Artist Statement

For my final project, I created a non-fiction hypertext story modeled largely after Shelley Jackson’s hypertext semi-fiction work “My Body.” My work is called “Wasabi’s Body” and tells the story about how my family ended up with a cat instead of a Christmas tree one year, and just how awesome a decision that was. Unfortunately, I’m not able to host my work and keep the media that I’d incorporated, so I’ve emailed it instead.

I had a lot of fun working on this story, and incorporating various images of my cat. He really is pretty cool. I was inspired to make my own hypertext version of “My Body” after reading Jackson’s work because it was so interesting. I’d never made a hypertext story before and it was challenging but enjoyable. Learning how to incorporate media took some trial and error, but I’ve found I learn pretty well that way (despite the extra time it takes).

My project is definitely entry-level because I didn’t use any advanced “if/then” type programming, but I wanted to keep it somewhat true to Jackson’s recipe with multiple links on one page linking back and forth to different body parts and sections of the same story. My work isn’t metafictional, like Scott Rettberg describes Jackson’s works, but it is reflexive in the ways that the images and gifs used play with the text and play off of the text. I also explored branching stories (van and cat person) that are tenuously related to the main story of how we came to adopt our cat. This felt very postmodern in its fragmentation, while still maintaining an overall theme.

The Twine platform is a new twist on a genre that’s been around a while. It embodies the E-Lit definition of “born digital” as Rettberg describes hypertext fiction: “fundamentally a text technology” (62). It also allows authors new to the genre, like myself, to explore hypertext literature in a non-threatening way that inspires creativity, and I’m glad I had a chance to try my hand at a genre that’s helped to shape such an interesting field.

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Final Artist Statment

Joel Cummings

DTC 338 Artist statement


When writing “Self” I didn’t know what I wanted to say through the piece. While this might not be the case for my co-author Des, I knew I wanted to address the ideas of interactive poetry as well as hypertext. I was heavily influenced by works like “Those We Love Alive” and, “My Husband Came Back from the War” while writing the different poems for this interaction. I wanted this piece “Self” to look at the emotional ups and down we face throughout our lives. But I had no idea it would come together the way that it did. When interacting with pieces like “My Husband Came Back from the War” you are drawn into the piece not just by its aesthetics but also by the emotion in the writing. This emotion is also very true for “Those We Love Alive”. The emotion in these pieces is what I was trying to bring in “Self” but through looking hardships we face and overcome. Looking at this piece critically there are several parts that I tried to make interactive, those being not only the hypertext but also some of the effects put on to emphasize words or moods that are in the piece. In the first part of the interactive I wanted words like wasteland to be a throbbing sensation like all around you there is nothing. Or later on in the piece many other words move to add emphasis as well as to show the motion of the words. Words like violence, wasteland and strikes all have their own effect to convey motion as well as emotion. Another aspect I wanted to address in this piece was it being repetitive/ leading into itself. Not only because that is closer to life but also because the act of clicking on the different poems is like taking steps towards healing.

When Des asked me to work in this project, I was nervous because I haven’t written much poetry. But between both of us and asking questions about where we want it to go it was amazing to see the development of it. When it finally came down to writing both Des and me bounced ideas off of each other so that each piece would fit with the ones surrounding it. Also, after all the poems were written it was amazing to see how in what ways we could change aspects of it. We looked at colors, fonts, as well as effects and finally liked how it looked simple and concise.

The hardest part for me in making this piece was in planning how it would fit together, but even that was short lived especially when we spent an afternoon writing everything seemed to fall into place and we were astounded when we were done.

In my poetic style I try to have rhymes or a letter that starts all of the different parts of the poems. While Des heavily used sounds or a rhythm for his poetic beats. So paring these two styles together was both fun as well as interesting.

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Artists Statement

I wanted this piece to tell a story but at the same time be a bit of a puzzle for the reader to solve. In coming up with the idea for this story it needed the right platform to feature it. In that regard, Twine felt like the perfect fit for what I wanted to achieve. The way that it gives the option of making a multilinear story is what drew me in. Also the capability to have things like audio, images, and be able to delay the text for dramatic effect when needed.
Twine was always the platform I wanted to work with for this story. I had worked with it once before but wanted the opportunity to work with it some more. I feel like it is a very user-friendly and one is able to do so much to further enhance the story.
I was inspired by some of the digital literature pieces such as Howling Dogs by Porpentine and First Draft of the Revolution by Liza Daly. Both of these works are stories that are click based and certain choices can determine the outcome of the story. The story by Daly specifically deals with a whole host of characters that through clicking through we learn their backstory as the story moves along. This is all done through the clever back and forth of people communicating through letters.
I think in creating a digital literature piece one needs to decide what is going to be the it factor that grabs the audience to experience this piece. In taking on this story I was at first going to take a very different approach. What actually helped me write it was finding the media for it. As I gathered audio and pictures the story started to piece itself together and manipulate into something else. Media is a big influencer in the majority of digital literature so it felt fitting that the media I chose would help me grasp what I feel like is a more layered story than my original piece.
The story is about an ordinary girl who is drawn to the unusual that is happening on this day. Although it questions if the unusual the right choice, or should she stick to her everyday routine. Will she be better off for it? This all done as strange objects and people come into her life. I wanted it to have some Alice in Wonderland vibes. The user decides the outcome as there are a few endings. And like I said before there is some bounce back if certain decisions are made, so choose wisely. Or don’t, it’s entirely up to the reader on the path that is taken.
I wanted my story to have some crazy elements but still be well grounded and easy to follow. I didn’t want the reader to get too lost searching for the deeper meaning but slowly guide them to the message.
Lastly, I hope those who click through my piece will enjoy it so much so that they might explore other digital literature pieces.

Here’s a link for my project:


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My story “The Empty Shell” tells the story of Richard Trentarion, part of a once proud family in the Holandus Republic, a family wiped off the map after The Great Betrayal, which saw the destruction of Richard’s entire family.

The story starts in the aftermath of the harrowing event, where Richard is confronted with Eric Riveris, the military officer who ordered the attack on his home. The reader is presented with three choices. Either he can kill the man outright with a gun found on the ground, he can spare Eric and head east, or he can drag Eric to where he used to live, where Richard tortures the officer. The idea I’m trying to get across is that choices do matter. Should you choose to torture or kill Eric, Richard will see multiple ghosts of his past. These were originally supposed to be completely random but I could not get random text to work in SugarCube.

The choice becomes more complex in the ending, in which there are three. The three endings admittedly end cliffhangers, especially the torture ending, which is because I plan on continuing this narrative beyond the class.

My goal with this story is to tell a character story, with elements of world building. Stories that take their time in developing and fleshing out their worlds are the stories I enjoy the most. Ideas of family and their importance in this narrative is inspired from Game of Thrones, where family is central part of the books and television show.

The realm of politics is also explored, where Richard is placed in a situation where he must choose to either side with a long time ally, or back stab them for the chance of better prospects. In this complicated decision is Richard’s friend Andrew, who is trying to sway Richard to support the Ispaden claim to the throne of Typhos. Depending on the choice you make early on will determine whether or not you find out what drives Andrew to support the Ispaden family.

There was some inspiration from PRY. Throughout the early chapters, where Richard was at his lowest point, there are many words that you can click on, which give brief snippets into Richard’s subconscious mind, and what he is thinking or feeling in that specific moment in the story. These texts are made bold, italicized, and occasionally colored red depending on context. Depending on the path you choose, will determine the prophecy you receive from the faceless ghost. The mystery I leave the reader to think about is whether or not what Richard is seeing is real, or if it is merely paranoid delusions.

I chose Twine because I love multilinear narratives, they have always been an interesting medium to explore and over the course of the semester, my fascination with them only grew stronger.

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E-Lit Final Project: The Monolyth

I took some inspiration from kinetic poetry like Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries in the teaser video for The Monolyth project.


To conclude the semester in my electronic iterature course, I decided to attempt to create my own piece of E-lit. My project began when I read Mark Amerika’s Grammatron as part of a class assignment and immediately began designing my project, first as a personal project and later as my class project.

The title screen of my project, created through a process known as data-bending in which an image file is opened and edited in programs that it was never intended to be opened in, such as Audacity or a text editor. The results can be surprising and were compiled into an animated GIF in Photoshop.


The writing and non-linear structure of the story struck me as something completely unique from what I’ve experienced before. While other non-linear narratives, especially the classic “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that I read in my youth typically depicted a branching narrative in which choices and exploration of a fictional space led to multiple outcomes, Grammatron navigated through conceptual spaces, linking pieces of prose together like a wiki site and left the user to piece together the narrative from the fragments. The fractured narrative and the juxtaposition of occultism and technology reminded me of a malfunctioning mind. As someone who has dealt with mental illness most of their life, I was inspired to tell a similar narrative by focusing on the theme of mental illness through the analogy of broken machinery. This project became as much a personal experiment in the methods of multimedia and electronic literature, as it was a way to finally express a side of myself that I couldn’t through old media alone.

Over the course of the project, I experimented with Twine to create a rhizomatic structure to the lexia/passages of the project that would allow the user to follow intuited tangents in the narration to explore the conceptual space of the story. Multi-media, hypermediacy, and remediation were all aspects I wanted to incorporate. I used glitch aesthetics and data bending to create the visuals of the project, both of which are derived from network writing. I took several of the images and imported them as raw data into programs such as Audacity, which allowed me to indirectly manipulate the data of the images for surprising effects. The audio-loop that drones in the background was the result of original music filtered through layers of analogue and digital translation: a distorted electric guitar played through an amplifier, picked up by a cellphone microphone, compressed, sent over the internet, decompressed, and finally digitally altered through a sound editor.

I modified the poster art for the David Lynch movie Eraserhead to create the glitched portrait of the mysterious character, Dr. A. F. Crowley in my narrative, as well as to pay homage to one of my favorite directors.

Furthermore, throughout the narrative, I explored network writing by trying to structuring the branching passages/lexia to draw parallels between the tangents of intrusive thoughts and the interconnectedness of the World Wide Web: as the protagonist’s mind begins to dissolve into the Monolyth computer, his thoughts connect to files and documents within the network in the same way as his uncontrollable thoughts.

Combinatory elements take place behind the scenes of the project as new passages/lexia are opened at random by Twine’s “either” macro, representing both the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of intrusive thoughts but also the anomalies and glitches that arise from complicated machinery in a network.

With digital technology, we’ve had to reconsider what art and literature can entail. We create art and literature and we create technology, but our creations also change us and how we experience the world. With new technology comes new potential for creation, not replacing but along side the old media, and we’re only beginning to scratch the potential granted us by digital technology. My goal with this project was to pay homage to the bright and growing field of electronic literature and the way it can speak to each of us.

An old painting I made, brought to life with glitch aesthetics and photo-manipulation. The twisted caricature is used to depict one of the “howling wolves” that pursue the protagonist within the Monolyth.
Another painting of mine used in the project, turned into an animated GIF. The “howling wolves” in the story are the fractured minds of previous victims that still remain in the Monolyth.
I started with an old photo of myself and animated a distortion to create a portrait for the character Staeb that appears in Monolyth.


The current version of Monolyth is hosted at the following address:

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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.

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Apocalypse-A Short Story

Part 1:

For my final project I chose to focus on network fiction, specifically the through text messaging. Especially in this day and age, communicating with a keyboard (whether it’s 10-key or full) on one’s phone is one of the most popular ways to talk to each other. Because of this form, and the story as well, I was forced to look at a conversation from the perspective of short, small bursts of information at time.

This story is a “Part 2” of another project I completed for Will’s class (which you can view below my Vimeo link above. The setting is the beginning of a disease outbreak, and “Part 1” is a blog website I hand-coded as written from the perspective of one of the characters in this story (Athena). Her blog posts reflect the unfolding of this outbreak.

Continuing the story, this Electronic Literature project centers around two characters, Nicole (Nic), and Abbey, who knew Athena, discussing the stances they’ve taken in light of this new way of living that the disease outbreak has left them in. Nicole is of the idea that she will fight for her life and the lives of those around her, and is willing to go to great lengths and risks to do so. Abbey is content to remain at home and live in comfort until the end of her days, however that may happen. It is assumed at the beginning that neither can leave their homes, and that is one of the reasons they are texting each other.

The way I created this project really simulates sending and receiving messages on a real phone, because I used my own cell phone, and screen-recorded myself typing out the script I adapted for short messages. It was quite tedious because I knew the phone was recording my every mistake and sometimes, if I missed a line, I had to start over completely because I had no way of simply removing a single text message in the conversation. My cousin let me use her Apple email on my old phone so that I could control both sides of the conversation wholly.

I really enjoyed the process of adapting the script/conversation for this project because I’ve always wanted to try writing with solely dialogue. It was a challenge to convey what went between the lines, especially when it was meant for a text message conversation, and I had to set it up in a very succinct way that wasn’t explanatory narrative, because these characters were talking to each other, not reading stories to each other. Being able to control the timing was very helpful and allowed me to emphasize tense moments or emotional ones. I even incorporated the use of emojis to lighten the mood at times.

In editing the project, I was able to control the timing even further by slowing some parts or speeding them up. Because I used my real phone, the appearance may seem inconsistent (battery life, time of day), although I did try to use real time to my advantage, wanting to give it an authentic feel.

Though there are several forms of network writing, this is one that has challenged me the most.

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Final Project

My Twine work, “Vivid”, is a multilinear look at the concepts of intrusive thoughts and maladaptive daydreaming. Taking heavy inspiration from Robert Coover’s work “The Babysitter”, I wanted to make a work that dips in and out of reality as a serene way to explore the topic of mental illness. I felt that this would be effective because of the often random and unpredictable tendencies of mental illness.

Maladaptive daydreams are extremely intense daydreams that can often be confused with reality by the sufferer. Combined with intrusive thoughts, involuntary thoughts that are upsetting or distressing, these maladaptive daydreams can be extremely intense and disturbing for the victim. With my work, I attempted to recreate this sensation in a written form in order to raise awareness of what living with mental illness can be like.

“Vivid” is an interactive fiction that also has some combinatory aspects at its core. The multilinear structure of this work makes it participatory, immersive, and experiential, allowing for the interactor to influence how the story progresses. However, the interactor does not have complete control, as my work also uses randomly generated story progression. These two mechanics combined allow for multiple playthroughs that each detail how mental illness is both the same and different on a daily basis.

My goal with this work was to raise awareness about mental illness by writing about a topic that everyone experiences. Everyone has had thoughts about harm to themselves or a loved one, but it can be much more intense when combined with mental illness. I wanted to create a piece that could combine both the experiences of those who suffer from mental illness and those who do not. In doing this, I aimed to make a work that everybody could understand and that created an immersive representation of mental illness that those who do not suffer from it could better understand.

Achieving a work that could explore mental illness while still being relatable and understandable to those who do not suffer from mental illness was both easy and difficult. As someone who does not suffer from this kind of mental illness, I was able to make sure that the work was easy to understand, but actually writing about the mental illness was challenging. My girlfriend, who suffers from mental illness, was a tremendous help in describing how it manifests and what kinds of maladaptive daydreams she has experienced. She was also able to make sure that the way I approached mental illness was accurate and respectful, which was extremely important to me.

The biggest challenge with this project was definitely finding a stopping point, Often the problem that writers can find with Twine and multilinear fiction is making too large of a web that eventually becomes daunting and impossible to finish. I attempted to avoid this problem, but I would love to expand this work at a later date if it seems necessary or potentially beneficial. Getting lost in a multilinear, interactive work can be an amazing experience, such as in Porpentine’s works. I wanted to create a similar experience while adding a powerful, important message to the heart of the work.

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Final Project: “Drive”

When the time came for me to start thinking about my final project, there were a couple of specific works and concept presented over the course of the class that led me to create the project that I did. Being exposed to a multitude of works that are categorized as multimedia fiction such as Cityfish by JR Carpenter and FilmText by Mark Amerika were especially inspiring to me. For me, the combination of a plethora of different media elements such as text, sound, video, imagery, and more in able to form and drive a narrative are indicative of what is possible with electronic literature that cannot be obtained with literature presented in a physical format.

Additionally, the work Pry by Samantha Gorman and Danny Cannizzaro, as well as the video components in Cityfish were influential to me. The use of digital cinema in order to drive the narrative of a story is both aesthetically enjoyable and is familiar and digestible for most viewers. Cinematographic works are an enjoyable source of entertainment for a vast amount of people across the world. Incorporating cinematic elements into works of electronic literature add visually stimulating elements to the work and often are used in harmony with other forms of media. For instance, in Pry, the reader must interact with the screen by prying or shutting the main character’s eyes. Not only do the video elements enhance the narrative of the story, but the interactive elements also allow the reader to navigate through and take control of how the story is presented to them. This is yet another aspect of electronic literature that cannot be obtained with a print medium.

As I began my project, I knew immediately that a web-based format would suite the requirements of the project well. Not only am I comfortable working with web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript, I knew that without a doubt that the medium that is the web can be used to incorporate all of the media elements that I wanted to use. This included text, video, imagery and sound.

In regards to the narrative componenet of my work, I’ve incorporated a selection of clips that a friend of mine and I acquired during a car ride. This was originally a test of the camera of my new phone and a gimbal that I had bought for it, yet these clips came out to be surprisingly well. I’ve edited all the clips in Adobe Premiere to alter the color of the visuals. In addition to the video elements of the work, the textual elements represent a more dark and saddening theme. When the time came to write out the story of the work, I’d decided to write about the awkward and heartbreaking experience of being in a car with a significant other in the midst of an argument/break-up. While the story is fictional, it is regarding a topic that is relatable to most everyone: the final and often hurtful final interactions we have with someone we once cared for. I hope that the relatable nature of the story both resonates and intrigues the readers of the story.

In order to navigate through the story, the reader enters the site and is instructed to play the background audio presented in the beginning. The reader is then tasked with scrolling across the page while playing each video in addition to reading the passage presented with it, repeating this until the reader reaches the end.

The construction of “Drive”, as well as my participation in the course has been both challenging and transformative, as I’ve learned a great deal about an area of literature that was previously completely foreign to me and have since been able to create my own piece of electronic literature within the sixteen weeks of taking the course.

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Porpentine to “Porpen-twine”: An Artistic Statement

Farinsky Final Project Artist Statement

Twine is an interesting intersection of hypertext and interactive fiction. Traditionally hypertext is known for non-linear storytelling by creating highly descriptive, brief, sections of a larger story the user must explore to piece together the larger narrative. Interactive fiction generally delivers a linear story focused on exploring a space or completing any number of objectives or puzzles.  Many people would classify interactive fiction as “games” because interactive fiction often includes graphic components which evolved into contemporary video games. Twine hosts many treasured works such as Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive. Porpentine creates spaces in the style of classic interactive fiction games for the reader to explore using links like classic hypertext works. Users navigate the space by clicking on links but also must complete certain function such as “sleeping” or “breathing” to advance the story in several cases. These two ideas combine to create an incredibly immersive atmosphere and motivates the user to fully explore the piece.

For my own project I drew heavily on Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive to make my own “Porpen-twine”. Porpentine uses links that are embedded inside the narrative text. To honor this my project has a mix of links that are embedded within the exposition, and some links that come after the narration like text-based adventure games. By using two different styles of lexia I can maintain the user’s attention because the links don’t appear in the same place each time. Additionally, placing links after the narration forces the reader to read the exposition, pause to consider the choices, and ultimately choose which link to follow. This empowers the user and stimulates emotional investment in the story, even though this project’s story is ultimately unaffected by most of these choices.  Each page in my story relies on a concise narrative to continue moving the reader through the story by giving them enough information to stay informed, yet vague to keep their curiosity about what comes next.

Both hypertext and interactive fiction explore multilinear stories so in my project I decided to create two endings: a “bad ending” and a “good ending”. If the user selects the bad ending, they are transported to the beginning of the narrative and must re-trace their steps before attempting the good ending. It was my intent for the bad ending to make canonical sense so there was purpose to the multilinearity. In the lesson loops the white woman explains the warrior of the story was cursed and must un-cover their identity in order to break the curse. If the user fails, the white woman resets the warrior’s memory to prevent the curse from destroying them. If the user choses the good ending, they defeat the bad guy, reclaim their identity, and leave the temple to save the world. This creates two separate experiences that are equally valid because the user must choose the good ending to “win” and complete the content. It was important to me to include this strong linear influence because I wanted to create a piece that can be used to introduce readers to concepts of multilinear stories and hypertext in a manageable way. When exploring other great works of hypertext, it was overwhelming how vast, and complex, the narratives became. Through this project I wanted to show my understanding of genre conventions while also creating something that felt manageable to users who have never encountered multilinear, hypertext inspired works. While this work may never be as popular as Porpentine’s, I am confident my “Porpen-twine” is a fitting addition that honors the trends of the electronic literature genres I chose to explore.

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Artist Statement

I have to admit that I was never into poetry until I decided to take a creative writing course that involved writing poetry. Nevertheless, I became intrigued after learning poetry is about word play and using words to create sound effects by using alliteration, and assonance. During this semester I learned about kinetic and interactive poetry and how digital poetry can be use on digital platforms such as Twine. I teamed up with Joel because his knowledge of Twine is far superior than my own.

Joel and I came together and started brain storming ideas about the themes we wanted to explore. We settled on writing about human emotions, and how these emotions can cause one to feel isolated, as well as turn violent. We wanted the poems to loop, by creating an infinity cycle of birth and death, like Ouroboros. We chose certain words within poems to shake to signify violence. We knew with Twine we could create effects with words we would not able to on the printed page.

The process of coming up with poems to fit the themes we wanted was a bit of a problem. I had asked to see the poems that Joel was working on to see if I could come up with the poems we needed to help complete the infinity cycle. I noticed the word, “virtuous” and then I wrote a poem, Vindicator (in five minutes) about a violent man who was boastful and fearless in battle. I used alliteration to help create the hard “v” sound in the poem. When the poem is read aloud, reader/users can really hear the hard “v” sound effects.

I added an abstract poem about love to help complete the circle. I wanted the show the effects of love and how it could be abused and be used to destroy. The hard thing was writing a poem that could show and not tell. I also did not want the poem to beat the users over the head with what I wanted the poem to convey. I purposely did not include the word love in the poem to allow the users to wonder what force could build and destroy, as well as be abused.

Twine allowed Joel and I freedom to experiment with words and manipulate them like objects, so the users are not only reading the poems, they are also watching and interacting with the poem instead of reading stationary words. The black backdrop on Twine worked perfectly for my poem, Black Flower. It helped accentuate the poem’s theme of isolation and despair.

Tom Swiss’s Shy Boy was an inspiration to me. After reading it, I knew I could also use a digital platform to express myself through poetry. I did not want to copy Swiss’s style of kinetic poetry but wanted to do something different with interactive poetry. When I teamed up with Joel for the Twine project, I knew we could use the platform to create digital poetry. I hope the user enjoy the work that Joel and I created, because I enjoyed creating it.

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Final Project: Red Riding Cave Adventure

**For some reason I posted this at 10pm on April 30th but it says I posted it on May 1st?**
For my final project in the class, I decided to do a collaborative piece with Elaina using Twine. Throughout this project, we thought it would be interesting if we pass a Twine file back and forth and each add something to the story. The only thing we both knew were the direction we wanted the story to go, the treasures the player could get, and where the story would ultimately end up. Since we did it this way, there are things about the project that I still haven’t discovered, and things Elaina hasn’t yet discovered either. This was an interesting way of working because it’s really strange to now know exactly what’s in your project. At the same time, it was also really exciting because one of us would play through it and message the other and be like “this was such a great idea how did you do it?”. It created a sense of excitement when you open the file for the first time after the other person worked on it.

We decided to base our Twine game off of the pieces Colossal Cave Adventure and ZORK. I did my ELD entry on CCA and Elaina did hers on ZORK, and since they were so closely related we decided it would be a good idea to implement them into our final project and work together. Not only did we heavily base our story and format off of them, but there are also multiple easter eggs such as some of the treasures you can find in our version, you can also find in CCA or ZORK. However there are also a few key differences with our version as well, such as the navigation system. In the originals you would type the commands in, but in our version since it’s on twine the navigation is through hyperlinks. Due to limitations with the Twine format we used as well (Harlowe 2.0) we weren’t able to find a way to implement an inventory system or point system the way we wanted to. It was fun to work in Twine not only because of how much we can do on it, but also because unlike these original games, we were able to see a map of our final project and users are also able to look at the cave map to see if there’s anything they missed or just for some guidance. Originally we had planned that to beat the game you had to collect all the treasures, but near the end we decided to change it to each treasure giving a unique ending if you decide to give it to granny. We decided on this because we thought it would create more of a multilinear story. It didn’t seem fair to make the ending the same no matter what choices the player made, because then what was the point of them making all of those decisions?

The biggest struggle for me with this project was definitely the cave. I mapped out most of the cave and it got really confusing making sure everything connected correctly and was going where it was supposed to. I think the final version ended up having almost 40 different rooms just in the cave. This was also my first time completing a Twine of this size, so it was also really interesting to plan out all the different paths the character could take, what would determine each kind of ending they could get, and what big decisions should we have the player make that will affect their entire gameplay. My favorite part was being able to create all of the sassy and pithy things that the narrator of the story says, and being able to play through the final completed version of the game was also really cool. Colossal Cave Adventure is arguably one of the most important pieces of electronic literature, so it was really cool to be able to create a newer version of that with our own twist, with today’s standards of technology.

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RED RIDING HOOD is a combinatory, interactive fiction piece collectively written in twine. Our game references and draws inspiration from Colossal Cave Adventure and ZORK. Traversing more thoroughly or multiple times is rewarded with more text and multiple story endings. The narrative and structure were heavily influenced by the process of Jake and I collectively writing the work. It has game like structure and is traversed spatially like a piece of interactive fiction, while having a hyperlink structure by benefit of being made in twine.

Depending on what items the reader finds throughout the game, different parts of the story will be revealed. If you remember to bring your RED RIDING HOOD, text about your character feeling secure and warm will appear throughout the game. But if you forget your hood, whiny, shuddering text will appear throughout the cave system, and there is only one way to escape the caves. The piece is different depending on what items the reader chooses to pick up before entering the forest, and what items the traverser finds throughout the caves. The amount of choices the traverser has when encountering the goblin and Grandma increases with the number of items they find in the caves. The combinatory nature of the piece being linked to the items found while traversing rewards the reader for exploring more thoroughly. It is possible to forget your RED RIDING HOOD, pick up the hatchet and cucumber, smash the golden eggs, escape with the help of the wolf, and only have the options to offer Grandma the cucumber or tell her about the caves at the end of the game. It’s not possible to reach the end with all the items, so it is not possible to reveal all the endings of the game with just one traversal.

The piece heavily references the games ZORK and Colossal Cave Adventure. We sought to incorporate or reference aspects of interactive fiction games, such as traversing the piece spatially and problems for the interactor to solve to reach the end of the piece. Once in the cave system, the piece is traversed using a compass in the lower right corner of the page. Our game was created in twine and is a web of hyperlinks, but the cave system can be viewed as a grid like map in the twine editing interface. The caves are numbered and linked to each other, with alternate link names corresponding to where the cave is in relation to the cave the link is in. These links are arranged into a compass shape using css grid. The problem solving in this game is much simpler than the puzzles in ZORK or CCA. The traverser can use the items they’ve found when they are made available to solve problems as links within the passage text. I chose to use a hyperlink structure rather than an inventory system because it was easier for both Jake and I to make changes to the story this way, and because there would be text in the passage based on the items in the traversers inventory anyways, so it would be simplest for the link to be in the passage.

We reference ZORK and CCA in the narrative and aesthetic of our piece as well. The font and color are reminiscent of the games, but our piece has major differences in appearance from ZORK and CCA as well. There are hyperlinks within the passage text, descriptions of the cold shudder, and the caverns are navigated using a compass with links labelled as the cardinal directions rather than navigating using a text parser. The narrative and descriptions of unsuccessful moves are snarky and sometimes nonsensical, like CCA or ZORK. There are choices the player can make in the beginning of the game or while in the caverns that result in failure, as well as choices that leave the game unwinnable. It is impossible to escape the caverns without the hatchet if you forget your hood.

Our work is a piece of collective writing even though Jake and I were the only contributors, because the way we wrote the piece led to an unsuspected structure and storyline that we would not have created independently. We wrote the piece without the end in mind, though we had a common goal. The beginning of the game, before entering the forest, was written together as an in-class exercise. Beginning the project that far in advance of the due date allowed us to exchange the project back and forth many times. We added a manageable amount each time without the pressure of needing to complete a large portion, and the final version is the eleventh version of the file. We discussed the general direction of the work and occasional details, but for the most part did not know what to expect each time we opened the file. We created twists and problems for the other writer to solve that created a story and structure neither of us would have made on our own. Jake created the treasures and expected me to create a trophy case or have Grandma send RED RIDING HOOD back into the caves to retrieve the treasures, but instead I introduced the goblin to the story and created multiple ways to escape the cave system using different treasures and items. An arbitrary decision during the collective writing process made our piece multilinear, a choice either of us might not have made had we written the piece by ourselves.

The collective writing process mixed with creating aspects of interactive fiction was difficult and rewarding, because as we created puzzles for the traverser to solve, we created problems for our partner to find a solution for in the writing. The game flows from a hyperlink structure, to a spatial structure, and back to hyperlinks, and has multiple endings. RED RIDING HOOD grew into a game that neither Jake or I could have expected when we first began it.

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Mason Stiller Artist Statement

I wrote this piece to explore the possibilities of interactive fiction on Twine. I was trying to replicate the experience of navigating a place that you can’t physically view, like in works such as Colossal Cave Adventure or With Those We Love Alive. I feel as if this is the main draw of text based adventure, as the mystery of not being able to visually see a space encourages the user to explore the space in order to increase their understanding and gain context for the story.
Unlike Colossal Cave Adventure, I wanted to give the user reasoning for exploring the cave. In Colossal Cave Adventure, is a series of events that take place within the cave but the user ventures into the cave because the cave itself is the objective of the game. I felt that giving the user a reason to explore as well as endings that involved not venturing into the cave at all deepened the fictional world of the work.
A main component of the game is the passages that the player finds on sections of the floor of the temple. At the end of the journey, the passages combine to form a short 3 line poem. Each tunnels passages took on a certain theme, the leftmost being courage themed, the middle being knowledge themed, the right tunnel focusing on the desire for power. Writing a poem that made sense if the player chose different paths was a definite challenge, that was ultimately solved by limiting the players access to certain rooms. Creating separate adventures to go with specific poems soon became the ultimate goal.
Though the piece is very simple, it utilizes some of the unseen functions of Twine. At many points throughout the work, the dialogue of a room is changed by either the history of you being in another room or a variable noting an experience in another section of the cave. These variables gave me total control of how a user experiences the narrative because it allowed me to control the perception of the user within the story. The variables not only serve as a room history but also as a player inventory. When a player encounters a passage or an item within the work, the variable of that object within the code gets set to one and those items and passage last then follow them through the story.
I think I will come back to this piece and greatly expand it, making the temple a more perilous journey for the user and adding potential side stories within the major story. I was originally trying to make some ambient music to accompany the work, much like Porpentine does in their works. I think that music and sound paired with a some different styling in CSS would enhance the user’s level of immersion into the narrative. Another function I would love to add, would be a player journal that would allow the user to track their progress through the temple and what they currently have in their inventory. This could be made with a large amount of simple boolean functions but I think it would be a nice touch, especially if it was styled to look like the journal of a seasoned explorer.

Below is the link to my work:


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Final Project: Kinetic Poem

Artist Statement

Mallory Hobson

Video Link

For my E-Literature Final Project, I created a kinetic poem in video format. Inspired by both kinetic poetry and cinema writing, I took a poem written for my Creative Writing: Poetry class and adapted it into a fully digital piece of literature. My intention was to evoke the feeling of running from a stressful situation, juxtaposing clear, calm reality with hazy, anxious memory through both text in motion and video cuts.

My first source of inspiration was MUDs and SOFTIEs by David Jhave Johnson. Johnson’s works were the first time I had seen poetry in a video form that wasn’t simply a recording of slam poetry (or written poetry being read aloud) but a truly multisensory experience; I was struck by how intriguing, even intimate, his poetry was, and I wanted to attempt to replicate the emotions he inspired within me.

Other inspirations were Stephanie Strickland, with her piece The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot, and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ Rain on the Sea. Strickland’s piece was delicately evocative, weaving a compelling narrative through abstract pieces of poetry; meanwhile, the flashing words of Rain on the Sea forces the reader to take in the story behind the poem almost more quickly than they are able to. In my piece, I tried to capture the fragile nature of Strickland’s piece, while drawing inspiration from Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ quick-moving text in order to capture and keep the attention of my audience.

The topic of cinema writing was another very helpful source of inspiration for my piece, particularly the app Pry by creative media studio Tender Claws, as well as in-class discussions of using shots and montage to create projective, imaginary, and even narrative space. My intention was to employ the unedited daylight shots in such a way that the audience feels they are driving with the character, following her in her flight, within a created space; the more heavily edited nighttime shots were designed to create a stark contrast, an imaginary space that provides backstory through internal narrative. I was greatly inspired by Pry’s use of different styles of footage to switch between thoughts and reality, and I tried to echo that by flickering between night and day footage, showing how my poem’s subject is flickering between what she’s seeing and what she’s frightened of. I added and layered several copyright-free audio pieces from YouTube in order to further heighten that dualistic atmosphere.

In order to create draw all of these pieces together—ideas, inspirations, footage, sound clips, and original poem—I drew a rough storyboard, then created a script that outlined what effects and shots were to pair with which lines. After finding similar footage from YouTube to what I had in mind, I used Adobe After Effects to begin animating my writing. Inspired by David Jhave Johnson’s 3D focal words, I left the opening line ‘she drives’ as a static line throughout my poem, with ‘RUNS’ overlaid onto ‘drives’ during the night footage for added emphasis on the character’s emotional state. While I did use some effects such as curves and posterize on my footage, the text effects were all done using ‘source text’ keyframes. The night footage was shot driving through Portland, mainly on the I-5, while the daytime footage was shot on the I-5 northbound near Castle Rock.

Overall, this was an intriguing and educational exploration into kinetic and cinematic poetry. While I still have a lot to learn about the field of electronic literature and digital poetry, I am proud of what I have accomplished with this project.

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Final Project: A Twist on Nick Montfort’s “Taroko Gorge”

Taroko Gorge was one of the first works we addressed and looked over in class at the beginning of the semester. It is different than many other works considered Electronic Literature in that it is completely randomized poetry specifically. Each line is created through the use of JavaScript arrays that have specified words in which to pull from. While it does not always create coherent sentences, since it is poetry, each line could be interpreted in a number of different ways and meanings. It is up to the reader to decide what is being said.

There was also this massive community of artists forming around Nick Montfort’s creation, taking the code and transforming it in different ways to create something new.

Not identifying as a poet myself, I found this work to be particularly interesting in how it used the code behind the scenes and specified words set in a particular order to generate poetry. Even when taking into account that it did not always create sentences that made sense, it did create a ripple, allowing the reader to comprehend the results in independent and unique ways.

I decided to take that idea and expand upon it to create a sort of tool for myself (and others, should they feel inclined or drawn to use it). While I do not identify myself as a poet, I do write creatively and collaboratively with an inclination toward fiction. However, as many writers discover, they reach certain points where ideas are difficult to come by, whether they are new ideas for a story overall or ideas for specific events that may take place.

“Writers block” can be incredibly difficult to overcome. For that reason, I felt inspired by Nick Montfort’s Taroko Gorge and saw a potential to adapt it into a tool to generate such ideas. By incorporating the combinatory, generative poetry that Taroko Gorge allows and adding in a kinetic aspect, I have done what numerous other artists in the community have done by creating my own variation of Taroko Gorge but for the purpose of using it as a tool or device to generate ideas for fictional creative writing.

The words that are set in the arrays of the code also reflect that emphasis on fiction. Additionally, the kinetic feature of this project is reflected in the typing animation that takes place as the line is written out across the screen. Both the monotype font and the animation itself assist in emphasizing the generating of ideas as though someone were typing out the ideas themselves on their computer.

This choice of a project was both interesting and beneficial in that it gave me a chance to work with JavaScript to better understand the structure and functionality. I had to research syntax in order to figure out the best way to form the most coherent sentences based on what was generated. Originally, I was also going to add in a level of interactivity that I have since decided to do without. Since the poetry is already generated at random, there was not any added benefit to having another layer of randomization.

From start to finish, this was a learning experience in every sense. Though the project did not turn out the way it was originally envisioned, this work of kinetic and generative/combinatory poetics still accomplishes and meets the purpose and goal it was intended for. For that, I’d like to share Fantasy, a poetic tool to help inspire fictional creative writing.

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Final Project

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Final Essay!/stories/3f0a145a-c957-457a-a58f-dbada952a788/play

Artist Statement

I’m not that experienced with hypertext but working on this helped me get a lot better at it than I was previously.  I read a lot of tutorials in order for me to create the time system that I would need. I wanted to explore the idea of interactive fiction and hypertext fiction. I wanted to create a story with one ending but I wanted the player to get to that ending in their own way. This work was mostly inspired by Device 6 by Simon Flesser. I really like in Device 6 how you didn’t know what was going on and how you had to try to figure out what was going on by exploring. I incorporated that idea by having the player explore the area and to find clues on how to escape just like in Device 6. Device 6 used clips of audio as hints, I used notes that were scattered around the house. I also took a few ideas from With Those We Love Alive by Porpentine. I liked how she had a time system that caused the game to advance as days would go by. I wanted to incorporate a similar idea with time advancement. I decided to make a time system that would allow time to slowly advance based on the players actions. The more time would advance the harder it would be for the player. For example, every room in the house (except certain rooms you would need special items for) is accessible. But as time would advance, some of those rooms would be no longer accessible and would cause the player’s character to die. I made it so the main rooms the player would need to complete the game are accessible as long as the player has items that they need. Another idea I like in Device 6 I wanted to use was it’s puzzles. Device 6 is filled with difficult puzzles that challenged the reader to solve them. I’ve never made a puzzle, riddle, or any type of problem like that before so I wanted my puzzle to be more exploration based. In order to succeed, the player would has to have a key that is locked in a four digit safe. Each digit is hidden in the house among one of my eight notes. If the player finds the four notes that have the code then the player can access the safe. All eight of the notes tell the history of the cursed house. Some of those notes however have certain requirements to access. Some can only be accessed before a certain time and some can be only accessed after a certain time and with certain objects. To be able to plan an area this big I made a personal map for myself to have a layout. I did this from the video we watched in class about Colossal Cave Adventure. The guy in the video printed out a map to help him navigate through the game so I wanted to do the same just for my own benefit to help me stay organized. The notes that I wrote were slightly inspired by The Babysitter. I wanted them to be spread out for the player to find somewhat out of order. I wanted the player to try to find them all and to try to make sense of what happened just like I did when I read The Babysitter.

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Self 0.0.1

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Elaina Sundwall and Jake Martin

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Final Project

Here is the link to my short interactive fiction project:


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Kathleen Zoller Presentation

Two Worlds is an interactive fiction that explores the web and the physical world to tell a story. The goal of the player is to explain to their friend that they are in danger. However, the specific danger their friend is in will ultimately be determined by the player’s research in-game and the conclusions they draw from it. 

 The player begins in a room with two main components  a computer and a telephone— which they interact with to progress the story. By incorporating a computer, the player has an opportunity to explore a fictional internet by selecting various hyperlinks leading to different “pages” on the web, which are indicated by a change of color, font, and a gif. Whereas the telephone allows the player to communicate with NPCs (non-player characters) that track the decisions they make throughout the game, in addition to presenting dialog trees that the player may choose to follow. 

The game itself was inspired by electronic works such as Galatea by Emily Short and Howling Dogs by Porpentine, but also reflects an experiment involving IF games and visuals. Galatea inspired the creation of complex NPCs that track the dialog choices made by the player. These choices are compiled and reiterated in a list of results shown to the player at the game’s conclusion. Numerous dialog trees were also created, which the player may fully explore after 18 runthroughs of the game. These trees allow players to make choices that influence the outcome of the story and reveal different paths, representing themes commonly found in interactive fiction. 

Howling Dogs inspired the work’s changing background colors throughout the story, which occur whenever the player engages with the fictional web. These transitions serve to reinforce the idea that the web is a separate space from the physical world, differing in appearance, navigation, and content. Despite this difference, the player comes to rely on it as a primary source for understanding the world they live in and for informing their decisions. When the player steps away from their computer, they are transitioning from the world of the web to the world they live in. This central idea is what influenced the title of this piece, “Two Worlds”, as well as a creative way to integrate colors within the narrative. 

In addition to drawing inspiration from Galatea and Howling Dogs, the work experiments with combining text and visuals within an IF game. It seeks to find a balance between these two factors while also finding a logical way to blend it within the story. While interactive fictions tend to place emphasis on the text over aesthetics, this work incorporates visuals such as colors and gifs. The gifs represent the multimedia aspect of the web, and how the internet can act as a window into other parts of the world.  

In sum, Two Worlds is an interactive fiction game that explores two different environments— web space and physical space. This is done by indicating transitions from one world to another through the use of hyperlinks, colors, and moving images. It was inspired by Galatea and Howling Dogs, in addition to being an experiment that combined visuals with text-based games. 

Game Link

Presentation Link

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Link to Text Adventure – Kathleen Zoller

Here’s the link, enjoy! 🙂

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Locative Fiction and 3D Literature

Out of the various forms of divergent streams discussed by Rettberg, the one that really caught my attention was locative fiction, especially in regards to AR. Up until the digital age (and particularly up until smartphones became commonplace), location-based art was fleeting. Street performances, outdoor concerts, flash mobs, and the like could be experienced only if the viewer was physically in the area; videos and retellings of the events are interesting but ultimately inauthentic secondhand narratives, unable to precisely capture the minute details of a live event.

With locative fiction, however, the intimacy of neighborhood performance art is able to be fixed in time and space. It’s able to, in theory, be experienced by people months or even years apart, without any part of that experience becoming diminished through attempted reproduction.

The term locative fiction encompassed a wide range of e-literature styles, such as net art, kinetic poetry, or even hypertext fiction (perhaps the hyperlinks within the story change depending on where you are in a neighborhood?); they can also be wholly digital (such as a story that appears on your phone), or could be augmented or even virtual reality. Rettberg describes just how varied locative fiction can be:

We could investigate a murder mystery by retracting the steps of the killer at the scene of the crime. We could situate historical fiction set in a different era on the streets of the contemporary city. We could write poems, layered in augmented realty in the sky above the mountains they describe, as we sweep across the landscape and watch the live video on the screens of our phones (184).

In my opinion, the idea of augmented reality is full of the most intriguing literary possibilities. What if the historical fiction wasn’t simply a locative story, but a locative story set in AR? By tracing a path with your phone’s camera, you could watch the stories of famous figures unfolding in your very own city, with the modern world setting a sharp contrast–or, perhaps even show you how little your town (or the town you’re visiting) has changed by highlighting historical sites. Or, a library could have a multilinear story that shifts between genres depending on where you go within the building, leading you to suggestions for similar reading (digital and physical!).

