is absolutely brilliant. This work is about a guy named James, a former soldier of the Gulf War, who works as a demolition consultant. James is going blind and also likely suffers from PTSD. Understanding these key details about James affects how the story is told and understood. The author’s use of all the different multimedia elements are what I think make this work so intriguing. The way that text montage segments were used to illustrate his subconscious are a perfect way to describe how erratic memories can be triggered. The use of video gives the user a first-hand look of what James sees in both present time as well as events that are parts of his memory or subconscious. There is also a lot of kinetic interaction used in Pry. This helps to tap into the user’s sensory modalities, which helps tell the story and influence the way that the user experiences the work. These kinetic interactions also give the user the feeling of a first-person point of view. The use of sound in Pry helps the story to unfold as well. It aides the user’s feelings of being immersed in the story. Spread and hold, pinch and hold, touch and drag are some of the actions that are required by the user in order to experience this work. The spread and hold action simulates the opening of the eyes. It is almost as if you, the user,  are “prying” the eyes open. The pinch and hold actions initiate memories or flashbacks. I would compare this action similar to when people squint or squeeze their eyes closed when they are trying to remember something or trying to not see something.

One of my favorite parts of chapter two was when the building was being demolished. This moment connects James’ present vision, current thoughts, and memories of his subconscious. It was at this moment for some reason that it really clicked with me how I am meant to understand each of the three spaces (eyes open, closed, and pinched to reveal his subconscious).

At one particular moment, what is seen when his eyes are opened, when they are closed, and when we are peeking into his subconscious all display same type of event, but in different settings.

This is from the scene when his eyes are open and he is viewing the building is being demolished and an explosion occurs.

This is from the scene when his eyes are closed and he is having flashbacks of his time playing video games during his down time while he served in the war. Explosions are occurring in the game.

This is from the scene from his subconscious. Video montage of explosions are occurring in this scene.


I think of all of the divergent streams that Rettberg discussed in this chapter, the one that interests me the most are interactive installations. I think what interests me most about them is that the narrative unfolds in an interactive physical space. As the viewer, you are able to physically experience the story in a very real and tangible way.

I recently went on vacation to Las Vegas and decided to visit the Real Bodies Exhibit at Bally’s. If you ever get the chance, I would highly recommend it.  Some may not really consider this an interactive narrative installation, but I would kindly disagree. Each “room” or area of the exhibit sets a scene that tells parts of the multi-level story about the human body. As you travel through the exhibit, you are able to explore various objects, specimens, and art pieces that coincide with narrative text written on the walls. As interesting and cool as it was to see all the various organ and body specimens, I think that the writing was my favorite part. It was very poetic and beautifully written. I think I ended up taking more photos of the written text than I did the actual specimens. Below is one of the photos I took of some text. I realize that the text is difficult to read from the image, so I included the text in the image caption. 

THE BREATH OF LIFE- The significance of breath in the world religions cannot be underestimated. For Christians, it is often interpreted as the power of the holy spirit; for Jews, it is the spirit of their god manifested in 5 parts: life, soul, personality, mind, and individuality; for Taoists it is the Qi (Chi) the very force that animates all; for one Native American tribe, the Muskogee, all breath is made possible by a divine power. Consider now how this translates to all of us, both believers and non-believers. The importance of air quality, of “taking a deep breath,” of taking time to breathe, all the approaches share something in common with meditation and world religion. It is no wonder that breath is equated to divinity. It is the very first and the very last action we take while on this planet.

As far as literary possibilities in the virtual and augmented worlds, I think there is a lot of potential. Along with new VR/AR literary works, I think that a lot of pre-existing works could also be recreated in the virtual space. In fact, the work that I wrote about for my ELD entry, Queerskins, which is an online multimedia novel, has a version that was created as an interactive installation that included a virtual reality experience. Viewers were able to interact with real life objects in real life spaces as they were described in the novel. I think that the interactive installations give the viewer a truly immersive and interactive experience. Click here to read more about these installations.

Network Writing

Out of the works we were asked to explore this week, the one that engaged me the most emotionally was heyharryheymatilda by Rachel Hulin. I had never seen a work done this way, so it was very interesting to me. Most of the time while I surf Instagram, I don’t really look at people’s posts as a way of telling a narrative, but as I was exploring heyharryheymatilda it made me realize that posts can in fact be considered a story. I did find it a little hard to follow at first, but then I remembered that the most recent posts are displayed first in the feed, so I scrolled down to the beginning and started there.

I think this piece is a perfect example of how we interact with the networks we live in. One of the things that really brought this to my attention was the use of the Instagram platform itself. After a post is published, users/viewers are able to interact with the posts by “liking” images as well as making comments on the posts (if the owner has allowed them) to further engage with the story.