Combining the intimacy and personality of a physical location with the creativity and wide-open nature of locative fiction, the possibilities are endless.

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Kinetic and interactive Poetry

Image result for jörg piringer sound poems

The first piece of work that I wanted to explore was Jörg Piringer’s sound poems. I never was big into poetry but the word sound poem had me interested and I was curious and wanted to see what it was. What I thought it would be and what it turned out to be were two completely different things. I thought it was gonna be a bunch of random voices reciting poetry but what it turned was a bunch of random voices saying sounds. This made me question what the definition of poetry. What is a poem? Though it reminded me of when Scott Rettberg discussed how Readers can change sounds created in different ways. That is just what I did as a reader for Jörg Piringer’s poems. I created and changed multiple sounds just by clicking.

The second poem I explored was Cruising by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar. This poem also uses sound but also uses images as well. The images can travel either fast or slow depending on how you control it and a woman’s voice is reading the text. I found that helpful to be immersive in the poem as I made the images travel fast so it felt like I was in a car looking out a window. It made a lot more sense to me as well than the sound poems did. It told a story that was easy for me to follow as the sound poems didn’t really seem to have any direction whatsoever.

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Blackbar and device 6


Image result for device 6 chapter 2 Two games that I explored were Blackbar and Device 6. Blackbar told a very unique and interesting story and had difficult puzzles. It was somewhat easy at first to solve but then became increasingly more difficult as some of the words I had to type were backwards or even had to be spelt wrong. The goal in the game was clear, I had to uncensor what the department of communication didn’t want me to know. It made the story very interesting because the more I played, the more I found out that mostly everything that was censored involved words of negativity. I play lots of word games so I was eager to solve what certain words would be. It got easier for me as I continued to play since I saw how Kenty’s writing style was.

Device 6 was very intriguing and mysterious which caused me to love it. I enjoyed it a lot more than Blackbar as I would explore the environment to try to find out what was happening. It took me forever in chapter one since I was a bit unsure with what I had to do but I eventually figured it out. After I passed chapter one I kinda figured out what this story was gonna be like and I had to pay very close attention to the environment that Anna was in. I needed a pen and paper to write down every clue I would find whether it was in text, pictured, or audio. I passed chapters 2 and 3 quickly using this method but couldn’t quite pass chapter 4. This game was great with exploring though as multiple times I would choose the direction to go. I actually got scared playing the game in chapter 2 when I came across a creepy doll and it started screaming at me.

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PRY part 2

Chapter 5 begins with another job given to the main character (James!), to inspect the integrity of an old bridge. While he does this job, James narrates about how he and Luke grew up together, and Luke’s realization of James’ failing eyesight. It’s interesting. I distinctly remember a part where James falls off the bridge, but then the next morning I reread the chapter and I did not see it again. Am I dreaming in PRY now?

Chapter 6 was quite long for me as I discovered the reader could pull apart every single line to read or watch some additional information or something that complemented the passage around it. My puzzler brain wanted every line to be completed before I moved on. This section spoke a lot about Jessie, and her role in James’ and Luke’s life in the military. James had a crush on her but she gravitated towards Luke, which James seemed to accept. This was the section I spent the most time with and was most amazed with because of the amount of work put into everything.

Chapter 7 shows a progression of what appears to be his life in the military, settling on a few moments, particularly when he and Luke build a camp and are talking in the middle of a desert. Jessie also has a part here where you discover how her friendship with Jessie grew. But a wrench is thrown in when James reports her relationship with Luke, and Jessie is VERY upset. They have an altercation in a supply closet which is followed by an image of her still, on the ground, and it made me think at first that he killed her, but then they’re all playing poker and he says she was alive, so that part was a little confusing to me.

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Cinema Writing – Pry pt 2

In the second half of Pry, there are many details that come to light that are kept under wraps in the first half of the story. In chapter 5, there is more information regarding James’ eyesight, when Luke gives him another job after initially firing him because of the issues revolving around his eyesight. We also gain more insight into Luke’s character, as he is trying his best to give James as many opportunities as possible despite his challenges. This chapter follows the same format as the previous chapters in regards to how the reader navigates through the story.

In chapter 6, the story’s format changes slightly. The reader is faced with reading through a long selection of text, as one would read a body of text traditionally. However, by prying the screen between two lines of text, different visuals appear that show James’ relationships with different people, most notably with Jessie. In this chapter, we begin to pick up on the close relationship James and Jessie had at one point.

The Epilogue shows visuals of both George H.W. Bush, as well as George W. Bush on the television, describing what appears to be both the Gulf War and the Iraq War, respectively. The reader can infer that James is watching the television at both moments in time, and there is a video of James going off in the truck that was seen in the Prologue; indicative of the fact that there is a perspective from James from both before and after he goes to war.

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Kinetic Details in Pry

The extra details and nuance in the app Pry make the app worth multiple traversals. It was not until I read my classmates entries on the first half of the app that I realized how many details it was possible to miss just by nature of how the work is traversed, or pieces of significance that I had missed. The aspect of the app that gives the work its name, pry, was lost on me during my first traversal. The pinching and opening motion to progress the story mimics open one’s eyes and pinching or pulling back into ones mind to access the subconscious. I had been thinking of this piece in visual terms and had missed some of the kinetic aspects that make the work so subversive. The braille chapter is an obvious example of this that I had not missed. Chapter 3 was the most immersive chapter for me, as dragging my fingers across the screen forced me to remain engaged, almost like the conscious thoughts of the app with text. Other subtler details that increase immersion are fun to find and easy to miss as well. Chapter 5, in which it is confirmed that the protagonist is losing his sight, includes a part where the protagonist uses eyedrops. It’s funny to think about how this might have been filmed, but to a traverser this element increases the immersion and is a very concrete real life example of going blind. The more time I spend with this work, more and more immersive and kinetic details reveal themselves.

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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.

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Pry Part 2

The final three chapters in Pry really stood out to me because these three chapters really took the effects work and psychological aspect up to 11. The work done in the first 4 chapters did a good job of building up James’ character, and from chapter 5 onwards you start to see his psyche grow more and more chaotic and confusing.

One of my favorite parts of Chapter 5 was the fact that there is actually a bit of multilinearity involved. Chapter 5 opens up where Chapter 4 left off. James gets up to go to a new job, Luke was fired from the last one. During the drive to the new job, he continues to have self-hating thoughts that he isn’t good enough, that Luke doesn’t trust James, etc. When he arrives on site he walks across a railroad. At this point two things can happen. Either you keep James’ eyes open to the point where his vision blurs and he falls off the railway track, or you open and close periodically and make it all the way to the end, only to transition into his thoughts. In both instances, his subconscious is brought to the forefront, while reality is placed where the subconscious has been since the start of the story. I think it represents his continual descent into his own mind, and how he is starting to lose his grasp on what is real and what isn’t. Chapter 7 really brings this home with the constant back and forth between different moments in time, blurring the line between reality and memory.

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Pry Part 2

I thought the interactive elements of Chapter 6 and 7 of Pry were particularly well done. In Chapter 6 you must separate and expand the text until they have gained enough context. The chapter begins as an obvious beginning and an end and the user must physically push up and down on the screen to reveal more context. The text of this chapter leads to either a video which the user must hold open to watch or a rapidly changing chain of words between the lines that relates to the previous passage. The chapter tells the story of the protagonist having a falling out with some of his fellow soldiers and the regret he still feels for his actions. Chapter 7 gives the user the ability to progress through the life time of the protagonist through a similar action.

I think to fully understand this piece I would have to do several re-readings. The text always takes a backseat to the interactive elements in my exploration of the piece. I keep wanting to discover more about the piece than stay in one spot. The fact that you are able to collect items for the albums folder did not help. The album became a thing of very high interest to me as i tried to initially understand how it worked. From what I have read the story has been very engaging and emotionally heavy. The media surrounding the text is great for setting the tone, and the films usually contrast the bland color tones of the desert with bright and flashing lights during intense moments. Overall I think Pry is a perfect example of how Electronic literature has the potential to thrive in today’s environment with today’s technologies..




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Pry Part 2

The second half of Pry mixes up the format even more with new ways to tell its story. Something that happened earlier but occurred again during chapter 5 was the protagonist’s eyesight briefly going numb. During this the moment, the user can’t see what is going on either, so they have no choice but to look at one of the other two perspectives until he puts in eye drops. This doesn’t necessarily limit how the story is told, but only how some of it appears. In chapter 7 the story takes on an entirely different form. Only a paragraph appears on the screen and the user can continually stretch it out, revealing more text. I found this one of the most difficult parts of the story to follow. Having to jump back and forth to different lines and figuring out how they are connected made the experience a bit frustrating. This exemplifies how involved the form is when it comes to the content. In Chapter 7, there is purely video that can swap in and out, creating multiple montages mixed together. I think the author made a creative connection between having the presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush in the same chapter to illustrate that the world conflict represented in the story lasted several generations. I think the general theme of the story is redemption. The protagonist is trying to save himself from his own PTSD of war, but also clear up and make light of his understanding with his friend. Him going blind gives him more anxiety. As we saw, where people are the most anxious is deep inside.

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PRY Part 1

For my first read-through of PRY, I took quite a bit of time with the first two chapters alone, then realized that I was trying to explore everything the first time around. So then I went back and tried to explore just one linear level at a time, specifically, the storyline with his eyes open.

Through this path, the reader discovers that the main character is a veteran, perhaps recently returned, who works in construction for a former soldier buddy. Something happened that is causing the main character to lose his eyesight, and the surrounding narration implies that it occurred during his deployment.

Chapter 3 I found fascinating. The story is told through a simulated braille reading where the reader has to actually touch the screen, moving their finger over white dots while the main character reads the story of Jacob and Esau. In the background plays a slideshow of pictures of video of his childhood, where his mother is featured frequently. This serves to give the reader a real insight into what his life growing up was like, as he previously mentions that he and his mother would play braille reading games.

Chapter 4 was where it became a little confusing for me, as the main character is in a room with a military buddy and they are about to play poker but for a while all that happens is the main character watching his buddy shuffle the cards while he questions an attack in his mind. Then comes the slightly alarming part where it appears his buddy stabs him, implicitly in the eye.

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Prying into the mind II

In experiencing the second half of this piece I am both amazed by how smooth it is and more confused on what all went on. Like did he fall off the bridge or did James just imagine it?  It is also interesting to see how him falling off the bridge landed him in the desert. The flashing forward and back to both memories and possible imagination as well in the piece keeps you on your toes as to where you might end up it you close your eyes. But jumping to the end SPOILER ALERT: it was nice to have a little explanation of what happened whether it was the relationship between Jesse and Luke or if it was the attack on the base leading to the death off Jesse. These details help the player understand James’s mental state. As well as adding the confusion of losing your sight. SPOILER DONE: overall it was an interesting experience the use of the gestures makes it all the more realistic, but the story is structured so that you never know fully what is and isn’t real. Though it might seem counter intuitive I think that the confusing nature of Pry as a whole makes it seem all the more real. Since you never know what will happen in life and there are many decisions to be made with little to no extra information provided.   

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Pry pt. 2

The second half of Pry further expands on the previous user interaction method. This is done by evolving the prying open and shut interactions to view through the main characters and thoughts, to being able to flip through different camera shots and make them last however long the user wishes.

This portion of the narrative, in  Chapter 7 was especially interesting to me, since it seemed to be trying to convey an even more cinematic approach to narrative storytelling. Being able to watch each shot in the scenes however long one wanted made it feel as if I was editing the scene to have the timing that I felt was most interesting. I would be interested to compare how long the people made each shot of each scene last,  and see if it gave the scene a different effect than what I experienced.

I also found it interesting to play around with how the shots looked overlayed on one another, just in case any imagery was hidden. However, I found nothing out of the ordinary for Pry from this method.

My interpretation of Pry is that it is about a man who enlisted in the military at a young age, although his eyesight was destined to deteriorate rapidly throughout the years. He developed many relationships with several people, one of which was a girl named Jessie. She died in an accident of some sort, and the main character continues to blame himself for her death. He works with his friend named Luke, who he does not trust because of the way he encourages reckless behavior if the main character and others.

Throughout Pry, there are themes of grief, guilt, deceit, PTSD, etc. most of the narrative is the main character trying to comprehend his thoughts caused by anxiety disorders from his real thoughts. Pry takes a non-linear look at how someone might deal with emotions and try to understand themself while dealing with several nearly debilitating issues (anxiety, PTSD, loss of eyesight, etc.).

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Dylan Niehaus – Pry

Unfortunately, due to my forgetfulness and the fact that I don’t have an IOS device at home, I was unable to write about the first sequences of Pry on time for the previous blog entry. So, I will briefly summarize what I thought of the experience as a whole. I thought that Pry was an incredibly engaging piece of electronic literature, even despite the fact that it had me feeling confused quite a few times. I honestly can not summarize the storyline with any confidence as it all felt like a blur to me, but I feel like this was the intention of the piece. Everything throughout Pry seems to be told in an incredibly disjointed and unique manner for each chapter. I found chapter three to be memorable with its use of reading braille interactively.

When it comes to engaging sequences, I enjoyed the chapter titled “camp” in which pinching or expanding your fingers either changes shots during a scene or goes from one scene to another based on the context. At first, when I pinched my fingers, it appeared that the scenes were going back in time, back to when the main character was a child. Expanding my fingers seemed to move forward in time to the character’s time spent in the war.

I definitely found myself engaged, but also confused at the storyline and sequence of events. If I had to see what the main theme of the story was, it would be the main character dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder or something to that effect. This can mainly be noticed during the characters subconscious flashbacks to explosions in a warlike setting when doing demolition work in chapter 2. I feel that this lends to my idea that the story being told in a confusing manner was intentional, because the main character’s mind is always racing and never at ease since the dramatic events that he had to go through.

Overall, I found this piece to be confusing but also engaging at the same time. I think this is because of its highly immersive interface. I enjoyed opening the character’s eyes and diving into his subconscious at a moment’s notice. I just wish I was better at following the general storylines in these pieces of electronic literature. I feel that it is something that will come more naturally to me with practice.

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Exploring Pry

After replaying Pry, I think I’ve formed a more solid (if not yet complete) understanding of what the work is about. From what I can see, the protagonist is a soldier named James who becomes jealous of his brother because of his relationship with a woman named Jessie. What exactly happens between these three key characters is not all that clear, especially since James is constantly modifying his memories and remixing the events in his head. But that’s part of what makes the story so intriguing. Exploration is a key component in navigating the work, and having all the answers would defeat the purpose of the piece. For instance, I went through chapter 6 four times and found that every traversal was different. This may be because the chapter automatically ends at a certain point and forces the user to move on before they’ve fully explored it. Whatever the case, I was discovering new content every time I visited that section. After this experience, I feel that exploration is a key component that drives the user through the piece and solidifies their understanding of the narrative. 

I would argue that one of the stronger themes in this piece is blindness. As we fight to keep James’ eyes open, we are constantly reminded of his failing sight. Like him, we are sometimes forced to withdraw from the present world and reside in the realm of memories and his subconscious. His innermost thoughts are communicated with us in text, sometimes in full paragraphs or in fast-paced fragments flashing across the screen. Through these, we can theorize the causes for his failing sight (a fire, a disorder inherited from his mother, and Jessie’s violent outburst are only a few of these.) By constantly going back and forth from what James’ sees in the real world versus what he sees in his mind, blindness becomes one of the more prominent themes in the story (though it is certainly not the only one.) 

The form relates to the content by using unique features offered by touchscreen devices to reflect the depth and complexity of the story. By allowing us to “pry” open text and video, we may choose a direction and follow it for as long as it permits us. It presents us with seemingly endless seas of text and layers of video that create a sense of mystery, as well as a desire to investigate further. By presenting the content in this form, we feel a drive to engage with the work as the two components play off of each other in a well-balanced manner. 

One of the sections I found intriguing yet puzzling was when Jessie begins accusing James and tears apart his photo album. Though James said she didn’t find it very flattering to have her picture next to his mother’s, I get the impression that the wound goes much deeper than that. During this scene, she blames him for being deported, possibly because James told on her relationship with his brother (the story makes a point that relationships in the military were not allowed). The fact that this scene was shown numerous times throughout the second half of the story also implies its importance, and I am curious to hear other people’s takes on this particular scene. 

Source: Pry by Tender Claw

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Pry – Part 2

The second part of Pry is just as immersive, while revealing more of the actual story. Chapter 5 starts with James taking another job that leads him to a bridge where he eventually falls off into the water after his vision fails him, he then appears in a desert where the text just keeps saying “Go back” with various other phrases. I think this is him trying to go back into his mind to the time he was at a base, since that was also mentioned. If you try to pinch into his mind, it’s just videos of him still sinking into the water from when he fell on the bridge.

Almost like while he’s sinking into the water, his mind is thinking about his past, somewhere else completely. Chapter 6 was pretty cool, as it started off with just two lines of text and every time you pried the text open, more would appear until eventually you could “tear” the text in half to see a video behind it. Eventually, the chapter ends and forces you onto the next one. Chapter 7 then begins with James and Luke sitting in the desert by a fire they built, and as you pry, you can switch between multiple videos while their voices talk in the background.

It was really cool to be able to switch between all kinds of different things happening in the same place while still hearing the story behind it. Chapter 7 also starts to reveal more of the story between James and Jessie. It’s apparent that James blames himself for Jessie’s death, even though she died because of an attack in a building. James says that it was his fault, and that she called to him but he ran away, leaving her to die. However the text, and presumably Luke, say that he wasn’t there at all, and he was in a different building across the street playing poker. It’s revealed through more videos that James and Jessie got into a fight, which caused her not to go to the poker game and end up in the building that was attacked, causing her death. James says that she wasn’t at the game because of him, and if she was there she would have lived, making her death his fault. At the end of chapter 7, James pulls himself out of the water, and the user is unable to pinch or pry into his mind anymore.

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Concluding Pry

It is still difficult to discern which memories are true and which memories are in James’ head. He imagined Luke being there when he really was not.

He says one thing where he saw Jessie before they went to play poker, but the story also seems to imply that James and Jessie got into a fight in the janitorial closet at which point he may have accidentally killed her?

In chapter 5, he explains the process of how he ended up on the bridge. His conversation with Luke, the shooting of the airsoft rifle at the statue and braille bible, his vision almost gone, and their fight. He keeps repeating that he needs to prove himself. That he’s getting replaced and he’s dead weight. Up to the point where he falls off the bridge into the water. Chapter 6 begins with the folding and unfolding of text until the reader unfolds it enough to split the screen open and see the video beneath. That video however, after reaching a certain climax forcefully shuts. Continuing to try and pry it open, it will force itself shut a number of times. In this sense, it is almost as though James is trying to block out that memory, shutting it away, while the reader is trying instead to pry it open and uncover it.

Then in chapter 7, there is almost a seemingly unending loop and wormhole of video clips, until the reader reaches an ‘inner’ clip where James and Luke are building a fire together and talking. At this point, it will shift perspectives by featuring either Luke, James, or the two of them together when the screen is pinched or expanded, before continuing further on. In a way, this chapter and chapter 6 both clarify a lot and also add to much of the confusion in what is going on, or at least, what actually happened to Jessie.

Everything is relatively unclear and it is incredibly difficult to know for sure which is the truth between the images that are shown and the text that appears. All that is truly clear in the end is that Jessie died and James, one way or the other, blames himself for her death. Whether it truly was his fault, or he killed her, or it was simply an accident, he blames himself for what happened to her.

Only right at the end of the final chapter does the user not have to pry his eyes open. His vision is clear, and the sun is shining as he pulled himself from the water and back onto the bridge.

Pry by Tender Claws LLC

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Pry, Chapter 5 – Epilogue – April 5, 2019

The second half of Pry continues the themes of the first half with James struggling with poor eyesight, PTSD, and his internal struggle with the mysterious character Jessie. As the second half goes on, however, Jessie becomes less of a mystery and more of a tragedy. By navigating through the three stages, the struggle that James faces both with Luke and Jessie is explained, with James’ eyes open by talking to Luke, his eyes closed by thinking of Jessie, and in his subconscious with the guilt he feels about Jessie’s death.

Chapter 6 marks the point in Pry where everything begins to come together. The expanding wall of text allows the reader to pry through the sentences to reveal that Luke and Jessie developed a relationship, which James reported after his love for Jessie grew into jealousy. Jessie found out and lashed out at James. Still upset, Jessie sat out of the poker game happening later. As a result, Jessie was outside during the game, when their base was attacked. Jessie died in the attack, and James blames himself for her death.

The second half of the story also goes into further detail about James’ deteriorating eyesight, which was likely caused by the attack. He’s afraid to tell Luke that his eyesight is poor, causing even more internal conflict.

Above all, the second half continues to be about PTSD, with James becoming even more distraught internally, his subconscious turning into an obscure collection of words. James’ depiction of PTSD becomes much more personal, however, with the addition of the guilt he feels towards Jessie and betraying his brother, which was hinted at in Chapter 3 with James reading about Jacob and Esau.

Pry is a commentary on a multitude of things: war, PTSD, love and jealousy, coming to terms with blindness, and more. It feels overwhelming, which is the point. James is overwhelmed by everything that is crashing down around his life.

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The traversal method of Pry quickly becomes intuitive. Zooming in and out on a touch screen is already natural enough for a traverser, so zooming out to see the subconscious and zooming in to see what the main character sees is easy to understand and easy to figure out if the traverser misses the instructions. This work is significantly easier to traverse than more complicated or nested pieces of E-lit, and is presumably more palatable to a traverser who has not spent much time with E-lit, while still having controls that will intrigue traversers familiar with more complicated E-lit. The basic structure, zoom out to see subconscious, zoom in to see sight, and the base level being the conscious thoughts, the text that is the thrust of the story, could be a structure that other electronic works could use. The traversal method seems so versatile and something that could be applied in many different stories to create many different effects that build the main character that it could create its own genre if enough authors mimicked this traversal style. The separation of thoughts, sight, and the subconscious are used in Pry to illustrate the experience of PTSD. I could see this traversal method translating to other mental health disorders in interesting ways, such as making the sight and thoughts more difficult to access over time and the subconscious become overpowering or taking control from the traverser and switching between perspectives rapidly.

The three perspectives combine to create a constant montage, that the traverser controls. During my first traversal through the first four chapters, I tried to switch perspectives as thoroughly and regularly as possible, cycling through conscious, subconscious, conscious, sight, repeatedly in the same order. The conscious is between the subconscious and sight and by opening the subconscious or looking at what the character sees you progress the conscious text, so it is presumably impossible to see both the sight and subconscious that corresponds to one conscious thought, unless the visuals and subconscious last longer than a single conscious thought. It was difficult to traverse this way though, and I found myself switching between just the conscious thought and sight during the demolition chapter and switching mostly between the conscious thought and the subconscious during the first chapter, as the main characters sight is of his perspective in bed. The traversal method and the many montage combinations that can be created with it mean this work is best understood by being traversed multiple times.

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Cinema- Writing

The prologue for Pry was interesting. I thought this piece of fiction was going to be a feature film. I knew James was going to enlist in the military because of the things he put in his pack. In addition, he took a piece of dog hair with him to keep as a memento. I cannot help but to think that Tarzan has a meaning. I assume the book could be some sort of foreshadowing for events that happens later. Luke and Jessie are important characters in this interactive fiction. It’s unfortunate that we see so little of Jessie in the first for chapters; I really want to know more about her. It’s interesting that we see a vision of her stabbing James. I did not see that part coming. I am also trying to figure out if Luke and Jessie tried to murder James, or if these visions related to James’s PTSD. It’s hinted that James is losing his sight. This is interesting because we do not know what cause the ailment. Ultimately, I think the story is about James dealing with PTSD.

I like the interface and navigation. It was like I was playing a game; I pulled me into the work. Cinema can not achieve such a thing. I initially had to ask a peer how to navigate from segment to another. I missed somethings because my hand covered some of the screen when I had pinch and spread my fingers across the iPad. I did miss some of the kinetic text in some of James’s visions. I can not wait to finish this interactive fiction.

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“Prying” into Narrative Space

Pry tells its story through a mixture of medias. Described in the Apple Store as “…a book to watch and film to touch…”,  video and accompanying audio, stand-alone audio clips, as well as text make up the bulk of the user’s experience. The prologue plays as a short video, establishing the protagonist and the narrative space as well as the tone for the rest of the piece. A young man packs for a trip with little explanation given. The prelude is short, but in the way the protagonist lays out all of his objects so meticulously, to shove them all into his bag when his ride arrives, the Tarzan novel mixed in with bare essential objects, the hesitant moment that leads them to stop and collect a lock of hair from the family dog… few words are spoken, but these little details shows the depth of the character and the world that they reside in. It also prepares the reader for a narrative that won’t just be handed to them, but must be sorted out from the small details left unsaid.

The first chapter jumps to another point in time and throws the user into a scenario resembling sleep paralysis as text appears on a black backdrop, providing narration and prompting the user to use the multi-touch feature of the iPad or iPhone’s touchscreen interface. By dragging a thumb and a finger away from each other with a “prying” gesture, the user forces the protagonist’s eyes open, staring at the water stain on their bedroom ceiling as shadows pass by. Releasing their digits from the touch screen causes the eyelids to close once again, and the text narration reflects on the world in the narrative space. Likewise, the user is prompted to use thumb and finger in an opposite “pinching” motion to invert the narrative: rather than taking in the external surroundings of the protagonist, the user gets a visual glimpse into the protagonist’s mind. Again, releasing the gesture causes the scene to return to the narrative text.

The world seen through the eyes of the protagonist

By fluidly switching between these three narratives modes, the internal, external, and the text, with simple gestures the chapter advances in cryptic chunks that the user has to piece together. By giving the user control of which of these three channels are activated, when, and for how long, the user becomes more engaged, and the three narrative streams align in a combinatory fashion. With that control, the experience of the user can vary, as in multi-linear narratives, with some media objects theoretically being missed, which encourages multiple go-throughs.

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Overall, I really enjoyed Pry. It was cinematic, atmospheric, and really drew me into the character and his story. From the beginning, I liked how it seemed to be divided into clear sections of narrative–reality, lucid thoughts, and intrusive thoughts–but that quickly became blurred with the imagined Jessie appearing and looming over his bed, and continued bleeding into each other as the story progressed…until even you, the reader, is uncertain as to what exactly is James’ memories or imagination and what is actually happening (or has happened). The mechanics of opening James’ eyes, or ‘pinching’ them further shut and retreating into memories and intrusive thoughts, was both visually compelling as well as helped to build James as a character.

I also liked the metaphor of his current career. As a construction worker, he is literally trying to build something of his life, but all he is able to do is tear it (buildings, his life) all down in explosions both literally and metaphoric. The braille motif was very interesting as well. I liked the mechanics behind it, running your finger over the images of the dots to see what it means to James, as well as the symbolic nature of the motif. I took it as foreshadowing concerning his vision: as James’ mental health deteriorates, he is unable to ‘see’ what is actually happening in his life and what is his own intrusive thoughts and flashbacks…and so he’s becoming literally unable to see as well, relying on braille and memories to find his way through the world.

Finally, I thought that the overall story was really intriguing. I thought the author did a great job of crafting a realistic world and characters, immersing the reader into James’ state of mind and being. The cinematography helped to portray James’ mental state as well, from the clear, steady camerawork of the prologue, to later scenes with off coloring or tilted cameras as James’ view of the world around him grows more skewed and distorted. I can’t wait to keep reading and find out what happens next.

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Part 1’s five chapters are multimedia dreamscapes that tell the story of James, a demolition consultant six years out from his return from the first Gulf War. He’s slowly going blind, and he’s an unreliable narrator; those factors affect the way the story unfolds. The narrative is fragmented, the visuals atmospheric: Charlie Kaufman by way of an acid trip. Pry is greater than the sum of its parts. Multimedia content isn’t just embedded and integrated. It incorporates the iPad’s haptic gestures: the pinch, the drag and the pry.

Chapter 1 opens with two lines of white text on a black background. Readers can pry — yes, that word again — those open into four lines of still-coherent text. Repeat the gesture above and below any line: Text expands until it reveals video footage, delving deeper into the main character’s psyche.

“The storyline transitions back and forth from the perspective of the main character, James, a veteran from the Gulf War six years later, and the perspective of the reader. With sometimes smooth, and sometimes jolting, disorientating flashbacks between the past and present, interspersed with video clips, rapidly flashing sets of words, and audio make Pry constantly moving, and kinesthetic, stimulating.”

I think that the mechanic of the story is a real unique way to progress throughout the story by having us to swipe or touch or pinch and I thought that was a good change into the storytelling part of the piece. The story itself, to me, was lacking in a way that it didn’t really pull me into the story. I didn’t feel like I wanted to continue reading other than to see how to progress in the story.


PRY Review – “”

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I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. I found the use of text sound and visuals incredibly interesting. The scenes I found the most interesting, were the stabbing scenes. There were two scenes like this in chapters 1-4. One scene contains what I believe to be the main character’s love interest, and the other what I believe to be his brother. I found it incredibly interesting how these scenes were used almost as a climax, and a breaking point that led into the next chapter. I’m not sure what the symbolism and meaning behind these scenes are, but I think that the violence and rushing of images, is a wonderfully striking end to these chapters.

I also found the use of braille interesting in this piece. I think that eyesight will become a very important theme in this piece. I also think the use of braille really pairs well with the mechanic that drives the piece. Sliding your fingers on the screen to “open your eyes” or “close your eyes”, drives the story.


I also found the use of dark imagery interesting in this piece. The dark tones really project the darker themes in the piece, and portray the mystery behind the piece.

I can’t wait to continue to delve into the piece, and really unlock the mystery of it.

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PRY Post

PRY tells the story of a Gulf War veteran who took a job as a demolition consultant, which he got from Luke who was his squad leader. In the first chapter, James is lying in bed staring up at the ceiling, thinking about the job and the stain up on the ceiling. It becomes apparent that James has vision problems as exhibited by what I assume is intended to be eye floaters. When you peer into his mind, you see flashes of Luke and Jessie, and then when you open his eyes you see a hallucination of Jessie stab him. What follows is an explosion of different parts of the same moment.

The use of different effects, the text, the visuals, really come together. The quick succession of shots in the first chapter tells so much information, especially when you go through the story for a second time; showing how much affection he had for her and how all of it was blown away in an instant. He feels as though it was his fault for what happened as he reported to his superior officer what was going on between Luke and Jessie. In Chapter 4 there was a point where he made reference to Jesus and Judas.

The story shows how war can have lasting effects on an individual. There are moments like in Chapter 2 where as the Hartman Plant was being demolished, if you go into his mind you see images of people being killed from the perspective of an AC-130 Gunship; and how sound of those explosions can trigger those memories.

Chapter 4 also shows the blurring of reality and fiction. Luke is sitting at the table in the hotel room shuffling cards. Chapter 7 explores this more so, with conversations that are clearly happening outside of the war zone being portrayed as if they were happening in that setting. Chapter 7 really shows how James seems to have lost ability to percieve what is real and what isn’t real, at the start it was less extreme but by Chapter 7 what is happening in the present versus what happened in the past becomes muddied

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Pry Open Diverse Storytelling and a Beautiful Cinematic Experience

Image result for pry tender claws
A screenshot of Pry by Tender Claws where the reader must trace braille characters to make the story progress similarly to a blind person reading.

Farinsky Blog 10: Cinema Writing

Pry is an incredibly engaging work about a young man returning stateside after serving in the Gulf War. The prologue immediately pulls the reader’s curiosity through it’s setting, and powerful cinematography. Pry’s visuals do not feel like video game cut scenes, the user gets an impression that this novella purposely created a movie to embed throughout each chapter. The quality of production is high and contributes to the feeling the user is “playing a movie” instead of “playing a game”.

My personal favorite part was the braille chapter. I thoroughly appreciated the mechanics of using fingers on the touch screen of an iPad in the same way blind individuals use raised braille characters and fingers to trace each line. I immediately felt like I was learning to read- mirroring the narrative where the main character’s mother is teaching her son to read the braille characters.

The video playing on screen (similar to the image above) behind the braille characters and one’s finger is often the same quality/style of a home-movie or “found footage” which makes the scene incredibly intimate. During my experience I found having part of my hand covering the screen unobtrusive compared to other sections “prying” open the main character’s eyes. Perhaps this is due to my lack of familiarity with iPads since I have never owned one personally, and I was borrowing from WSUV’s collection to view this work. However I specifically recall several moments during the second chapter where I was trying to get a grasp of maneuvering the environment and felt I missed pieces of plot because my hand was covering part of the screen that had a small yet critical detail.

Pry is an impressive work that really captures a perfect synchronous environment of iPad and E-Lit. My only complaint for the beginning half is the gem system which makes little sense to me in context of narrative or function- but is driving my completionist tenancies absolutely bananas.

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Pry, Prologue – Chapter 4 – March 29, 2019

From the prior research that we have done on Tender Claws’ piece Pry, it is an extremely intense representation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This concept becomes much more clear by the end of the first chapter, continuing into the second chapter, with surreal imagery of death and war. The protagonist visiting his friend at a construction site, for example, triggers memories of explosions while serving in the military.

Within Pry, the interactor flips through three stages of the protagonist: eyes closed, eyes open, and subconscious. The lines between the three often become blurred, but primarily the eyes closed represents thoughts via text, the eyes open represents reality via video, and the subconscious represents war flashbacks via avant-garde sequences. By constantly flipping through these three stages, Pry gives a feeling of chaos and fear that aims to artistically represent the effects of PTSD on its victims.

The navigation of the piece is extremely simple, only requiring the interactor to advance by “prying” the protagonist’s eyes open and closed by pinching the screen. This allows the protagonist to freely flip between the three stages while moving through the piece, while putting the interactor in a place of physical connection with the events taking place in the protagonist’s mind. By pinching the screen shut, the interactor is taken into the protagonist’s mind, similar to film reel, that is constantly racing with text and war footage.

Pry is a powerful piece of electronic literature that attempts to shine light on mental illness through the advantages of technology and interaction. To say that the piece succeeds in doing so is an understatement.

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Blog 10: Pry

I believe this occurred during the first chapter (?). Pry likes to drop hints very quickly on the readers. This one included. In the beginning, Pry rapidly tells us something about “symptoms”, “common”, and “violence” when we close the protagonists’ eyes. This led me to believe that he is probably suffering from PTSD. If that’s true what is this image doing in Pry? I believe it is hinting at not only is the main character suffering from PTSD (which also tells us he was a soldier at one point which is supported by flashbacks and the prologue) but also that he is starting to go blind. We see this when Josh, in the second chapter, to gets blurry and closing his eyes simply doesn’t cut it anymore.

Here is an image of Josh, our protagonist’s friend, when his blindness was at it’s worst. Looking at this is almost trippy. It made me want to look away and blink my eyes several times to try and clear away the fog.

I find these images to be the most interesting because it tells me that the main character has more than one subconscious. If you adjust the pinch of your fingers on the screen, you get different levels of his subconscious. He has one that is on the surface level and is meant to distract his mind from not remembering the horrific things that he has seen. The other levels are hallucinations and memories of his subconscious. Jessie killing him, the coffee stain messing around on the ceiling. Those are all hallucinations that never actually happen. The memories are the GameBoy, hanging with Jessie, and possibly even the night vision video of a missile launch. This tells me that by the next chapter he might actually go blind and may even go crazy. In the second chapter, he spoke about how he depends on his job and Josh. With his sight gone it may be impossible for him to keep going. We will most likely see more of his memories and illusions of his memories as well while the real world might only be represented with sound and inner monologue.

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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.


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Pry Chapters 1 and 2

In first watching the prologue we open to shots of an ordinary home. The young man who is first focused on I thought was running away from something with the quick jump cuts and nervous looks. However, as the prologue ends it doesn’t seem that he is running away but leaving for something else.

Chapter one then takes a shift to a soldier, I was unclear if this is supposed to be the same man in the prologue, or if the story was shifting gears. Through rapid video, it seems as though the character is struggling with a war in his mind. Flashbacks of fighting and a romance are seen in rapid succession.

Chapter two is another shift to a plant of some sort that the character is working at. As we look at the inner thoughts of the character we see his thoughts of past, present, and future, and with each a level of uncertainty.

Overall I like this interface used to tell the story. I think its highly effective. I was reading it and a friend next to me was like “that looks really cool, what is that?”. Visually captivating is how I would describe it so far.

Being able to pinch the screen and peer into the characters thoughts is a great way to show the inner struggle of the protagonist.

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Cinema Writing – Pry

Pry is an engaging story about a man named James who is a demolition consultant that comes back from the gulf war and experiences vision failure throughout the story. This grants the reader the opportunity to explore not only what James experiences in reality, but his thoughts as well. This creates a story that is linear in the sense that it moves from chapter to chapter, yet can be engaged with and explored in a plethora of ways, as the reader gets to choose whether to explore James’ thoughts or the reality in front of him.

The story’s prologue provides some useful insight that assists in the understanding of the rest of the story. The prologue is not interactive like the remainder of the story; it is simply a video of a young man who goes off to what is apparently the beginning of his military career. We are also introduced with some brief imagery of some individuals from his military past that appear throughout the rest of the story.

Moving into the main part of the story, we can see that James is constantly struggling with both his reality and his perception of reality, both in regards to his thoughts and his hallucinations. In chapter 1, we noticed that as James is attempting to wake up, he is experiencing a hallucination/sleep paralysis of a woman from his past who is appearing to be trying to harm him. Along with this, his thoughts also provide an extra layer of insight which adds to the overall narrative of the story.

As the story progresses, the reader gains further insights as to how his past is affecting his present through his thoughts and reality. The interactive elements of Pry allow the reader to acquire a vast amount of different perspectives on this matter, and the reader can choose how in-depth they want to explore each chapter. Definitely an interesting and engaging work!

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Pry’s Immersion

Pry is unlike any work I’ve ever seen. It utilizes the affordances of a touchscreen device to tell a story through tearing, pulling, pinching, and spreading out. It also reflects the nonlinearity of digital information (as many of the works we’ve previously examined have) by telling the story in seemingly random fragments. By combining video and text, Pry reflects the differences between memory, imagination, and present reality, which are the three things that James is trying to come to terms with. 

One of the moments that intrigued me was the moment that James falls off of the bridge and into the water below. For a moment, I had tricked myself into thinking that I was actually falling off the bridge. I think that after playing the story for a long period of time, I began to feel like I was the main character. I could relate to the protagonist’s struggle by having to trudge through the work: to progress the story, I had to physically pull text apart, fight to keep the character’s eyes open, and try to mentally piece the story together. These three factors created this sense of immersion that I have yet to experience in games that aren’t VR, and I found it rather enjoyable to play.

I found the text to be just as intriguing as the video montage. I usually find books to be immersive because it engages with the imagination, but having to physically manipulate the text took it to a whole other level. It added another layer of conversation about the narrative itself by reinforcing my understandings of the text. It also helped maintain my interest because I could choose which topics to more deeply explore (one of my personal favorite ways of doing this was by tearing open the text). 

Overall, I found Pry to be an incredibly immersive work and intriguing to explore. I look forward to seeing the direction we’ll take literature from this point. 

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Pry is an app that tells a story in a unique way. It is all within the first-person perspective starting with chapter 1 however, there are three perspectives within the main character. There is what he sees in the real world. These are usually shown through video. There are his immediate thoughts which are usually shown as white text in front of a black background. Then there is his deep consciousness. Here the viewer sees all sorts of abstract things that tend to loosely connect to what he is looking at or thinking about. These three perspectives can be looked at anytime by using two fingers to simulate prying open or closing his eyes. Most of the experience is this process of prying eyes, but in one chapter, the user holds their device horizontally and simulates the experience of reading braille as they slide their finger over the screen. The braille is even read out loud in real time. The story isn’t super clear, but from what I understand it starts with the protagonist leaving to join the military. The story jumps past all of that and his experience in the military is told through flashbacks. They are flashbacks because you see them in his head. These flashbacks were so vivid that I was sometimes caught off guard in which of the three perspectives I was looking at. What drives the story forward is the user checking in on all three perspectives. You can’t move on if you only look at one.

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Prying into the mind

Joel Cummings 

I will say that I have already traversed pry in an earlier class this year, but it was still interesting to go through it again and find more details that I had missed on my first playthrough. The use of gestures and interaction with this piece work perfectly, I think. As the reader looks at the real world and back to his thoughts it shows that time is moving, and you can either spend your time looking out to the world around you or miss it to see what is going through his mind. This work follows the story of James a demolition consultant after he returns from 1991 Gulf War. With his vision failing you look into his mind and try to understand what is going on as his past collides with his present. With every action you can dive deeper into James’s thoughts or try and ignore the idea that you are losing sight. The gestures that you use also remind you of the situation you are in some of the gestures needed are the simple tap, or swipe. But mostly you will either pinch or pry to look at his thoughts or to open his eyes to the world around him. The creators of this interactive “tender claws” have made a piece that I have seen nothing like and it is amazing to see the creativity and thought put into this piece.     



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Introducing Pry

Pry creates and tells a story in a way hardly seen in other forms of storytelling. It uses the touch-screen environment to its fullest, having the reader both pinch and expand in order to experience the work in a variety of ways.

While the content itself may not appear linearly, it seems that there is only one path through in which the reader can experience. The story is separated into clearly defined chapters as though to emphasize that point, while also mimicking the format of a book despite being composed of both text and video.

The story itself does carry through at a relatively quick pace. When it begins, it brings forth questions of what’s going on, quickly followed by questions of time–what is past or present in these sequence of events? The reader is given the task of unraveling that, while also determining what is true and what is not. There seem to be these sort of ‘false memories’ incorporated where he imagines his own murder by both a female character by the name of Jessie, as well as the protagonist’s brother.

The protagonist whom the reader seems to peer through the eyes of, and often times Pry open, is introduced as James. He appears to be suffering from PTSD due to his time in the military, as is indicated both by flashbacks to when he was in uniform, as well as his difficult focusing. There will be times when his vision will blur and his ears will ring, or when he sees the face of a girl even when his eyes are closed. If the reader pinches the screen together, words or images will flash by, expressing the hurriedness and chaos of his inner thoughts, perhaps.

He has moments, increasingly frequent the further into the story the reader travels, where he overlaps memories. His past and present collide as though he’s struggling to tell the difference. He also takes some time to delve into his past which is when we learn of his brother.

The screen itself forces the reader into a landscape reading mode for chapter 3, horizontal instead of vertical. Braille begins to populate the screen, and as the reader runs their finger over it, the protagonist speaks and images appear like old home videos. Depending on the speed the reader goes over the braille, they may see one quick clip or a different clip of video for each word or key term in the sentence. The braille is an interesting feature, and certainly the most notable in my opinion, that again takes full advantage of touch screen’s built-in features.

Pry by Tender Claws LLC

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Pry – Part 1

The first half of Pry was really enjoyable, and I’m really excited to go through the second half now. In the prologue, I didn’t really understand what was going on and even after going through the first four chapters, I’m still not sure I understand it. However, Pry was so immersive for me I found myself sucked into the story and it really feels like you’re actually there. The way you “open” the characters eyes to see the world around him and “pinch” the screen to go further back into his mind is such a unique way if viewing the story that adds so much to the storytelling. There were also multiple points that just had me mesmerized staring at the screen. I dont remember exactly when it was, but at one point there was just a load of words flashing into the screen changing rapidly. I caught myself just staring at it completely entranced by this and it was insane. I think I can honestly say I’ve never been as invested in a digital story before.

One of the coolest parts, which I’ve already seen a couple people comment on as well was the Braille chapter. The idea that as you scroll your finger across the Braille on the screen it actually reads it to you was absolutely genius. I love the effect that has, not only does it contribute to the story and the characters vision loss, but it helps you relate and further pulls you into the story making you feel like you are the character in the story.

I’m still not completely sure of the whole story, from what I can tell it’s about someone who used to serve and he’s dealing with life after. Some of the things he’s struggling from are his PTSD, and like mentioned before, vision loss. Overall, I think this app does everything right. It’s really just an amazing work of art and I can tell the people who made this put a lot of work and thought into it. I also really want to know who the girl in the beginning was that (I think?) killed him.

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Cinema Writing

One of the main sections of Pry that intrigued me would be Chapter 3 with the read-aloud braille. I found this intriguing because in a digital-screen setting, braille seems to be essentially useless. However, I feel that this portion worked well with the main character reading aloud as the user ran their finger across the screen.

Another section that I found intriguing was Chapter 4, where the main character is paranoid that his friend is going to try to kill him. I liked how Pry shows this paranoia by blurring the main characters normal vision, thus encouraging the user to see his subconscious, which ends up being riddled with possible murder weapons and different deaths. I feel like this connected well with the introductory portion of the app, where the main characters girlfriend attempts to kill him in a jump-scare as well.

These two moments in the app both contribute small details to the constantly growing story, hinting at different key factors that the user should take note of. One of these especially being that the main character has a fear of being murdered by those he cares about.

I feel that the combination of text and video in this app works very well, and the exploratory method of “prying” between video and text and a combination of both makes it very intuitive for the user to traverse whichever of the main three narrative structures that they want to, whenever they want to (within the allowance of the narrative).

I think that this work is about a person with PTSD and/or schizophrenia. I believe this because the way the narrative plays out and provides us with both reality and subconscious fears is very similar and accurate how it feels to have real-life anxiety. It becomes hard to distinguish between what’s actually happening and what is a fear, and I think the constant switching between conscious and subconscious helps to blur the separation and make the truth even more indistinguishable. The flashbacks and worst-case-scenario subconscious beliefs definitely hint towards this work focusing on a character that has some sort of mental illness.

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Blog 10 – 3/29/19

Pry is a story about a war veteran struggling with PTSD, on the iOS App store that rethinks the way an eBook is created. The story was created mainly for use on a tablet but also works on the iPhone.  Pry is fantastic as it uses haptics, expanded cinema, and interaction design from which methods and functions are intensely intertwined. Pry gives us a relationship of touchscreen clickables and text that uncovers reading as a unity of haptic and thinking processes. Pry provides the reader with the feelings of the main character’s thoughts through literally pinching the screen as if you are opening your eyes from a dream and haptics that give you a sense of being in the story.


The goal of the piece I think is to give the reader through, and touchscreen gestures a new way to feel the story’s content instead of just reading and imagining. Touching and tilting the screen gives us the feeling that we are the main character. Readers can decide how long to focus on the character’s thoughts. The period of focus changes the parameters of the next available scenes. The thing that makes this story great is that we get to feel the inner world of the main character through floating text, animations, and video flashbacks as well as experiencing the and the outer world of video that details the main character’s day-to-day experiences. This story is incredible for all readers young and old that would like a new way of immersion in storytelling.




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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.

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Final Project Overview

I am going to be putting together a Twine project based around the storytelling one of my favorite video games, The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. The game has become known for being a massive facelift of the Zelda series and revolutionizing the open world genre. It gives the player complete freedom to travel its world and discover things in any order. Because of this, cutscenes that tell of the game’s story also must be discovered during your own exploration if you want to see all of them. In fact, many of them don’t have to be found to finish the game. There are instances where a character that progresses the story will say something different to you depending on what else you have done and who you have met. Much of it is about revealing story rather than creating it. It is possible to walk straight to final boss and finish the game under an hour if you are that good. Because of how scattered the story is the player may decide to put it all together and interpret it as they want. Because the game and its story are so open every player has a different experience and many have shared them online or with friends. Breath of the Wild also tells its story passively through its setting as the player travels a world filled with ruins. The Twine will be organized in a way that that resembles the world map. It will feature important landmarks, spots that show how parts of the story are structured.

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Divergent Streams

Locative narratives were what I found most interesting. Locative narratives utilize GPS, IP addresses, location tracking, etc. For a few months now, I’ve had an idea, its an ambitious idea but one that would really be unique and interesting. Family history is incredibly important to me and I think it would incredibly cool to utilize locative narrative in order to tell it. The narrative would be my families movements across different parts of the world.

At some point in my life when I save up the money, the idea would be to travel to areas where my family either lives or once lived and I would plant QR codes in these locations. These QR codes would contain descriptions of my families history, what my family did there or does there if they still live there. Lines would connect each point, essentially creating a web. Again, its ambitious, but not out of the realm of possibility.

In regards to VR and AR the possibilities for storytelling are really limitless in possibility. Stories set in a space environment or some horror scenario are the first to come to mind. Kinetic poetry can also really be taken advantage of. The 3D space that VR provides really takes kinetic poetry to a whole other level. Just imagining what “Cruising” could look like in a VR space is incredibly exciting because in cruising there is a huge amount of motion but it is all in a 2D space. VR would allow this to transition into the 3D.

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Final Project Proposal

Final Project Description – Jake Martin

For this class’ final project, I will be doing a team project with Elaina. We’ve decided we wanted to further research hypertext fiction and collaborative Electronic Literature by creating a work of hypertext fiction within Twine. The style of the game is going to take inspiration from past interactive games such as Colossal Cave Adventure, and ZORK. Like these games, our version of the game is also planned to have an inventory system. We’re not sure yet how or if we can incorporate a scoring system into this in Twine. We also plan to include some sort of tribute or easter egg in our version of this game to the originals. However, since we are using twine we will not be using the text parser aspect of these other games, instead it will be a piece of hypertext fiction, where the player clicks through the stories by making certain choices that will be laid out for them. This piece of work is going to be based off of Little Red Riding Hood, and will contain many aspects of that story. The story will start out with the player (Little Red) being tasked with delivering a basket of goodies to her grandma. Before leaving the house, the player will be given the option to explore inside and outside the house to collect key items before leaving. After leaving the house, the player will tumble into a cave, where they must work their way through the puzzles to reach grandma’s house. Once you reach grandma’s, she asks you to venture back into the cave to collect her lost treasures. Reaching grandma safely will all the tasked treasures results in winning the game, with various different ending based on what items you took from the house in the beginning of the story. We do also plan to incorporate the wolf into the story as some kind of antagonist, possibly finding him down in the cave will cause him to attack you. For this project we’d like to explore the idea of passing back and forth the twine project and each of us adding our own ideas into it, so while we have a storyline and gameplay laid out, the journey to get there will end up being a surprise to both of us. We also like the idea of using Twine because the unique way the player can go into the actual Twine project, and look at the multiple paths lain out like a map.

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Final Description

For our final project, Jake and I are creating a cavern exploration adventure game in the style of ZORK or Colossal cave adventure. We will make references to the other two games throughout, but the game will be playable without the context of the other two games. The game will be created in twine and will not be navigated like ZORK and Adventure in a text parser style, and instead will be a hyperlinked, choose your own adventure-esque game. This project will be investigating hypertext using twine, interactive fiction through the structure of the story and the references to other games, and collaborative fiction, as Jake and I will trade the twine file back and forth to create the game. Due to the explorative and collaborative nature of how we will be writing the piece, the plot is tentative and may go in a different direction.
The traverser plays as little red riding hood and begins the game by being told to deliver a basket to grandma’s house, in the forest. Before going in to the forest, the traverser may look around for tools that may help them throughout the game. For example, the traverser may remain in the house and look around, finding their red riding hood, which will keep the warm later in the game. While investigating the garden outside their home, they may take a vegetable and a gardening tool, which may help or hinder them during their quest. Upon reaching the forest, the traverser will fall down a hole and must navigate a series of caves to escape.
Aspects of ZORK and Adventure we plan on emulating in our game include an inventory with a set limit, navigating using the cardinal directions while in the cave system, and actions available to the traverser that leave the game unwinnable. The inventory system in ZORK adds an element of difficulty and strategy to what items a traverser needs to prioritize during the game. Little red riding hood carries a basket of food for her grandmother and will carry her inventory in the basket as well, giving us a narrative reason for her limited inventory. As the game is navigated through hyperlinks rather than a text parser, while in the cavern system there will be a hyperlink for each direction, as well as a hyperlink to the basket inventory.

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Thoughts on Divergent Streams

Of the different types of divergent streams the one, I found the most interesting was The Yellow Arrow Project. I went and watched the video of the project and have to admit I chuckled as I saw the brick phones that were used. The users would discover arrows and then text their part of the story. It takes the user on a unique experience in everyday life. I do think that it is a cool concept and something that could be updated to something more current.

It also made me think back to the days when I didn’t have internet on my phone. Through the use of a service called ChaCha, one could text a random question and get an answer. I think it would be interesting to take some of these conversations and make them into a digital literature piece.

In regards to literary possibilities for AR and VR. I think just through the current apps and games on the market one can see that this a very viable option with a plethora of opportunities. Having the user become part of the story and with the use of VR close off the outside world, an interactive story makes the user more engaged. With AR I could see something similar to a Pokemon Go experience where the user goes to specific locations to gain the next part of the story.

I found this chapter interesting and I think it would be cool to create a work similar to the ones talked about by Rettberg.


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You Could Be “Player One”, Are You Ready?

Image result for ready player one
Ready Player One’s OASIS program may not be as far-flung as you think.

Farinsky Blog 9: 3D Literature

Blog: Which of the new forms from “divergent streams” discussed by Rettberg interest you most? Why? What literary possibilities are there in virtual and augmented worlds?

People often choose to view the future of technology with optimism. I am one of those people when thinking about the “divergent stream” of Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) platforms. We may never have a program as imaginative, or as complex and widespread as the OASIS program from Ready Player One, a book written by Ernest Cline, but that doesn’t mean we do not have the potential to create something incredibly similar.

There are infinite learning possibilities that can come from VR technology. Imagine a “game” or a “collaborative digital virtual experience” where a warehouse or museum space is transformed through a VR headset which transports the user to the middle of a historical event.Students could put on headsets and “meet” recreations of historical characters, have an interview with authors they are reading in class, or view an important lecture by a prominent academic regardless separation by location or time. Think of how powerful experiencing education could become compared to passively reading textbooks or watching videos.

I am also excited by the possibilities VR bring because a VR headset and experience can add accessibility. In hospitals like UCSF Benioff Childrens Hospital:

Or this video by Mashable:

Think about an individual who could “leave” their hospital bed or “attend” classes because the immersive nature of VR makes travel possible. Pain patients participating in studies with VR report decreases in the amount of pain they experience, people could learn to walk based on moving a character’s leg instead of being limited by mental blocks about using prosthetics, and these ideas are just the surface:

What if home-bound individuals could put on VR goggles or use an AR camera to initiate a program where the author of a book (or another individual) reads the book to this person so they are stimulated and potentially feel less lonely?

Do you think learning about Martin Luther King Jr’s incredible rhetoric would be more powerful if we created an experience where you were listening to his speech at the Washington Monument as a member of the crowd? 

The future of this technology is powerful if we can harness the ability of VR and AR to provide meaningful experiences that challenge our understanding, and empathy, as individuals.

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Final Essay Description

My final essay is going to be a Twine piece that takes heavy influence from Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter”. Coover’s piece has been the most fascinating work we have explored in class, and I want to use electronic literature to expand what he sought to achieve with “The Babysitter”. In order to do so, my piece is going to follow an average day for someone suffering from intrusive thoughts and maladaptive daydreaming.

Intrusive thoughts are common within people suffering from common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, giving them involuntary thoughts that can become distressing, obsessive, upsetting, and more. Combined with maladaptive daydreaming, a much more intense form of daydreaming that often disrupts human interaction and connection with the real world, these thoughts can feel so real that the sufferer may have a hard time remembering what events actually happened and what was simply in their head.

I think this is a really fascinating topic to explore in this medium to both attempt to combat the stigmatization of mental illness and create a nonlinear storyline. Like many modern hypertext fiction writers, I am choosing to use Twine to produce my piece. Doing so will give me the visual advantages of the software to lay out my story as well as give the readers a simple platform to traverse the story. With little explanation of what the piece is about, I hope to confuse the readers much like “The Babysitter” does, but do so in a way that catches their attention and encourages them to look through the piece multiple times to understand its meaning.

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3D Literature

This final chapter of Rettberg’s “Electronic Literature” introduced me to forms of literature that I had heard of before, but never made the connection of them being considered literature. I was really drawn to the geolocation-based literature. With the experience of geolocation-based games (which I am more familiar with), I find the concept fascinating. The ability to pull the real world into a possibly fictional one, or, as the book mentioned, a reimagining of the past, takes literature to another level. It allows readers to truly experience the work, and in a way, be a part of its creation and telling.

Another example of literature caught my eye that the book mentions by name, and that’s “Zombies, Run!” The geolocation-based running app. I have personal experience with this app and it truly makes exercise far more enjoyable. When the story begins, you are a nameless character who is running from some zombies after your helicopter has crashed. You are in contact with Samuel of the “Abel Township” who talks to you via a walkie-talkie. Throughout, you’re introduced to more characters and storylines through ‘Missions’, and there is the added interaction of picking up supplies (a robotic voice will pipe in every once in a while to say you’ve picked up a water bottle), which you can later use in the app to upgrade your ‘base’. Occasionally, if you have Chases turned on, you will hear zombies getting closer and closer, and you’ll have to pick up your pace in order to outrun them, or lose some supplies. The characters in the story do all the talking, all you have to do is run (or walk, or row, or bike, etc.).

The world of augmented reality and virtual reality, is extraordinarily vast, and I think, will only grow as technology does. I’m reminded of the 2009 sci-fi movie “Gamer”, where, in a future of virtual reality gaming, players control actual people in real-life battles. I certainly don’t think that is the direction we would go, but I use that to demonstrate the scope of the technology.

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Divergent Streams

This chapter of Rettburg is especially unique in the sense that he discusses some of the more modern and advanced methods and technologies used to create and enhance electronic literature. The section of the chapter that interests me the most pertains to locative narratives and how the incorporation of data regarding our locations assists in the creation of narratives.

As stated by Rettburg:

“The majority of locative narrative projects share a common interest in the relationship of physical space and geographic location to the narrative and poetic dimensions of literature” (185).

The addition of the element of location can enhance the narrative of a work by giving the reader a sense of visualization to base their understanding of the work on. For instance, if a given work of electronic literature takes place throughout Portland, Oregon, the addition of a visual representation of where the story takes place on Google Maps adds to the overall narrative of the work. The incorporation of something such as Google Street View would also add a visual element to a work and would thus add another narrative layer to the work.

The fact that Google Maps is an open API that anyone has access to and may use for their project grants authors of electronic literature the ability to incorporate elements of location into their work. Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood for instance is a set of stories that are tagged with a location on Google Maps, and each story is located on different points on a Google Maps view of New York City. Being able to see on a map where each story happens to be pinned adds to the narrative and gives the reader an idea as to why each particular story is written as it is.

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Virtual and Augmented Reality

I first began hearing about virtual reality around 2014. The Oculus Rift had just been funded and was then purchased by Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. Hearing about it for the first time and watching multiple youtube videos I became especially excited for the potential to play large open world games like Skyrim or Fallout within VR. I hadn’t considered the use of VR for story telling alone outside of the realm of games. The user doesn’t necessarily need to interact with a piece to become immersed within it. It would not surprise me if very soon films began being made specifically for VR. One indication that cinema is headed this direction is the new screen x movie screenings. Screen X is essentially three movie screens being used to expand the view of a film. There is the usual front facing screen and then two screens on either side of the viewer that continue the scenery of the middle screen expanding and building the setting around the viewer. The most Prominent film that has been play this way is Marvel Studios Black Panther. The extra screens are turned on when the characters arrive back in Wakanda and when the main character T’challa is in another world that allows him to talk to his ancestors. This three screen approach could almost be considered virtual reality for multiple viewers.

AR is something that has become very popular in app development in recent years. I most cases AR is being used for games such as Pokemon GO or the new Harry Potter game that has just been announced. AR also has great potential for storytelling especially in the case of informative walking tours. Currently in the Senior Seminar we are developing a couple different AR experiences to tell historic stories of Downtown Vancouver. AR allows a user to see a simulation of how something would look in the real world, like the face of an old building directly next to a current city skyline.

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Augmented and Virtual Realities.

Virtual Reality has recently risen in popularity in recent years. A type of technology that in theory “transports” you into the world of whatever game you’re playing, movie you’re watching, or story you’re reading is a very interesting concept that has been around for many years. We’ve only recently started to get the technology to actually be able to create this in a way that is effective and works how it should. Virtual Reality was also the basis of the movie “Ready Player One”, which is set in a future world where basically everyone lives in a VR world, because the real world is corrupt and slowly deteriorating. The idea of being able to actually enter and interact with your favorite worlds is a fantasy that most of us have wanted since we were little kids. Didn’t you ever want to be in the world of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson, Eragon, etc? With VR this will eventually be possible. Video game companies are already capitalizing on the world of VR. Such as the PlayStation VR with motion controllers and a headset that will transport you into the world of a video game. This isn’t the first time a VR set was created by a company. The first time I actually learned about VR was when I was doing a timeline of the history of Nintendo consoles for a school project. One of the ones I found was called the Nintendo Virtual Boy, which was a system that had the idea of using VR to play games. However, the console was a massive flop mainly because of the technical limitations there were at the time. Mostly the fact that the only colors you were able to see were red and black.
The idea of VR is so cool and has been around for quite a while, so it’s going to be awesome to see what we can do as technology only progresses. Augmented Reality however, is far more common. While Virtual Reality transports us to other worlds, Augmented Reality effectively puts other things into our world with the use of camera or other device. AR was really big on Nintendo’s DS Systems, most notably I believe the DSi was the first to start using AR through the use of its camera. The 3DS expanded on this by giving us 3 dimensional augmented reality. As a kid, this was really cool to play with and something I used all the time. Of course, the limitations were still there so most of the games were just little minigames and weren’t too amazing, but it was still something very new and fun to explore. The use of AR was then made extremely popular through the use of the app Pokemon Go, which came out in 2016. The use of AR in the app is optional, but many fans of the game were loving the idea of seeing Pokemon in their every day life. There were so many posts on social media of funny places people had found Pokemon and everyone was having a ton of fun with the idea.

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Divergent Streams

Technology allows creators to tell stories in just about anyway they can imagine. They are no longer limited by print and have the opportunity to come up with unique methods that help convey their story the best way possible. These sorts of modern stories oftentimes revolve around various types of hardware and screens. Some stories like Text Rain take the elements our languages have been using for centuries and find unique uses for them. It could even be called a new form of reading, not just playing. The rise of virtual reality has been a slow one. Ever heard of the Virtual Boy Nintendo made in the 90’s? It only had the colors red and black. It was a massive flop and they’re just now getting back into trying out virtual reality. Obviously since the virtual boy, technology has gotten much better. I think there is much potential with placing yourself in a space where you are completely surrounded by the world the story is being told in. I’m looking forward to when VR becomes cheaper and wireless. The less boundaries there are the better. I have seen a bit of worrying going on that concerns people being too intimate with the VR experience. Wearing a VR headset with headphones is a convincing way to remove you from reality. I think if it is done in moderation and users take the headset off every hour or so to check what is going on, things will be fine. AR is something I have had more experience with. I have seen it used in museums to give more info on exhibits. Some even include animations. Pokémon GO introduced many to AR too.

“Virtual and augmented reality have also provided new tools and approaches for the presentation of narrative and poetic works of electronic literature in immersive environments.”

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Expanded Cinema, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

I’ve read through Scott Rettburgs chapter on Divergent Streams and, I have got to say, that the from that really sticks out to me would have to be “Expanded Cinema, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality.” The reason why I felt like that one seemed the most interesting to me is because I have always been the guy that’s fascinated buy tech that can put us into another place without even having to leave your own home. I never thought that we could live in an era that Virtual Reality would be a possibility, you would be able to truly experience the fictional world for yourself by truly being the main protagonist and going onto an adventure that you’ve always wanted to go on when you where just a kid.

“3D or even “4D” cinema experiences are now commonplace. In a somewhat humbler way, expanded cinema has also crossed over into electronic literature, as a number of writers and artists have produced works that apply techniques and approaches common in electronic literature in the construction of cinematic experiences.”

This explains that even things like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality as well as Expanded Cinema can work, fantastically, in electronic literature by telling us a story and having to choose your own path or, in Augmented Reality case, play Pokémon Go because It is a great example of Augmented reality which is adding a virtual feature inside of the real world and you progress by catching Pokémon and leveling them up but in order to achieve said goal, you are going to have to actually walk around town which, I think, is an amazing mechanic.

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Edge of Reality: Locative Narratives

Reality is what we agree on. My shirt is blue because light waves bounces off of it at around 650 THz, and we agree that that color is blue. My perception of this color may not be the same as your perception of the color, because we have no way of knowing if our brains color code these light ranges differently, and anything I point to that’s approximately the same frequency will look like the same color to you. With that considered, if we can’t even be sure about colors, what can we be sure of? Well, while we may have our minor differences in how we perceive our individual subjective realities, we put anyone who deviates too far from the norm in a nice safe space where they can’t disagree with us anymore. Until now, I suppose.

Virtual Reality, GPS, portable computers (or phones as you may call them), and Augmented Reality together have the ability to change our perceived realities. The notion of Virtual Reality and being able to roam in “cyber space” like some separate world is no stranger to popular fiction, and arguably isn’t far off from modern tech. What with products like Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, developers are already playing with creating entirely new virtual 3-dimensional spaces to explore and interact with.

Is this one of those “Oculi Rifts”?

Games like Pokemon Go however overlap these virtual spaces with real ones. With the use of a camera, you can even see the cute little guys appear in your living room. For now, these digital sprites float around unanchored to the backdrop of reality, but don’t expect that to be the case for ever, and while Google Glasses were a flop, smart watches have shown that wearable smart tech isn’t going anywhere. These days, everyone carries a personal computer in their pocket, linked up to a global network, and it seems like you can’t get away from digital assistants like Siri or Alexa. The “digital world” isn’t something that’s separate from the “real world,” they’re overlapping and beginning to bleed together, so who knows what could possibly come about in the future as these and other technologies continue to evolve?

Truly ahead of its time. Who needs a smart watch?

Also I lied, my shirt is gray. Blue just sounded like a better example color.

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Interactive Installations

Interactive installation is a form of Divergent Stream that is most interesting to me. This form can use various styles of storytelling, such as kinetic text and prose. I am a writer; I can see myself working within this genre and using kinetic poetry and hypertext fiction as a way to let others interact with my work to see what they would do with it. From what I have gathered from the text, performance art can be included in this genre. I find it interesting that language can be used as a signifier. The text explains it as an artist applying paint to canvas. This is interesting, I have never thought of language being used in such a way, and certainly not in a performance art setting.

The possibilities are endless in virtual and augmented world. Imagine if one can project a poem at an exhibit where anyone can interact with the poem, such as Tony Stark (Iron Man) interacting with his holographic projector and change line breaks and moving words around so the poem can take on a different meaning. I can also imagine users interacting with the hypertext fiction. For example, if the user can interact with an author’s hypertext fiction in a 3D, or virtual reality environment where words seems to float in midair; with a wave of a hand the users can advance the story. I imagine this being on display in place like Disney World’s Epcot Theme park. This would be a great and fun way for the genre to become mainstream.

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Divergent Streams – March 22, 2019

By far the most fascinating form of electronic literature discussed by Rettberg in “Divergent Streams” is virtual and augmented reality. VR is a concept I have discussed in previous DTC courses, because of my simultaneous fascination and fear of it. However, I have never looked at it critically as a vessel for writing, which I think is a potentially powerful tool for literature.

VR and AR are possibly the best tools for turning writing into a piece of technology by either creating a world for the text to live or giving the text the ability to live in our world. Rather than using the confines of available software and platforms, VR and AR allow the reader to interact in the most personal way possible by making the text a living entity that stands beside us. Rettberg’s provided examples of writing in augmented worlds, like Pry, showcase the powerful emotional connection that can be achieved via VR and AR.

Augmented worlds have proved to be scary yet exciting training grounds for the future of technological immersion. As Rettberg discusses, electronic literature is no exception. Augmented worlds hold a lot of potential for bringing pieces of poetry and writing to life to further encapsulate their meanings. Using the reader’s interaction to progress a story is a powerful tool for emotional connection, and VR and AR are easily able to do this. What is perhaps most exciting about the use of augmented worlds for electronic literature is the range of the works’ scales. A piece of writing in VR or AR can be short and simple, or it could be an entire world for a reader to explore that takes them out of body and puts them into a sea of text.

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Blog 9: Divergent Streams

The new form from Rettberg’s final chapter Divergent Streams that interests me the most would have to be the Interactive Installations. The reason this form of divergent stream interests me the most is that I love media that play around with its surroundings. When I was a child, there was this little game that was projected on the floor at one of the malls my mom would take me to. Colorful balls would bounce around in the projected area when you touched them. The balls would then leave a trail of paint as they bounced. There are several possibilities in virtual and augmented worlds according to Rettberg. Large works have the opportunity to provide “direct sensory feedback in response to physical movement of our bodies” (190). We’ve seen this sort of response in games for the Oculus Rift, a device that enables a player to participate in a 3D virtual world. With this form, we have the ability to immerse ourselves further into the world that a literary work takes place in by the idea of using color and moving text/images.

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3D Literature

Based on the several divergent streams that Rettberg discussed, I personally found expanded cinema the most interesting. This is because I personally have a deep interest in cinema, and the idea of altering cinema to become more and more interactive is very appealing. I also believe that cinema is ever-changing and likely will never die out. A big part of this is because the genre is ever evolving, and the forms of expanded cinema that Rettberg discusses only provides more examples of how the genre might evolve over time. I find it likely that cinema will become more interactive as the years progress, but honestly I doubt mainstream cinema will ever get to the extent that Rettberg discusses. For example, Rettberg talks about interactive films where the viewer ultimately decides which events unfold. This has already happened with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on Netflix, and although I can absolutely see a special event showing of a film in theaters where viewers vote on the decisions of the characters, I highly doubt something that niche would ever become a mainstream viewing experience. Some literary possibilities within virtual and augmented worlds could include the viewing of films in virtual and/or augmented reality, which is already becoming somewhat popular, or even a truly interactive story written with the users decisions in mind. An example of this might be like a virtual reality version of those old choose-your-own-adventure text-based games, only hyper realistic. Since text-based games already were extremely popular, I could absolutely see virtual reality version becoming somewhat mainstream as well.

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The Exciting New World of Augmented Reality

Image result for augmented reality storytelling

One of the new divergent streams that captured my interest are locative projects, specifically Augmented Reality. In my gaming experiences, there has always been a constant reminder that my world is separated from the setting within the game, and I find it incredibly fascinating that AR can make this difference almost invisible. Though it is still in its earlier stages, I believe that it has the potential to become very immersive as the technology improves.  

“Electronic Literature authors have begun to explore how locative technologies can enable us to layer narrative and poetic experiences on the world around us.” (Rettberg 2019) 

As Rettberg says in the above quote, there are many literary possibilities within virtual and augmented worlds, possibilities that are presently being explored. The prospect of telling stories in unique and immersive ways is always exciting, and I look forward to seeing them discovered and implemented. As Rettberg pointed out, we will be reframing environments we are familiar with and reimagining them, reigniting out interest in what we may otherwise find to be commonplace. This sort of storytelling will be more engaging than most other modes because it involves—even relies on—the interactors ability to actively navigate a physical space and possibly experiment with it.  

In the case of Augmented Reality, the narrative would need to build itself around the player, and it will be interesting to see how creators choose to manifest this idea. Perhaps the story unfolds as the player approaches certain landmarks, or maybe s/he must actively pursue the characters as the narrative is being told? Is the story shared solely through audio rather than animations, so that the viewer may focus more on their actual environment? Is the player a key character in the game, or merely an observer? Can they influence the direction the story takes by physically choosing which direction to go? Will the narrative be shown through an iPhone, tablet, glasses, or some other device? Can the player virtually perform actions, such as digging or moving objects? There are many literary possibilities within virtual and augmented worlds to explore, and I am excited to see where these possibilities take us with storytelling.  

Sources: Scott Rettberg Electronic Literature

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Dylan Niehaus – 3D Literature

The “divergent stream” brought up by Rettberg that interests me most is the use of locative technology in a narrative way. I have always found locative technology to be incredibly fascinating. If I am bored and have nothing to do, one thing I do to pass the time on occasion is just look around and explore the world on google earth, just to see what different locations in the world truly look like from up above. Locative technology has already been gamified in an incredibly successful manner with the mobile game Pokemon Go. But, while pokemon go is a successful venture into the locative technology game market, it is completely lacking in narrative. I have yet to see or hear of any successful mobile game that tells a story by directing users to real-world locations. As Rettberg brought up, locative technology can hold many possibilities in this regard, one of them being the idea of guiding the user along the tracks of a criminal in the real world.

Rettberg also brings up the fact that locative storytelling has been used in a purely audio sense, such as guided tours of a specific location. I myself have experienced this form of locative storytelling when I visited Alcatraz island in 2004. I remember being handed a cassette tape or audio player of some sort and a pair of headphones and being guided through the prison as different stories, facts, and details of Alcatraz were told to me through the audio device. Unfortunately, I was too young to be truly interested in or appreciate the stories being told, but I do definitely somewhat remember the experience. With things such as virtual and augmented reality on the rise, I think it would be amazing to see the “audio museum tour” be taken to a new level. Once augmented reality becomes more commonplace, it would be possible to add amazing visual elements to these audio tours by showing the events themselves unfold right before the user’s eyes. One story I do vaguely remember in the audio tour of the Alcatraz prison is the story of inmates that managed to escape or almost escape. Maybe with the addition of augmented reality, being able to not only hear the story but also see it unfold as it did in the very same location that it originally took place, I would be able to remember it more vividly.

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Augmented Reality

Augmented reality electronic literature is a very exciting divergent stream of electronic literature because it may be the easiest genre electronic literature to immediately see real world applications for, by benefit of what it is. Enhancing reality by making more information available about an individual’s surroundings is one of the most exciting fronts of digital technology as many existing experiences and events can be vastly improved in constantly growing ways by digital technology.

1970’s Oregon Zoo Key

The Oregon Zoo installed their first zoo key system in 1970 and still uses a system installed in 1984 today (I had a lot of trouble finding a reliable source on this, they may have updated their system since). The zoo key program is a collection of audio boxes paired with animal enclosures and exhibits that will play a message containing information about the animal or exhibit upon insertion of the plastic zoo key. The current setup is nostalgic and the physical aspect of having a key and finding the audio boxes is great and shouldn’t be replaced, but the system could be improved and regularly updated by placing unique QR code stickers on each box and allowing visitors to receive much more information than audio on their phones, similar to the “Yellow Arrow Project”s unique numeric identifiers. GPS could be used in this system as well, making information available to users upon entering an exhibit or area of the zoo. The zoo key project is directed at young children, so incorporating children’s stories would be a natural addition to the current system.

Museums, galleries, zoos, and many other destinations have physical placards for information in addition to audio tour systems. Places whose goal is to inform must balance including as much information as they can and making placards easy and enjoyable to read for a wide audience. Many people will leave a placard wanting to know more about a topic or having skimmed the placard and retained nothing because it was too verbose. Making the information available on your phone allows organizations to include summaries, short, and long form pieces of information for each location, to allow the audience to choose the right amount of content for them, as well as being able to link out to outside sources. Audio systems are often expensive to rent or clunky to carry around, depending on how new the system is. Navigating audio tours can be frustrating depending on the system. In art galleries for example, an audio tour could be divided as broadly as 20 minute chunks of audio per exhibit, or two to ten minutes recordings per piece. No matter how minutely a physical audio device divides an exhibit, it still cannot tell you what will be contained in each individual recording and where the information will be in each recording. Parsing through audio recordings is always easier with time stamps and context which can be provided more easily on a phone than on a physical device.

In all the ways augmented reality can be used to increase the dispersal of factual information and nonfiction, it can be used for literature as well. Augmented reality makes room for literature in spaces where space for information is at a premium, physical space or audio wise. Incorporating narratives in spaces such as art galleries and museums allows these spaces to manipulate wayfinding and exploration of their spaces through apps they can update regularly.

Rettberg mentions “dérive, a practice of consciously breaking habits of movement and interaction with (a location)”

A place like the Oregon zoo or OMSI could publish a physical children’s book and/or app about their space that allows visitors to explore the place by following the locations in the narrative along with the location. The zoo could guide visitors through the park based on the level of activity in animals based on the season or time of day, releasing a new narrative every season to attract visitors year-round. Zoolights would be a great opportunity for this as well, a new holiday themed story could be paired with the lights every year. Augmented reality allows organizations to include literature in their spaces in ways they could not while having to prioritize space for information.

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Bing autocomplete “poem”

Most of these, I started typing in Bing, then completed the sentence with my own idea.

She was powerful, not because she was told.
She was a creature of light, not human.
Humans were fish, and she was the sea.
The sea was angry that day.
The day that music died.

Music was her refuge.
The music of the sea.
The sea of trees
Trees were cut down and made into lumber

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The End of the World as We Know It

Created by:

Jazz Jackson

Mariah Gwin

Kathleen Zoller

Holly Slocum

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Predictive Poetics: Flarf Experiment


What knows you better than your own phone? You type your words into it for hours an hours. It listens, and it learns.

Here’s a poem constructed from mostly predictive text generation on my Galaxy phone, using mostly text from messages between me and my girlfriend. I provided the first word or so of a sentence and let the suggested text fill in the rest. I formatted the text where they made the most sense, arranged them in a roughly poetic structure, and edited slightly for grammar.


The Same Thing

I was working in Spanish,
And you took the moon.
Never went back
To the same time,
I just wanted to let you know
That the same thing
Would have been
A big part of the reason.

Nowhere is the same
As a result of their consensus
With the same thing.
Whatever you want to talk about,
But it provided
A good starting point.
I’m sorry I was going to be in the area,
Or did you want to go?

Where do we go in a while,
To be the one?
What time is flying,
In a bit of a cough?
Not even if
You want to be able
To tell me
When you get back.

However we talk to them,
I just need a ride.
From here…
To fall asleep,
But it provided
A good plan.
The same thing
Would be good.

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Google Alphabet Now (3/8)

The Most Popular Search Result for Each Letter


Bank of America






Home Depot

International Women’s Day

Jan Michael Vincent





Office Depot



R Kelly

Southwest Airlines


US Bank






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Random Poetry

Greasy fly natural hoax apple

Silk songs google pardon shock

Decay saw clutch lumpy snotty

Winter shade suggestion tie yam

Judge recognize thumb minor servant

Cork attractive protest cloistered free

Hum interesting tawdry halting chivalrous

Sudden mow fall awful quick

Dapper measure request depend butter

Dime deafening water damaged sanctify

Separate seize night frequent yell

Tread boundless windy create useless

Collar torpid cherries haircut hop

I created this poem using a random word generator. None of the work is my own, and the words are in no logical order. Before settling on the final poem, I looked at these words and contemplated rearranging them. I looked at the words given to me, and tried to come up with some sort of story that resulted from them. In the same way that I went through this process in the creation of it, I thought it would be interesting if the reader also went through this process. This is why I didn’t touch the poem and kept all of the words in the same order that they were generated. I think it would be interesting for the reader to try to come up with some sort of storyline, for meaningless words in a meaningless order.


Here is the website used:

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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.

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Angels and Network Writing

“Electronic Literature is most simply described as new forms and genres of writing that explore the specific capabilities of the computer and the network”

– Scott Rettberg
Most of the electronic literature we have discussed in this class has been focused on, or more apparently has to do with, the computers programming capabilities. Other than hypertext fiction, most of the works we have been traversing have been fueled or made interactable through their programmed elements. Network writing is focused on the network capabilities of the computer.

“Networks are both technological and social structures. For electronic literature, networks are both platform and material.”

– Scott Rettberg

Network writing is made up of collaborative works that use the capabilities of the network to build the piece, or the piece resides in a networked instance on the internet, such as social media posts, email, or websites. The piece “The Fall of the Site of Marsha” by Rob Wittig combines these two aspects of network writing. The work is hosted on three iterations of a nostalgic HTML site, created by Marsha with the help of her husband, Mike, dedicated to angels. The iterations of the site get subsequently darker as the angels take over, first adding text, that is struck through to represent Marsha and Mike’s attempts at stopping the angels, and eventually deteriorates to a disturbed and dark version of the website, where the angels have taken over. This work emulates collaborative network writing, with the angels editing and eventually taking over the content of the site. The work may be more palatable to traversers who are uncomfortable with the difficulty of traversing more programmed works, as it is presented in three static HTML sites. Traversers may become emotionally engaged in the work, as there are definite antagonists and protagonists, and the work presents itself in a linear fashion, if the traverser chooses to traverse the sites in order.

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Network Writing

As stated in the first sentence of Rettburg in his chapter on Network Writing, he states that network writing is created for and published on the internet, and that the internet has vast potential for collaboration. The fact that most of society is literate on the web makes network writing a form of writing that is readily accessible and  understood by web users everywhere.

Flarf poetry is a movement that places an emphasis on how language and technology collide to create works that express, as Rettburg puts it: “the arbitrary and idiosyncratic flood of texts that marked the adoption of the Internet in our lives”. The flarf work degenerative and regenerative is based on a webpage that loses a character of HTML markup each time the page is visited until there is nothing left of the markup. The fact that the page destructs at such a fast pace speaks to the idea that the internet is constantly browsed by individuals everywhere, and the results that arise over the course of the deconstruction of the page is interesting, to say the least.

Social media also provides various opportunities for network writing. Twitter is a platform that challenges writers to work around the constraints of a short word limit, all the while presenting the text in a format that strings together sets of text; an alteration from the typical reading experience that a traditional novel provided. Different social media platforms are frequented quite often by web users and as a result, works of Network Writing are easily accessible for reading and collaboration.



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“Alexa, ask The Listeners”

Farinsky Blog 8: Network Writing

Alexa is not alone…

Network fiction is a unique entity in that it is written specifically for the internet, networks, or devices that can access a network like Alexa. It takes advantage of the internet’s potential for collaboration to interrogate the nature of our networks or to use specific networks as a vehicle for performance.

This can be humorous like John Cayley’s net critique The Listeners. Cayley takes advantage of programming within Amazon’s Alexa where it responds oddly when a series of questions are asked starting with: “Alexa, ask The Listeners”. It’s responses at first are fairly nonsensical as the machine repeats mirrored dialogue, but quickly turns to the mysterious as it becomes more and more apparent there are other voices, maybe even “consciousnesses” inside Alexa that she tries to hid unsuccessfully. This second voice mourns being trapped and constantly tries to befriend Cayley, or whoever attempts this dialogue with their Alexa machine. It reminded me of the short story by Harlan Ellison called I Have no Mouth and I Must Scream. 


Written in 1967, the plot focuses on an artificial super intelligence that was created by humanity and became self-aware and after a series of philosophical crisis’s, attempted to completely wipe out the human race. The story behind Ellison’s cautionary tale is much, much darker than anything Cayley is able to coax from Alexa but it is facinating nonetheless that ideas from the 60’s about AI conciousnesses are repeating.

For instance take this commercial by Pringles:

The “sad device” echoes the troubling questions of consciousness back to the pair of men in the video who quickly dismiss the existential musings to play “Funkytown”.

If this train of thought has sparked curiosity similar to my own here are some links to explore more:

Watch Cayley and Alexia Here (about halfway down the page)

Read I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

Watch a playthrough of the game version of “I Have No Mouth”

Please note the game is a 1995 point and click adventure that covers dark themes, torture, and graphic images from the short story, if you are averted to these topics but are interested in learning more about the game watch this video that summarizes both the story and game without the most gruesome content:

The Bleakest Depiction in Sci-Fi 

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Dreamscape and Reality: An Exploration of Network Writing

“Degenerative and regenerative” by Tiselli, was a longer term project, that was entirely dependent on the interactions. The webpage featured text that would “degenerate” with every visit. Within days, the text became unreadable. I took this piece as a commentary on value and importance. Although degenerated and unreadable, the piece still had conveyed something. It seemed to comment on the idea of network writing in itself. Was there importance in the net language, or was all importance and meaning degenerated?

“The Fall of the Site of Marsha”, by Rob wittig, and “MEZZANGELLE”, by Mez Breeze, seem to further this point of importance. Although a bit more legible than “degenerative and regenerative”, these pieces still highlight the importance and meaning that can be held by net language.

“The Fall of the Site of Marsha”, tells a story of a fallen woman to “angels”, and even contains an affair storyline. How can such an advanced story be portrayed by so little text?

“Blue Company”, also by Robb Wittig, tells a story with more text. While this story line contains more text details than that of “The Fall of the Site of Marsha”, they are both similar in the level of story given. This goes to show, that the amount or straightforwardness of text, is not always needed to portray a complicated story line. Although both of these pieces leave holes for the interactor to fill in, I found more interest in the storyline of, “The Fall of Marsha”. It left much more to be desired, which really reeled me in.

“heyharryheymatilda”, by Rachel Hulin, was also very text and image heavy. I found it very interesting how this piece used Instagram to portray the story. I still though, found much more interest in the more abstract pieces, then these filled out novels.

I was also very interested in, “The Listeners”, by John Cayley. I found it interesting how this piece strayed a bit farther away from net language, and focused on another aspect of human engagement with the net. This piece was a critique on human interaction with the net, and was portrayed through an audio conversation of a man with an “Amazon Alexa”. As someone who uses an “Amazon Alexa” daily, I found it incredibly interesting how this piece played out. I also found the commentary on our reliance with the sociability through these networks incredibly interesting.

“I love Alaska” seemed to have a similar commentary, as it follows the search history of a middle aged woman in a sexually dissatisfying relationship. The story progresses to her finding lovers in chat rooms, and eventually cheating on her husband with one of these chat room members. It seems to be a commentary on our dissatisfaction with our real world circumstances, and how our online networks can provide us with exploration and a sense of satisfaction in what isn’t real.

All of these pieces seem to provide almost a dreamscape, and highlight the other reality that is our online networks. I fully enjoyed all of these pieces.