“-digital literary art can serve as a critical mirror to help us better understand the networked society that we co-create, that we are subject to, and that we together inhabit.” (Rettberg, 182)

While looking more into this work, I discovered that there is a paperback version of the novel as well. It would be interesting to read the print version and compare the experience of the two. I would make a guess that personally,  I would feel more engaged and immersed in the Instagram version of the novel than I would with the print version. I think that the use of imagery and video really enhances the experience and makes the narrative come to life.

Multimedia Fiction

Multimedia Fiction is one of my favorite genres of Electronic Literature so I was looking forward to exploring these works this week. I feel like the use of multimedia elements can add so much to the overall experience of a piece. One of the works that I chose to really delve into was Loss of Grasp by Serge Bouchardon. What I liked most about this piece was the amount of user interactivity. In the first scene, the user has to mouse over the text on the screen which would reveal the next set of text. I really enjoyed the connections between the text and the user interactivity. For example, once the sentence saying “Everything escapes me” appeared, the visible mouse pointer actually disappears. I also thought it was really meaningful when the words on the screen read “I feel I’ve lost control” and the colored orbs that once followed the movement of the user, all of a sudden disperse and the user no longer has control over where they move to.

I felt like all of the scenes in this work illustrated the message of the character in a meaningful way. One of the other points of the story that I found a strong connection between text and user activity was the part of the story where the narrator is talking about how he is discovering a woman that he’s just met by asking her questions. As the user moves the cursor over the screen, a figure of a woman begins to appear underneath the various text.

Another work that I took a deeper look into was How to Rob a Bank by Alan Bigelow. I had been exposed to this work in a previous class, but only to Part 1, so it was interesting to experience other sections of the story. Truthfully, I am glad that I had some understanding of the backstory, because it helped the narrative make more sense.

I thought that the way the work is revealed through the main characters’ use of their iPhones and all the different searches, texts, apps,  and other functions that appear on their screens is an interesting way for the user to experience some immersion while reading the story. I found it even more immersive while viewing this story from my iPhone. As the user, using the swiping motion to progress the story made me feel like I was actually viewing the different apps and such. The use of multimedia elements in this story definitely make it have a more immersive quality than some of the other multimedia fiction we have looked at.  

Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

I found myself enjoying a lot of these works, but two that stood out to me were SOFTIEs by David Jhave Johnson and Shy Boy by Tom Swiss.

Johnson’s use of movement in this piece is what made it so intriguing to me. I was immediately drawn in as I viewed the first poem on the page. He describes Stand Under as a “social-synaptic structure emulated in language” which I think perfectly describes it. As I clicked on each image and viewed the animations, I felt a deeper understanding and connection to the text.

“Kinetic poetry by definition deals in time-based poetics: its main distinctive characteristic is that texts change through animation, and that animation itself conducts meaning.”(Rettberg, 119)

I think that SOFTIEs is a prime example of how animation of text conducts its meaning in this type of poetry. While I was experiencing this work, I would read the poem first, then would view the corresponding video. Initially, I found some of the poems to be confusing as a stand alone, however they made more sense to me after viewing the videos. Johnson’s use of movement illustrates the symbolic meaning behind each one of his poems. I thought this work was absolutely beautiful.

The other work that I took a closer look at  was Shy Boy by Tom Swiss. As with SOFTIEs, I also found the movement of the text in this piece offers the user a deeper understanding of the text. The story is about a school boy who can’t bear his current circumstances and longer. The movement of text illustrates the boy’s feelings of hopelessness and desire to vanish. At one point in the story the word ‘vanish’ does just that, it vanishes. The use of animation actually illustrates what the text is trying to communicate. I also found the music that is played in the background played a role in how I experienced the piece. It sets an almost ominous tone that I feel like purposely makes the reader feel a little uneasy. 

I think that both pieces were very effective at using kinetic movement to enhance the experience and help communicate the message.

Interactive Fiction and Other Gamelike Forms

After reading Rettberg’s chapter on Interactive Fiction and Other Gamelike Forms, and briefly taking a look at all the works, I decided to take a deeper look at Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive and Nick Monfort’s Ad Verbum. I wanted to select two works that were significantly different from one another in their approach. Porpentine’s piece has a poetic vibe. I would say that the framework of the piece is more of an exploration of literary ideas. It involves the reader by having them make selections from author chosen lists, which Porpentine used as a way to guide the reader through the narrative. As the user, the choices that you make dictate the way the narrative unfolds, however the choices  don’t necessarily change the outcome of the story you end up reading because you are limited to the words given to you by the author. However, IF works like Nick Monfort’s Ad Verbum have a different approach.