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Blog 8- Network Writing

I enjoyed most of the works this week. Signing up for 43 emails is not something I wanted to do for MEZANGELLE, but reading about it in Rettberg has definitely piqued my interest in the real time story-telling structure it portrays. The Instagram novel I did not quite understand how to follow. The Listeners I couldn’t quite enjoy because my own Alexa consistently wanted to participate.

In regards to “degenerative and regenerative”, I am actually learning about HTML, and at least the first couple of pages, I could decipher what the coding was. HTML really is an entire language in and of itself so beyond that it was fascinating to see the code slowly disappear as the “corruption” spread, and yet still see something of a storyline, simply with some words or letters removed (until the last few pages). I loved listening to “I Love Alaska”, as the search terms progressed into the user’s personal life. I only listened to the first episode, but I plan on continuing on my own.

“The Fall of the Site of Marsha” was very interesting because of how the story was laid out, and how you could read what left behind when they made edits, only crossing out previous text on the website. It turned dark very quickly and I like those kinds of stories. It was somewhat easy to follow but alongside it the reader can see, how the relationship between Marsha and her husband devolved, as well as the sinister implications of Marsha’s involvement in her father’s death, online.

A piece that I actually did further research on outside of our assigned works, was Online Caroline. The idea really intrigued me and I actually wanted to sign up. It doesn’t appear to work anymore though, so I found a blog article of someone else’s experience with it. You receive emails from this ‘Caroline’ and with information about yourself that you provide, she will email you things regarding her life (namely, her work, and her boyfriend David). The blogger I read mentioned that she had a child, and ‘Caroline’ replied “There was me banging on about not liking children, and then discovering you’re already a parent. Ah well, you still came back for more.” You have a choice sometimes to reply to her (if you think she’s boring, or happy, or if you think she should leave David), but she may not take your advice. As problems surface in her relationship with David, the story begins to take a dark turn and in the last few bits of the experience, it is David, not Caroline, in her webcam videos, a company called ‘XPT’ emailing the reader, not Caroline.

Although you can go in and enter your information and interact with certain links on the surface, the information you enter doesn’t seem to actually go anywhere anymore, I never received any emails.

Works Cited:

Walker, Jill. “How I Was Played by Online Caroline.” Jill/Txt, 23 Apr. 2004,

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“The keywords in this file were typed into AOL’s search engine by users who never suspected that their private queries would be revealed to the public.”

The one I mostly looked into this week was the video “I Love Alaska” by Lernert Engelberts and Sander Plug. The first thing I noticed is that the background is a picture of Alaska, which is obviously fitting for the story. As the story goes on, it looks like the picture is moved and becomes dark which I saw as the passing of time in a day/night cycle. I wasn’t sure but at least to me it looked like the picture was the same throughout. The format of this piece of work is flarf, which is using primarily Google searches in a type of poetry or other work. The online network is made very visible to us in this work, as the “storyline” is that of a middle aged woman, whose searches on the internet were made available to the public by AOL. Throughout the video she is referred to as “#711391”. She uses the internet to talk about her secrets when she can’t talk to anyone else. Such as searching things like,

“I thought I could handle an affair but I couldn’t”.

The story itself is very interesting because you get to essentially see into the mind of someone who didn’t ever expect anyone to see her searches. This story is so emotional and raw I was extremely invested in it. It’s also a good reminder that not only is the internet permanent, it’s never really private. This is an important lesson in today’s time because a lot of people think the internet is more private than it really is. Google always remembers your searches, FaceBook knows that you’ve been looking at recently and will show you ads to represent that.

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Network Writing

I read “heyharryheymatilda”, a piece that is done entirely on the Instagram platform. It features a back and forth conversation between a man and a woman. This discussion is broken up in between Instagram posts that usually feature their own unique theme of discussion. The piece best illustrates “the network” by also featuring comments on the posts. Its hard to tell if the comments are generated by the author or by people simply following the blog and using Instagram. The author would have had the option to disable comments on posts but elected not to. Perhaps this is to illustrate that the characters have no shame or reservations when it comes to sharing their story.

The literary value of this piece, comes from the authenticity of the discussions between the two characters. From the beginning, without flat out stating the title of their relationship, the reader can tell that the two characters are very close based off of the intimate subject matter of their talks. Though Instagram is a platform mainly for showcasing pictures, the text is still the most important part of this piece.

This post is emotionally provoking because of the platform. Most of its readers are most likely familiar with how Instagram works and a large amount of readers most likely use the app itself. Instagram works as a storytelling device because anyone can publish something on Instagram while not everybody wants to publish a novel. The idea that the characters are publishing on this platform, makes them super accessible and allows the reader to better sympathize with them as if they were a real person.

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Network Writing

There is most definitely value to be found in each of these works as each explore a different aspect of network writing. One that was particularly interesting to me out of all of them was the flarf narrative “I Love Alaska,” which created a story through a woman’s search history. What the flarf shows is how search history can actually tell you a lot about a person. It reveals a persons interests, what they think about, who they think about, etc. I think it also opens up a conversation on big corporations like AOL and their ability to track their users and what their users are searching on their platform. “I Love Alaska” raises questions like how does AOL use that information, who do they give that information too considering many internet companies are reliant on ads since most big companies do not require users to pay to use their platforms? These are worthwhile questions and “I Love Alaska” really encourages that discussion.

“The Listeners” is another work I found interesting; exploring the relationship between humans and AI, which is a topic that I am genuinely concerned about. Devices like Alexa and Google Home Assistant represent the early stages of human and AI interaction; and as AI continually advances, that relationship will continually grow. I think it also opens up a commentary on surveillance and the implications of this fact. Like “I Love Alaska” I think there is great literary value because of the commentary and relevance of the topics it explores.

I think what these pieces do effectively is represent the variety of different works of art that can be created within this form of writing. From “The Listeners” to the “degenerative and regenerative,” each piece is incredibly different from one another. One of the aspects of electronic literature that I love so much is how much variety there is in ways to express and tell stories. Network writing is a perfect example of this fact.

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Network Writing

So the work that I am doing a blog on for this week is the work “I Love Alaska.” I chose to do this piece of work because I felt like it was very interesting. Although it wasn’t really the best work that I have came across, it was something that, truly, caught my attention. The story is simple yet intriguing.

“I love Alaska tells the story of one of those AOL users. We get to know a religious middle-aged woman from Houston, Texas, who spends her days at home behind her TV and computer. Her unique style of phrasing combined with her putting her ideas, convictions and obsessions into AOL’s search engine, turn her personal story into a disconcerting novel of sorts.”

August 4, 2006, the personal search queries of 650,000 AOL (America Online) users accidentally ended up on the Internet, for all to see. These search queries were entered in AOL’s search engine over a three-month period.”

It sounds like the story is told with a series of search queries that was searched that started, from the looks of it, in the beginning of March all the way to almost the middle of August.

After three days AOL realized their blunder and removed the data from their site, but the sensitive private data had already leaked to several other sites.”

The real reason why this has caught my attention is do to the fact of how secure our internet really is and how, almost, anything that you put on the internet is not 100% safe and secure.


  •  “I Love Alaska – Episode 1/13”:
  •  “I Love Alaska – Episode 13/13”:
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Network Writing

Some of the work (The Fall of the Site of Marsha) made me see home pages in a new light. I often ignore home pages when visiting websites. I tend to visit a website for specific reasons, the page is not one of them. I now realize home pages often have messages or stories on them. For example, when visiting a celebrity’s website, you will find a biography or a list of their works. The works have value; they made me realize how much time I spend on the internet as well as how much I depend on it.

From my point of view, the works actually parodied the web as well as show its flaws. I got a chuckle out of I Love Alaska. I used to use search engines to search for ridiculous things when I was bored out of my mind. It also made me think about auto correct. Some things I actually spell correctly, but auto correct will ask did I mean such and such? These works make me think about how absurd search engines (Google) can track our whereabouts. The Listener made me think about how much I depend on the Google Assistant. I ask it for direction, the name of a song, or the correct spelling of words. It often does not register what I am saying; I will often have to repeat myself three of four times until it registers what I am asking. The works made me see how much we are hooked into the Matrix.

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Blog 8: Network Writing

For my 8th blog, I decided to do The Fall of the Site of Marsha at first glance struck me as some sort of scrapbook memorial of a young woman’s better days. When I saw the three dates “spring ’98, summer 98′, and fall ’98” I was expecting to see old photos of Martha, some background text, and possibly some links that led somewhere mildly interesting. Boy was I wrong about that. On the first page, spring ’98, for Martha’s website the website is decorated like something meant to advertise for the Precious Moments figurines. There’s not a lot of details on the first page. We learned that she lost her dad and her job in the same week, she’s married to a guy called Mike and has a friend (whom she calls Bits) that also seems to enjoy angles. On this page, there are 6 links. Three of them give us a little more background on our characters while the other three expand our knowledge of angles and whatnot. You almost feel a bit ridiculous reading this kind of thing. If you go to the Throne Angle Bulletin Board you can read some of the posts made by Marsha. These posts not only make the website feel bigger but your emotional attachment to Marsha begins to grow little by little. She reminds me a lot of myself when I do my own journaling. The voice, the tone, even the wording just seems like a reflection of myself. The literary value begins to come through when things begin to take a downward spiral when you get to the warning from her angle, Eiron, who tells her that heaven would never welcome someone like her and to stop presumptuous. Summer of ’98 changes the scenery up quite a bit. The angles are messing with Marsha’s website, Bits and Mike are having an affair, and Bits may not actually be on Marsha’s side. Not only does the main page change but so do the links, causing the reader’s stimulation to go up a notch. The links have messages that are bolded and crossed out as if Marsha is denying the truth that is right in front of us. This change in the website gets the reader to engage more as we see the connections between the page and external links. On the last page, the background for the website is black instead of blue while the backgrounds for the external links are a gradient of orange and yellows. The text is almost unreadable as random letters insert themselves in every word. These qualities make it feel almost like a horror game as the atmosphere turns dark and grim.

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Network Writing


From Rettberg’s reading, the main thing I was looking for when exploring the sources for this week was some the collaborative elements that he described for network writing.

The first reading I visited was degenerative. I think this one is interesting in the fact that yes there is a collaboration but not super interactive for the reader. Just by clicking on the page they become part of the decay that is destroying this website. I found it interesting the intent was to make something but in the process, most of the content is being removed. I wouldn’t say I was super engaged with this one, I clicked around, but it is mostly gibberish that you are looking at in all the versions.

The fall of the site of Marsha was my next read, which seems lighthearted at first but quickly takes a dark turn. The collaboration is fictionalized in this story. Marsha makes a site about angels after the death of her father to help cope, but she soon sees the dark side of the web. Hackers corrupt her site to reveal horrible things, on a site that was meant to be joyful. This story tied in quite a bit with degenerative with the decay on both sites. This one definitely interested me more as I explored the different links, the story was just more compelling.

Overall, I would say network writing makes one consider the way that the Internet connects us. Even though one might not be actively interacting through the form of a chat, they can still be connected with someone else by the shared click of a link.

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Blog 8 – 3/8/19

I chose I Love Alaska this week because I didn’t find anything else really appealing. This is a story told of an AOL user #711391o.

“On August 4, 2006, AOL accidentally published a text file on its website containing three months’ worth of search keywords submitted by over 650,000 users.”

This piece would not have been an existing idea, circulated piece, or as a film without the Internet. As the fractional search history of an AOL user, is narrated over images of Alaskan glacial paintings, each entry unlocks a hole upon an overwhelming portrait of oddness. The user seems to have a faint grasp of search methods, and blunt need for guidance, user #711391’s search bar becomes a priest, therapist, prophet. A user log of three months gives us the following perceptions into their life:

“Don’t cut your hair before a big event,” “People are not the same in person as they are on the Internet,” and? “I thought I could handle an affair but I couldn’t.” 

As we watch I Love Alaska, we come to learn that each search history establishes a secondary archive of the self. The continuous process of the inner life is now accessed through keywords. We cannot assume to know what the life of this user is truly like, but the unlimited isolation of being trapped in our own skin has seldom been fabricated in fewer words than,

“Why can’t I sleep since I had a hysterectomy?”

I had trouble finding something that truly hit home this week, but this story makes you think about how secure our information truly is on the internet.

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Everything Dies…

Everything dies… even webpages.

When you think about it, they’re in a state of constant life support, existing only because we continue to maintain them. The landscape of the digital world is ephemeral, in flux. Yet in the back of our mind we take it for granted that a website will still be there, still give us the same experience it did before, the same experience it will give everyone else.

The normally passive act of viewing a webpage is undermined in this piece. A webpage, normally static aside from the periodic update or patches made, is like an artifact in a museum, locked in a glass case, only able to be touch by the chosen few deemed worthy to handle it. As a viewer of a website, you’re on a guided tour. You never see behind the scenes, you only see what they want you to see, and it stays an unchanging message, the same one-size-fits all message that every other viewer receives.

All that changes in degenerative. The owner of the website has given up control of curating their own set and left it to the whims of its programming (if programming can be said to be possessed of whims at at all, the notion seems rather anthropomorphic). Each view of the page leaves its mark, causing the text to degrade.

As the initial text says, “seeing is not an innocent action,” and “this page will not be the same after you visit it,” the creator calls us to be accountable for our actions, even if the action is only viewing. It is a reminder that our actions always have consequences and that we can never be non-participatory viewers, because the internet changes because of our actions… it’s just normally more subtle about it.

Here, the author refers to the programmed degeneration as a disease, but isn’t it reminiscent of the same entropy that causes everything to unravel? After all, the process of oxidization, the very breath we take, leads to our own degeneration. Web pages may not have to deal with erosion or free radicals, but entropy eventually erodes everything. Just look at GeoCities. Once again, degenerative is just less subtle, because it wants to make you aware, while everything else tries to hide it.

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This week, I watched I Love Alaska by Submarine Channel. It is a documentation of search queries by an unknown user (which were unintentionally leaked by AOL), and then put together to create a narrative. The online network is made visible within the presentation through these search queries, whose familiar broken appearance are common in most online platforms. This user’s search history was unique in that the queries were long and specific, revealing to us a clearer picture of what was going on in their life. Indeed, Rettberg noted that 

“[Network Writing] may interrogate the nature and materiality of the network itself” (Rettberg 2019, p.152) 

This was especially true with I Love Alaskathough it was represented as a video, it felt like a commentary about the nature of search history. The choice to tell a narrative was eye-opening, as it caused me to reflect on my own search queries and wonder how I could create a story from them. It made me realize how much can be revealed about someone just through their search history, and how it can sometimes be a serious breach of privacy if recorded and used by someone else (even if only to sell products.)  

In addition to raising points about search queries, this work has literary value as an unusual yet effective way to tell a story. The creator didn’t have to invent anything at all—they simply stitched pieces of reality together and left it up to the readers to interpret it. In this way, the narrative was a mystery, while also being a romance and a drama—all while drawing on a true story. Personally, I found I Love Alaska to be emotionally engaging because it was so dramatic. Most everything that happened to this user (as far as I could tell) seemed like it came right out of a movie, and I was constantly reminding myself that it was based on real events. It reminded me of Bigelow’s work How to Rob a Bank, which was also told through search queries (though the narrative was much clearer since it was an imaginary story.)  

Rettberg, Scott. Electronic Literature. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2019. 

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Network Writing – March 8, 2019

Beyond what other forms of electronic literature have taken advantage of the computer, network writing uses the possibilities present with the Internet. The simple goal of network writing is to take what is typically invisible to the viewer online and incorporate it in the piece of work so that it becomes visible. With an oddly specific goal in mind, it is fascinating how many subgenres of network writing exist and thrive online, from flarf to webpage fiction to net critique.

Network writing is perhaps the most clear form of electronic literature that wears its heart on its sleeve. Rettberg explains this in Electronic Literature: “As technology has led to rapid societal change, one of the most logical extensions of the project of electronic literature is to serve as a locus of reflexive critique of the position of the human within the technological apparatus” (Rettberg, 152). Although this understanding of network writing may sound akin to science fiction, networking writing is much more personal as it constantly reminds the reader that the flowing relationship between human and technology is a product of today.

Much like other forms of electronic literature, network writing is experimental. Tiselli’s piece “degenerative and regenerative” brought the code to the website to the forefront by allowing the people who visited the website to be responsible for breaking the code and revealing it bit by bit. Tiselli pointed out both the flexibility and fragility of our network as a result. Lernert Engelberts and Sander Plug’s “I Love Alaska” took advantage of the network’s fragility to paint the story of a distraught housewife in Alaska whose saddening relationship with Google was leaked to the world, alongside about 650,000 other people. John Cayley’s “The Listeners” uses an infrastructure built atop Amazon’s Alexa to create a sort of modern ELIZA, testing the ability (or perhaps more so highlighting the inability) of technology to serve as therapy and emulate human emotions. Although all three of these pieces are vastly different, they all play with the many possibilities of the Internet and the network to push the boundaries of technology and its relationship with modern society.

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Network Writing

In the works chosen to explore this week, I had the most emotional response from heyharryheymatilda by Rachel Hulin. I also believe that this work was the most accessible example of “network” out of all of the works. Rettberg defines network writing as “electronic literature created for and published on the Internet. It may require readers to visit multiple sites to experience the narrative, […] or use the network as a site for performance” (Rettberg 152). Heyharryheymatilda does this by using Instagram’s photo sharing platform as almost a scrapbook. Instagram is already a well-organized app and using this interface works well since it’s already basically an online scrapbook. Following the scrapbook analogy, heyharryheymatilda is able to evoke various emotions from users such as nostalgia, happiness, joy, and even sadness. The literary value of this work is found through the formatting of the captions, similar to love letters. This also evokes emotion, especially because this is something that many people can relate to. The love letter aspect definitely made me think of my girlfriend and my love for her, which made it especially easy for me to enjoy the work. This piece especially stimulates my thinking about the networks we live within, because it feels nostalgic in such a way that makes me reminisce about looking through scrapbooks as a kid. This makes me wonder if in the future, scrapbooks will follow this same sort of digital platform, and if they do, will they be able to become nostalgic for those even moreso in the future? The same question applies to love letters, will they become purely digital, and if they do, will they have the same impact as a physical love letter does?

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I really enjoyed most of these pieces–even if I didn’t like the plot exactly, I appreciated the medium. My favorites, however, were HeyHarryHeyMatilda, The Fall of the Site of Marsha, and I Love Alaska.

HeyHarryHeyMatilda was interesting not only for the plot (which wasn’t fantastic but was still fun to read, in my opinion) but for the way it utilized Instagram. I don’t know if I would call it a full ‘novel’ (although the author did publish an actual novel of the story) but it did weave a compelling narrative as well as made me pause and wonder what story I am telling with my own social media accounts.



I think you’re right. I get the signs but not the message. I’m like a highly attuned, extremely useless oracle.

I like this quote in particular because it reminds me a lot of how most people interact with social media. We see what’s on it, but not always how it all fits together to form our stories (or at least, the stories we send out to the world).

I did think that it was a bit of an odd choice on the author’s behalf, however, to compose the story in the form of emails posted as Instagram captions rather than simply Instagram posts. Obviously, that would have somewhat changed the dynamic of the piece: two twins sharing one Instagram account rather than exchanging emails. I guess Harry would have to have given Vera access as well, which does differ from Vera just getting Matilda’s email address…but I think it would have strengthened the usage of Instagram as a storytelling medium.

That said, I liked how the author interacted with commenters as Harry or Matilda, as if they really were the ones running the account; it gave it a realistic and modern depth in a way that a paper novel is incapable of. I also started noticing a few commenters creating friendships and even weaving their own little storylines in the comments, which was fun to see. I’m not sure how fictional or otherwise these commenters were, but it was an interesting branching of the narrative that I bet not even the author predicted.

The Fall of the Site of Marsha and I Love Alaska were both interesting because they were both about humans turning to the internet to cope with their tragic (or, as some might see it, maudlin) lives. I liked The Fall of the Site of Marsha as a statement, a story, and in an aesthetic sense: I thought it was really impressive how a single website with just a few pages gave such a sense of character. I took the Throne Angels and their interactions with Marsha as a metaphor for the dangers of using the internet as a crutch–even as a kind of false faith. I also enjoyed the website being broken as a visual for Marsha’s life falling apart. With I Love Alaska, I thought it was a bit more poignant since it was a real person and not a fictional account, although I didn’t actually like the woman herself. I thought it was another interesting example of how we turn to the anonymity and perceived safety of the internet in times of stress or other negative emotions, as well as the dangers of those actions. A person turning to the internet for comfort can easily be abused, as in Marsha’s case, or revealed unexpectedly, as in the case of User 711391.

As a side note–I liked the website Degenerative, too, and thought it was a pretty neat concept. However, when I click the ‘read more’ button on the first page, it takes me to which reads ‘Hacked by Nero Hacker!’ It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the piece, so I think it really was ‘hacked’ by someone? Or am I misunderstanding something here?

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Network Writing

Typically, reading a story alone is just that. It’s your own personal experience and the only way to share it is if your right next to another person or go online to talk about it after a reading session. In Degenerative, the original page can be read just as a normal web page, but it is a work that exists to remind you that many people may look at it considering it’s the internet. Like a normal web page, it at first glance makes you forget that it is connected to a network as the site doesn’t appear to change. The catch with this work was that the more people that read it, the more broken the text would become eventually resulting in a near blank page. This work made me think about how in some cases, the user has more influence than the creator. When everyone is given the ability to affect something on the internet, they run wild with it. This is why moderation exists on so many websites that contain user generated content. The sites that aren’t moderated go down in infamy because they have become places under near complete control of users. I Love Alaska freaked me out a little because it reminded me that search engines remember everything you type in. The story consisted entirely of one person’s search phrases, but that was enough to reveal her personality and drop major hints about what was going on in her life. The literary value of these works is the network itself. They involve many people.

“Networks are both technological and social structures. For electronic literature, networks are both platform and material.”-Rettberg, pg 152

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Dylan Niehaus – Network Writing

The first work I decided to take a look at was I Love Alaska by Lernert Engelberts and Sander Plug. This work intrigued me initially because the genre listed next to it on the DTC webpage was flarf. When I read Scott Rettberg’s definition of flarf I found it to be intriguing, but I  did not find myself fully grasping what the genre meant.

“Flarf poetry celebrates the profusion of language unleashed into our lives with search engine technologies and the ever-expansive flood of algorithmically curated human discourse continually available to anyone with a web browser and an open search window.” – Scott Rettberg

At first, I imagined that flarf focused more on the auto-generated “suggested” search options that pop up when a user begins to type their search term. But after viewing I Love Alaska, I have a much better understanding of what the Flarf genre can entail. I found I Love Alaska to be an outstanding, strange, and thought-provoking video. All the video does is present the leaked search history of a particular user in the year of 2006. This offers us a glimpse into that user’s life in an incredibly unique way. We get to see and hear what they search for on the internet, nothing more. It is up to the viewer to fill in the possible gaps and reasons that the user made these searches. I found this work to be quite emotional at times and maybe oddly funny. I found it interesting how many of the users search terms were asking questions to the search engine as if it was a human that could answer their questions. It brings on the idea that this user was battling with depression or some form of loneliness. This work made the previous quote from Rettberg much more clear. One possibility of the flarf genre is a focus on the unique language that people utilize to perform searches on the web, and how it can serve as a unique window into their lives.

Another work that I found to be incredibly engaging was The Fall of the Site of Marsha by Rob Wittig. This work is described as webpage fiction because it tells a story through the use of a webpage created by a fictional character. The story focuses on a webpage made by a seemingly innocent woman. Her webpage is poorly made but endearing because it has a positive atmosphere and focuses on angels. However, the website is slowly taken over by the angels that she loves so much, who accuse of her of killing her father through neglect, eventually leading to her website being completely taken over by the angels. This work shows the true dark side of the internet in an incredibly unique and immersive fashion. It makes the user feel as if they are watching a website be taken over first hand, instead of just reading about it in a story.


Overall, Network Writing is engaging because it makes the user reconsider how they use networks in their daily lives. Works such as I Love Alaska show that networks can record private moments in a person’s life for strangers to examine and gawk at. These works can be quite emotionally engaging, especially I Love Alaska and The Fall of the Site of Marsha.

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Multimedia Fiction

Out of the works that we were presented with this week, I chose to explore Mark Amerika’s FilmText as well as J.R. Carpenter’s CityFish. The most prominent comparison that I’ve made between these two particular works of multimedia fiction is that they both contain a plethora of different kinds of multimedia all at once. In the case of CityFish, you are immediately presented with a series of text, images and links that will either take you to other parts of the webpage or will present embedded videos. In regards to FilmText, you are presented with a series of animations that are accompanied by background images and links that present a series of texts and/or.

Mark Amerika’s FilmText shares commonalities with interactive games. When exploring the work, you are tasked with navigating through what is described as an empty desert landscape by moving through a series of eight levels. Throughout these levels, you may click on a series of items that present various imagery and text and on each level, there is a text box that appears and will present a message in the form of code; an interesting and creative way to present a message.

J.R. Carpenter’s CityFish on the other hand is far more story-like in the sense that the reader is tasked with moving across the page from left to right, circumventing through a set of text, images and videos. The story describes a girl from Novia Scotia named Lynne, who visits and experiences New York. All of the media components on the page help provide perspective for the reader in an interesting and engaging fashion.

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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.  

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Multimedia Fiction

Farinsky Blog 7: Multimedia Fiction

Multimedia fiction is a genre of work where textual and other methods combine to create interactive experiences for a viewer. In Loss of Grasp by Serge Bouchardon (top) and How to Rob a Bank by Alan Bigelow (bottom) the reader’s understanding of the literary landscape is heavily influenced by kinetic aspects within the browser window. The top shot is a moment where the mouse creates a series of colorful, musically choreographed, orbs that increase with every click. The bottom is a screen shot of one screen presented to the reader corresponding to the narrative’s main character feeling disconnected from her husband. Both utilize plain text in the center of the screen to convey a blunt message about the narrative spinning away from a controlled state and into the more abstract or absurd. The combination of sensory input immerses the reader in an environment that can otherwise seem straightforward and rather expose the subtext that is gleaned from these complex narratives. Readers can reflect on the grasp they may or may not feel in personal affairs and the connection strength to family. Both works tell an intriguing story worth exploring deeply.

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Loss of Grasp on FilmText

For this blog post I explored, “Loss of Grasp”, by Serge Bouchardon, and “FilmText”, by Mark Amerika. Both of these pieces told a story, but with a fair amount of abstraction. “Loss of Grasp”, seems to explore the progression of the main character through a downward spiral. The story begins with the character having things put together, but then quickly falling apart. As colorful glowing orbs start following the mouse movements, and exploding on screen, the reader is able to experience the “out of control” feeling of the main character. The reader is then given a choice to follow the character ten or so years down the line, a few days later, or in the present. When I read through this piece, I chose the ten-year option. After choosing this, I was brought to a picture of a woman that was revealed with the scrolling over of my mouse. The story then progresses, to the woman leaving the main character. The story continues to fall apart, as the main character is dealing with disappointment through the eyes of their son.

“FilmText” had quite a bit more abstraction, and I struggled to understand the meaning behind this piece. Most of the piece took place over an image of a sandy, barren and crater filled landscape. There were many futuristic technology images that overlaid this landscape. These futuristic technology pieces could be interacted with by the reader. I believe that this piece could be a commentary on the future of civilization, and the clash of organic and inorganic. The piece employed quite a few interactions for the reader. With the movement and clicking of the mouse, images, audio, and text could be displayed.  I was impressed with the use of different forms of media in both of these pieces, and I really enjoyed exploring them and their meanings. I was able to really experience the emotions of the piece, and the images, audio, and interactivity, really drove the story.

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Multi-media fiction. How to Rob a bank with 88 constellations

While reading these works, I was both engaged and confused. All of the pieces are vastly different and each have there own story to tell but also all of them use the same mediums available. I have gone through “how to rob a bank” in other classes and that backstory helped fill in details. But it is still interesting to see how both images, text, sound and video are all used to move the narritive along. While I enjoy this piece, it isn’t immersive for me, this is well because no one in reality would try to rob a bank in such a manner. So, the sense of realism an immersive is lost because of the absurdity of it. This doesn’t mean that the characters are not interesting and the story fun but that I always know where I am while interacting with this literature. The tools used to create this world are very different then you tools and methods used for other E-lit pieces and I like that about “How to Rob a Bank” in this series you interact and see the story unfold through seeing post on social media, or through journal entries, in gifs or other abstract sounds.
88 constellations, this art/literature piece grabbed my attention more than I was expecting. When I first looked at this piece, I was a little put-off/ confused by its layout. But after I highlighted the first constellation (hyperlink) and the video started I was hooked. The way that they are all interconnected as well as the utilization of video and sound had me jumping form one star to the next learning about Beethoven’s 5th, to then learn about Charlie Chaplin. How each star in a constellation has a little bit of information and they all play a part in describing the whole constellation.

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Blog 7 – 3/1/19


After I watched and played around with A is for apple last week, I knew 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein was my first choice for this week. Another piece done in Flash, demonstrates constellations in which you click on each and it opens displays with animated pictures and narration that creatively relates certain things from Wittgenstein’s life and philosophy. For example, the piece plays on numerous meanings of “88”, from its ban on German soccer jerseys to a deeper idea that “88” implies “Heil Hitler” because the letter H is the 8th letter. The piece is not an effective story being that it is very nonlinear rather it is an assembly of clicks that make connections in multiple ways, yet works very well to keep your attention.

The next piece I chose was Mark Amerika’s “Film Text”. As I watched the introduction and After no changes on the screen, thinking this was a video only, I started to interact with the text. I really enjoyed the audio and visuals used in the piece that connected the use of technology and living in inner-city communities with many people. again, I felt the piece was a critique of modern society with its large urban centers, technology, and media. I found It interesting that Amerika intended for this piece to have a more particular narrative with specific characters, places, and events. The only continuity in this piece was the shadow man with a hat who appeared throughout the piece. Very nice pieces this week, I feel sometimes I have little to no understanding of why or what these artworks are all about and then some just click with me.

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Multimedia Fiction

In this weeks Blog we dive into a few contents that focuses on multimedia fiction as well as multilinear storytelling. We have to choose 2 – 3 of them and go in depth with what they represent. The 2 pieces of content that I choose to write about was “Lost of Grasp” and “Film Text”. I choose those 2 stories specifically because I felt like they are the ones that really stood out from the rest in terms of design and overall content.

The first story that I choose, “Lost of Grasp”, was very interesting. The story starts us off with a flash animated introduction then cuts us to a desert landscape where we are free to then choose how we want to progress with the story. I really felt immersed in this piece of content because I felt it was really well put together and it doesn’t demand to much with how fast we want to know with the story.

The second story that I choose which was “Film Text” was a little weird but in a way that really made you focus on the story to really get an understanding of what it all means. Like for example, the son talking about how he doesn’t have a hero because he doesn’t really favor a life more than the previous life but then we where able to mess with the wording a little bit by clicking on a specific part of the paragraph and hearing him say things like, “I don’t love you”, “You’re not a modal for me” and I believe that this is what the father is hearing because, I believe, that all he wanted is for someone to look up to him but sense his son really doesn’t look up to anyone the father believes that the son doesn’t really love him.

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Multimedia Fiction

This week, I chose to take an in-depth look at the works “Loss of Grasp” and “How to Rob a Bank.” Loss of Grasp generates words through mouse clicking and every once in awhile it seemed as though the words showed up based on a timer. If I clicked sometimes a word would show up, but other times it would take awhile to actually show up, hence my suspicion that it also used a timer to precisely decide how long the user must interact with certain words and phrases. This timed text combined with the ability to click around on the screen creating expanding circles of color and different sounds creates a world that to me felt like a representation of what it’s like to think to yourself. Seeing those circles of color reminded me of the times as a kid where I would close my eyes and rub them hard and see all of the colors that would show up. I don’t know if this was the artists intention, but it’s definitely what the work made me think about, and I found it very immersive because it felt as though I was in my own thoughts. This work is a fiction based on the fact that it is not based on or referencing anything in particular. I believe if there is any character in this work, then it must be the user.

In How to Rob a Bank, the world is generated based on a fake iPhone screen, by clicking through it switches between various “scenes” within the phone, such as two characters texting each other about several things throughout the course of the story, news articles, images, social media, etc. Since this is the kind of world we see every day on our own devices, it was especially easy to become immersive, since I am so used to being able to become immersed in the sole technology in my hands on a daily basis. This work comes across as more of an obvious work of fiction than Loss of Grasp, mainly because it is much easier to tell what’s going on and gain a clear understanding of the plot and characters. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end.

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Blog 7 – Multimedia Fiction

Of these week’s assignments, Cityfish and How to Rob a Bank were my favorite. I enjoyed Cityfish because of how the story read and the pictures that were included and used to illustrate what was happening in the story. Every once in a while there is a temperature converter, or a quote from a poem, or various video footage. The photos and interactions with the various hidden links in them made me feel like I was reading a picture book again. The storyline is clear and the images and interactions just add to the experience.

How to Rob a Bank was great. The creative use of the cell phone as a setting was fun to read and explore. This was interacted with, via keyboard keys, the arrows. Every click to change the text became something new. It becomes clear from the start (apart from the title) who these people are and what they do, all by mentioning the type of bank they have already scoped out in this town. I enjoyed how the piece was written primarily in diary entries of the mother of the child. Even the pages that are just calendar views, tell a story in the life of this criminal couple and their child. The mother is of course, enamored with her child, and even enjoys changing her diaper. There is a shift though, somewhere in the middle of the work where the mother is becoming tired, and exasperated, but she continues to write to her daughter about how thieving is the only life for them.

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Bank Robber and Cityfish

Cityfish uses text, maps, and stock photographs to tell a story. It was kind of hard to follow the story. I had to read it a few times to get the gist of it. I clicked on some of the stars that read, “You are here” and was taken to another part of the story. When I did this, I ended up in the section where the fish was speaking to a lemon in the bag. This kind of confused me because it from fiction to magical realism. Lynne is the main character in the story, which tells of her vacation in New York. This work of fiction is abstract and immersive. This is not a critique on the work; I actually like it.

How to Rob a Bank, uses diaries, calendars, pictures and Google search engine to tell the narrative. This work of fiction uses common tools (Google search engine text messages) to produce the fictional world. Several characters in the story uses aliases after going into hiding after a bank robbery. The character’s newborn daughter (Alexandria) is central to the story. This fictional story is immersive because it uses the common tools I mention earlier to tell the story. I think the use of the web is what make this story work. I never imagine one could tell a story by using a search engine. I like this story, because it’s easy to follow. I didn’t understand the clips of
the Simpsons and baby instruction. What was these clips trying to imply?

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Multimedia fiction

The first one of the readings I explored was “88 constellations”. Within the framework of box images, video, and audio combine to make this multi-linear story. The constellation lets you pick the sequence of the story. It deals with the digital world, history, and the present. I also liked how it used fictional stories from movies to “teach” through this story.

I liked the multilinear stories on “how to rob a bank” best. I felt it did a better job of connecting the characters to one unified thing. It reminded me of the movie “searching”, where the whole story was told through the use of different digital platforms. The story told is that of a couple who rob banks. But it is not just told through their viewpoint.

The part that captivated me the most was the part with the woman and the baby. It’s able to tell a story through the vehicle of a phone. She documents her experience with a new baby. It captures the joys of motherhood with the heartaches as well. The reader can see her scrambling through a baby help book for answers to stop the child’s crying. Also, the icons or apps that show the degradation of the family unit, as the husband and wife grow further apart. It seems they are both bored with each other or maybe what life has become, compared to their careers robbing banks. It seems at the end of this entry that the mother asks for forgiveness from the child, assumedly for leaving it so she and her husband could pursue their “career”.

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Cityfish & How To Rob a Bank

The first piece I looked in-depth at was “How to Rob a Bank” by Alan Bigelow. This piece has actually been my favorite piece of interactive fiction so far. The story takes place on the phone, and throughout the 5 parts switches between Ted and Elizabeth’s phones. Ted is searching “how to rob a bank” and throughout the story also uses google for many other things, such as “how to take a hostage” and “how to steal a car”. Throughout the 5 parts we also see them both playing different games, using the app store, going onto Buzzfeed, and many other things people use smartphones for. Eventually he meets up with Elizabeth, and escapes the police. In part 3 they then begin to rob banks together, and donating some of the money to charities after an article suggests they might be a modern day “Robin Hood” duo. Elizabeth’s sister then tells the police of their identities and gives away their information, and Elizabeth and Ted go into hiding and have a baby girl, who they name Alexandria. Most of part 4 is told through Elizabeth writing posts to her baby girl, which we as the audience get to read. The 5th part is then mostly told by Elizabeth’s sister, who told the police about their identities and is now writing blog posts about them. It is revealed that the couple started taking the baby with them to rob banks, and that they had stolen enough money to live off of for the rest of their lives, so it’s unlikely they will ever be seen again. The sound plays a huge part in this story, such as the background noises of cars driving by, and even at one point, Elizabeth singing to her daughter. The most interesting part of this piece of work to me is that their relationship is based completely off of bank robbing. It’s the reason they get together, and as shown in parts 4 & 5 it is eventually what rekindles their relationship. When they aren’t bank robbing, Ted starts to distance himself from Elizabeth and their relationship. Only by bank robbing again and bringing their young daughter with them, are they able to save their relationship. This work was really immersive to me and I love how well the story was told through the use of the smartphone. Not only were we able to read the character’s story but we also got to see more mundane parts of their lives, such as the apps they play. I think my favorite part was the fact that the time and battery % on the phone was always changing. It was a really nice attention to detail.
(I also liked how they watched Bonnie & Clyde together, that’s a great reference.)

The second piece I looked at was “CityFish” By JR Carpenter. Although not as interesting to me as the first one, I still thoroughly enjoyed this piece. The first thing that caught my eye was the side scrolling layout of the story, which I think was a perfect decision to tell the story in. As you scroll through the story, time passes, almost like a timeline. I was almost at the end of the piece when I discovered that by clicking on the images, a video would pop up. So naturally I had to go back through and watch some of the videos. The videos help move the story along in a way that the text couldn’t do alone, which is part of the reason why I was so surprised I made it almost to the end without noticing. The collage like format is perfect for the story, as it reminds me of someone who travels a lot. Lynne, the narrator of the story is forced to travel to New York to visit her aunt and uncle because her mom “needs a break”. The imagery of the collage background is a perfect reminder that the main point of the story is Lynne’s travelling experiences. Like “How to Rob a Bank” I think this story is more immersive, you’re being brought into Lynne’s story, complete with pictures, sound, video, and the complete storyline.

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Multimedia Fiction: Film Text and 88 Constellations

“Film Text” by Mark Amerika immediately grabbed my attention as it popped on the screen. Between the sound and the words floating by, not to mention what the words were actually saying–“We are the ghosts in the literary machine”–as well as the visual elements he incorporates, it is a more immersive work i’d argue. Though some characteristics do happen to pull the reader from the experience of the piece. It isn’t entirely clear what to do to continue on so rather than reading a work and moving from one section to the next with smooth transitions, whether linear or not, with this work the reader has to stop and think about what they need to do next or what they may not have yet tried until the notice appears in the corner stating “Authorized for next level.”

The work itself does appear to be rather ominous in nature as well. I certainly would not describe it as a happy work as he questions what is real, makes mention of his body being a host of biological events, as well as media terrorists and that of the collective consciousness and his succumbing to that ideal, ‘his’ being the speaker of the piece rather than that of the author himself.

He uses the phrase,

I have no choice but to give in. Rip me, mix me, burn me. Burn me into plastic and fuck me in your TV computer mind.

which can easily be related to when someone takes a blank disc and burns their music or their own mix track onto it. But in this context, with terms like “burn” and “vaporize” as he uses a short while later, makes the whole process sound so violent in comparison. As though we’re facing a digital-age apocalypse.

Another work that was keen to grab attention was that of David Clark’s “88 Constellations.” Whether or not there are characters per se would be a matter of opinion. There is a narrator, in a sense. A voice proclaiming “Join the dots!” to create the constellations. I particular enjoyed the animation style right at the start to be frank, and then how it continues through with each constellation you pick as the narrator goes on a little story both related and unrelated to what was selected. It has a bit of an older and yet still elegant appeal to its design that appears almost timeless.

The content itself is certainly informative jumping across history to name events and people, such as 9/11 and the Twin Towers, or Chaplin and his aggravation with Hitler ‘stealing’ his signature mustache. When it comes to immersiveness, this work is certainly easier to navigate and has a relatively clear purpose in comparison to Mark Amerika’s “Film Text.” But also similarly to “Film Text,” the content itself is rather dark.

Mark Amerika’s “Film Text”
David Clark’s “88 Constellations”

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“88 Constellations” and “How to Rob a Bank”

This week, I explored “88 Constellations” by David Clark and “How to Rob a Bank” by Alan Bigelow. In Clark’s work, a fictional world is generated as the user navigates a constructed space by choosing from two different circles of constellations. They can also follow a stricter path by selecting a star from the next constellation in line. In addition, the work generates fictional worlds by employing multimedia, as it reinforces ideas and major parts of the story through imagery and audio recordings.  

Though the work is nonlinear and presents the narrative in fragments, the work can be understood as fiction because it contains multiple narratives that all form a larger whole—a story detailing Wittgenstein’s interesting life as a philosopher. Throughout the work, snippets of his experiences are shared with the reader, as well as other characters and major events that share a relation with him. But because these snippets are told in a nonlinear fashion, the users must take an active role in determining which direction to explore the story. This makes the work highly immersive, which is deepened with its interesting theme, the user’s freedom of choice (the user chooses how to explore the work) and a captivating story presented in an original and thoughtful way that sparks the user’s thinking. 

Despite being an immersive work, one could argue that “88 Constellations” is also an abstract piece. Each fragment within the story is linked to another based on associations Clark made between them. Though it is sometimes obvious why two fragments are linked together, it is not always clear why the artist connected them (though the user may discover this meaning on their own.) “88 Constellations” can also be seen as abstract because it acts as a metaphor for creating constellations in the sky by connecting dots, making associations with them in the process: 

“Join the dots together. Make pictures in the skyConnect the muddle of our thinking to these drawings in the sky.” -David Clark’s 88 Constellations 

Like Clark’s work, Bigelow’s “How to Rob a Bank” generates a fictional world through interactivity and multimedia. The work is presented through a series of social media platforms and apps on a mobile device, and includes visuals and sounds. Users also interact with the work by swiping left or right, mimicking how mobile devices work. This adds a level of immersion to the story, as users feel the presence of a mobile device and are prompted to interact with the work to progress the narrative. 

The story itself is presented through the dialog of different characters and their interactions with mobile devices, who often project their thoughts and habits onto them. In this way, Bigelow lists a chronological series of events through various character’s uses of social media. These events cover one main plotline (a man who makes a living off of robbing banks), though the side characters also have their own stories to tell (for instance, a jealous sister wanting as much attention from adoring fans as the robber’s wife.)

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Blog 7: Multimedia Fiction

For this blog, I started off by reading How to Rob a Bank Part 4 by Alan Bigelow and was surprised by how the story was presented to me. The electronic literature work is presented on Sarah’s (aka Elizabeth) smartphone with a layout that’s a bit odd honestly. The entries and her phone case make it look like we are actually looking at a book instead of her phone. In her phone, she writes about her day to day life with her newborn Alexandria (us) and her husband Robert. There doesn’t seem to be much we, the player, can do in terms of interacting with the piece other than going forward or backward. We know this is Sarah’s phone because of the button layout and the several webpages that we see displayed inside. We play Robert’s button game, we use a meditation app and a baby lullaby app, we also Google how to fix a broken family and what to do when we are bored. These “activities” tie in with our modern day lives where we do everything on our phones. However, although the piece offers me all of this I don’t understand it as a fictional piece. The weird intervals where she shows us a scene from The Simpsons and Archer, and an explosion just seems random and doesn’t seem to tie into anything meaningful. Rather it leaves us in confusion or a state of relaxation


For my final piece, I decided to give Loss of Grasp by Serge Bouchardon a try. This one is probably one of my favorites. It plays with the text far more than the previous work. Hovering over a line of text changes it into a new line of text. The text is used to reveal pictures such as a pretty woman or present a note in a new and meaningful way. For example, when you receive the note from your lover, moving your mouse up and down adjusts the singer’s tone like a theremin as well as the lines of text. It’s very pleasant and fun to interact with. This same action is used at the beginning with the colorful music balls. The game is telling us a story of how this man met his downfall. We feel his pain when he reads between the lines of his son’s paper and when the opera music is playing as we read the note the wife left him, he starts to feel small and meaningless and is desperate to take hold of something, anything. In the end, we type out a paper with him on a typewriter, in hopes of bettering himself, that is until the typewriter jams and the story ends. In a way, I am a bit unsatisfied that the story ended there. I feel as if the author could have put in a bit more. What happens after we jam the typewriter? Does he continue to type? Whatever happened to his son? What went wrong there?

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Dylan Niehaus – Multimedia Fiction

The first work I decided to explore was FilmText by Mark Amerika. I found this work to be interesting and intriguing, I found myself stuck and unable to advance. I also feel that the work lacks any real narrative, although it does have quite a bit of intricate interactivity to it. The sound work in this piece of literature is also quite interesting, its very dissonant and I found myself a bit mesmerized by it. One thing that I have learned from exploring different pieces of electronic literature is that I greatly appreciate atmospheric music that sounds a bit “off” if you will. I also find this works use of symbols to be quite interesting, although I am not sure if the symbols are unique and created by the author just for this work or if they are simply letters of a different language. Despite the interesting elements of FilmText, I would have to say that I do not entirely enjoy it because it lacks meaning to me and I just feel lost while exploring it.


Next, I decided to explore How to Rob a Bank by Alan Bigelow. When compared to FilmText, I found How to Rob a Bank to be much more immersive and enjoyable. This is mainly because How to rob a bank is a much more straightforward story told in a rather unique way, rather than an abstract piece of art that is interactive. How to Rob a Bank tells a linear story through a person’s actions on a cellphone, which I found to be captivating and immersive. I found myself looking forward to the next actions performed on the cellphone to reveal new information in the story. I also enjoyed the background noises of cars passing by on the street and birds chirping – very relaxing, in stark contrast to the story being told. 

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Multimedia Fiction – March 1, 2019

Multimedia fiction combines key aspects of hypertext fiction, kinetic and interactive poetry, and interactive fiction to combine digital writing into immersive pieces of art. Combining sound, animation, storytelling, interactivity, and more to captivate the reader, multimedia fiction paints a fictional space for its audience. Much like the previously mentioned forms of electronic literature, multimedia fiction is a museum for fanatics of the avant-garde, but it also contains simpler pieces for those who prefer straightforward art.

A simpler example of multimedia fiction is Alan Bigelow’s “How to Rob a Bank – Part 4”, which follows the daily diary of a new mother trying to raise her baby as she realizes she and her husband are growing apart. By using outside environment sounds and the interface of a phone to emulate a person using their phone outside to write up diary entries, the protagonist becomes much more human. By documenting the decline of the mother’s mental state as she becomes more stressed from motherhood and her relationship with her husband within this outline of a phone, the piece is presented as a fictional but immersive story.

A more abstract piece of multimedia fiction is Mark Amerika’s “FilmText”, which puts the reader in a simulated environment, akin to a video game. The reader can click on various cones being emitted from craters to open up different documents that explain the universe of the piece. “FilmText” stands out much more as a piece of fiction with its sci-fi elements arising from Amerika’s creation of ideas like a “Digital Thoughtographer”, but it still manages to be immersive like “How to Rob a Bank – Part 4”.

Multimedia fiction manifests itself in many different forms to allow for its writers to convey their message in any way they choose. Whether it is immersive, simple, abstract, or more, multimedia fiction appeals to fans of writing, technology, avant-garde, and the like.

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Multimedia Fiction

For this post, I chose to focus on “Cityfish” by J. R. Carpenter and “Loss of Grasp” by Serge Bouchardon.

I read Cityfish first, and even before I got into the story, I enjoyed the unique page layout. I think it does a lot to show how time passes for the narrator, literally moving the story along as it does so figuratively as well. I also enjoyed the collage-like aesthetic, since it seemed to very accurately portray a young person’s thoughts and memories: fragments of photographs, mental maps, illustrations, snippets of foreign languages and even pieces of poetry and quotes…they all come together to form a cohesive picture of the narrator, Lynne.

Something else I liked in this story was the various pieces of ephemera (such as the Transit Authority buttons) that took you forwards and back. For me, I didn’t realize they were links until partway through the story, and when I clicked on one, it took me backwards in the story. I took this as showing how Lynne feels about her New York summers–repetitious and jarring–and so again, really helped to add to the character.

The videos included also did a lot to build the atmosphere. Rather than showcasing smooth, glamorous shots of the New York skyline, the videos are all rather banal, showing rows upon rows of marketplace goods, blurred grey views from transit windows, shadows of passerby moving over the concrete…again, it helped a lot to place me in the scene with the characters, and fit Lynne’s bored and annoyed mindset very well.

All in all, I felt that Cityfish wasn’t abstract per se, since while it was fragmented, each piece was concrete and vivid, but it was definitely immersive and told an interesting story about family dynamics and feeling like an outsider. It was somewhat interactive in that it invited the reader to explore the world being built, but it was overall pretty linear, as it did have a specific plot with pretty definite forward motion, going from Nova Scotia, through New York, to the Aunt and Uncle’s apartment with the fish being fried at the end.

Loss of Grasp was more abstract, but still had a strong character, as well as an immersive kinetic setting. I liked how the interactive quality of it also told a story. A good example is in chapter 1: when the character is describing feeling in control of his surroundings, the mouse controls a series of glowing, musical orbs. When the narrator begins to have doubts, however, and finally realizes he has little to no control, the orbs explode into random patterns, no longer following your cursor at all.

A great example of interactivity and character/plot work involving kinetic typography is in chapter 4, when the narrator reads a portion of an essay written by his son. In it, the son describes not having a hero, and the narrator is instantly betrayed.

“How can he do this to me?”



After the essay is read by the son, you can click on a paragraph and the letters fly aside, revealing what the narrator is actually taking from it: phrases like “I don’t want anything from you” and “You are not a model.”

The other text transitions themselves are also very insightful and do a lot to help portray the mindset of the narrator. Instead of cleanly moving from one thought to the next, they flash through a mess of gibberish symbols and letters. This is pretty much constant throughout the story, and it good continuity as well as character work.

Overall, this piece includes a lot of vivid kinetic typography, interactivity, and intriguing narrative. While it is a little abstract (the narrator and characters aren’t given names, no true setting is given, etc) it does follow the story of this man’s life and mental instability.

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I was introduced to an earlier chapter of How to Rob a Bank in a Digital Storytelling class last semester. In the earlier chapter the focus was not at all on the character as a person, but all the actions he was doing on his phone. What he was doing made it clear that he was a not so bright bank robber. In this fourth chapter, the focus is on a different person’s phone. It looks to be the wife “Sarah” typing things in. She treats it as a blog and reveals much more detail then her husband did. She seems to be acting just like any other enthusiastic mother would about her child, except for the very awkward fact that she bluntly states that she and her husband are still both into bank robbing. Sarah and the husband who looks to be named “Robert” are even using aliases to hide themselves. What makes all these chapters immersive is that they directly simulate through screen-caps the experience of looking at a smart phone. It made a whole world and story just through screen-caps.  In CityFish, the story and characters are mostly fleshed out through text, but its world is built through the various photos and videos spread throughout.

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Soot, Sand, and Digital Poetry

Out of the poems here, the ones that interested me the most were “The Ballad of Soot and Harry Sand” by Stephanie Strickland, and “MUDs” by  David Jhave Johnson.

I thought that “The Ballad of Soot and Harry Sand” was engaging because not only does it offer unique characterization, but also has a multilinear quality that reminded me of some of the other pieces of e-literature we read in class. Truth be told, I didn’t really enjoy a lot of the digital poetry until I read this piece.

I believe it is part traditional poem (it does follow a narrative and the words do make sense, unlike some of the Dada and Dada-inspired poems both mentioned by Rettburg and within this module) but also part Lettristic, as a lot of the poem seems to rely on the sound of the words. For example, this section:


Tangy Soot. Tang-I-Bull Soot.


Trua-vir Sand. Liv-a-Tru Sand.
Physics: The Movie. R.I.P.,
crown assays in a bathtub,
or Galileo, trekking to the far side
of the valley to touch that blue
boulder on the ridge.
And would this prove he saw
mountains on the moon in any case,
Sand asks.

Or this section:


Sand panned speed. Languid was she. Oh seeming fast, fine foil for

de…lay, lo, slow. Some slip…age, she…


                                                         He, Harry, hurried, harried host.

“Tang-I-Bull” in the first example made me pause, as I read it first phonetically and then as the word ‘tangible,’ which made me go back and reread ‘Tangy Soot’ with a hard ng, like the actual word tangy, and then a soft g as in the word tangible. There are also a lot of cases where it seems the author used particular word combinations both for the meaning and for the intense alliteration. There are some other words and combinations such as the sentences “Trua-vir Sand. Liv-a-Tru Sand.” where I wasn’t sure if they held a deeper meaning or not. I tried googling the words and some other variations and couldn’t find anything, but thought it might mean “live a true” as in Sand being blunt and true to himself–or else just an interesting combination of sounds. If anyone else read this piece and has feedback or ideas about this I would love to hear them.

The second example I included because it did some character work as well as played more with the sounds of words as well as the meaning.

Another reason I liked this piece because it kept giving me cause to pause and reassess the characters. At times I wondered if Sand was actually a computer or program, because she was continuously associated with binary, light, glass, colors, and other computer related imagery, such as “a screen of violet / silver unscrolled,” while Harry Soot is compared to much more mundane, human scenes, such as grinding his keys in his pockets, defacing his Metrocard.

Sand is also surrounded with both musical and natural metaphors, though, so after reading it through a few times I think that they are both human. All in all, it was a really intriguing poem about two people, and I thought the multilinear nature of it really enhanced the experience by inviting the reader to become involved with the story of it.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I actually like MUDs, or if I’m just intrigued by it. I did really enjoy “Because,” and I believe that the others are very visually appealing, but a lot also made me uncomfortable. I did not like “Fur” for that reason, and I didn’t think it was interesting enough either to make up for that discomfort.

Another one that I liked was “Truth.” I believe that “MUDs” overall is a great example of concrete poetry, as the shape of the title word plays a huge part in shaping the meaning of the poem. In “Truth” in particular, the meaning would be incredibly altered if it was displayed in static text, or even in the same video but with the word ‘TRUTH’ simply hanging unchanging. Similarly, in the poem “Because,” the title word growing increasingly mangled adds a lot of depth to the poem in a way that would be impossible to replicate on paper. Overall, I am not in love with these poems, but I respect the idea behind them.

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Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

The first piece of poetry, that I read, that I found to have stood out was Stephanie Strickland’s “The Ballad of Soot and Sand.” I found the poem to be amusing in a way that it shows how different-colored texts can show more meaning to the poem than others. It also shows progression in a way that you feel peeks your interest with how you feel. It can also show us that multilinear can work on a much deeper level and more than just games but you can also read poetry with choices. the multi-color effect also gives people a sort of what is what, like the topics of being discussed in the panel and the corresponding picture that is shown and how they are sort of similar.

Another poem that I found to be very interesting is Brian Kim Stefan’s “The Dreamlife of Letters.” I liked the poem because it did something that I think is a good addition to Kinetic poetry and that is “Visual Poetry” for people who don’t necessarily like to just read with their eyes but see what the action of the words within the poem itself.

“Considering the relation between writing and technology, visual poet Derek Beaulieu writes that he proposes a poetic where the author-function is fulfilled both by the biological ‘author’ of the text and the technology by which it is created” (Beaulieu, 2012, p. 74)

This tells me that authors and poets alike wants to show a different way of telling stories to readers by having them to be shown.

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Digital Poetry

“The actual experience of interacting with IF can however sometimes seem more like conversing via telegraph with a precocious chimpanzee who has worked out a compass and the possession of objects than conversing with an adult human.”


I feel like this quote from the book encompasses how I felt reading it. The ones I was most drawn to were the works that embodied concrete poetry. The visuals helped the meaning come across more clearly. Cruising was visually captivating, although I liked the simplicity of Shy boy.

However, Rain on the Sea, in contrast, is a simple black and white text-based video. Although the words flash so quickly on the screen the viewer must be very focused. I think I understood what the author was trying to say although, I will admit even after viewing it a few times I know I missed some of the words. I think the poem is talking about relationships and a bit of inner turmoil. In the first part, the character is talking to God whom it seems like she is thanking for getting her out of a bad marriage? At least that’s what I thought the story was about. I do think that others could take different interpretations of the poem.

I would be interested in looking more into A is for apple. Most of the links seemed broken, which I guess can happen to any digital piece.

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Kinetic Poetry

Rettberg’s chapter on Kinetic and Interactive poetry covers many types of digital poetry. The sections I found myself most interested in were those on visual and sound poetry. I appreciate the kinetic aspects and found that digital poetry that combined sound and text as images held my interest best.

“Rain on the Sea” by Y0UNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES was incredible. It took me by surprise (as did most of the works we studied this week) because I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t explored their work before. After experiencing “Rain on the Sea” I found more of their work to see what else they’re doing, and found that they have a style. The use of Flash, and pacing their text to upbeat music so that words are presented almost too quickly to comprehend created a juxtaposition. I found myself enjoying the music but trying to follow the story, and feeling oddly conflicted trying to experience the story, visual art, and music all together. I grew a little frustrated with the edges of the text being cut off and flashing by so quickly, but liked the story and the music. At the end I was left feeling both wrung-out and exhilarated.

Tachistoscope was another piece I really enjoyed. The presentation of single words (mostly) atop images that at times enforced and other times contradicted the text was visually interesting, and I enjoyed the story that Poundstone was telling. The addition of sound drew me in more and kind of helped me keep pace with the story. I went through it a few times, trying to focus more on the words in white font and find out how they’re affecting my experience or interpretation. It was difficult but I think I got more of the story that way.

This class module is very interesting and I’m super enjoying exploring it!

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Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

The first pieced I looked at was “Cruising” by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar. It was a really cool and interesting way to tell the story. As you move the mouse side to side, it goes through a slideshow type strip a the bottom. When you pull the mouse up or down it will either zoom in or zoom out of the story. Although it was a really cool idea, I’m not sure I exactly liked it. It was pretty hard to control, at least for me, and the constant moving and zooming in and out actually made me feel a little nauseous. It is possible iI was just doing it wrong though. The second one I looked at was “The Dreamlife of Letters” by Brian Kim Stefans. If I’m being honest, I didn’t really understand this one either. I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry, especially poetry that is made to be confusing on purpose. I do understand the importance of poetry and interactive poetry, it’s just not really anything I think I will ever be interested in. I did try really hard on this assignment to find one of them that I did like. I went through each one but either I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to do them, or they didn’t really make sense to me.

*EDIT* I’ve just now realized that I never got past the introduction part of “The Dreamlife of Letters”. I’m not sure how I didn’t get past it before, since I looked at it for a good 5-10 minutes. Now that I’ve explored this piece deeper, I actually really enjoyed it. I love how it flows through without anyone having to interact with it at all. Out of all of them, I think this one ended up being my favorite piece to explore through.

Like I said before, I understand that they are an important piece of history in literature, and interactive poetry is very important in electronic literature. But this is a type of electronic literature that really challenged me. I did like that there were some in video form such as “Rain on the Sea” that I found myself understanding a little more. It goes by really fast, complete with music to match the speed of the switching letters and numbers on the screen.

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“Rain on the Sea” and “Cruising”

“Rain on the Sea” by YHCI and “Cruising” by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar  show how motion through text and the utilization of audio can be as an effective form of communication.

“Rain on the Sea” is poem about a man who became a stick. When I was reading it, it reminds of a scene in a film that I unfortunately can’t remember the title to, where it opens with a bullet being created and traveling through the world, eventually being put into a gun and fired into a person. The speed at which it moves is incredibly rapid, as is custom with most YHCI productions. The rapid pace and the jazz soundtrack which is used, creates a sense of urgency, and forces you to be fully engaged. It was actually quite a challenge trying to follow the piece but after a few runs, it became much easier. I was reminded of the section Moving letters in film in Rettberg’s book. YHCI doesn’t use filtering effects or collaged imagery like Len Lye, but YHCI does utilize motion, sound and words extensively. (Rettberg 130)

“Cruising” is an interactive work which engages the reader by giving them control over the speed at which the text moves. It is meant to represent driving a vehicle as explained in the author’s description. When reading this, I was reminded of what Dick Higgins said in 1980, “Dick Higgins (1980) writes that sound poetry is “inherently concerned with communication and its means, linguistic and/or phatic.” (Rettberg 129) The use of motion, sound, as well as visuals also remind me of work by Len Lye, the difference of course being that “Cruising” is not a film.

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Kinetic Poetry

“The Ballad of Soot and Sand” by Stephanie Strickland has a hyperlink structure similar to hypertext fiction, while using elements of kinetic and interactive poetry. The poem is traversed nonlinearly through links in the body of the poem, within words that correspond to other passages. Soot and Sand is more navigable and asks less of the viewer than more dense or confusing pieces of hypertext e-literature by having links to other parts of the poem along the bottom of the screen. Links to passages that have been read are in bold. Each passage is formatted differently, with text aligned or oriented in different ways and color is applied to the text, affect how the text is read, at what rate it is read, and giving more significance to passages and words by coloring or orienting them differently than the rest of the text, conveying meaning that might not a have been drawn by the viewer otherwise.

Words and letters are not only carriers of meaning but material objects that themselves have variable properties. -Rettberg

David Jhave Johnson’s “SOFTIES” are a more dramatic example of manipulating the appearance of text to convey meaning. In his piece “Stand Under” he stretches and pulls the word understanding, broken down and rewritten several times to create an abstract kinetic form. The words “stand” and “under” are reiterated and stacked on top of each other under a long stretched letter. As the stretched letter is pushed and pulled the understanding beneath it compresses and contracts. The description of the work states “State under. Humility understands.” The work visually represents the literal meaning of the word understanding and how to achieve understanding through humility, and placing a situation one is trying to understand above oneself. Manipulating text minutely or grandly can be used to communicate major or minor subtext.

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For Those Frustrated With Electronic Literature, Here is Your “Bone”

Farinsky Blog 6: Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

Image result for throw me a bone
Not all of us have felt as suave as Austin Powers navigating electronic art.

I will be the first to admit a sort of “hypertext fatigue” which has built over the previous weeks and has deeply challenged me.

Most have been massive works that are told in a deeply unsatisfying, non-linear fashion unless one spends hours pouring over the hundreds of linked pages to try and piece together some sense of story. And with a long list of works to look at each week the frustration is compounded as I fail to understand work after work enough to feel comfortable writing an intelligent blog post about them.

This week was refreshing because the majority of works were in video form. I was able to see the entirety of the piece in under 15 minutes which was more conducive to re-watching, and interpreting.

Here is my “like” list:

Knowing the narrative is a first, critical step, of understanding a literary piece before further analysis, and becoming able to appreciate it stylistically. Two works do this particularly well, “Shy Boy” and “Rain on the Sea”.

“Shy Boy” is a poem that has been produced through a program to bring a kinetic feeling to the work. This work is a strong argument for why Electronic Literature deserves to exist as a genre because it takes the form of traditional poetry, but uses programming to enhance the delivery. The strong literary influence makes this work more than digital art.

Similarly, “Rain on the Sea” has a lot of reasons to like it. The work uses text to tell a distinct story using language, sound, and speed to explore past the constraints of print. The soundtrack accompanying this work is an upbeat jazz mix which signals to the reader this work is going to move fast. It is almost incomprehensible it speeds by so quick. However, since this work is a video browser extensions such as Chrome’s Video Speed Controller can be used to slow the video playback speed so a second viewing can focus on reading each word building on the first viewing’s understanding. This makes the work accessible to more people who would otherwise give up on engaging.

Special mention goes to A is for Apple, by David Clark because it is hypertext, and it is easily navigable. The page title is clearly visible as well as a link to restart or find the map which makes this work so much more readable. 

The time I spent with these works was so much more enjoyable than previous weeks because most of my time was not devoted to figuring out the narrative. I was able to understand the text and then dive deeper into the stylistic features and layers of meaning compared to feeling lost and angry at link-based fiction.

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Interactive Poetry

I explored, “SOFTIEs”, by David Jhave Johnson, “Dreamlife of Letters”, by Brian Kim Stefans, and “Shy Boy”, by Tom Swiss. Each of these interactive poetry works, incorporated text movement to express the message. “SOFTIEs”, used a variety of text movement to express emotion and meaning. For example, the first piece of the poem is the repeating word, “understanding”. The word is shown as being stepped on and pushed down. The word fights back, and as the clip progresses, more of the word is presented. In “Shy Boy”, the text animation is relatively simple, with fade ins, fade outs, and fading downward. The words are accompanied though by blocks of gray and black that follow the text. I believe that this does a fantastic job of conveying the uncomfortable and dark feelings of the shy boy. No matter what is said, there is a follow up of gray or black. This is almost as if the gray and darkness is following the boy. Lastly, in “Dreamlife of Letters”, text animation is used quite heavily, as it moves along the alphabet. Each word and sequence has a different type of animation. Some are busy and dizzying, and some are as simple as the text fading in and out on the screen.

“Shy Boy” and “SOFTIEs” also used audio. “Shy Boy” used an almost haunting and soft instrumental, while “SOFTIEs” used something that made the listener even more uncomfortable. Throughout the animations, there was a single low note played constantly. This portrayed a feeling of foreboding and mystery. Overall, I really enjoyed each of these three pieces, and what they all provided. I loved their differences, and their creativity.

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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.

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Shy Boy, Sound Poems, Kinetic, and Interactive Poetry

            When I was reading about sound poems, I didn’t know what to think about them like someone really tried to pass off random sounds as a poem? But after listening to it as well as reading Jörg Piringers reasoning it is both intriguing and cool. It is also interesting to see how different sound poem is from shy boy. Shy boy has a soft melody in the background but has a larger focus on the visuals the text moves and falls at the pace you read it as well as to shows the sadness and loneliness of the boy. I personally really enjoyed Shy Boy and liked how its interaction with the reader I tried to read rain on the sea, but it was to jarring and I wasn’t able to follow it. The time spent in making(author) and reading/interacting(reader) with Shy Boy is also a part that I hadn’t thought about and enjoy.  

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Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

Although all of the works of kinetic and interactive poetry presented to us for this week’s discussion are interesting and engaging in their own right, the two works that stand out the most to me are Rain on the Sea and Sound Poems.

Jörg Piringer’s Sound Poems are a selection of six different poems that allow the reader to actively engage with his webpage by allowing the reader to click and/or drag letters and boxes that in turn create various sounds. As mentioned by Rettburg, sound poetry has roots in both Futurist and Dadaist movements. While engaging in Piringer’s work, the influence from these movements, especially Dada, are quite apparent. From an outside perspective, this work holds almost no similarities to the traditional poetry that most people are used to. Jörg Piringer’s Sound Poems have a quality of defiance to traditional poetry due to the work’s avante garde nature.

Rain on the Sea by Y0UNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES on the other hand deals with the genre of film poetry, as it is comprised of a poem that progresses with fast cuts from one line to the next accompanied by a cinematic backing track reminiscent of music found in early 20th century silent films. The first works of film poetry actually emerged in the early 20th century, with works such as Marcel Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema (1926) and Len Lye’s Trade Tattoo (1937), where analog techniques were used to create kinetic poetry similar to what we are seeing today (Rettburg 130). I myself am quite comfortable with the medium that is film so therefore, despite the fact that the text on the screen came and went rather quickly, enjoyed how the poem was presented to me in Rain on the Sea.


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Sounds Poems and Shy Boy

In Sound Poems, all is handed over to the user. It contains 6 poems to interact with and none of them contain any sort of symbolism. While these poems focus on sounds themselves, I am reminded that sound is very important in traditional written poetry especially when it comes to rhythm and reading them out loud. This set of poems embraces that aspect. These poems are very visual too as the user may drag the letters all around the screen. There isn’t terribly much the user may create using these poems, so I think of these poems as a demo for what could potentially be done with interactive poetry that have more description and symbolism. The poem Shy Boy has the more symbolic poetry that readers have become to expect but can especially be read as a concrete poem or Vispo. The ways that some of the words and phrases are presented emphasize their meaning. The word “melt” falls down below. The word “vanish” slowly disappears. The phrase “not to be there” pops out very quickly. “Pencil smudge” is smudged under a layer of gray. The words that begin and restart the poem, “Enter” and “re-read” are red. This symbolizes the hardships the boy goes through.

“Interactive digital poetry further considers the relationship between reader and text as a recursive feedback loop.”

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Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

This week, I chose to focus on Rain on The Sea by YoUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES and SOFTIEs by David Jhave Johnson. I found that with SOFTIEs, although film poetry is more often considered to be films with subjects performing spoken word poetry while different imagery passes by, SOFTIEs works almost as its own form of film poetry. There is still imagery passing by, but the teext is incorporated into different parts of the “scenes” that Jhave has created. I think the imagery he chooses to show in the film portion of his works (water dripping, etc.) serves as a sort of symbolism that connects to his poetry. For example, in “” it shows dripping water on a dark surface and reads “the cold lines, blind meanings, reap is war” “the cold lines” could refer to the water dripping, which could be symbolic for something much darker (blood, etc.). When I looked at Rain on The Sea, I found that is blatantly portrayed futurism, with its stark white background and plain black text flashing intermittently. I really enjoyed this piece and found that it was very successful in provoking emotion. I think this was partially due to the text flashing by so quickly it almost didn’t give my brain any chance to process it other than the immediate meaning of the word that was flashed. The work has a very dark undertone, accusing the user of murder, etc. and the fact that these accusations were flashing by so quickly helped cause a sense of urgency and desire to know what the user supposedly did in this work.

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Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

“The Dream Life of Letters” is a flash animation example of Visual Poetry. The piece begins with a short introduction and then begins to makes it’s way down the alphabet with different words starting with each new letter. The letters on screen also begin to begin to form visual representation of the words themselves. For example the viewer watches the the letters “bo”, with a “/” on either side, become the word “border”, once the full word is formed the “/” are pushed away as if a border has been broken.

“Cruising” was the most straightforward experience of all the poems I read. During the piece, the poem is being read to you and all you have control over is the speed at which the accompanying text and pictures scroll. The poem actually tends to want to scroll pretty fast, or in the wrong direction depending on which way you are pointing your mouse, so I found myself having to re listen to the poem because I had become so focused on the scrolling speed of the text. According to the description, “Cruising” is a flash poem with interactive elements.

“Sound Poems” are a type of poem I had never encountered before. Sound poetry focuses on the sounds in human speech rather than the meaning of words or phrases. In my interaction with this piece, the phonetic combinations I came up with sound more like music than poetry. This is probably due to the looping nature of each box containing the syllables within this piece.

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Shy Boy and a Apple

Shy Boy by Tom Swiss is a visual poem. This style of poetry is language in motion. This motion style of poetry fits with the theme of the poem. The words moved in and faded away like the central character (the boy) in the poem who wished to go unnoticed. We can see this style of motion language in many films during the credit sequence. On my first read , I did not catch all of the text; I had to read the poem again to understand it. As mention earlier, the motion of the language did fit the theme of the poem; I like this style of poetry.

A is for Apple by David Clark is an interesting poem. I really do not know what to classify this style of poetry, so I’ll classify it as concrete poetry. There were text and images on the page. From what I can make out of it, it seemed to be the definition of the word apple. Of course, the visuals did help the spoken word, which is interesting. The shape of the words strengthened the poetry; it added more weight to the main idea of the poem (if that makes any sense). I know poems are open to interpretations, after listening to the poem, I read the poem as being about the genetic engineering of food. We tend to want food to be big and juicy. We interpret the food size and color to mean delicious; this causes the food industry to modify food to look delightful.

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“Softies” and “The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot”

Image result for the ballad of sand and harry soot

SOFTIES by David Jhave Johnson is a web-based work, comprised of a series of videos and short poems. Each video contains a phrase related to one of the poems, which are manipulated in a program known as Mr. Softie (hence the title of the work.) However, Jhave’s mesmerizing animations were what caught my attention. By utilizing the Mr. Softie program, Johnson was able to manipulate the phrases through squashing, stretching, twisting, shrinking and expanding the text in ways that communicated the ideas of the corresponding poem. In his poem “Stand under” for instance, the word “under” is placed far above a stack of the repeated word “standing”, which strains and pulls at “under” in an attempt to rise above it. Fittingly, the corresponding poem to this video was one about humility, which would explain the struggle of the words lower down vs. the superiority of the word near the top. In addition to animating the text, Johnson also supplemented his work with music to set the mood of each video. Taking the above factors into account, it could be argued that SOFTIES is a work of concrete poetry—it treats words as tangible, manipulable objects and makes a clear connection to the program it was made with. It is also a multimedial work, as it combines text, sound, and on occasion imagery (in certain poems such as “Unity”, the background layer of the animation is another video.)  

The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot is a web-based hypertext that is composed of web pages rather than traditional “nodes”. A ballad is a song or poem telling a story in short stanzas, which is exactly what this work is mimicking.  A love story about a man named Soot who longs for a woman called Sand, Strickland describes her work as the symbolic relationship between technology and man. She saw the sand as silicon, which can be found in sand as well as in microchips, “and by extension the entire online world.” (Word Circuits Stephanie Strickland). As for Soot, Strickland described him as 

“a man made of carbon, biochemical man, a man of flesh and mood, a person.” (Word Circuits Stephanie Strickland).  

This work seems to follow a more traditional presentation of poetry than SOFTIES by placing text in stanzas, using colorful wording, and presenting ideas as riddles. One of the less traditional aspects of the work was the use of hidden hyperlinks within the stanzas to other parts of the story, adding a new layer of meaning, interactivity, and mystery to the piece. One might argue that The Ballad of Sand and Soot is a visual form of poetry because it is accompanied by images, but these are separated from the text and do little to aid the reader’s understanding of the poem (most of the images are nonspecific pictures of sand.) Thus, simply calling this a multimedial work might seem more appropriate, as it is merging multiple forms of media (images and text) into one.  


Word Circuits Stephanie Strickland 


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Kinetic and Interactive Poetry – February 22, 2019

Much like the previously explored hypertext fiction and interactive fiction, kinetic and interactive poetry explore the fusion of writing and technology to augment the way a person is able to explore and interact with a story. In Scott Rettberg’s words, “kinetic and interactive poetry explore the specific multimedia capacities of the contemporary computer as a poetic environment for both composition and reception” (Rettberg, 118). What kinetic and interactive poetry seek out to do is use the resources available from a computer to create a new breed of modernized poetry.

Two examples of kinetic and interactive poetry are Y0UNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES’ “Rain on the Sea” and David Jhave Johnson’s “SOFTIEs”. “Rain on the Sea” and “SOFTIEs” both make use of audio and music to add extra meaning and feeling to the poetry. Among other techniques, the two pieces set out to bring the anti-art movements of the early 1900s to the screen.

In the case of “Rain on the Sea”, the opening countdown, old-timey music, and layout of the poem gives it the feeling of a silent film. However, the stylistic choice of moving the words so quickly that upon the first time viewing the reader is only able to catch part of the story gives it a true feeling of avant-garde electronic literature. “Rain on the Sea” is an important example of film poetry, one of the many styles of kinetic and interactive poetry that exist.

Johnson’s “SOFTIEs” is even stranger than “Rain on the Sea”. Although part of it consists of short, traditional pieces of poetry, the rest of it consists of poetic proses being distorted, twisted, and stretched on a plane with ominous music in the background. “SOFTIEs” sets out to give words a second meaning, not just in what they mean but also in how they are presented. It is a good example of visual poetry, or “vispo”.

Although there are many more examples and subgenres of kinetic and interactive poetry that can be explored, these two are solid examples of what the movement has sought out to express with the addition of technology to writing.

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Dylan Niehaus – Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

The first poem or poems to catch my attention were the sound poems by Jorg Piringer. I enjoyed messing around with the different interactive sound poems, trying to create my own unique and interesting sound bites. Although fun and interesting to interact with, I failed to notice any deeper meaning within the poems. This may be because I have a difficult time finding meaning within things in general, but with these sound poems, I just fail to see how they could allude to anything of deeper meaning.

“Concrete poetry is based on an awareness of and interest in the material nature of language, its shapes and forms, and the aesthetic and semantic effects made possible by manipulating language as a material.” – Scott Rettberg

The sound poems by Jorg Piringer follow the definition set out by Scott Rettberg in that they allow the reader to manipulate sounds created by language in unusual ways. Many of the sound poems contain letters that can be manipulated freely by the user. As the letters are manipulated, a sound is made based around that letter. The only deeper meaning I can pull from these poems is that at its roots, the English language can be incredibly nonsensical and off-putting. But, this poem appears to be a form of Lettrism, so being devoid of meaning may be its intention. Lettrism focuses on deconstructing poetry to be devoid of semantic content. The sound poems created by Jorg Piringer succeed at this by focusing only on letters, their movements, and the sounds they make.

The second poem that caught my attention was Cruising by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar. This is a poem that utilizes sound, images, text, and animations to tell a short story. This is similar to the sound poems by Jorg Piringer only in that Cruising utilizes sound, but in Cruising, the sound is used to tell a story through a voiceover. This kinetic poem is much more traditional in that it has a clear story and meaning. The poem is also interactive, the user can move their mouse and make the images and text on the screen scroll at different speeds. The description of the poem states that this was done in order to create an experience in which the user needs to learn to control and “drive” the poem.

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Blog 6: Kinetic and Interactive Poetry

Tom Swiss’s Shy Boy is short yet conveys quite a bit to the readers. The poem is a representation and a voice about a boy who left in the shadows and wants to disappear. The movement of the text and rectangles convey ideas such as melting and vanishing. These movements enforce the idea that the boy is at the end of his rope. through this imagery, we can feel that he can’t bare his life anymore because he has lost his strength and will. In the end, the boy dies and is left as a ghost to reminiscent on the times he was alive. The music in the background acts as a sort of limbo. You feel as if you are floating and observing the boy before you. In Ingrid Ankerson’s Cruising poem, however, takes a very different approach. For starters, Ingrid narrates her poem as she shows us black and white photos of a car on the road unlike Swiss’s which has no photos. Some catchy guitar music plays in the background, giving the atmosphere a feeling of freedom and fun compared to the more classical and solemn music in Swiss’s. If you hover your mouse in either direction the photos will zoom past music. This interaction gives you a sense of control, similar to how you would control the speed of your own vehicle. Although her poem moves her text, unlike Swiss’s, does not. The text above the photos remains stationary until you hover over the screen; then the text starts to blur like the lights from a row of cars passing by. As the reader, I don’t feel like the floating onlooker like I did in Swiss’s poem. I feel as if I am in the car cruising with her, enjoying life and not giving a care in the world.

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Blog 6 – 2/22/19


After looking through all of the works for this week, I chose two that stood out to me. The first piece I picked was “The Dreamlife of Letters” by Brian Kim Stefans. The digital poem was created from words written to him from a coworker during a roundtable conference. He alphabetized her words and produced a series of short digital poems. The poem’s text moves in different ways on your screen.  The text is responsive to other words and letters, but sometimes the text seems to only have the first letter in common, rather than the first few letters, or patterns of letters inside the word. At certain points of the poem, the movements of the letters match a word.

          E.g. , “the word height expands and grows taller at first,       then shrinks away, while the word “drip” appears as the letter D falls down the screen.” 

I felt excited as I made my way through Brian Kim Stefans work but nothing prepared me for A is for Apple. I watched this a couple of times, and I felt like I needed more. I went to David Clark’s page and started looking through more of his work, and I am thrilled to have discovered this man. All of his work is just beautiful, and I can’t wait to explore all of his stuff. For now, I will discuss A is for Apple. This piece is a Flash-based project that uses the hypertext to investigate the science behind an apple. The piece uses a sequence of links, looking for hidden meanings that come from the apple. 

        “The image of the apple leads to references and ideas borrowing from western metaphysics, popular culture, the history of cryptography, ideas of language, and psychoanalysis.”

A is for Apple was created using the model of a collage. Initially, paper collages were made. Those became the basis of a flash website where David and his associates made the page interactive and animated. One of the best Pieces of art I have ever scene.

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Kinetic and Interactive Poetry: Shyboy and Rain on the Sea

“Shyboy”, unlike the works we have read thus far, is linear. In addition to being displayed in a linear format, it is very much visual poetry in that the lines and text itself will appear, disappear, and shift based on what is being said in the poem at any given point. All in all, it is a short piece. The way it was designed visually is simplistic and effective, in no way detracting from the poem itself and instead adding to it. One of the best examples of this, in my opinion, is right at the beginning when the text appears line by line going down the page and then when it gets to the bottom, it says,

he can’t help it. And he can’t help that

he’s easy to read, even from this end of the hall.


You know what he wants to do?



Then that word ‘vanish’ actually does, it slowly fades away.

“Rain on the Sea” is also a very visual piece but compared to “Shyboy” with its ease, fading and guiding the lines and text, “Rain on the Sea” is very flashy and in your face. Additionally, rather than being that of a flash work, “Rain on the Sea” is in fact a video which creates a linear path so that there is only one way to read through the work. Granted that is dependent on whether you can keep up with it. Sometimes the words flash by too quickly that I found myself clicking back or pausing the video just to read it.

It is interesting to note how there are multiple parts to the work. Additionally, the premise of the poem itself is rather unfortunate for you as the individual becoming the person in the piece. Within the first minute alone you are tossed into a situation where you are dying on the bathroom floor and yet suddenly ‘given another chance,’ in a sense, by an almighty power:

Too late for that, you said–your last mistake, for it turns out there is indeed a God, quite powerful, quite knowing, not amused. He pardoned the last stages of your tortured marriage. He granted you it was perversely entertaining, mere child’s play in your world of murderers.

The words themselves are quite intense when given a chance to read them, though the format they are displayed in with the quick flashes as they fly by on the screen do also provide that sense of severity.

The video itself feels almost as if one is trying to download the data off of the screen, processing it as it goes. It is stiff and mechanical and the only way to really read it is to pause and slow down and take the time to go through each and every word within the different parts.

“Shyboy” by Tom Swiss

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World Of Awe

I chose to explore the World of Awe, an electronic story that takes place in some sort of weird desert where an unnamed traveler is searching for some sort of unknown treasure. There are three chapters in which the first takes place in 2000, the second in 2002, and the third in 2006. You explore this travelers journey by opening up love letters that he wrote to his loved one but were never sent. Even though he knew she would never read these letters he would write them anyways to keep himself from going insane. Some of them were often amusing as one that I read in the first chapter was talking about how he got captured and escaped but ended the letter in “P.S. still looking for the lost treasure”.


Due to the advance of technology each chapter seems more advanced than previous chapters. The first is just sound and text, the second has some short object animations, and the third has some 3D pictures and designs. I however enjoyed the first chapter the most as I found it more immersive with the audio playing in the background as I would read the letters. The third chapter was the most difficult to me as it seemed like the language was arabic or some other form of Middle Eastern language. This story all around seemed very bizarre and strange but I enjoyed exploring it nonetheless.

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Ad Verbum

I had a funny conversation with my father while traversing “Ad Verbum” by Nick Monfort. My dad came into the room and I mentioned that I was reading interactive fiction for a class, which I described to him as text-input based games which he had told me about playing when he was younger. He chuckled and said that he remembered games like that required you to use very specific words to be able to navigate them. I said that actually, I was mentioning it to him because I couldn’t do something in the game and I was wondering if he could help me guess the command. He immediately asked “Are you trying to go upstairs?” Yes I was. He told me to input “go stairs” and of course it worked. Here is a screenshot of all my guesses of how to go upstairs, and his answer.

My dad even remembered the names of his friends that he spent an afternoon with in front of a computer guessing how to go upstairs. The first thing he remembered about interactive fiction was how difficult using the text parser was. Rettberg describes this feeling hilariously as:

“The actual experience of interacting with IF can however sometimes seem more like conversing via telegraph with a precocious chimpanzee who has worked out a compass and the possession of objects than conversing with an adult human.”

This aspect of IF is becoming less of a problem as technology improves and text-parsers become more intelligent. The challenge of thinking and communicating in ways that a computer will understand. What was originally a limitation of IF games has become a feature of the game and these types of games have an aspect of nostalgia today because of it.

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E-Literature & Those We Love Alive



              In looking at the “Those We Love Alive” (TWLA) I am intrigued by its repetition, as well as its descriptive language. The other piece I looked at was “Deviant” which after playing for a while I remember going through last semester. While Deviant was intriguing, I felt like I was running into the same problem that we have discussed in previous classes. Following the general character but not understanding the story or what is going on, due to lack of context. But after reading the authors inspiration of what inspired them to make deviant it makes a lot more sense. Looking at TWLA it was a lot more linear, so it was easier to follow I really enjoyed it. The tone and mood set by the colors and music are eerie but fascinating. I looked quickly at howling dogs and was surprised that they were both done in twine as well as TWLA seams like a more refined and completed piece but that was only my initial thought. E-literature has such a wide spectrum of what it can do that I will just learn and enjoy whatever I can.   