As Rettberg mentions in his book, “The reader becomes the player” (89), which I definitely got a sense of while I was interacting with Monfort’s work. Ad Verbum involves the player in finding a solution to a problem presented. While I was going through the piece, I felt like a detective gathering clues and making decisions based on what new information was revealed to me.  I would also say that Ad Verbum sparks your imagination while interacting with the piece.
Through descriptive writing of setting, character, and action, both works encourage the user to use their imagination which enhances the experience and aids in the overall understanding of the message that is trying to be communicated by the narrative. I think that both of these pieces touch on Rettberg’s notion that

“The principal challenge to the reader of interactive fiction, and it’s central pleasure, is to find a solution, to achieve satisfaction of a successful session of deductive reasoning.” (90)

I found myself enjoying both pieces for different reasons. I enjoyed the use of multimedia in Porpentine’s piece. While it was much more like reading a story, being able to interact with the work was enjoyable. Ad Verbum was a little bit of a challenge for me to work through, simply because I had to think more about how I was going to respond as I was going through the piece. I still found it fun to work through.


With Those We Love Alive, Porpentine (2014)
Ad Verbum, by Nick Monfort (2001)
Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

The Future of Hypertext


I think that there is a promising future for hypertext fiction as a literary form. Culturally, we have begun expressing our “stories” and thoughts in a form of hypertext through social media platforms. An individual tweet or post can stand alone with cryptic meaning, much like fragments of hypertext, however, when they are put together, they can form a complete story that has an intended meaning or message. I think that because we are getting so used to seeing stories revealed this way that our minds are having an easier time deciphering fragmented text in this fashion.

Author Shelley Jackson mentions in an interview that with hypertext, she was able to write her stories like Patchwork Girl without “imposing a linear order” to the narrative.

“Hypertext makes it easy to place things side by side, rather than one after another, so it makes “thing” and “place” metaphors much easier. I guess you could say I want my fiction to be more like a world full of things that you can wander around in, rather than a record or memory of those wanderings.”

I feel like this allows for the narrative to be expressed and experienced in a way that printed stories cannot. Stories that also diverge and meet like some hypertexts do would be much more difficult to achieve in the print world. The use of multimedia elements that are included in hypertext narrative also add an enhanced experiential element to a story that print cannot. Hypertext has the potential affordances of giving the consumer the abilities to make choices that influence the progression of the narrative, to select alternate endings, or to have an entirely new experience of the story each time it is read. While I would say that this isn’t impossible to achieved in print, it is not typically done.

Hypertext Fiction & The Babysitter

While the content of The Babysitter was pretty dark and was somewhat confusing at first due to its fragmented nature, I found myself enjoying the process of reading it. Personally, fragmented and non-linear pieces of literature are my favorite to experience. What I like most about stories like The Babysitter and other fragmented stories is that they almost force you to be more imaginative because your brain has to really work at sorting out what is happening in the narrative. Another thing that I like about fragmented and hypertext stories is that each time you read the story or segments of the story, you are experiencing it in a new way and gain more of an understanding of the narrative.

As Will suggested, I took my time while reading The Babysitter. I think that the structure of the story almost forces the reader to read it slowly and methodically in order to interpret what is happening. While the events are presented in a chronological way, the narrative is still convoluted in a sense given that there is no clear differentiation between what is fantasy and what is reality.

“The relation between the external world and the interior world of   imagination has been abolished on the page.” (Ruttberg 58)

This makes it hard for the reader to know what is really going on, but I think that this was Coover’s point. He was trying to push the boundaries and reconsider the way that stories can be told. Coover was definitely a pioneer when it comes to hypertext fiction and
other forms of fragmented electronic literature. I am excited by this type of literature and look forward to experiencing more works like this.  


Blog Post 1- January 18, 2019

This week we were assigned to examine 2-3 versions of Taroko Gorge originally created by Nick Monfort. This piece of electronic literature has been modified by many authors and is a continuous, ever changing work. The original author, Nick Monfort developed this piece using the programming language Python which is now available in JavaScript. This programming language creates a dynamic, digital space of interactivity. It was interesting to experience several different versions and to see how the authors remixed the work. Upon inspecting the source codes, I discovered that each author used Monfort’s original code, but input their own set of words into a word bank that are programmed to randomize while viewing the page. This creates a new version of the poem each time you open a new browser so you never experience the same version twice. One of the contributing authors, Scott Rettberg, described Monfort’s original poem as a “classic and elegant nature poem” that he chose to remix entirely. Rettberg titled his remix, Tokyo Garage which I think suits it well. He describes his version as modern and urban which is a complete contrast from Monfort’s. One of the other versions that I found quite entertaining was the version written by Talan Memmott titled Toy Garbage. The phrases that were generated were quite amusing. Their use of words like Easy-Bake Oven, Furby, and Cabbage Patch Kid instantly took me back to my ever so glamorous childhood of the early Nineties. As a reader, the combinatory nature of the writing created this exciting experience. It was interesting to read each newly generated phrase as it appeared on the screen and try to sort out or piece together the meaning and author’s intent.