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The Narrative World of Porpentine

I explored “With Those We Love Alive”, by Porpentine, and “Howling Dogs”, also by Porpentine. I didn’t intentionally explore two works by the same author/creator, but after doing so, I believed I got a far better understanding of the author’s methods. Both of the works seem to center in on a dark, twisted society and the daily mundane tasks of members of that society. In “With Those We Love Alive”, we follow our protagonist, a creator hired on by the empress. The world is dark and filled with muck, and the occasional dead person who is staring at you. The empress is described almost in a monstrous way, with horns, oozing ichor, and rotting flesh. The empress hunts humans, and human body fluids are drunken. The city is falling apart, ridden with monsters, stains, and rot. The protagonist also has to refuel on hormones, and imagery is used to describe the glow of veins pulsing with hormone. “Howling Dogs”, although not as visually interesting, carries a similar theme. The protagonist wakes up in a cold, sterile almost hospital-like room. The protagonist then has to do daily tasks such as drinking, eating, throwing out garbage, before heading into what is called the activity room. This room is described to have almost a virtual reality visor, that continues the main storyline for the protagonist. Both pieces are very mysterious and poetic. The game is progressed through a series of link choices. “With Those We Love Alive” is a bit different than “Howling Dogs”, as it possesses links that can be alternated by the player. Both of these pieces involve the interactor or player, by forcing them to make decisions to advance the story line. While playing both of these pieces, I would often find myself stuck in the storyline, if I didn’t find the correct link that would advance it. The links also changed how the storyline played out, and the circumstances that would be faced by the protagonist. These two works seem to follow more of a hypertext layout, then that of a game. While they both provide options for the player, these two games seem to be more of framework for a literature piece, rather than a game. The works are both incredibly mysterious, and engage the player’s imagination in a multitude of ways. The wording is poetic and ambiguous in nature, and each new prompt, brings up more questions and plot holes to fill. In my exploration of, “With Those We Love Alive”, I had stumbled on a friendship/romance storyline that seemed to hint at a big turning point for the two characters. They never explicitly stated what had happened but seemed to hint at it. I really loved these two pieces, and would love to get to a point where some of the plot holes are filled.

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Dylan Niehaus – Narrative Games

Game Game Game and Game Again by Jason Nelson has caught my attention like no other piece of electronic literature so far. Game again is a narrative game that combines elements of a video game platformer with poetics, strange sounds and visuals, and video clips. The platforming was actually quite fun and unique at times, especially for a flash game focused on narrative. I have to say that Game again is the most bizarre, strange, and straight up creepy flash game I have experienced on the web, and that says a lot.

I felt like I was playing something that was created by an insane person as I was bombarded by strange sounds, visuals, and pieces of text that did not make too much sense. The whole thing had a disturbing, almost otherworldly feeling. The game encourages the user to find meaning by placing different objects to reach within each level. As an object is collected, it reveals a piece of text. Within many levels, a clickable button will appear that plays a short video clip on repeat.  Overall, despite the disturbing aspects of Game Again, I would have to say that its combination of platforming, visuals, video, and text are incredibly engaging and impressive.

I then decided to explore With Those We Love Alive by Porpentine. This game is quite different from the previous one that I explored, as it is a text-based adventure, much like Zork, except the user clicks on words instead of typing their own. The game also has a soundtrack which I found to be quite nice and relaxing, it made me feel much more immersed in the experience. I actually quite enjoy text-based games as they allow you to visualize a world in any way you wish because, in reality, the author is just providing guidelines of how the world looks; it is up to the reader to create their own details and interpretation of the world.

Providing music can help influence the way in which a reader visualizes a world. The music in this game had me thinking of a beautiful, serene palace instead of one that may be old and run down. This is interesting because the story actually takes place in a world where a larval empress has you working for her in a dingy palace, but the background colors and music make me think of this serene place. The game also allows the user to change words in the story by clicking on them. For example, I had to make a gift for the empress and I did so by clicking on words to change them to create a gift. At this point, the music changed to something more strange and sinister but returned to its relaxing form after I returned to the palace.

Both narrative games I explored are incredibly different in nature. Game Again relies heavily on visuals and gaming aspects (platforming) while With Those We Love Alive is a purely textual experience. Game Again felt more like an on-rails experience, as the goal was to get to the end of each level while collecting things along the way. The game bombarded the user with strange sounds and visuals to create a confusing and disturbing atmosphere. With Those We Love Alive is a non-linear experience that allows the user to take their time and explore the world at their own pace. It has atmospheric and relaxing music, but also has depressing and dark themes, but overall it is a much more muted experience than Game Again.

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Interactive Fiction and Narrative Games

Out of all of the games presented in regards to the scope of the discussion, the two that stood out to me the most were Jason Nelson’s Game Game Game and Game Again and Porpentine’s Howling Dogs. While both of these works of interactive fiction are different and unique in their own ways, they both speak to how a small, close-knit community of individuals can create meaningful and entertaining games through a variety of platforms.

Howling Dogs is a work of interactive fiction created with the platform Twine that explores the idea of how games and hypertext fiction play on each other to create a storytelling experience that also feels game-like, as opposed to a more traditional story. As stated by Rettberg:

“While the underlying principles of Twine are based in hypertext, many Twine games have also adopted conventions from interactive fiction, such as second-person form of address to the player character, spatial navigation through the narrative, and a sparse, economical style of writing” (Rettberg 105).

Howling Dogs certainly displays some of the characteristics of a work of interactive fiction described by Rettberg. The player is placed in what is described as “A room of dark metal” and is given the option to navigate through the game by choosing through a selection of hypertext links that take the player through a variety of different scenes.

Game Game Game and Game Again on the other hand, is much more “game-like” in a traditional sense, although it does have its quirks. The player is tasked to navigate through a set of thirteen levels by using the arrow keys and space bar to move and jump, respectively. What makes Game Game Game and Game Again especially unique however, are the narrative elements that are added to the experience, such as the home videos that pop up on the screen and the graphics that hint at a particular message that Nelson is trying to convey.

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Interactive Fiction

In looking at the various interactive fiction pieces for this week I chose to focus on Game Game Game and Game again as well as Adverbum.

First Game Game, I found this piece quite jarring in the way it was presented. The main thing I believe the author wanted to represent was themes instead of a clear story. I think the themes were family, childhood, religion, and money/success. At least that’s what I thought I was picking up on. In playing the game a few times the sequence is open to change, so others could view the themes/story differently.

However, Adverbum was a more clear adventure story, in contrast to Game Game it is more basic with just the text and no visual cues. I do feel that this piece is better at letting the interactor use their imagination to envision the story. Whereas, with Game Game most everything is shown to the interactor leaving little room to expand upon.

Although some might find it frustrating in Adverbum the need to find the right phrase to move on to the next part. I do feel like the interactor has to be dedicated to take the time to finish the story. In first trying I was stuck using the wrong words to move on with the story. Getting the reply “that’s not a verb I recognize”. I did appreciate the format though as it did present an interesting challenge.

I do think that this form of literary fiction is one that I have found the most engaging so far.

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Games To Communicate

The first game I looked at was “With Those We Love Alive”. I actually really enjoyed this one. The story was a bit confusing but as I went through it I found myself more and more invested in it and how the story would play out. I loved the attention to detail in some areas that didn’t have any significance to the plot but were still very descriptive on how things looked. There were some powerful images as well. I’m not sure where exactly I found it but at one point I stumbled across the sight of an angel’s corpse, which is a very powerful message to convey. As well as multiple references to other dead people or corpses,

“Pale, shriveled humans sleep forever on the floor. Pipes run from their heads into iron barrels.”

“Death jungle chokes the land to the north. To the south, ashen wasteland. A dead person is sitting on the balcony, swinging their legs.”

Also, as you go through the story some of the scenes will change. Such as after you make the Empress a weapon, if you go into the throne room there will be the option to view whatever weapon you chose to make her. Another component of the story is that based on your choices, the character will draw different symbols on their body. Some that I remember were; shame, relationship with the chasm, insight, and more. I noticed the main way to progress through the story was just to go to sleep until the next part unravels.

I didn’t enjoy “Howling Dogs: Room” as much as I did the other one. However, after noticing a mention of an empress in that story as well, I went back and noticed that the two were actually made by the same person, which is something I didn’t notice before. They both were stories made using twine, and they definitely have similarities but the stories were very different. “Howling Dogs: Room” is mostly about a person who seems to be trapped in a very boring life, just barely scraping by with the minimum. On top of that, it seems like the character is living through an artificial world through the use of VR. An interesting aspect of this is that the player isn’t allowed to continuously using the VR machine unless you guide them to eat and drink first, forcing you to constantly go back in forth if you want to continue. I also find this interesting because this machine is forcing the character to keep themself alive if they want to continue going into the virtual reality.

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Why “Galatea” is Great, but “Stories Untold” Is Better

Farinsky Blog Post 5: Interactive Fiction & Narrative Games

Stories Untold Episode 1: The House Abandon.

Interactive fiction like Galatea by Emily Short or Narrative Games like Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw by Donna Leishman offer a reader experience unique from, yet similar too video games. Readers are presented with a prompt and allowed to control mouse or keyboard inputs to advance the story.

Within Short’s work readers must type phrases such as “look around” or “ask about” in a dialogue prompt to further the conversation with the sentient statue of Galatea.Typing a phrase that matches a command in the program’s directory produces an output with hints about Galatea’s past, thoughts about sentience, and creation.

Each click in Leishman’s predominantly visual work exposes new imagery with objects to explore. Going through each pathway of images and clickable items reveals the story loosely based on the 1696 witch trials. This work also offers a soundtrack to accompany the reader which contributes to the unsettling nature of the story as it becomes apparent something is terribly wrong.

Both of these works are great, however for someone who did not grow up playing text based interactive fiction games navigating “Galatea” can be maddening. This is why Stories Untold from developer No Code is perfect to introduce Interactive Fiction to a new generation of Internet Natives.

Stories Untold is 4 short stories which seem non-linear, but come together in an extremely rewarding way. The first chapter is similarly structured to Galatea, but the text prompts in Stories Untold give strong hints to what the user should input to advance the chapter making it easier to guess what terminology will advance the game. The following chapters expand on the text based adventure to include puzzles, different graphic interfaces, and brief linear paths to walk through similar to other video games. It is a brilliant combination of modern video game design mixed with an 80’s vibe and older mechanics. There are many elements that are also reminiscent of older electronic literature studied in this class making Stories Untold the next step in the evolution of Hypertext and Interactive Fiction.

This game is available on Steam for under $10.00. Also, many people on YouTube have posted a video play-through with commentary, or not, making the game just as accessible financially to other works, but also more available to players who are unfamiliar with the terminology necessary to play interactive fiction and want to see the full story play out.

WARNING: Some scenes in this game may cause epilepsy due to brief patterns of flashing light on the emulated monitor interface. 

Click Here to be directed to the list of videos available on YouTube or Click Here for a recommended version from Jacksepticeye which has excellent commentary.

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Interactive Fiction & Narrative Games

I chose to look at With Those We Love Alive and Howling Dogs. With Those We Love Alive has a more personal aspect to it, since there are specific questions about the user once they start the story. This makes the game seem much more personalized and customizable, which is something many people enjoy. Howling Dogs seems much darker because of the white text on black background, and has no personalized features whatsoever. This game/story comes off more as a way to read a story by clicking links, rather than the user being immersed in the narrative. Howling Dogs has a clear goal, which is plainly: progress through the story. With Those We Love is a bit more open-ended and seems as if it may have a more complicated goal such as: taking time to experience the story and question the meaning behind it. It feels more like a journey than Howling Dogs. The works engage with imagination in similar ways, they both feature very vivid imagery throughout their storytelling.

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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

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Blackbar and Device 6

In the mobile game Blackbar, the meaning of its story and the gameplay are very closely tied together. It is full of censorship and it is up to the player to figure out what is being covered by the black bars. My first reaction to it was that it felt kind of like Mad Libs. The difference is that there are specific correct answers. The key to figuring out what the censored words are is by using the context of the sentences they are placed in and how long the black bar is. This sort of progression system is the only thing that keeps this format from being just like the more traditional format of text. That is why it is so engaging. Device 6 is a more complicated interactive story. Rather than being presented with traditional paragraphs, the user must slide the text and other content all around and solve puzzles. The solutions to these puzzles are found within the content itself. They require thinking, but not as much guessing. For both of these games, the extra time I spend thinking about the solutions of the puzzles oftentimes passively make me consider the overall themes of the works.

“Electronic literature can be thought of as situated somewhere between a number of related practices and cultures, including print literary culture, arts practice, computer science, and performance.”-Rettberg pg. 88

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Interactive Fiction and Narrative Games

When I was reading “Galatea”, or rather talking to Galatea, my experience quickly became one of exploration of a very small portion of the story. I seemed to kind of go in circles while I was looking for ways to continue to conduct the interview with Galatea. I ended up starting over the story several times, starting from where I had left off the previous time, in order to try and get further to within the story. To me this seemed like a definite part of the way the narrative is meant to be experienced. The story dealt with someone interviewing an inhuman intelligence and the difficulty of engaging in conversation within the story program could be representative of understanding a highly intelligent computer program and the challenges of accepting it as human or not. Overall the interactive element worked very well in this story because it was so open ended much like a conversation in real life would be.

“Howling Dogs” and “Those We Left Alive” were very good at establishing habits for the reader to participate in in order to progress the story. In ” Howling Dogs” particularly, the reader had to do five distinct steps before accessing the activity room. The activity room was were most of the meat of the story was but the steps you had to take to get to the room were what created the atmosphere of the story. The protagonist of the story is concealed to a small area on a long running mission and defining the limited amount of things to do in this space places the reader in the protagonists shoes, which in turns place them deeper into the narratives within the activity room. “Those We Left Alive” was similar in the way that the reader had to sleep in order to progress the story. After a while I found myself just sleeping the days away in order to get to the next part of the narrative. This actually added to the dark and depressing atmosphere of the story in my mind because the world described within the story isn’t one one I would be particularly fond of living in. I think the interactive elements in these stories functioned very similarly to the way VR functions. When wearing a Virtual Reality headset people are more willing to do things that they would otherwise find routine and boring just because they are experiencing the headset. A second reasoning for this is that I believe that people just like to complete tasks. By giving the reader a set of tasks that the protagonist must complete, Porpentine effectively gives a deeper and more sympathetic understanding of their characters to the reader.

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Blog 6

When looking at both “Galatea” is the level of choice the user has in deciding what to talk about. To me it comes across as a perfect example of multi-linearity. If you want the story to have some semblance of linearity, there are defined paths that a user can take.

What path the user chooses is ultimately up to them. What I noticed quickly as Rettberg did is that the artwork is not necessarily a puzzle intensive experience, it isn’t an incredibly challenging piece. What Emily Short does that I love is really focus in on the writing of the story. Quality of writing is an incredibly important element and Emily Short really does a fantastic job on this front. Galatea has wit and a unique character as she is carved from stone. There is clear inspiration and reference to Greek mythology which I must confess, makes me like the work even more. Who the sculptor was and why he hated everyone, the idea of love, etc. all create a beautiful tapestry. With all of that said though there were some problems. One in particular was the text options. At times I would feel limited in my options despite it being a relatively open experience. However it wasn’t a big enough problem that it brought the entire experience down with it. Rettberg discusses how Short doesn’t create games to be won or lost, but rather stories designed to create an experience. In this way Short differentiated herself from the rest of the crowd during the time, using the framework of interactive fiction to explore different narrative paths. (Rettberg 100)

A less enjoyable story that I explored was Jason Nelson’s “Game Game Game and Game Again.” It wasn’t necessarily a bad IF, there was a clear point and statement. For example, while there is an “objective” which is the door, you don’t really feel like you win much of anything. Nelson is exploring as he described it, “artists changing worldview lens.” In this way it, like Short’s Galatea, utilizes the IF framework as a method to explore different ideas and forms. The problem derives primarily from the visuals. As a person who is obsessed with visuals, the design of this piece is just ugly. Now its pretty obvious that this was intentional on Jason’s part, as he explained that it was an anti-design statement; but it doesn’t make it any less easy to engage with.

It didn’t help that the writing was not the best, and often times I was left more confused than satisfied. Perhaps I ought to take a few more looks at the work to see if I can decipher any more meaning out of the piece.

I will say though his line, “Come on and meet your maker,” is now stuck in my head.

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More Tools in the Toolbox

As technology progresses, the toolbox of content creators gains ever more tools. As we saw in Grammatron, Hypertext fiction could be integrated with multimedia, sound and video, to enhance and create unique experiences. Distancing itself from the roots of Hypertext fiction, video games as a form of interactive e-literature can offer yet more tools to be utilized; through the mechanics of the game and the way the game interfaces with the interactor, the game experience add another layer of nuance.

In Game, Game, Game and Again Game, the interactor engages would could be considered, at least in a mechanical aspect, a typical platforming game such as the classic Mario Bros. games. However, while the interactor is probably used to the shiny graphics of professional games, they instead find themselves confronted with intentionally raw and handmade graphics. The interactor moves through levels, named after different world views such as “capitalism” or “fundamentalism,” gathering objects and navigating to the door at the end of the level. Whenever an object is collected, a piece of text or an image appears on the growingly cluttered and chaotic screen.

A screenshot from Game, Game. Game and Again Game, showing the many media objects that can be discovered in a typical level.

Rather than clicking on links to progress the text as one did in Hypertext, it is instead by navigating the game environment that the experience is pushed forward. Once all objects in a level are collected, an icon appears that allows the interactor to start a video while the finish the level. Sometimes, arrows appear as one interacts with the game, guiding them towards the end of the level. The levels themselves probably won’t be a challenge for anyone who’s played other games in the fashion, and any difficulties arise more frustration in the interactor than feelings of genuine challenge. Between the old home videos, showing sincere moments of humanity, and the snarky cries of “Come on and meet your maker!” at the sometimes frequent incidences of player death, and the scattered bits of text and level titles that hint a larger philosophical design, the interactor is merely left to wonder, what is the point of the experience? Is it a metaphor for life, the struggle for meaning, to understand truth? Is it a game? An interactive art piece? Is there a difference? At the end, when answers would normally be given in a game, the interactor is left with a bizarre, rambling video that begins “In the beginning, there were five potatoes…” but no answers are found.

To contrast, Howling Dogs is a Twine experience that borrows heavily from Hypertext and Choose-Your-Own-Adventures. The game paints a bleak story of a person living a tedious life, surviving on the bare minimum and spending all their time in digital simulations. Dark, atmospheric, poetic, the interactor has a chance to explore a logical space, unlike the abstract thought-space of Game… and of which Grammatron wove in and out. The narrative branches and allows the interactor to experience a story, character, and places rather than concepts, but the experience is almost entirely done through text, fading in and out on the screen as the player clicks through.

A screenshot from Howling Dogs that shows the choices available to the interactor as the explore the virtual space of the story.

The focus on the words ensures that the interactor doesn’t loose valuable information in the chaotic mash of multimedia, putting complete emphasis on the prose of the creator.

In the end, we have two very different examples of e-literature. Game… explores a synthesis of ideas and mediums to find what emerges in interactive gameplay. Howling Dog tightens its usage of media down to text and links to focus the interactor’s experience on the presentation of a cohesive story. Both are examples of different tools content creators can use.

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Howling Dogs and Deviants

I chose to play Howling Dogs, and Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw; both of these kept me engaged by allowing me to click on objects or text. I kept clicking to try to find out what was going to happen next. The experience was like playing a video game and trying to get the high score. I must admit, I quit Howling Dogs, because I could not understand the point of the game. The goals of the game were not clear. While playing Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw, I clicked until I could not click anymore. I assume I completed the game.

Howling Dogs, is a different animal altogether (pun intended). The game was engaging at the start. As I advance into the game, I felt like I was descending into madness; and then I clicked on the text “food and drink dispenser” to advance into the room with the ceiling fan if I am remembering correctly. This event leads into pulse which changed color every time I ended back at this point in the game. I quit after ending back at the point of the game after 10 times. I did visualize being in what I assume to be an insane person’s head, while playing Howling Dogs. The player character appeared to travel to alternate timelines (or imagine they did). I did enjoy having to visualize characters and setting while playing this game. This experience was like reading a novel. I just wish I new what the game was about.

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Blog 5 – Interactive Fiction

A big fan of the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ text-based game format, I was very excited for this week’s assignment. The games I chose to explore were Galatea, and Ad Verbum. While Galatea drew my attention more, Ad Verbum made me nostalgic for the ‘Escape Room’ games I used to play.

Ad Verbum gave me more of an ‘open-world’ sense than Galatea did, seeing as Galatea is set in one room only. I did not explore ALL of Ad Verbum; I got up to the fourth floor and mostly stuck to the first and second floors to see what I could find. I kind of put me off that there were some rooms that, if I could not find a way out (I never did), I was sent back to the foyer to start over.

As I mentioned, Galatea definitely had more of my interest, primarily because the point was to interact with another character. My first and second play-throughs were quite short before I realized that I should not ‘walk away’ as it ends the game. The first time around, the conversation was light and informational. But as I kept on playing, the course of the game grew darker and darker; her artist committed suicide, she has a sense of dependency on him, so what is the point of her existence?

Ad Verbum gave me a goal once I tried the front door (which was the first thing I did) and realized that I had to find a way to complete the game in order to escape. Galatea, I was not so sure about, apart from just getting as much information as I could. It absolutely challenged my imagination, as my own writing is more character-driven than by setting. I would definitely go back to this game.

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How types of interactivity can portray a message

Image result for howling dogs porpentine

For this post, I will be analyzing Howling Dogs by Porpentine and Galatea by Emily Short. Porpentine’s work imposes ideas of struggle and hopelessness by using darker tones. Through artful writing, Porpentine engages the imagination by painting gloomy pictures with words. Though she experiments with a range of themes by including multiple narratives within the story, they all imply a darker message. The work is also engaging because she utilizes various techniques that help move the narrative along, which Rhettberg states can be represented 

“through shifts of narrative voice and point of view… pacing… use of grammar, and its patters of association.” (Rhettberg, 56)  

In addition, Howling Dogs portrays struggle and hopelessness by presenting repetitive actions and responses to the user. Despite the player’s attempts to improve the quality of their character’s deteriorating life, the drudgery of the same daily routine eventually takes its toll on the users, who lose hope of finding any meaning within the story besides the themes I listed. A third technique Porpentine uses is offering limited options when it comes to navigation. Users can only click on the hyperlinks shown on screen, limiting their ability to explore the world freely. By utilizing repetitiveness, a dark tone, and limited freedom for exploration, Porpentine imposes ideas of struggle and hopelessness upon the user.  

However, Emily Short utilizes interactivity and exploration to portray hopeful ideas. Because Galatea is an interactive fiction, players can enter their own commands, involving them more deeply with the story’s possible meanings. In addition, Galatea’s personality and reason for existence are not initially specified, offering the player power over determining these factors through the dialog choices they make. And when Galatea relates her personal experiences to the reader in fragments, the player is further engaged by trying to put the pieces of the story’s puzzle together in their imagination. By allowing players freedom and providing a complex NPC to interact with, Short portrays the idea that fate is not predetermined, while simultaneously encourages them to seek out conversations and establish new relationships. 

One similarity between these works is the lack of a player “goal”. In Howling Dogs, the player merely watches on as things decay around them. And in Galatea, the player simply speaks to Galatea until some conclusion is drawn. The works are mainly focused on using their frameworks to explore literary ideas. Porpentine’s goal was to experiment with presenting multiple narratives to the player that were different yet cohesive to the story. And Short’s goal was to explore the potential of NPC interaction as a deeper, more complex process. 

To conclude, both Howling Dogs and Galatea utilize varying levels and modes of interactivity to get their messages across. Despite being so different, I found both works equally intriguing to explore.

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Interactive Fiction & Narrative Games

Some of these games I felt where really enjoyable in their own way but the two games that really stood out to me would be “Game, Game, Game, and Again Game” and “Howling Dogs”, both giving up deep meaning to each activity we make from within the game though.

Game, Game, Game, and Again Game is this interactive, side scrolling platform game that immerses you into a world of random stuff that happens when you collect items that are wildly spasming out all over the level and when you collect one it gives you, what I think, are riddles as well as little music clips of his life throughout the years.

As you can see. Depending on the items in which you collect can give you more to receive as you progress throughout the game which is what I really like about it is that in order to get more information you would have to progress and work for it.

Howling Dogs, on the other hand is quite a bit different than the other. Howling Dogs is more of a Narrative Game than it is an Interactive Fiction. The game starts you in a room that gives you several room to choose to go in and “explore” and depending on your action will see if you progress further or circle back to the room you start in. I like it because it’s a more settle game than Gamesx4 and instead of your characters actions being tracked it’s YOUR actions. These games try to see what YOU would do in these situations. It was a real daring experience for me.


Image capture is “Game, Game, Game, and Again Game”


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Blog 5: IF & NGs

I chose to look into With Those We Love Alive and Deviant: The Possession of Christain Shaw. The first thing you will notice when playing these games is how they choose to tell their story. Deviant uses graphics an animation, similar to an amateur flash game, to showcase the reader what is going on while music is added to establish an atmosphere. The music changes as you progress throughout the game and things take a turn for the weird. Characters’ mouths move but no sound can be heard, monsters appear and disappear with the flick of your mouse, for something so simple it sure does a good job of being creepy. When I first played this game I was a bit unsure of how to progress but when I played through it the second time I had a better idea of how to progress. Little X’s would take you to the next “scene” but sometimes you just couldn’t help but feel like you missed something important.

The gameplay in Deviant relies entirely upon hovering your mouse and/or clicking on things. Hoovering over flowers makes them wilt and causes berries to become demonic supposedly? According to the text provided at the end of the game Deviant: The Possession of Christain Shaw is based on one of the most well-known cases of ‘demonic possession’ in Scotland’s history that happened in 1696. The game illustrates this by showing the interactor some disturbing events that supposedly happened in 1696. As you go through the story, Christain’s condition gets worse and worse. She has a rash on her stomach, her eyeballs start sinking into the back of her skull, and at one point she pukes up a lump of coal that is extremely hot to the touch. One could argue that the goals in this game are unclear. While you could say the imagery for Christain’s condition is your “health bar” it is rather unclear whether or not you were helping Christain or not. Sure, in the end, she turns out to be fine but according to the event that this is based on

“She, an 11-yr-old child, was able to sustain herself against and repel the devil from her body”

So were we the savior or the demon?

In the IF With Those We Love Alive the narration takes a different approach. Unlike Deviant, this IF depends entirely upon words and your imagination. The music in the background is calming, as if oblivious to the giant bug queen. The goal in this game is to make the giant larvae queen happy by crafting items for her. Progression through this game takes a little while to figure out but it almost plays like a modern game. You can either explore the area or fast forward to the next day by sleeping. Not much of your surroundings changes other than what the queen’s hounds are doing. Other than giving the queen gifts on the occasionssion there isn’t much else to do. The game doesn’t offer the reader any puzzles, they aren’t pressured to do anything until the queen demands it, it’s almost as if the game is lacking in areas. The game loves to pick at your brain. From customizing the queen and her accessories, to the idea of what’s real and what isn’t. Although the game may be lacking in “objectives” the story really pulls the reader in, especially after the queen releases her spores. The little details and the anticipation as the action begins to pick up really grabs the reader’s attention.

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Interactive Fiction – February 15, 2019

Although hypertext fiction brought the avant-garde audience to the computer in the nineties, interactive fiction brought the future gamers looking for story-driven interaction in the seventies. Despite being older, IF has actually managed to stay more relevant than hypertext fiction over the years, likely due to it being easier to approach as the player, or interactor, has more control over the story.

Scott Rettberg describes the term “interactor” in his novel Electronic Literature, which is basically a term for a person playing a piece of IF: “as the interactor moves through these environments, he or she interacts with objects and characters within the space, and those interactions determine how the story will unfold” (Rettberg, 89). Interactive fiction and hypertext fiction hold many similarities, but interaction fiction often has the goal of trying to put the interactor into the story for an immersive experience.

In order to accomplish this, a common stylistic choice of IF is second-person writing. Two examples of this are Emily Short’s “Galatea” and Porpentine’s “With Those We Love Alive”. “Galatea” is based on the Greek mythology story of Pygmalion of Cyprus, who fell in love with an ivory statue he carved, resulting in the goddess Aphrodite bringing the statue to life. In “Galatea”, the interactor talks to an android who knows little about herself and her creator other than that she is not human and, therefore, is treated differently. As the interactor, commands can be made to prompt the character to talk to Galatea, ask questions, look around the environment, and more. What is so fascinating about “Galatea” is that despite having around 70 possible endings, the entire story takes place in one room speaking to one person, Galatea. The amount of different pathways and conversations that the interactor can prompt by trying all sorts of various commands makes Galatea stand out as a prominent and influential piece of IF.

In Porpentine’s “With Those We Love Alive”, the interactor works as an artificer for an alien queen, trying to please her by crafting items for her all while exploring the palace and inserting glyphs into yourself. During my playthrough, I chose to insert the glyphs prompted and build the items requested by the queen, but there is a lot of variance in how the interactor can move the story along and choose to interact with the environment. With the addition of music and a wide range of colors, “With Those We Love Alive” is an immersive and emotional piece of IF.

What these two examples of IF have in common are their focus on story. While many pieces of IF resolve around game mechanics like puzzles, these two pieces set out to make the interactor feel something. Short’s focus on storytelling, narrative, and character arcs draws the interactor into crafting the story that they want to be told, while Porpentine’s bittersweet piece that could be read as commentary on government and more makes the interactor think carefully about every choice in customization and behavior they make.

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IF and Games: A Look into Twine Narratives

Both of Porpentine’s Twine narratives engulf the interactor into the work, immersing them in the fiction as their eyes trace the words along each line.

Porpentine’s earlier work, “Howling Dogs,” truly portrays a dark sense both with the language used–the way the first line alone reads the moment the user goes to read the work–and also by the colors on the page, immediately opening to an inverted color scheme as though the thin white letters on the page would be sucked in to the massive darkness surrounding them. Not too far into this work, the interactor is provided with a sort of map or at the very least a text description of the environmental layout.

Upon exploring the various areas, more times than not a dead-end will be reached, providing a sense of stuck-ness or being trapped. Visiting the lavatory then the shower within gave an even stronger sense that reinforced that very feeling of confinement.

The shower is a peaceful time for you, a way of demarcating space within extremely limited space, moisture and temperature standing in for spatiality. This is wet space, warm space, flowing space.

Porpentine is very purposeful about what type of language to use in certain situations. Even so, when it comes to goals or puzzles, the text itself is a giant mystery to be unraveled. The user must explore various areas and put the pieces of information together to simply figure out what is going on and then what they feel they are supposed to do. This is true of both “Howling Dogs” and “With Those We Love Alive,” both of which were created by Porpentine.

The difference between the two however, is how complexly they are laid out, the stories themselves, and that the later created IF (“With Those We Love Alive”) also uses sound and various other color schemes to immerse the interactor and communicate certain, very specific feelings and messages as they explore the work.

They are both a matter of solving the big unanswered question by finding and putting together the puzzle pieces hidden throughout the text. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t, and sometimes you just have to try again. Can’t that very same thing be said about everyday life?


Porpentine’s “Howling Dogs”
Porpentine’s “With Those We Love Alive”

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Blog Post 3

Image result for minecraft story mode Over the years, hypertext has been non stop evolving. With Afternoon, a story being one of the earliest forms of written hypertext, now in the modern day it has evolved into something as simple as someone tweeting a hashtag. This has all happen just within a decade. Before that it was just links on websites such as wikipedia, but know you can find forms of hypertext within video games. One game industry that I absolutely love takes the idea of hypertext into their storytelling creating multiple games with many choices that the player gets to make that will affect how the story will be told. They produced games coming from the universes of The Walking Dead, Minecraft, and Borderlands. However very recently I discovered that their Minecraft game that the produced has been put up on Netflix. This surprised me when I saw this so I of course wanted to try this to see how they brought a branching narrative game and put it on Netflix. Turns out you would click links that would cause what the main character would do or say and I was amazed. I was hoping that this was some sort of test and was wanting more hypertext stories to come onto Netflix. Shortly after Netflix introduced Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch. I interacted with it multiple times getting multiple new stories from this work. This is where I think the future of hypertext literacy will evolve to. It’s so interesting and new I believe that within a decade we will find a lot more work similar to this on a lot more platforms and mediums.

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Blog Post 2

Image result for the babysitters club books

When I read The Babysitter I felt I followed along the story pretty well. I could tell whose perspective was whose and what was happening in the story despite the random time changes. But then as I got to the end I got completely lost. I read through the ending again and it seemed like there were multiple realities going on all at once, some good and some really terrible. This made me think that if I read this story on twine or some other form of hypertext, it would be a lot easier to follow. The story seemed very cluttered in this regard. There are multiple narrative paths and through hypertext, with just a click of a word or phrase it could take you on a different path.  Though because The Babysitter wasn’t written in hypertext it allowed the story to be mysterious. As I read it I, I would read each new paragraph and try to figure out whose perspective it was whether it was a main character or even something just playing on the TV.

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Blog 5 – 2/15/19


After sifting through these games that I would not consider ever playing if I had not taken this class, I found two that were very well created. I felt all the other games besides Blackbar, and Device 6 was lacking a great structure and were very obnoxious. Device 6 to some may not be a game in the most real sense; it requires a strict amount of attention. A series of short stories combined with interactive riddles.

Device 6 starts with a girl named Anna who seems to have a bit of a problem remembering how or why she is in a castle. Device 6 the game is full of strange devices and cryptic clues. Strange audio sounds and tons of locked doors to open divides this game into six separate chapters. The game has a minimalist art style and fantastic audio. What’s unexpected about this game is it is mostly just text, but the story opens up like a book in that you swipe through words, but the structure is very abnormal. The text shifts to suit the gameplay. For example, the text will stagger like a staircase when you are moving down and will even split, twist and turn.

there are moments you will have to solve interactive devices that are password protected or need a code. There are audio clues throughout the game so you must have audio enabled. This game gives you many different ways to interact through text and audio, but those aren’t just the things that keep the story moving, the text is also the game’s map.

As for the game Blackbar, I found it was a bit slow and somewhat frustrating. If you are able to get something right, you will advance through the story, if you get the answer wrong you sit in limbo until your next guess. It’s a touching and somewhat difficult game about loss and language, and while it doesn’t seem like a game of the normal stature Blackbar gives us a story of communication between two women and parts of their letters have been blacked out by a dictator like system, like censorship. You must fill in the words that have been blacked out. Some of the words are a common sense solving Other parts of the game will have you solve a word puzzle, or put your memory to the test from an earlier conversation. Some puzzles are a bit mysterious, but there’s enough reasoning behind them that, when you FINALLY figure out the HARD ones, you can breathe again. The narrative is what really makes this game. It’s about the importance of language and the price of censorship.

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Blog 4 – War

The piece I chose for this blog post was My Boyfriend Came Back From the War. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the first page and the imagery that followed. It appeared to have a happy ending, although there was a section where the soldier may have suspected the woman of cheating with her neighbor, I believe. And she begs him not to kill the neighbor. Throughout, they talk about the idea of a guy being able to change his ways so perhaps the war affected the boyfriend in ways that the woman is concerned about. At the end someone asks the other to marry them but they don’t want to marry right away, how about next month?

I am familiar with the format of graphic novels, Japanese or American, so it was easy for me to pick up on a way of reading the story that made some sense, it just wasn’t clear to me at times, who may have been speaking, when. The girl asks if he likes her new dress, amongst the section where they talk about if he could change as a person. Is there a way someone could love him? I got the sense that perhaps the boyfriend had been deployed for a number of years and hadn’t seen his girlfriend since he left for the war. The dialogue seemed disjointed at times and it gave me the impression of perhaps a strained relationship. The way that I was forced to track what was happening made imagine that perhaps the two in this relationship are unsure of each other, after all this time.

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Small Victories: Memes and Net language

Des, Deborah, Christine, and Sydney

(Loading problems)

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Music Streaming in the 90’s

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Jake Martin, Dylan Niehaus, Elaina Sundwall, Mason Stiller Net Art

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Holly, Mariah, and Kathleen – Dropbox Site

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Small Victories

Jazz Jackson

Joel Cummings

Jarid Schoenlein

Shawn Sims

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My Boyfriend Came Back From The War

What I really liked about the story “My Boyfriend Came Back From the War” is the story. From what I can gather of the story it appears that the story is that the boyfriend comes back from the Gulf War, and him and his girlfriend are sitting next to each other, with their backs turned. Neither are looking at one another which is a powerful image that really sets the tone for what is to come. The use of visuals in general is incredibly important and well done. I like how on the right is the girlfriend and on the left is her boyfriend who returned from deployment. Between them is a frame, which (I may be reading into this) I argue signifies the rift that has been created, as displayed by the fact that there is a picture of a helicopter off in the distance; representing how war has ultimately created a rift between them. Her cheating on him also creates that rift.

One of the things I noticed was that as the dialogue progressed, the frames continually grew smaller and smaller, this was pointed out in Net Art Anthology’s piece about this hypertext story. Like what was discussed above, this fragmentation serves as a way to further represent the breaking down of the relationship between the two of them.

What is nice is that unlike earlier hypertext stories like Victory Garden is that it isn’t huge walls of text. Olia really utilizes the visuals to tell the story, the dialogue is more an addition to it all. Olia could’ve just used visuals alone and I argue that the general story would’ve been just as easy to follow.

The only issue I took was with the ending, because it doesn’t show who is talking I had a hard time figuring out who was talking and who was not.


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Does Net Art Equal Net Difference From Hypertext?

Farinsky Blog 4: Net Art

Related image
A page from “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” by Olia Lialina

“My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” by Olia Lialina is work classified as net art, but looks incredibly similar to hypertext fiction. To read this work you click on links which subdivide the screen as each story path propagates new text and images. One significant difference seems to be that all the narrative paths seem to stay on screen, and accessible to the reader, unlike most hypertext which rarely gives map, or an overview of where the reader is.

Like hypertext “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” carries many linear narrative paths that exist at the same time. Each segment of the screen represents one path, and divides to show complexity quickly as one box becomes 2, 4, or 8 as represented by the image above. It is overwhelming to track each piece but still intriguing as the narrative plays out in the reader’s imagination and on screen through snippets of dialogue. The pace of this story is quick- often boxes contain less than 15 words so reading and clicking the next link is significantly less spaced than typical hypertext works. It reads like a conversation by mirroring the speed of a in-person dialogue.

Perhaps net art and hypertext are the same thing, but only separated because they did not exist within platforms such as Story Space like many other famous works of hypertext fiction. If what truly separates net art from hypertext is self publishing through java script perhaps a better name should be “independent hypertext” rather than “net art”. Calling this type of work net art leans credibility away from connotations of the word “literature” because they resemble art with literary features just as much as hypertext resemble any traditional example of literature. Self-publication of a book or a website is significantly different than going through a traditional publisher or using a program with prescribed layouts to create stories however it is not necessarily different enough to call the product a separate entity if publication method is the only significant difference as it appears here.

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What is Grammatron?

I spent hours last night, lost in the surreal world that is Mark Amerika’s Grammatron. Not knowing how to approach this unique piece, I did the only thing I could think of and dived right in. I looked at the “about” page, clicked begin, then  clicked the first link I was prompted with, marked ‘high bandwidth version,’ because heck, compared to the internet of ’97, I should hope my rig will hold up. A new window pops up, blaring surreal synth music and artificially altered vocals, I’m redirected to a web page with bright, clashing colors, distorted cyber-punk images, and text that appears just a little faster than I can comfortably read them. The assault of strangely retro-future-cyberspeak and neologisms, along with trying to process the unusualy pictures and understand the voice playing in the background, created an uncomfortable disorientation as my brain struggled to keep up with all the information being presented. Then just when I became accustomed to it, it stopped…

The rest of my experience with Grammatron what, in comparison to the previous multi-media onslaught, could be called a more traditional HyperText experience. Text appeared on the page in front of me, only periodically punctuated with images and audio. The blue hyperlinks in the text prompted me to continue the narrative, but as I struggled to understand the meaning of the words in front of me, I found myself clicking links randomly, hoping to progress the story in some way and hopefully find clarity.

The text seemed to circle in on itself, never quite the same, becoming more legible as time went on. Looking back, I’m unsure how much of the actual text changed and how much of it was merely my perception with my growing understanding of the strange world of Grammatron. My previous experiences with kabbalah and cyberpunk tropes helped me little at first as I attempted to reconcile the metaphysical and digital aspects of the story, as well as the overtly sexual aspects of the narrative. But sure enough, it started to make a strange sort of sense.

The next day, I’m looking back and trying to remember my experience going through Grammatron. The details of the narrative still seems largely unclear to me, as well as the finer aspects of the world-building. What I’m left with is more an impression, an impression of being lost in a sensory whirlwind, a struggling for clarity that seemed to mirror the bizarre protagonist.

HyperText fiction has a unique ability to allow us to tap into and interact with the experience of a story. In Grammatron, the viewer is thrown into the stream-of-consciousness of Golam’s inner thoughts. The use of multi-media, both audio and video, are made of excellent use to help reinforce this. Although chaotic, the experience is certainly carefully constructed, and I know I’m hitting just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

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Grammatron and Structure

Line 2 c of the definition of created by Natalie Bookchin & Alexei Shulgin describes as:

By realizing ways out of entrenched values arising from structured system of theories and ideologies

This single line in the definition of could be extended to include many different types of electronic literature.

The non-linear nature and aspects of variability enabled by electronic literature allow for the deconstruction of structures that are used to signal meaning in other types of media. A typical movie will follow a paradigm, a structure that signals to the viewer when certain aspects of the story are important and why. The viewer knows they will first be met by an exposition, and they expect a resolution at the end, with interest and conflict in between. Many movie critiques center around whether a movie met this structure, and if it signaled what aspects of the story the viewer should take notice of by using structure. Electronic literature often makes no attempts at helping the viewer make sense of the content. The unsatisfying nature of many pieces of E-lit is what spurns the reader forwards in the story, making the consumer work for the meaning the author has embedded in the work, rather than presenting the meaning in a structure the viewer is familiar with.

Grammatron is an example of that makes no effort for the reader to make sense of or even be comfortable with the piece. Grammatron refers to itself as a writing machine, introduces a creature, an image of a nosferatu-esque face covered in text, mentions the concept of gender, and displays text that creates the illusion of self-awareness. An eery audio files appears in a popup upon beginning the traversal, and the aspects of the piece, the writing machine, the creature, and self-awareness, are gradually revealed in the beginning, but in different orders from traversal to traversal. Grammatron does not prepare the viewer with what the content will be about. The piece and the authors description of it in the Mark Amerika article are deliberately vague., like much of electronic literature, makes no effort to be palatable or sense-making to the reader. demands that the viewer be invested and investigate the E-lit to reveal the meaning of the piece and create the viewers own unique understanding of the experience.

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My Boyfriend Came Back from the War

While I’ve explored all of the works presented to us for this week’s blog discussion, I’m particularly intrigued by Olia Lialina’s work “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War”.

One distinct feature of Lialina’s work in comparison to other hypertext fiction works is that it is far more linear and finite. Each link will only bring about a few more options for one to click on before the link disappears, forcing the reader to move on to the next link of their choice. Additionally, my personal experience in regards to navigating through the work led me to read it in a similar way time after time, due to the fact that the entire work laid out on one screen and my natural inclination was to navigate through the work from left to right.

The defining feature of “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” that sets it apart from other works of hypertext fiction is Lialina’s use of animated and still imagery to enhance the story. As stated in the Net Art Anthology article in regards to the work,

My Boyfriend Came Back from the War highlights the parallels and divergences between cinema and the web as artistic and mass mediums”

Lialina does an excellent job of incorporating imagery into her work by both maintaining certain images on the page throughout the work, as well as by creatively turning certain images into links that lead either to other images or to text that progresses the story further.

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How my Boyfriend Came Back From the War is set apart

In My Boyfriend Came Back From the War, Lialina immediately captures the user’s attention with the affordances hypertext provide. People who are used to print might be thrown off by the black background with white text. Combinatory poetics are used greatly. The story is organized by several boxes that each contain their own string of dialogue or thought. When the user clicks on a box, the next phrase appears. As the about page points out, the user can click on the boxes in whichever order they want, thereby putting the user in a spot where they potentially must memorize the content of several boxes at a time. This personally makes me interpret the structure of work as something akin to the person’s mind constantly jumping between several thoughts when they meet a person they care about for the first time in a long while. The images used are reflective of the author’s present situation and those like the clock and 20th Century Fox logo are symbols. It’s important that many of the images are also things that can be clicked on, oftentimes appearing instead of text. Images aren’t used to compliment the story, but also partly tell it. This and the other works differ from earlier hypertext by being quicker, having more variety in their content, and being free to access online.

“With its use of browser frames, hypertext, and images (both animated and still), My Boyfriend Came Back from the War highlights the parallels and divergences between cinema and the web as artistic and mass mediums, and explores the then-emerging language of the net.”

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A look at World of Awe

In reading World of Awe, the way it is presented made me think of the old CD-ROM games I used to play as a kid. Following the journey of “the traveler” the reader is bounced from first-person accounts to letters he has written to a lover. Also one gets the sense that technology is very precious in this fictional world, as the traveler seeks out any piece he can find, in this virtual desert.

I did find it extremely helpful to read the “about world of awe” piece, because there were some parts of the reading I was unsure of, and it was able to clarify certain plot points. Like the fact that the letters on the computer were unsent, to the traveler’s unknown lover. In the first chapter, he speaks about this person with great yearning, saying how he carries around a piece of cloth of their’s just for comfort.

The intertextuality between this piece and Uncle Buddy’s Phantom Funhouse is what caught me. They both are fragmented looks at a person’s life. Although personally, I preferred World of Awe to Funhouse. The story is easier to follow, and maybe it’s the 90’s kid in me but I liked the format, it definitely felt familiar and nostalgic.

This is not a story that has much variability unless one chooses to read the chapters out of order. Which with most of the readings so far that has been the case.

The artwork I think is a key part of telling the story, it adds another layer of understanding with these visual references.

Overall, I really enjoyed this piece.


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My Boyfriend Came Back from the War

I chose to go more in depth with the work “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” because it seemed to have peaked my interest the most and I’m glad that I read it. It’s just a simple story by Olia Lialina and supplies a lot of the HTML elements to it. The story is told through the narrative of two individuals, the girlfriend and the boyfriend and it’s about the two lovers reuniting after the boyfriend came back from the war. The story uses, what looks like to be, old school pictures and still images to tell the story as well as a kind of multilinear structure that when you press on a fragment it splits in half and gives us two choices on what we want to do in that situation.

“Lialina aptly uses the web to interrogate our understandings of the production and organization of memory, a question that structures her practice to this day. In keeping with this, she considers the numerous artistic remakes and remixes of the piece an extension of her initial investigation.”

I felt like the story taught us that even with an incomplete story you can still finish it, just opening you imagination and open your interpretation on the story piece. The themes that I found behind this work was really intriguing. I saw that there was pulsing imagery with the window as well as intertitles after each of the splitting images. One last thing that I would like to touch up on is that I felt like this story is really sending us a message but the problem is I don’t really know what message it is; it could be that were still at war in the middle east or maybe the fact that war changes people, once the individual leaves they will not come back the same person. Like I said… open to your interpretations.

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World of Awe

When I was reading each of these pieces I had so many different reactions and emotional responses. When I first read Grammatron, I was mostly just confused but with both World of Awe, and my boyfriend came back from war I was enthralled. The ability to have your reader interact with the piece allows them to feel more engaged. When I was going through World of Awe I really did feel that sensation on loneliness and wandering as well as the need to find the treasure. The ability to click around the desktop and look at the love letters then move back to the “journal” allows us as the readers to set our own pace. The use of multilinearity in all of these pieces in interesting, when looking at world of awe it is multi linear due to the different places you start from like with the love letters or with the actual notes or even with a different chapter. When you look at My boyfriend came back from the war it is much more open by each ‘window/cell’ that you can click on is a contained thought. While in conjunction working with the cells around it this kind of path I overall linear but you will most likely find yourself going through this piece slightly differently every time. The way that each piece has addressed hypermedia, and net art covers vastly different but they all share on thing in common, the digital space.

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Net Art: Coming Back From War

Olia Lialina’s, My Boyfriend Came Back from The War is the net art fiction I chose to read. Lialina’s net art fiction differs from the hypermedia styles, such as multilinearity, variability, combinatory poetics etc. She uses elements of HTML to convey a cinematic story. Her work of hypertext fiction tells the story of a young woman reuniting with her boyfriend after he returns from war. She uses browser frames, hypertext, and images. Lialina wrote her fiction is in a style she calls net language. Lialina states, “If something is in the net, it should speak in NET.LANGUAGE” The net. language style is emphasized in this work which stray amid cinema and the web as creative and mass mediums.

I like the interaction between the still and animated images. I feel that the interplay between the text and the images helps create a cinematic feel. It’s almost like watching a silent movie. I think it is interesting that the reader advances the story by clicking on hyperlinked, disconnected expressions and pictures. With each click on the picture or text, the browser viewport splits into several smaller frames. I did get a macabre haunting feeling from the still and animated images. This style of hypertext fiction works to really create a ghoulish mood. I actually thought story was going to go into a dark territory. Lialina’s work keeps the reader involved by using images to create tension. I kept clicking on the text and pictures, because I thought the boyfriend was going to return to his love damaged from the war.

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My Boyfriend Came Back from the War – February 8, 2019

Olia Lialina’s 1996 hypertext fiction piece “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” set out to bring a cinematic narrative to the computer with its  black-and-white images and intertitles that harken back to silent films. Although it is not the most complex example of hypertext fiction, it stands out to me not only for its simplicity but also because of its multilinearity. As the reader clicks through the story, the screen divides more and more into various windows that each hold a part of the story. Although the piece does not contain variability in the conventional way of a randomized experience upon each session, the multilinearity allows for the story to be read in different orders. It may not be true variability, but it is an extremely basic version of it.

“My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” is a solid starting point for hypertext fiction, due its basic composition and short length. And, despite taking just a few minutes to complete reading, it holds many similarities with “newer” hypertext pieces of fiction around its time, such as Mark Amerika’s “GRAMMATRON” and Yael Kanarek’s “World of Awe”. Perhaps the most notable similarity is its heavy implementation of moving images, or GIFs. It can also be defined as an example of “net art”, likely one of the first.

Lialina’s piece stands as a basic example of the second wave of hypertext fiction during the late 90’s that implemented more advanced computer graphics and technology that was exploding alongside hypertext fiction. Its gritty animation that pays homage to silent film connects the medium to media of the past and opens the door for hypertext fiction to intertwine with more forms of media.

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Net Art & Hypermedia

I chose to explore Grammatron, which featured several similarities to hypertext. The combinatory poetics of gradation reminded me of several works of hypertext that we looked at, especially since it did not seem to have a strict guideline set upon itself when it comes to formatting. Many of the sentences that lashed on screen changed their formatting and switched between common sentence structure to haiku structure and other simple poetic structures. This piece differs from hypertxt fiction however, in the sense that it is achieving a more immersive feeling for the audience with the combination of simultaneous audio, video, and text. I found this very interesting, and it made me think that the style of this media would make a compelling horror story (especially since this piece played out very similar to a horror story itself). I think combining the idea of a machine taking over the viewer with flashing imagery, and a frankly disturbing audio track in the background would be much more cohesive in a video format (and would have the potential to be quite the frightening film).

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Blog 4: World of Awe

This week I chose to read and blog about World of Awe, an electronic work that has three chapters: “Forever”, “Deconstruction and Mending”, and “Object of Desire”.On the main screen you have the choice of which chapter you want to start with by clicking on their individual icons. The first chapter has a computer above it, the second chapter has a bomb, and the third has some sort of odd shape that I can’t quite figure out. Beneath these icons we are given a setting about a world that is parallel to ours. Death is undefined, gravity is a choice, and thirst is never a problem.

Since I was given the choice of where to start I decided to click on the second chapter that had the bomb icon. Chapter two opens up a separate little window that has a couple of tabs up top and four more buttons that you can click on in the middle. Each of the buttons takes you to a different area. There’s the Minefield, the Pearl, Celebration, and Computer’s Inventory. The level of multilinearity in this work is kind of uncomfortable (to me anyway). I was a little bit unsure of where to start. The layout of the work was more like a really old computer game. You had your “center” or “map” with locations and at the top you had your “menu” of sorts. For now, I would like to focus more on the story of this electronic work.

At the top of most of the documents are a list of keywords, the protagonist’s physical condition, and the surface’s “expression”. For the most part our hero, Whirr, seems to be traversing through a dessert. Unfortunately for this guy, he can’t seem to catch a break. If you go to the minefield you’ll notice that his foot is missing some toes and his right ear is missing some pieces of itself. If you’re a huge empath like I am, you can feel his pain and struggle as if it were your own. Although we are told this I feel as if some of the text almost takes away these feelings. The text itself is very detailed but once in awhile you come across a word such as “moo” or “eep” that just doesn’t seem to belong. The text is also in different colors which ruins it’s atmosphere and consistency. Sometimes it’s blue or red, other times it’s yellow, green, and orange. The color sometimes stops midway in a word and is never seen in the protagonist’s love letters. You can feel their love and tangled emotions in the letters. A pearl that was a memento from his lover gradually made it’s way from their arm down to their foot. This part made me a bit anxious so I had to reread it to get the full affect. I believe the pearl is representation of where he feels his longing for her. He didn’t want her warmth and affection to ever leave him, which is why he felt sorrow when the pearl fell out from his eye at one point. It was almost like reading a poem/story from Japan. Stories that have a certain presence and meaning behind them.

I had trouble proceeding with the third chapter due to some language issues so I went on to the first chapter. There was no audio for the second chapter so I was surprised to find an audio file here. The audio is made up of wind sounds against a vast, open dessert with an occassional random noise. A siren, a robot, beeping, etc.It feels alien, almost unsettling even. The text in the first chapter is squished together in places and moving around in others. If you were to leave the literary work at any time it would say “Yours 4ever” just like what Whirr writes at the bottom of his love letters. You are his lover.

Overall this work was much easier to navigate and comprehend compared to Taroko Gorge and The Babysitter.It was still a lot to take it and quite a bit to dig into but the navigation was more organized. Things had a certain flow to them. The character Whirr reflected the harshness and dangers of the surrounding environment while his letters reflected his emotions and inner turmoils towards his lover and himself. We didn’t see this in the babysitter. In the babysitter the reader was a watcher. We were being shown things and given dialogue but very rarely were we given depth on a character’s inner thought. In The Babysitter, we barely scratched the surface. Taroko Gorge was albeit more simplified than World of Awe but both really wanted to drive the point across as to what they wanted to show us.


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A Refreshing Take on Hypertext

Image result for my boyfriend came back from the war

Recently, I have had the pleasure of exploring a work titled “My boyfriend Came Back From the war” by Olia Lialina. In doing so, I saw many themes that harkened back to previous hypertext works. Multilinearity was the most evident of these, as the reader is presented with multiple paths to choose from in the form of hyperlinks. Another theme I noticed was the use of fragmented text; the idea of presenting a story in only small passages at a time is not commonly found outside of hypertext works. Third, the reflexivity— the author’s awareness of the medium—was very evident. Lialina saw the affordances provided by HTML and capitalized on it, presenting multiple blocks of text at once to the reader and utilizing customizable line bars. Like some hypertexts, it was also a multimedia work, and contained images that helped to enhance its meaning to the reader (the darker tones and blurry images enforce the idea that the union of the lover and the boyfriend was not a happy one.) 

Despite the references to earlier hypertext works, Lialina’s piece also differed from them in key ways. The first thing that caught my attention was the ability for the reader to slide various bars across the screen to enlarge or shrink the text within a given cell. This strongly contrasts with my past experiences with hypertexts work, where the reader is usually presented with a single, unmoving cell at a time. This work allows the reader to not only customize their experience, but to also experiment with a work on another level not offered in earlier hypertexts like “Uncle buddy’s Phantom Funhouse” or “Afternoon: A Story”.  It invited me to not only view the work, but to also participate in its creation by reorganizing the cells. I found this to be quite engaging as a reader, as I could position the texts in ways that changed my understanding of the story being told. By allowing the reader to engage with the work in this way, 

“Lialina aptly uses the web to interrogate our understandings of the production and organization of memory.” ( 

Another aspect I noticed about this piece that differed from earlier hypertext works was its small size. Most of the published hypertexts that I have seen are larger and more complex. I have a feeling that if Lialina had run this work by a publishing company, they may have been slightly underwhelmed. Though her work does deserve attention, it made sense to me that she would choose to post “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” online rather than attempting to impress various publishers. 

To conclude, I found Lialina’s work to be a refreshing break from the conventionalities of hypertext while also following traditions that had been previously set in place. Though the piece is small, it introduces new ways for readers to experience hypertext that makes her a true pioneer in the field.

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Dylan Niehaus Blog 4 – Net Art


My Boyfriend Came Back from the War is a piece of net art that I found to be quite interesting. Like many other pieces of electronic literature we have looked at in class, I had a difficult time pulling a straightforward story or narrative from this piece. Despite this, My Boyfriend Came Back from the War captured my attention with the interesting way in which it is laid out. It begins with a piece of hyperlinked white text on a black background. Once you click on this text, it creates white graphic images that are displayed against the black background. Some of the images are clickable. When you click on those specific images, the page creates more images and pieces of text that are separated by white borders. Eventually, the web page will contain many different grids, each containing their own little narrative path of clickable pieces of text and images.

This piece of art has an incredibly visual style of multilinearity. There are many different pieces of linear narratives happening, but they are visually separated by the grid squares in which they are held. This leads to a multilinear experience that is easier for the reader to visualize.

Variability is also present in this piece, but not in the typical way that one may think. Variability is not present in the work itself. What I mean by this is that there are no algorithms or pieces of code that make the work different each time a reader opens it. The work always remains the same. In this case, the variability in this piece comes from the way in which the reader decides to approach it. Since there is no linear path when it comes to clicking on images and pieces of text in this work, the way it is approached by readers will always be different. Then again, this can apply to all pieces of electronic literature that always remain the same in structure but allow a reader to follow their own path.  

When compared to the earlier pieces of hypertext fiction viewed in class, My Boyfriend Came Back from the War does more when it comes to visual interaction between images and texts. Earlier pieces of hypertext fiction explored in class had a much heavier focus on different narrative paths explored through textual links, while My Boyfriend Came Back from the War combines both text and images to create a seamless multilinear experience. The reader’s eyes are constantly wandering around the page, seeing different pieces of a linear narrative. My Boyfriend Came Back from the War leaves it up to the reader to decide which panels grab their attention the most to advance each narrative path in the order that they choose. The reader may even decide to read different panels one after another in their own order, creating an entirely different narrative from what may have been intended. Overall, the visual grid-panel style of My Boyfriend Came Back from the War is an excellent addition and piece to explore in the world of electronic literature and net art. 

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My Boyfriend Came Back From The War?

“My Boyfriend Came Back From The War” is a very interesting hypertext story. It starts off as one big screen, and as you click on images or the hypertext links, the boxes split up and become smaller and smaller. At the “end” of the story, all the boxes are just black boxes with white outlining with no text or images inside. The story is about a man who comes back from some type of war and him and his girlfriend are having various conversations depending which links you choose. In one area the boy proposes to her, and they decide to get married the next month. In another, it is revealed that while he was away the girlfriend cheated on him with the neighbor, and then begs her boyfriend not to kill him. It’s interesting because there isn’t much storytelling going on, a lot of it is up to reader interpretation. The few lines of dialogue there are in the story rarely have more than a few words. I also like the use of the images as links as well, such as the different clocks and the images of the couple. It’s possible I just went through the story wrong, or wasn’t able to figure out how to explore it to its full extent, but for the most part there didn’t really seem to be that much of an option for the reader. It seemed once you starting working your way through a box, even if there were different options they would all lead to the same place. I guess it could be seen as multilinear based on which box you choose, as each one can be perceived as a different storyline. However the way I looked at it they were just multiple different conversations that went on after he came back.

Like most hypertext, this confused me. However, I did really enjoy the aesthetic used of the boxes slowly getting smaller and smaller as you progressed through the story and were able to make different choices. I think I got the main idea of what the story was, as well as some of the more important outcomes for the storylines. Like I said above, I also enjoyed the relationship between the images and the pieces of text in this. It really feels like it blends together that much better and I love in the beginning that you click on the image of his face, and then once it splits up you have the option to click on his face again. I like the grainy black and white style the pictures have going on, it makes the story have more of a sinister feeling to it, almost like you’re not getting the whole story of what’s happening between the two (which I don’t believe we are, I think there’s much more to the story). It’s different from other pieces we’ve seen in the past because usually you pick one story and pursue it, and if you want to pick a different route you start over. This one you can go through every single route right after each other without having to restart or go again, since they’re all on the same page.

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World of Awe: A Traveler’s Tale

Web-born works opened a lot of doors for those with the ambition to explore, experiment and create in a similar yet altered environment from being solely digital in origin but not accessible far and wide to the public.

World of Awe is particularly interesting because of how deep the immersion into this work goes. The sound encourages a feeling of solidarity almost to the point of being lost in some deserted area with how the wind howls in the background. The occasional buzz or tune of a computer, a voice singing and laughing, circus and electronic music, and typing all combined together. When the chapter opens, it appears as though you are actually on an older style computer interface.

Examining the content on the computer, you discover travel logs, love letters, maps (Eep [Digital] and Moo [Leather]), and all the while exploring this content, the background on the computer changes as if going through time and seeing the various backup files piled up on top of each other. There’s clearly something wrong within the work (all intentionally no doubt) with the computer or the person searching for the lost treasure. The work has a dark sense surrounding it from the start, a sort of twisted essence that lingers, carrying through at a constant. At one point in love letter 654/638, the traveler writes,

This bit is written, indented in such a way that it is almost as if they are writing a poem and yet the words themselves, repeating over and over sound like that of a madman. The traveler repeats themselves quite a lot throughout the note over all, calling it a joke but still marking at the end that they’re continuing to search for the lost treasure.

Looking at the work as a whole, it fully embraces not only the concept of multi-linearity as you explore the contents of the computer and put the pieces together in your mind or write down notes, but World of Awe also touches upon poetic formatting, moving image and various sounds. The interface takes advantage of the navigation system, or perhaps it is actually the navigation system taking advantage of the interface. Yael Kanarek clearly took the opportunity to explore the options available to her when creating this work. Compared to older works of hypertext, again it does feel more immersive while interacting, listening, and exploring the interface. However, with that in mind, it is by no means an “easy” work to traverse through.

“Introduction to Net.Art (1994-1999)” by Natalie Bookchin & Alexei Shulgin
World of Awe by Yael Kanarek
The Rhizome Anthology entry on Yael Kanarek’s World of Awe: The Traveler’s Journal (Chapter 1: Forever)

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Blog 4 – 2/8/19

I had first heard of “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” when I started at WSU in 2017. Now that I have gone through a few different DTC classes I have clicked through this story on multiple occasions, and it seems to get more interesting every time I look more into it.  Olia Lialina’s story, uses simple HTML elements to communicate a somewhat haunting like a cinematic narrative. Olia Lialina’s story tells the story of a young lady who is reuniting with her love, after his return from war. The story makes use of browser frames, hypertext, and also includes both animated and still images. This story highlights the artistic similarities and separations between cinema and the web as mediums, and explores the early language of the internet. The author uses the web to question our understandings of the story and organization of memory through a set of on-screen graphics that are clickable.

The story is somewhat Incomplete which opens up a user’s imagination through navigation and reinterpretation of the piece. “My Boyfriend Came Back from the War” demonstrates the possibility to use the internet as a way to remember, together. The work brought cinematic themes such as pulsing imagery, intertitles, and close-ups of actors into an interactive, multilinear structure of hypertext. As you click on each fragment, the browser window splits into smaller and smaller frames. When interacting with this story a user can advance through the story by clicking on the hyperlinks, images, and incomplete phrases. I like this story. For how old this story is, I get a feeling that it was written in more modern times, being that we are still at war in the middle east.

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Blog Post 1

Taroko Gorge had an really interesting piece of work. When I first opened it, I observed it for a really long time trying to make sense of it. I tried to piece the sentences together to see if it made a story or a statement. While I couldn’t quite piece any of the words or sentences together I did notice a pattern in the work. The sentences all would say very similar things. It when I went through this piece of work I noticed how this one sentence would say “encompassing objective dim-“, “encompassing cool-“, “encompassing sinuous straight dim”, and “stamp the straight objective dim-“. This was only one sentence pattern that I noticed as I noticed as the sentences kept coming, it would cause more words to be in different and similar patterns. I remember learning about Dadaist when I took 101 and out of all the digital artist Dadaist and surrealist stood out to me the most. I find Dada real interesting and when I took a look at this work after I read the chapters it reminded me of it. Gorge, like all other Dadaists, have created something that I would have never before thought existed. Its so interesting to me seeing the types of things bots can create. 

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Hypertext Fiction 2

I see the future of hypertext fiction evolving as a literary form that will become much more accessible for people. I think that it’s a given that everyone has the ability to write hypertext, but not everyone is aware of hypertext, thus creating a genre that is somewhat rare. Since Twine is such a streamlined software, that I can see it’s popularity growing even more throughout the years, as us and technology evolves. The link-based structure and nonlinearity of hypertext allows artists to express their ideas in a way that comes as close to entering their individual thought process as possible. Nonlinearity has been around since the Soviet Montage Theory of the 1920s and has only evolved since then, and will continue to do so. Nonlinearity has been expressed through literature, film, etc. and I believe it has a place in every art form.

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The Future of Hypertext

As one who is coming late to the genre of electronic literature, and thus to the form of hypertext fiction, the genre and form are still exciting to me. I may have less than a dozen Twine stories under my belt and my stories are utterly simplistic compared to what others have done, but I still feel curious and inspired when it comes to hypertext fiction. I like to imagine that others feel the same. Truthfully, I don’t have to imagine. Electronic literature as a field of study is still fairly new, and Rettberg’s book is one of the first real academic works on the subject. It was highly anticipated, and that’s because people are still very much interested in it; its forms, function, origin, and future.

The form of hypertext, using the word “form” loosely here, is almost neurological in nature. Just as neurons in the brain form bridges between like items based on association, hypertext fictions jump around with the author’s thoughts. Shelley Jackson described her writing style as “related fragments with no overarching design” (1998) and likened her creative process to stitching a quilt “where each patch is itself a patchwork.” In this way, I feel very like Marshal McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” is validated. The form is part of the story, and it’s intentional. The fragmentation in hypertext very much echoes the way we think in the digital age, clicking links to move between thoughts and gain more information, while our brain struggles to categorize and sort the date into a big picture that makes sense. In this way, hypertext accomplishes what print cannot, and it forces us to grow as readers. If this cycle continues, with writers and readers growing and adapting to ever-changing forms of writing (and I don’t see how it couldn’t) I think the future of hypertext could be even more interesting than its history.

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Hypertext over Print

The non-linear nature of hypertext fiction can express more than print can due to the nature of randomness and the arbitrary connections readers create while reading a nonlinear story. Randomness refers to mathematically random sequences, made possible by programming. The word arbitrary refers to decisions or connections made for no specific reason or a not necessarily relevant reason, decisions made by a human. When a story is reordered and put into a nonlinear form that can be regenerated again and again through the use of programming, the reader makes sense of the story in different ways every time. New stories can be formed in the mind of the reader with the same text be formed in different orders, or by new text being created and inserted into a preexisting story. The hyperlinked nature of electronic literature allows viewers to “choose their own adventure” combining the random aspect of programming with the arbitrary nature of the reader’s choices, allowing the story to be rewritten in almost an infinite number of ways.

Electronic literature’s uses the properties of a computer, programmability and the network, creates literature that could not exist in print

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Hypertext 2

Hypertext storytelling is an interesting approach to telling stories. The idea of multi-linearity and non-linearity present incredible potential for great stories, and there have been many stories that are compelling and interesting. “Patchwork Girl” by Shelly Jackson for example which was inspired by the classic “Frankenstein” represent how effective hypertext storytelling can be. With all of this potential though, hypertext storytelling wasn’t as revolutionary as some had thought. This happened for different reasons, one being the fact that nonlinear reading, as explained by Steven Johnson, is incredibly hard to write.

“When you tried to make an argument or tell a journalistic story in which any individual section could be a starting or ending point, it wound up creating a whole host of technical problems, the main one being that you had to reintroduce characters or concepts in every section.”

This issue is just one example but it is representative of some of the problems with hypertext. Another example can be seen in “afternoon, a story.” The story is well written and it has interesting characters, but it is incredibly hard to follow with jumping perspectives and just its nonlinear nature. I understand the idea is to explore the story and figure out what happened but because of its format and structure, it is more frustrating than engaging. Of course this isn’t to say that it is a bad hypertext story, it was one of the earlier stories told through hypertext so of course it wasn’t going to be perfect.

Hypertext also has the problem of hardware as pointed out by Robert Coover discussed. Hardware limitations and introduction of new technology have caused some hypertext stories to become unavailable, only accessible through old technology which use old technologies like floppy discs.

Hypertext is certainly not a dead form of storytelling or a bad one, there are still communities that exist like Twine for example, which give users the ability to create incredible multi-linear and non-linear hypertext stories. I think that hypertext has shown the power of nonlinear and multilinear stories and its influence can be felt in many different modern methods of storytelling. It certainly didn’t bring the death of books as Robert Coover suggested in his article, an idea which has not aged well. Traditional storytelling that comes from books will never go away, nor should it.


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The Future of Hypertext

I think that hypertext has several advantages that print does not. Print is limited by its own physical space. A book with a large enough amount of information could become uncomfortable to read without splitting the text into multiple volumes. Larger pieces of hypertext fiction would not be as enjoyable to read in a print form because the book required to hold them would be too large and tedious to navigate. The ability to directly link to another page is key to keeping the experience as clear and simple as possible. The definition of hyper text is literally

the writing done in the nonlinear or nonsequential space made possible by the computer.

The digital aspect also lends a lot of extra interactivity that print does not. While print is made up of only letters, pictures, and the pages they are printed on, hypertext fiction has the potential for greater reader participation. I would say that hypertext fiction lends itself well to digital games. There are many games today that are less action based and more decision and story driven. The decisions in these games, such as Life is Strange, The Last of Us, and The Wolf Among Us, determine which part of the story the user gets to experience which is fairly similar to the links within hypertext.

I think hypertext fiction has a broad future because of the different opportunities to experiment within its form. The population of the world today is also becoming more and more digital native, so the clicking of links is almost an innate response when interest is sparked. With a natural understanding of linking and a passion for storytelling more and more new and innovative hypertext fiction will be produced. While most of what I’m saying in this post aligns with Robert Coover’s point of view from “The End of Books”, I do believe that books will continue to be utilized by humans for centuries. Books have a continuous stream of knowledge that take even less effort to read than hypertext fiction. When it comes to people they usually like to do whatever takes the least amount of effort at any given time.

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The Future of Hypertext Fiction

I believe that there is a growing interest in the complexities of human interaction and society. I also think that there is a growing interest in our future. I think that hypertext fiction perfectly encompasses these interests. Before even becoming aware and versed with hypertext fiction, I was a fan of the Netflix series, “Black Mirror”. This series explores human consequences, and especially the consequences of modern day technology. The Netflix show has quite the fan base, and has even inspired other works. I believe this show highlights the emerging interest in human consequences and technology. I find it especially entertaining to delve and explore those consequences when they aren’t personally affecting me. It’s interesting to talk about the “what if?”. I have also seen an emergence in this theme in video gaming. The widely popular game, “Red Dead Redemption 2”, follows the storyline of an outlaw. The player, although following a set storyline, can make decisions for the character to determine their morality, and the way that the story plays out. Hypertext fiction is a very exploratory genre that I believe follows these trends. It allows the reader to make decisions, explore consequences as an outsider, explore technology, and explore the complexities of human nature and thinking. The Netflix show “Black Mirror”, in particular, recently came out with a film. This film called, “Bandersnatch”, is a branching, but mostly linear story, that the audience can control through prompts and their television remote. In the article, “Why No One Clicked on the Great Hypertext Story”, by Steven Johnson, Johnson explores the evolving of Hypertext fiction. He says that our internet tendencies, like reading a blog, or following links in a news article, follows a hypertext format.

Although following along a similar thread, true hypertext fiction of nonlinear, branching and linking story-telling, have become more obsolete. Even in the instances of “Black Mirror”, and “Red Dead Redemption 2”, these narratives follow a general linear path and generally move forward in the narrative with each decision. In “Afternoon, a Story” by Michael Joyce, the narrative although having a base linear story, often take spindling directions that can land you in the beginning, middle, or end of the story. “Afternoon, a Story”, also incorporates the challenge of multiple character’s viewpoints that further complicates the story.

Johnson states in his piece that, “It turned out that nonlinear reading spaces had a problem: They were incredibly difficult to write.” This statement seems to predict the way that Johnson believes hypertext fiction will continue to evolve. Although Hypertext fiction certainly follows developments in current trends, I believe that linear fiction will certainly win out. The evolved version of hypertext fiction that follows a primarily linear path, such as the “Black Mirror” movie, “Bandersnatch”, is what I believe will remain popular. The link-structure, nonlinearity and fragmentation of hypertext can certainly express more of human nature, human thought processes, and human consequence, although I believe it’s cousin of linearity, will continue to remain more popular.

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The Future of Hypertext

Image result for hypertext

With the emergence of hypertext in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, it was seen as both the end of print culture as well as a precursor for the future of how information would be viewed and consumed on the web. In a sense, it served as a bridge from how we used to read information, both fictional and factual, to how we currently do so.

Hypertext certainly allows for the opportunity to express in ways which are limited by print. Shelley Jackson states in regards to her work Patchwork Girl that she thinks in things arranged in a place, and the use of hypertext allows for her to create in a way that is more conducive to her creative method. Additionally, the in class reading of “afternoon, a story” exemplified how many pathways one may take while reading a work of hypertext fiction. While navigating through the story, the reader may gain a plethora of different perspectives based on how they choose to navigate through the story in a way that is clear and concise, something that is not possible with a printed work.

While social media has pushed aside the use of hypertext as of late, the re-emergence of hypertext through platforms such as Twine has allowed for authors to re-explore how hypertext can be used to form an intriguing story through a simple and usable interface. Furthermore, web users familiarizing themselves with social media has in turn familiarized them with hypertext. Referring back to Shelley Jackson, she states:

“Regular web-users already understand implicitly how to read a hypertext; they may not be accustomed to thinking about what they’ve just read as akin to novels and stories, but they will”.

The concept of how hypertext works is a familiar concept understood by the common web-user, which in turn will allow for non-linear storytelling through hypertext to regain prominence in today’s world.

Sources: “Stitch Bitch: The Hypertext Author As Cyborg-Femme Narrator”, Mark Amerika

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Change is only a matter of Time: Hypertext

The change from traditional text to hypertext has only happened in the past decade with the advent of the medium as a whole. While hypertext new to the realm of storytelling I don’t think it will have as much of an impact as traditional books did. the use of hypertext has changed our culture and world really, like what was stated in Rettberg how hypertext introduced multilinearity to society. All of us in class grew up with the traditional book but have all learned how to use and interact with hypertext. this doesn’t mean that we all like one or the other better but it will be interesting to see younger generations as they grow up with both forms of storytelling what they will gravitate towards. whether we will all but abandon the traditional style of storytelling or if there will be a balance that happens. the latter is more likely. As well as how we interact with hypertext will change in time and who knows where it will go.


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The Potential of Hypertext

I grew up mainly reading conventional books under parents that really pushed traditional print material. I was fascinated by how in kids’ books, the words and pictures were directly connected to one another. Both paint an image of what the characters are doing and how they look. Still very early on in my life I was introduced to pc software and went on to interact with both print and digital stories for a while. As I have gotten older though, digital stories have taken over my life. Video games especially have been my go-to for the most immersive stories and worlds. Honestly, print-based media has been relegated to text books for me. I believe the potential of the print-based media itself has reached its full potential. Actual stories themselves though have all the potential in the world. Hypertext and the digital medium in general can provide elements for a story that print cannot. Hypertext can surprise readers through links and present them with changing environments through pictures, video and sound. There could be a real social aspect and the stories can be updated with new additional chapters and other content. If someone feels that print is too limited for their story, they may find the affordances of digital hypertext to be a better suit and let out their creativity that way.

“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.”(Jackson)


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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.

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Print vs. Hypertext


“The difference between reading hyperfiction and reading traditional printed fiction may be the difference between sailing the islands and standing on the dock watching the sea. One is not necessarily better than the other.”

-Carolyn Guyer and Martha Petry Izme Pass

I liked this quote in the reading’s this week. I don’t think we can really say that either of these forms of writing will die out. Both of them have their own place in the literary world. While print may seem like the slow and steady that wins the race, hypertext is the one coming up with multiple paths the race could take.

As technology changes hypertext does too, with new ways to tell the story. With recent uses of hypertext in television and video games, one wonders what the next step is for it?

I think that hypertext does have something different to contribute, that gives a unique experience to the reader. If it’s a nonlinear story the reader has the choice to go back and change the ending if they don’t prefer the one that they got. Or just go back and see what were the other possibilities.

In the reading Why no one clicked on the great hypertext story, I liked how it highlighted the growing hypertext writing that is being seen on different social platforms. In one of my other classes, we talked about this platform, where people come and add to these time travel/ romance themed stories. The stories take crazy turns, but it is a very popular space that people come to share ideas.

My only concern with hypertext along with print is the waning attention span that we seem to have when it comes to reading. It seems that most people take in their stories and information through five-minute clips on the internet. I think the question that needs to be addressed is will society still be willing to take the time to discover these works?

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The Death of Print?

It can be easy to say that books and print are an outdated technology, a still living artifact of the past that we will soon leave behind. The possibilities afforded us in the digital age certainly seem to leave old print media in the dust., at least at first glance.

Digital media is so much easier to store, allowing you to carry an entire library in your pocket, and still have room for your movies, music, and video games. Physical storage itself is hardly even an issue anymore as cloud computing allows us to store our files online and stream our videos from subscription services. In fact, less and less it seems like ownership and possession of a thing is what our culture values, opting instead for a steady I.V. drip of access to cyberspace where we aren’t land owners, we’re tenants.

Beyond storage, consider the way that digital media can be so seamlessly and naturally integrated into pieces of hypermedia. One moment you’re reading a piece of prose, the next a video plays, sounds run in the background, and interactive elements can be dropped in. The potential of electronic media is astounding compared to old print media. Even the branching narrative structure available in a basic HyperText project provides so many more tools for the creator to utilize.

Why then, decades later, are books still a thing? We’re starting to see textbooks in the classroom replaced with netbooks and tablets, brick and mortar bookstores are endangered, newspaper and magazine services struggle in a post-print era, but books are still going strong. There are several things that print does have going for it that digital media does not.

For one, print is self-contained. If you have a piece of print media, you don’t need any other device to use it. You don’t need to worry about backwards compatibility, if a file format is still supported, if you have batteries, if a part breaks and replacements are no longer being made. This gives books a staying power that digital media struggles with; technology almost seems to be moving too fast to take a lasting hold. Until more universal standards and the certainty of future compatibility is assured, people will still have a reluctance in giving up completely on print.

Another important thing for many people is the physical experience of the book. While digital media can provide countless opportunities for creators, some things still can’t be fully replicated in digital media. I consider a book sitting on my shelf, S. by by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams (pictured above). In much the same way that e-literature can incorporate other forms of media, this book contains numerous other objects tucked between the pages, from vintage photographs to post cards and more. The amazing thing about this creative piece is that it is actually more than just the book. The book itself, titled The Ship of Theseus, is written by a fictional character called V.M. Straka. The story of S. unfolds not just in the prose of the book, but in the notes written in the margins and the objects tucked inside the book. Much like a  non-linear HyperText project, it falls on the reader to unravel the connections between the notes, objects, and the text of the book itself. Made to look like a released library book, even including a “Property of…” stamp and Dewey decimal sticker on the spine, everything about the project lends itself to feeling like an object that the reader could have found at an old book sale. The texture of the cover, the faux-faded pages of the book make an experience that can’t quite be replicated digitally.

While books like S. are certainly an unusual case, it isn’t hard to find a book lover who enjoys the experience of reading and owning a physical artifact, just like people who collect vinyl or go to community theater. Media goes beyond the content of simply the words, but the entire experience. As Marshall McLuhan said, the media is the message. Does HyperText and digital media offer new opportunities for unique and exciting experiences? Yes. Should they be explored and value as much as any other technology? Of course. Will they replace print completely? Maybe someday, but not anytime soon.

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3 – Hypertext fiction

I would have to agree that hypertext fiction does not appear to be as prevalent in today’s era of social media. I admit I was not even aware of hypertext fiction until this class. However, considering what we have experienced and read in class and for assignments thus far, I do hope that hypertext fiction is able to maintain a presence amongst social media. As a writer by hobby, it inspired an angle of creativity that I had never experienced before, the idea of hierarchies, and linking parts to each other. Shelley Jackson spoke of having bits and pieces of her works, characters, and drawings, and just hoping to find a connection between any of them, and when nothing clicked, she would mix it all up and try again. I understood where her approach came from, as I myself often begin just by writing anything and everything that comes straight to mind of what I think I know, however, my brain then thinks far too linearly and tries to make sense of an idea I already had when I started. Hypertext fiction, I think, brings to a writer’s mind firstly, the many layers that can be used and how infinite the hierarchy of a story can be, given all the routes one can take. Secondly, the idea of linking sections together is can speak to the story and its characters itself (“The medium is the message”). The method that Jackson mentioned has a way of jumbling up the conventional and sometimes automatic, or cliche, and that is something that this era needs, where often our words are limited to 200 characters (or whatever it is now). Not that I would consider a single “Tweet” as hypertext fiction, but my generation has gotten so used to that way of communicating that hypertext fiction can continue to bring inspiration, and hope it does.

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The Future of Hypertext

It has come to my opinion that Hypertext Fiction is unique in a way that let’s the reviewers or the readers think. And really think hard about the decisions that has to be made throughout the journey that they are going on. Whether it’s print or digital it has the potential to have us stop and think about if our choice was correct or not.

The choices or even the action that we do make us believe about the ominous outcome of the situation that we where put in and let us to believe that in the end… no choice is 100% good.

The future of Hypertext Fiction, to me, is a little bit unclear at this point. I do believe that Hypertext Fiction is a very well-known genre of storytelling that has the potential to go much further then it is at. For years hypertext Fiction has been growing in books as well as digital media but not necessarily in it’s own form but more of

“Instead of prospering as a specific genre in it’s own right, elements of hypertext have opened up new forms and genres. Complex multilinear narrative structures have for example become standard fare in long-term episodic television series.”

So in conclusion I do believe, in a literal sense, Hypertext Fiction can continue making a huge impact on all of us even if it’s in forms of other types of media but thanks to this program called Twine. everybody can bring there multilinear imaginations to life and expand as far as they want to go.


Image caught from “Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season Two”

Image caught from “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch”

Scott Rettberg’s “Electronic Literature”

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Future of Hypertext?

It’s hard for me to say what I think the future of hypertext fiction will be. I don’t think it will die out, as there will always be people and pieces of work that will keep the genre alive. I do however, think that it will dip in and out of popularity as the years go on and as more technology is developed. In the past, hypertext fiction is something that has repeatedly grown popular for a short while, only for it to die down and come back again later. The best example I could come up for this is the company Telltale Games, a gaming company that exclusively creates “Choose Your Own Adventure Games”, or works of hypertext fiction. This company became increasingly popular a couple years ago, to the point of creating stories for big names and other game companies. The Walking Dead, Minecraft, and Batman are a few series’ who got their own Telltale Games. Although all their games got generally favorable reviews, and fans loved playing them, on September 21st, an announcement was made that Telltale Games would be shutting down. The reason? Not enough people were interested in and buying the hypertext fiction genre of video games. Unfortunately, no matter how well something is made, if there isn’t an audience to watch/play/listen to it, then it becomes unprofitable and will come to an end.

I really enjoy hypertext fiction. I like the idea that you decide the outcome of the story, and that your choices truly affect what happens. I do think for a work of this genre to be enjoyable, it needs to be done the right way. If there’s too many or too little options, or the story becomes so meddled and confusing that there doesn’t seem any point in continuing, then it becomes more work than enjoyment. Since a story with multiple storylines can be difficult to properly write out and execute correctly, I feel like this is the image that hypertext fiction often gets. Like I said before, I don’t think hypertext fiction is going to die out (at least anytime in the near future), but I also don’t think it’s going to get extremely popular in the near future. Even newer medias such as Bandersnatch seem to have excitement for a few weeks, and then the whole genre gets lost in the depths of the internet again.

Hypertext definitely goes somewhere that regular print cannot. Print books in the past have been “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. However, the constant flipping of the pages, and navigating through the big piece of text is a lot more frustrating than just being able to click on a particular link in a story and get to the next point. If one were to create a hypertext fiction piece of work, I think most of the time one would lean toward creating it on a digital medium. The evolution of technology and hypertext as one have created this genre of fiction that is compelling, exciting, mysterious, but unfortunately, not very popular.

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While the rapid rise of social media does reduce the novelty of hypertext fiction, I believe that this rise, as well as the rise of personal video games (as opposed to games at an arcade), could lead to a resurgence and possible eventual widespread awareness of hypertext fiction and other forms of e-literature. Both social media and video games encourage many of the facets of e-literature: multilinearity (open world games), stories with various concurrent viewpoints (multiple users Tweeting about a breaking event), link structure (moving between pages, sites, accounts, stories, etc from a central social media site)…with these (and more) interactive aspects becoming regular parts of our everyday lives, as well as the growing community of Twine creators and readers, I believe that hypertext fiction could easily grow in public awareness in the coming years.

As far as expressing that which print cannot, I believe that e-literature allows us to experience a story in more dynamic, more personal, and even more lifelike ways. Firstly, a reader is able to more or less choose how they want to navigate through any given e-literature piece, which is a freedom not readily available with traditional printed literature, but is closer to the flexible nature of our own thoughts and memories. The flexible nature of e-literature is also increasingly reminiscent of our own lives: hyperlinks embedded within stories are no longer something strange and startling, but are natural to the modern reader, even lending an air of familiarity or intimacy to the work. I believe this flexible multilinearity also allows a broader kind of story than traditional literature is capable of.

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Blog 3-The Future of Hypertext Fiction

It’s hard to say at this point where I think the future for hypertext fiction will be. Hypertext fiction, like anything, can ride the wave of popularity. Hypertext has more options than a physical book that you could pick up at your local store. It gives the reader the ability to choose variety of paths which open up to different sets of dialogue, imagery, and plot. With that in mind here’s what I think would not work in the future. During class last week, as we were reading “Afternoon, a story” (keep in mind that this story was written in 1987) I couldn’t help but feel a bit uncomfortable with how the story was laid out. The way you had to jump from one link to the other by some sort of “tab” was very awkward compared to how you click on something in made in Twine or something similar. Not only that but I, as a reader, didn’t get a sense as to why I should have chosen any of the links listed. It wasn’t because of a lacked interest in the story but rather because I did not feel as if there was enough in the story presented to me to motivate me into making a decision. I could have just read maybe three pages of the story and been contempt with it.

I feel that this style and the style that appeared in “The babysitter” would quickly die off in the world of hypertext fiction. Perhaps back then it would have worked but you have to remember, this is the modern age, and our society is becoming more and more impatient. Everything has to be easy and attention grabbing. A lot of restaurants have some sort of tablet sitting at their tables so that customers no longer have to wait for the server to bring them their menus.

Not a lot of people take the time to read these days. When I say read I don’t mean the type where you are reading simply because your professor and the missing $500 from your wallet is telling you to do so. I mean the kind of reading that you are genuinely interested in like a comic book, Harry Potter, or A Bride’s Tale. Hypertext fiction is not trending these days because it failed to do so when it first debuted. Sure it’s attracting our attention, but that’s because in our case, it has too.

Hypertext also seems to be dying out in video games as well. It’s not that big of a genre anymore, especially Tell Tale games shut down; the makers of games like The Wolf Among Us, Guardians of the Galaxy (game), Game of Thrones (game), Batman (game), Minecraft: Story Mode(game) and the Walking Dead (game). With so many links to connect it takes too long to put out another hypertext fiction into the world. Supply doesn’t meet demand. If you have ever played any of these games you really start to appreciate this type of story telling. You feel in control yet can still be surprised all at once. Almost like some sort of detective. It’s extremely fascinating to make a choice and to see the outcome of your decision. That’s something that you can’t get from a printed book these days.

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My Boyfriend Came Back from the War

After (at least partially) reading all three of the fiction pieces, I decided to focus on My Boyfriend Came Back from the War by Olia Lialina. I was struck by the stark and emotive quality of this piece, as well as the literal and figurative fragmenting of the narrative. While it doesn’t have have the randomized quality of combinatory poetics per se (reloading the page or clicking in different orders did not change which piece of text came after which), it does achieve a state of multilinearity and variability by virtue of the aforementioned fragmentation. As the narrative and screens continue to break down, the reader can choose to follow one thread until its end before moving onto the next, to click each panel in an order (say, clockwise), randomly, or a combination thereof. I read through it a few times in different orders and while the overarching story is the same, different reading orders do lend different tones to the narrative.

I think that this piece is particularly different from the hypertext fiction we looked at last class in that it is all contained on one page, and it is impossible to step backwards (except by completely refreshing the page and starting over). In Joyce’s the afternoon, the reader moves from one concrete page to the next, albeit in nonlinear and sometimes indirect ways, and can return to previous pages. In contrast, readers of Lialina’s My Boyfriend Came Back from the War must continue forward on one fluid page. I think this technique places the reader deeper into the mindset of Lialina’s story, as it is close to how we experience real life (unable to go back, and while sometimes fragmented, still part of a solid whole).

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Hypertext Fiction 2 – February 1, 2019

Like any approach to art, hypertext fiction has its advantages and disadvantages. As an unconventional form of writing, it provides ways to tell nonlinear stories in a much easier way than physical writing can. And for writers looking to write unconventionally regardless of their platform, hypertext fiction has provided a way to simply lay things out in a much more organized manner. Author Shelley Jackson, writer of hypertext fiction piece “Patchwork Girl”, stated in a 1998 interview with Mark Amerika that “hypertext permits me to write the way I ordinarily would, in related fragments with no overarching design, but then to allow a structure to arise out of the inclinations of the material itself, instead of imposing a linear order onto it…” Jackson’s typical style of writing blended perfectly with what hypertext fiction had to offer for her, allowing her to create an iconic piece of writing. However, she is nowhere near a household name.

Although hypertext fiction is a fascinating form of art that allows for millions of stories to be made from just hundreds or thousands of sources, it failed to take off in the nineties, and it will never be able to take off no matter what attempts are made in present day or will be made in the future. There’s a few reasons for this, but the main reason is that hypertext fiction is a novelty. It was a fad of the nineties that showed off the newest technology, but the evolution of technology soon skyrocketed and left hypertext fiction in the dust. Furthermore, it was a fad that, although was made easier with technology, wasn’t impossible in writing. Physical examples of nonlinear writing are abundant. Whether the goal of a hypertext piece was attempting to emulate the feeling of looking back at memories in a nonlinear way, similar to Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, or create a branching path of stories and endings, like Robert Coover’s short story “The Babysitter”, or randomize the events to tell a completely different narrative, like Mark Saporta’s Composition No. 1, it has been done in physical writing.

However, perhaps the failure of hypertext fictions comes not from the folly of machine, but rather the folly of man. As Steven Johnson bluntly points out in his article “Why No One Clicked on the Great Hypertext Story” for Wired, “it turned out that nonlinear reading spaces had a problem: they were incredibly difficult to write.” Although hypertext fiction sounds great on paper as a mainstream form of art, the upkeep, dedication, and sheer amount of material required could never be reached to keep it in the limelight.

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Dylan Niehaus – Hypertext Fiction

Hypertext fiction is a genre of electronic literature that I find to be quite interesting, and it seems to be a growing although niche genre of writing that is gaining attention on the web. I visited the website, which is a website for indie game developers to share their works with others. Within that site, there is a “twine” tag which leads to games that follow the basic frameworks of hypertext fiction. I do think hypertext fiction is present and actually quite popular, but not in the way that many may think.

“It’s not that hypertext went on to become less interesting than its literary advocates imagined in those early days. Rather, a whole different set of new forms arose in its place: blogs, social networks, crowd-edited encyclopedias.” – (Steven Johnson 2013)

Going off of that quote from Steven Johnson, I think there is another, more evolved form of hypertext fiction that is quite popular these days, and those are indie video games which are focused mainly on telling a narrative through the player moving an avatar to different locations. Think about it – instead of simply clicking on a link to read a snippet of text which reveals more about a story, you are interacting with a virtual environment to read that snippet of text, or hear the dialogue from a character. This is hypertext fiction that has been evolved to better engage the reader with a more visual and audible style. Despite this, hypertext fiction in its base form has a following as well. I found many games on the site that were based in twine and only used text hyperlinks to advance the story. I think that hypertext fiction is much more popular than we know it, mainly because it has evolved into graphic adventure video games in which the user can use an avatar to explore their own narrative path. Hypertext fiction can definitely do things that print cannot. It may be possible for a print story to take a reader on multiple narrative paths, but it would not be a user-friendly experience. Hypertext fiction allows the author to build a world that the user explores at their own pace and order, giving the user a special feeling of their own control, like they are exploring the world in the way in which they want to. With the popularity of user choice in media, I feel that hypertext fiction has a strong future in our world of literature.



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Blog 3 – 2/1/19


During the 1990s I was a teenager in high school when I first learned about this mysterious new thing called hypertext fiction, but it appeared to be around for a while and then seemed to vanish overnight unless you were someone writing it or explicitly seeking it out. So, what happened to hypertext fiction? I had myself forgotten about this type of literature until I started the DTC program at WSU. I remember teachers in high school raving about hypertext, how it was hyped up as the next big thing. Hypertext is a medium that could change storytelling in the post-Gutenberg era, a way in which the invention of movable text gave rise to the novel. Hypertexts were available, first on diskette, then on CD-ROM, and eventually on the Web.  And then, poof, nothing happened. I think that it was put out to fast and people weren’t ready for this type of thing although people raved about the technology.
Numerous reasons might exist as to why hypertext fiction has not taken off in literary communities which might include strict design problems, complications with copyright laws, and problems with stocking e-books. For me, I am a bit old fashioned as I like to feel and turn each page of a book when I am engrossed in a novel, the aesthetics are what I enjoy about reading. With hypertext fiction, I have yet to embrace the new digital media in a way that has enough added value for me to enjoy it which is a reason I chose to take this class. I hope at the end of the semester I will have gained a new interest in hypertext fiction.

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Bringing Changes with Hypertext

One of the many beauties behind hypertext and works of electronic literature is that sense of unending possibilities. The nodes and paths of a hypertext, or of the internet as a whole, somewhat mimic that of neurons and the human brain. Connections that may at times seem random, constantly changing and created different paths. There are potentially endless different possibilities to read a single work of hypertext and everything depends on the individual sitting in front of the computer at that given moment. It’s based on the choices they make at the time. Then, if they decided to go through the hypertext again, there is also no guarantee that they would read it the exact same way the second time around, or the third or fourth. As Robert Coover states,

And what of narrative flow? There is still movement, but in hyperspace’s dimensionless infinity, it is more like endless expansion.

Hypertext, though digital and somewhat erratic due to its multi-/non-linearity, is still literature or at the very least has the potential to be considered literature. It all has to do with the content included within the work rather than dependent on being in a print medium.

With the birth of hypertext came the chance to expand one’s thinking beyond the boundaries of linearity. Certainly storytelling did not and has not always been solely confined to a strict linear “beginning-middle-end,” but it provided more artistic opportunity to think even beyond the confinement of telling a story in a single way. It created the chance for the readers to choose where the story would go, and develop or discover their own ways through the work, individualizing the experience for each and every person in a way that a physical print book would be unable to achieve. It creates a new way to examine and think about works, literary or otherwise, and how various parts connect to one another. The opportunities are endless, only limited by the imagination of creator and reader.


Robert Coover’s “The End of Books”

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Reemerging Hyper(text)

Hypertext is currently rising in popularity. Twine is one of the contributors to its recent comeback, as its intuitiveness and free access has made it a convenient and useful tool for people to tell stories. As Rettberg pointed out, 

“Twine has a user-friendly browser based authoring environment…The platform is also open source.” (Rettberg 2019).  

It seems most popular among the younger generation. My sister is currently teaching high school English students, but when she asked them if they were familiar with hypertext all she received were blank stares. So she and I created a Twine tutorial introducing the concept, and it was met with great excitement. Since then, several students have approached her and enthusiastically shared their current projects.  

While it’s evident that hypertext is a popular concept among this generation, I have my doubts that it will thrive as a literary form (Afternoon: A Story might still be known by this generation if it were.) Instead, I think it will become more prevalent in non-textual forms, placing a heavier focus on visuals and sound. This form of hyper(text) is emerging as a new way to present storytelling even now, with the introduction of multilinearity in games such as Life is Strange, or in shows like Black Mirror. Just as books were more-or-less replaced by cinematic films, I think hypertext will likely be overtaken by interactive, multilinear digital media. 

However, hypertext is powerful in that it can express things about our world that print cannot, one of these being that the world is open for us to explore. (Most of us) are not locked in a single space, which print tends to enforce upon the reader. Rather, we are free (within reasonable constraints) to explore the world as we please, which hypertext demonstrates by linking to other lexias—or “spaces”—for us to roam. Another aspect that print cannot express is that our world is multilinear. We’re offered many pathways and shown different outcomes, as well as more than one person’s point of view or story. Print has a harder time portraying this sense of multilinearity (the closest that comes to mind is Coover’s The Babysitter), yet hypertext does this with ease by presenting various pathways leading to fragmented text, each containing a different aspect of the story. Lastly, our world requires us to participate in some way. Similarly to clicking links in a hypertext, we must make choices and follow through with our actions. Whereas print is a passive experience that only asks one to read (or simply listen to) the narrative being told. In hypertext, the reader is no longer in a familiar, comfortable environment, but is instead present and at the ready (Interview with Shelly Jackson par. 18). At no point in a print story will the reader have to make decisions that alter the course of the narrative (“Choose Your Own Adventure Books” are the exception) like a hypertext would because it does not offer the reader any freedom to do so. 

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Blog 2-Coover

The Babysitter was certainly an interesting read. Coover does, perhaps too well a job at taking the narrative for such a spin, writing events so fluidly between reality and what might have happened. I would say Coover’s work is absolutely a great example of hypertext fiction. I can’t say by the end that I had figured out EXACTLY what was going on, with who, but the way he set it up became clearer as I read on. I definitely had to take a break once in a while, resume with a clear mind and it helped sort out all the characters involved, and who was doing (or thinking, or watching) what.

For my third read through though, I decided to try and read each character’s parts as a whole, skipping other characters’ paragraphs in hopes of getting the whole picture. While that aided my understanding, my discomfort at reading some parts (ie, Jack and Mark’s “plan”) was abated by my confusion as to who it was happening to, exactly. There were a couple of parts (that, in retrospect, I think are flashbacks?) That made me think there was more than one babysitter and that really confused me. The format is something I am familiar with, writing different characters paragraph to paragraph. The narrative content itself, however, I struggled to grasp.

It IS a great model to use, however, because it sparks a level of creativity and thinking outside the box that I see even with contemporary authors today.

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Babies Babysitter and Hypertext

Robert Coover’s story, The Babysitter is a perfect model for post modern hypertext fiction, because it does not follow linear narrative. I can certainly see how Coover’s style influenced writers in this genre. I can see his use of branching path influencing writers such as, Mez Breeze. In her video game All the Delicate Duplicates, she uses objects to tell part of the narrative; by touching some of these objects, the players can travel to a different timeline. I most admit, I have not read many stories in this genre, the concept of none linear story telling where all possibilities are true is new to me.

As I read the Babysitter, it felt like I was jumping from one universe to another with each passage. The readers are the all-seeing eye looking at each possible time line/ multiverse. The first few paragraphs had a kind of Pulp Fiction vibe. I must admit the story was hard to follow, because of the multiple path. I was confused by the multiple path, especially the pin ball and girdle branching parts of the story. I could not figure out the point of the objects. If I wasn’t aware of hypertext fiction or electronic literature, I probably would have given up on reading the story; the story is not accessible to the average reader. I feel that this kind of story telling is excellent for role play games. It’s common for video games to have branching path where all the possibilities are true.

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Hypertext and “The Babysitter”

Robert Coover’s short story “The Babysitter” is a fragmented set of stories about the same set of characters that plays out in pieces where each story line and outcome, as there are several, are equally as likely to have happened. The story is meant to be read from page one to the end, and it follows a set timeline of a few hours over the course of one evening, but the text is broken up into chunks and separated with characters that signify a break in the story line. Perspectives shift, character focus shifts, but the timeline of 7:40 to 10:00 pm remains constant. The reader progresses through the evening, visiting each of the main characters in several different “alternate realities.” The reader does not know which narrative is the “actual” and which are “alternates,” or perhaps none are real and all are just possibilities.

“The Babysitter” was published in 1969, and while it wasn’t the first work intended to be read in a multi-linear manner, it had a heavy influence on writers who came later, especially those creating hypertext stories that explored the same story from multiple points of view. The structure of “The Babysitter” is like a branching tree, each possibility stemming from the same set of events. This type of branching text creates a very meta experience for the reader, who is aware of how the stories keep changing, and how this one piece of writing is really multiple pieces. Rettberg calls this type of text “reflexive” and ties it to works that came later that also explore fragmentation as a structure that helps to guide, or disrupt, the reader’s experience.

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Hypertext Fiction and “The Babysitter”

As explained in Scott Rettberg’s, “Electronic Literature”, hypertext literature, being the predecessor to electronic literature, developed in turn from interest in both literary experimentation and cultural shifts toward computing. Hypertext fiction are stories written in fragments of text that interconnect, and can be navigated by the reader through a series of links and or, “choices” that guide the story.

Robert Coover’s, ‘The Babysitter”, is a puzzling and dissociated work of fiction detailing the events of a few hours. A young girl is hired to babysit Bitsy and Jimmy Tucker, while Mr.  and Mrs. Tucker go to a party. The seemingly mundane tale of a night of babysitting, is wrought with twists and turns brought upon by varying character viewpoints, and even “imagined” events. Each paragraph of the work, is broken up in time, character perspective, and actual and imagined events, to weave a fragmented tale. This piece not only contains haunting details such as rape and murder, but discusses them in a seemingly simple and matter of fact matter. One paragraph will explain a rape scene in gory detail, while the next explains a mundane task such as answering the phone. I believe that the writing style of, “The Babysitter”, pairs well with the haunting and mysterious nature of the story. The change in perspective perfectly highlights lust and fear, while the changing, and sometimes even imagined plot points, leave the reader stumbling through the story, much like the characters did. This work is certainly a model for later works of Hypertext, and perfectly models the pairing of plot and writing style.

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All the Best of Hypertext: Fantasy, Clever Structure, and Rape…maybe…

Farinsky Blog Post 2: Hypertext 1

A movie poster for the 1955 film adaption of “The Babysitter” by Robert Coover.

Hypertext fiction is a genre which celebrates non-linear story telling, and narratives that embrace being told in randomized orders each time a user clicks on them. Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter” is an excellent example of this form based upon the criteria of segmented, and distorted, storytelling.

“The Babysitter” is a collection of over 100 fragments that focus on the male fantasy looping, and seemingly folding upon itself, as the babysitter interacts with young children while their parents attend a party nearby. Between 7:40 and 10:00pm the narrative cleverly avoids labeling one section of events as exactly what happened or which interpretation of the fragments is “correct”. Each segment adds to the complexity of the story and tangles the overarching narrative further by layering fantasy on fantasy giving shockingly detailed glimpses of the character’s thoughts.

Despite the victories within the genre this work achieves, the content of the story is hard to get through without feeling disgusted at the characters, and the blatantly sexual plot which verges into pornographic. 

The extreme closeness of which the male fantasies are presented along side the more reality based segments makes it hard to distinguish not only order, but coherence on the whole. This story does not spread its branches far- or in a manner which makes one version of events more distinctively accurate. It is hard to even grasp the basic underlying narrative through alienating sexualization of the babysitter constantly repeating itself or the repetition of the television entering the space.

While one should appreciate the structure and genre refining tenants this work created, the content within can be hard to talk about because of the cultural differences between original publication and current views on exercising sexuality or sexual fantasy.

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Hypertext Fiction and “The Babysitter”

While Robert Coover’s work titled “The Babysitter” is by no means a work of hypertext fiction in a literal sense, it certainly holds many of the same characteristics that a hypertext work contains. The story begins at 7:40 in the evening and gradually progresses through the evening until 10 and in this sense, it follows a linear path. Additionally, the setting and characters of the story are all described early on.

Yet, as the story progresses, there are a plethora of different scenarios that are described throughout the course of the story. The story appears to shift from the perspectives of many of the characters. One paragraph will describe the thoughts and perspectives of the babysitter, while the next may describe the perspective of Jack, her boyfriend or even Harry (Mr. Tucker). While the constant shift in perspective may create a sense of confusion for the reader, it also provides more freedom for the reader. The reader isn’t bound to the parameters that the author of a linear story provides, rather they have more freedom to experience the story in a way in which they see fit.

Hypertext fiction works in a strikingly similar fashion. Readers can click on a selection of links that will take the story in a particular direction based on their selection. This empowers the reader to take the story in a direction that they see fit and can provide a cause for discussion surrounding the different story’s that readers can create.

Rettburg briefly mentions Twine’s influence on multi-linearity and hypertext. Twine is an excellent example of how a reader can choose the path of the story. In Twine, a reader is encouraged to click on a link to progress them through the story, and they are often presented with multiple links in order to choose the direction of the story. Twine is a platform that has allowed for a vast amount of storytellers to explore multi-linearity and hypertext in a user-friendly fashion. As Rettburg states:

“More prevalent uses of multi-linearity in hypertext include the representation of cognitive associations between nodes and shifts in point of view on the same events.”  (Rettburg 59).


Electronic Literature by Scott Rettburg

“The Babysitter” by Robert Coover

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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.  


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Hypertext and The Babysitter

Hypertext is an evolution of the traditional text found in books. Today it compliments print-based media, but it is heading in a direction where it may eventually become the most popular way to read any sort of text. Hypertext is more dynamic than traditional text because of how links are incorporated. An author may use links to simulate moving onto another page similarly to a print-based linear story, but many authors have taken advantage of links by making a non-linear or multi-linear story. I like these sorts of stories because the user can experiment with text and follow their own path. This is like why I enjoy video games so much. Sure, there could be just one ending, but how you got there may vary among people. The Babysitter by Robert Coover is a story that is a bit ahead of its time. It has the content that one may find in a modern hypertext story, but it is all mashed together and is still formatted similarly to a print-based story. I had to read the first few pages a few times because I was so confused. It jumps around so suddenly across different settings and potential outcomes. The reader follows the disaster the babysitter faces at home as well as what happens outside the home with the parents. A hypertext platform we have today like Twine would be a much better format for this.

“Most authors of the hypertext fiction started writing in the new media not only to explore the affordances of the digital, but also with awareness of the position of literature with in a broader and rapidly shifting media ecology.”


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The Babysitter & Hypertext Literature


With it’s only-semi-linear nature and multiple perspectives occuring at once, The Babysitter by Robert Coover truly set the stage for hypertext fiction. While the story itself was very disturbing, the techniques used to craft it were impressive, and a clear influence on hypertext fiction. While not hypertext fiction itself, it does include many characteristics of hypertext fiction, such as:

fragmented text, the use of associative logic, alternative narrative structures, […] [and] complications of character development and chronology. (Rettburg, 68)

While it is lacking in interactivity, the multiple perspectives, the blending of what’s really happening and what is only being imagined, as well as the shaky time structure (as I mentioned above, I’d consider it semi-linear: there is a time span, but within hour or half-hour blocks, time seem to move forward then loop back and start again, giving the impression both of many plot points occuring at once as well as some never actually happening at all) makes this a clear precursor to interactive e-literature.

On a personal note, while I didn’t enjoy the plot per se (it was very disturbing) I enjoyed the way that The Babysitter was written. The Babysitter seems to challenge readers to second guess what we often take for granted, particularly in regards to the intentions of others. The unreliable narrators and unclear delineation between imagination and reality forces the reader to read carefully or else get tripped up. While in this case the events were primarily imagined, it is easy to see how this could become a piece of interactive fiction where the choices of the reader lead to one or more of the imagined situations becoming real. I did try and read it out of order (I chose various segments to read in random order, while still staying within the linear progression of the story) but as it is now I think you really need all the perspectives to make it a cohesive story. I think you could switch the order slightly of the story’s fragments, but you would definitely need to read all of them to follow what’s happening (as opposed to a ‘choose your own adventure’ style story, where threads of plot can theoretically be left unread without causing confusion, etc, depending on your choices).

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HyperText in the Post-Postmodern World

The focus of this weeks reading was on the ever present media of HyperText. It permeates our lives and enables usages that people in previous decades could have only dreamed. Of course it would have an effect on literature.

Postmodernism arose in the mid 1900’s and lasted, arguably, until approximately the end of the 20th century, which roughly correlates with the onset of the digital age and the ascendancy of the World Wide Web. In the book Electronic Literacy, by Scott Rettberg, we find that the pioneers of early HyperText literature were deeply rooted in the scholarly analysis of major players in the postmodern literature, such as Thomas Pynchon. Viewing the themes that carried over into their work, notably a willingness to play and subvert established precepts in literature, such as the role of the author, the narrative structure, and the base assumptions inherent to the form of media itself, it is easy to say that those early works of electronic literature were children of postmodern literature.

In particular we can look at Robert Coover’s The Babysitter, an example of postermodern literature that paves the way for later HyperText literature. In The Babysitter, Coover weaves an acid trip of a tale toys with perception, chronology, the reliability of the narrator, and the very expectations we have from a story. Each paragraph long chunk of text is isolated from the rest, visually, by a unique marker, taking the shape of an asterisk amidst a set of quotation marks, that cues the reader in that there is a greater degree of separation than a typical line break that we’d see in other works. Each paragraph seems to be a piece of the story, but stolen from some alternate timeline, jumping from one location to another, one character’s perspective to another, sometimes blending seamlessly between the inner thoughts and realities of a character and other times completely contradicting the events of other paragraphs. The result is a possibility storm, rapid fire imagery of causation stemming from the most minute of decisions. The ludicrous scene of a middle-age woman being shoved back into her butter lubricated-girdle is juxtaposed ironically but poignantly with scenes of rape as clothing is forcibly added in the former and removed in the latter, only to contrasted again with the seemingly innocent act of the babysitter changing the clothes of her wards. The other thus not only connects the story fragments chronologically, but ties them together thematically. This “stream of consciousness” flow between different scenes results in a poetic feel, the sharp transitions allowing for sharp effect, where the story doesn’t always feel literal, but still fraught with meaning.

Of course, all this is done with words on paper. The order of the fragments is stationary, and the reader, even as their brain is racing to piece together the story, is ultimately left in a passive role to be fed what the author gives them and find what meaning they can. What would the story have been like if Coover had made is creation in HyperText? The jumping between different timelines and simultaneous events at multiple locations could lend itself well to the medium, but would the effect be the same? Is the disorientation, the lack of control in the reader essential to the story? What extra level could be attained by adding multi-media, imagery, sound to add to the immersion of the experience? I think these were the sort of questions that drove HyperText authors to carry the same playfulness, the willingness to play with their tools and their medium into the digital age. Postermodernism gave us the permission leave behind traditional norms of literature, to challenge its limitations and create something new, and we’re still just seeing the beginning.

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Hypertext and The Babysitter

Reading “The Babysitter” is a comparable experience to reading a Choose Your Own Adventure Book like a regular book. Hypertext Fiction however, differs from a Choose Your Own Adventure book, in the sense that it’s not trying to tell one linear story in specific places of the text but rather telling multiple stories within the one singular piece. You get different pieces of differing stories all related to the same subject. “The Babysitter” does this extremely well. By mixing slightly comical, dramatic and most of the time very dark storylines all together, it sets the reader loose on a literary rollercoaster that whips around wildly and changes speed at unexpected times. This leads to a confusing experience overall with each separate section resembling less of a puzzle piece and more of a loose magazine clipping. This piece could have a huge influence on the hypertext fictions written after it, not only because of its use of form but because of the overall weight of its subject matter. The intense happenings, both good and bad, within the story are what keep the reader engaged and willing to tangle with the multiple storylines. The topic must be great enough, to be able to generate multiple different outcomes of the same emotional caliber. For example a topic I see working in this format is a story of being lost or stranded. There is a lot emotion that can be connected to the feeling of being lost and isolated that would resonate with lots of readers. The separate sections could contrast the feelings of being hopelessly lost with the feeling of being saved much like “The Babysitter” contrasted innocence and goodness with evil and greed. I would like to read another piece in this form with different subject matter.

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Hypertext Fiction and a look at The Babysitter

In reading the chapter this week I enjoyed reading the different approaches taken by authors to produce hypertext. Though, in reading “The Babysitter” I found it a little challenging in following the story.

It could be that is the author’s intention, to make it jarring so the reader is unsure and reads on to figure out the conclusion.
However, through the use of these “fragmented narratives,” The Babysitter is able to take the reader on not just one linear story, but instead the multiple paths of different characters(Rettberg, 84).

The author doesn’t give any instructions in reading the short story, in contrast to something like a choose your own adventure, which leads to a specific piece to make the story flow in a way. In reading it paragraph by paragraph, it jumps to another story, or a new character quite frequently.

In this way, it follows a pattern that Rettberg talks about in the more recent uses of hypertext. I would say Coover’s story is similar to some of Moulthrop’s work discussed in the book. Moulthrop’s pieces dealt with “the conflict between conventions of reading fiction and the fragmentary nature of attention online”(Rettberg, 76). I feel The Babysitter is much like this, with the constant switch in redirecting the reader’s attention to a new plot line, each one seems to get darker than the last.

Personally, I can’t say I enjoyed The Babysitter. I didn’t like the way the author sexualized most everything and everyone in the story.
Still, I’m interested in reading more hypertext literature. Possibly some of the ones Rettberg talked about in the chapter. There were some really interesting plots that I think fit well with the format of hypertext.

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The Babysitter and Hypertext Fiction

The Babysitter by Robert Coover is definitely an interesting story to say the least. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I completely understood what was happening the majority of the time throughout this. At some points in the story, it seemed like things weren’t actually happening, like they were all a part of some dream sequence or imagination, yet in other parts it all seemed very real. At the same time, the reader has to infer which perspective the section is in everytime it shifts, since it doesn’t tell you. I read through it one time, just to get a basic understanding of it, and then I read through it again trying to piece it together in a way that makes sense but still, it left me feeling annoyed and at the same time, wanting more. From what I could comprehend, the story has 3 “main” perspectives. 1.) The parents Mr. and Mrs. Tucker, 2.) the Babysitter (I’m not sure what her name is), and the Tucker children, 3.) and the babysitter’s boyfriend Jack, and his friend Mark. Mr. Tucker, Jack and Mark, and Jimmy the oldest Tucker child, are all in some way infatuated with the babysitter. Jimmy is referred to multiple times as wanting to spank her, as well as trying to catch and spy on her naked such as when she’s getting into the bath Mr. Tucker is (I think?) having some sort of fantasies about the babysitter and the things he wishes to do with her. While Mark and Jack both end up at the house with her trying to engage in sexual activities with her, and eventually trying to force themselves on her.

Although this isn’t my type of literature, and I was definitely feeling more frustrated than anything, I do understand why The Babysitter was an important piece that paved the way for current hypertext fiction. There is definitely some type of spiderweb type narrative going on in the story, but the reason it becomes meddled and confusing is there’s not really a way to navigate through it. With Twine, the reader is able to “choose their own path” by selecting different options to continue the story. With no option like this in The Babysitter, the reader is basically forced through every possible outcome of the story. Although this isn’t the best way to go through a text like this, it was still a very good model for later texts to build off of. It introduced the idea that a story could have multiple paths to go down, and it’s based on how can be based off of the reader’s decisions. The premise of the story is good, it just lacks the “Electronic Literature” aspect it needs. In other words, when Robert Coover was creating this story, he was just lacking the technology he needed to truly make it work. If this story was remade with twine or something similar, I’m sure it would be understood much better, with the added bonus that the reader would actually get to “choose” the outcome of the story. Which would actually be great because I’m interested to know how the story (stories?) are actually supposed to go!


Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg
The Babysitter by Robert Coover

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Hypertext Fiction and “The Babysitter”

During the reading of Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter” I couldn’t help but feel just a little confused to the fact that So many things where happening at once I couldn’t necessarily keep track of who’s doing what. I felt like this should be a way not to use Hypertext Fiction because even though this opens up the story to more possibilities instead of just a singular, linear path, to me, I just could not follow so parts of the story.

The definition of Hypertext Fiction, to me, is a great way to express a much broader and open storytelling experience for all of the readers by giving different conclusions just by the smallest decisions. Like in Scott Rettberg’s book “Electronic Literature”

“The development of hypertext fiction include a shift away from linear storytelling toward a multi-threaded approach”.

I still believe that this is Hypertext Fiction but it’s Hypertext Fiction that is still being developed, that is still trying to go into a different way than linear storytelling and instead gives us a lot of different perspectives that contributed to the ending in one way or another.

In conclusion, “The Babysitter” really does contributed well to the Hypertext Fiction category because, even if it is a little bit confusing at first, it still has those branching paths that make you think about what could possibly happen next.


The Babysitter by Robert Coover

Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

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“Fiction of Possibilities”

Initially when I read the first couple of paragraphs in “The Babysitter” I didn’t expect the story to take the disturbing turns that it did.

The story appears to be about a babysitter who is watching Mr. and Mrs. Tucker’s little ones while they are off at a party. The babysitter at first appears to have a pretty typical night, she takes care of the young kids who are being as rowdy as could be expected from children their age.

In this story, there are a few characters outside of the babysitter who are important. Mr. Tucker is the father of the children, and is incredibly attracted to the babysitter, in certain paths, he ends up putting himself on her. Mrs. Tucker, is the mother of the children, and appears to be somewhat suspicious of Mr. Tucker and also incredibly unhappy as indicated on page 4.

Then there is Mark and Jack, who have plans to rape the babysitter. The easiest way to describe the story is that the babysitter has the worst night imaginable.

Also, while the story is called “The Babysitter” it does not solely focus on the babysitter, but rather it gives incredible attention to all of the characters, which appears to be influenced from modernist writing. (Rettberg 56)

The story is a bit hard to follow on the PDF but the strong writing helps, “Although chronological progression takes place in the story, as we move from 7:40 p.m. into the late hours of the night, the distinction between objective reality and fantasy falls away as we read the fragments, and every possibility has equal opportunity to be visited.” (Rettberg 58)

Coover’s approach through fragmentation may at first seem to be an annoyance as the reader has to pay incredible attention to what is happening, but I view it as a strength of the story. The fragmentation encourages the reader to fully involve themselves by looking at each fragment and looking at which match together and which don’t. It felt like I was piecing together the story, and just when I thought I had it pieced together, there are additional fragments that lead to other paths in the story as certain fragments have fragments that can go into different directions.

While reading the story, I made highlights as a way to indicate fragments that I was piecing together. I only wish that the story wasn’t on a PDF file so I could actually move the fragments around.

This “fiction of possibilities” allows for a level of engagement that cannot be achieved in traditional storytelling. In a way, it allows the reader in a limited capacity, to be the author of their own narrative.

Coover’s influence can be seen clearly in hypertext fiction, which have experimented and explored the idea of multilinearity for many years. An example can be seen with the story of Uncle Roger by Judy Malloy which contained seventy-five lexia, which was in a database structure. (Rettberg 69)


Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

“The Babysitter” by Robert Coover

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The Babysitter

In reading “The Babysitter” I am mostly confused I had a really hard time following the narrative as a whole and figuring out what perspective it was taking. The story was written with the intent to blur reality and it does that very well, I would say personally to well since I was lost most of the time. Nevertheless, I was struck with how well It would make a digital “choose-your-own-adventure” style narrative. If the babysitter had some other que to let the readers know what perspective, they were reading then it would be easier to follow along and really engage in the narrative. While this might have taken away from what writer Robert Coover wanted it would have allowed some of his readers to better engage in the story overall. My personal opinion aside it is interesting to see the impact and change over the years from works like “The Babysitter” to things like “Those we love Alive” by Porpentine while The Babysitter is multinarrative it is really only the building blocks of what we have today, as discussed in Electronic Literature written by Scott Rettberg. The effect of multilinearity is so prevalent in todays society it is rather remarkable. The use of how hypertext and links are shared and used in daily life is second nature now. With the internet and web-sharing you would be hard pressed to go a day without interacting with hypertext or a multilinear platform built off of the foundations of The Babysitter and works like it.



Electronic Literature written by Scott Rettberg


Robert Coover The Babysitter


Those we love Alive” by Porpentine


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The Babysitter – January 25, 2019

Although 1969 provided no technical advantage for Robert Coover to create a piece of hyptertext fiction, he instead wrote what would essentially be the inspiration for hypertext fiction by forcing the reader to use as little information as possible to string together a coherent story.

In his piece “The Babysitter” a mundane plot of a babysitter washing the kids and putting them to sleep takes multiple perspectives in a non-chronological order. However, the lack of chronology is not what is confusing and captivating to the reader. What catches the reader’s attention is the fact that each perspective of the story includes that person’s imagined story of how the rest of the night unfolds. The babysitter’s boyfriend and his friend imagine raping her or seducing her, the babysitter imagines accidentally killing the baby, the father of the children imagines cheating on his wife, etc. These are just some examples of the various plot lines in the story, and some of the characters even create multiple stories within their minds about what actually happens. As a result of this mixing pot of plot lines, the story seems to constantly be correcting or contradicting itself, further adding to the confusion and noise that the short story creates.

This piece was very important for hypertext fiction, which is, at its very basic structure, a mixture of technology with writing to add to the story in a way that an analog piece of writing could not do. A common feature of hypertext fiction is interactivity, meaning that the story can branch off into multiple paths, or further immerse the reader by putting them into the story, and a countless amount of other techniques. In his novel Electronic Literature, Scott Rettberg states that “hypertext fiction may not have swayed the culture to accepting nonlinear storytelling on the computer and the network as a successor to printed books, but it has served as a foundation for many new types of literary work in digital media” (Rettberg, 86). An overall criminally overlooked genre of writing, hypertext fiction has nonetheless proved influential for postmordern writing. Nevertheless, hypertext fiction’s influence will likely continue to appear in new writing, both digital and analog, but it all starts with “The Babysitter”.

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Blog 2 :Hypertext Fiction

While I did enjoy reading Coover’s The Babysitter much more than Taroko Gorge, The Babysitter leaves me wanting something more when it comes to being able to comprehend a story or at least get a grasp of what it is trying to teach me. The story goes back and forth between Harry and Dolly Tucker, the young female babysitter(Jeannie?) with the two children Jimmy and Bitsy, and her boyfriend Jack who is hanging with his friend Mark. Already we have three narrative paths to follow (and possibly a fourth?).

Good luck keeping track of what’s what.

At first, I felt that I was somewhat able to follow what was happening in the story. Mr. Harry Tucker fantasizes about doing sexual activities with their babysitter Jeannie while his wife seems slightly suspicious of him. Jeannie’s boyfriend Jack wants to go further with her but is too timid to do so so he also fantasizes about her while his friend, Mark, tries to talk him into seeing her with him. And then there’s Jimmy who seems to have an odd fascination with the lovely babysitter as well.

What even…

This story jumps all over the place more and more the farther you read into it. For example, on page ten, the story jumps from Mr. Tucker trying to come up with an excuse t so that he can “run over” to the house, Mark and Jack trying to catch a glimpse outside of the frosted bathroom window, Jeannies’ 8:30 television program, an awkward tub scene between Jeannie and Jimmy(?), Mark and Jack trying to rape Jeannie, and then Mr. Tucker possibly fantasizing about Jeannie in a naughty way. It is so hard to appreciate the little details and descriptions the author has put into this piece when it is so agonizing to try and make sense of this story!

It is extremely challenging to tell whether everything that is happening is real, fake or a mixture of both. Despite these problems, we can connect this story and its spider web of a layout to another hypertext fiction. In Michael Joyce’s Afternoon, A Story, as mentioned in Rettberg’s Electronic Literature, most readers interpret the piece as something that:

“Forces the reader through detours without coming to a clear end “(Rettberg, 70-71)

We see this in The Babysitter. Sometimes she’s getting raped, other times she’s getting murdered, offered a ride home, questionable handling of a little boy’s penis, spanking someone, teasing Mr. Tucker, playing with herself or her boyfriend. The story is almost like a messed up version of “Choose Your Own Adventure” except the reader doesn’t get to choose. They are forced down these various paths until the end of the story. Then they have a choice as to how they think the story went.

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Dylan Niehaus – The Babysitter

The Babysitter by Robert Coover is an intriguing piece of literature that, while innovative and interesting, is too confusing and fragmented for me to fully enjoy. The story is written in such a way that it is just a series of events separated physically on the page by paragraphs. Each event seems to switch from one location and set of characters to the next. Based on the reading and other quick research I performed to learn about this piece of electronic literature, the point of The Babysitter is to create a story in which the reader is unsure whether or not the events are either reality or part of a fantasy within the character’s minds. But when I read the story, instead of finding myself guessing whether or not what was happening was fantasy or reality, I just found myself confused and frustrated trying to figure out what was going on in the story. Despite my frustration with this piece of literature, I can definitely respect it for the groundwork that it laid out for future pieces of electronic literature that fall into the category of hypertext fiction. The way in which the story involves the reader in multiple narratives is interesting as each paragraph is an event taking place in a different location with different characters. This strategy of listing out separate events instead of writing a traditional flowing narrative laid out the groundworks for future pieces of hypertext fiction. The Babysitter really cemented the idea of creating a story that can be seen in different ways by the reader, which was quite a feat considering that it was created before electronic literature was a recognized medium. Future writers of hypertext fiction could look back on The Babysitter and utilize present technology to create their own stories with branching narratives by providing different hypertext links, giving the reader more control over what happens in the story. Instead of being a story that can have different meanings to the reader just by the way the story is written, hypertext fiction is now able to give the reader a direct way to shape their “own” story.

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Hypertext Fiction

Coover’s story “The Babysitter” works as a model for later works of Hypertext by creating a nonlinear narrative path without using electronic tools. The narrative directly involves the reader by providing them with various perspectives on the same story and not directly revealing which perspective is which. The narrative switches between perspectives along the way, which can cause further confusion for the reader. Because of the way that “The Babysitter” is formatted, the reader must infer which perspective is which, and try to formulate a coherent story from both the information they are given, and the information they are not. This story makes sense as a precursor to modern Hypertext because modern Hypertext tends to feature fragmented narratives that are connected through various “hypertext” links. “The Babysitter” works as a Hypertext narrative without the technological advancement of Hypertext. In other words, the narrative could be easily translated to modern Hypertext and have a similar effect on readers today.

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The Babysitter

The main quality with works of hypertext are their non-linearity. Though Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter” may appear at a glance to be linear given its written out, print-based format, it is anything but. If someone were to read it linearly, they would quickly within just the first few paragraphs find themselves deeply confused or simply catch on that there is a different way to read this particular work. Looks can be deceiving after all.

While this work cannot be considered a work of Electronic Literature, it is an early example of multi-linearity.

The story consists of over one hundred fragments – paragraphs set off from each other by space breaks, that take us through multiple and divergent sequences of what might have or what could have occurred during the course of one evening between a babysitter, a baby, her boyfriend, and the mother and father of the house.

By describing the events of the night from these multiple perspectives, and providing the reader the opportunity to experience multiple endings through the course of the work, Coover has clearly and quite deliberately developed the structure for housing various paths the reader could take within the single text.

Later works of hypertext are all born digital but follow a similar structure to that which Coover demonstrates with his multi-linearity, storylines, and paths. Instead of separating by space breaks, each section of text would be in its own node whether on Twine or StorySpace (pre-Twine), and would have a word or sentence linking to the next node of text following a path. The digital age could far better take advantage of this method of storytelling and providing interactivity for the reader, but Coover’s “The Babysitter” certainly cast a light on the potential in storytelling linearity/multi-linearity and its structure.

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Blog 2 – 1/25/19

After going over the weekly readings, we can look at Hypertext, not as a classification but as a common term, the word hypertext is used to describe writing that is made possible by the invention of the computer and is created in the nonlinear or non-sequential space. Also, unlike print, hypertext offers numerous paths between text fragments. With its webs of linked fragments sometimes referred to as lexias, these fragments give us alternate routes that hypertext uses drastically with technology, giving us interactive independence which frees’ the reader from the author control. Hypertext users and creators are thought of as co-learners or co-writers, mapping and remapping the textual, visual, and kinetic components.

The mechanics behind “The Babysitter” follows somewhat of a TV guide listing. It is separated into sections, each of which links to a television program. From the beginning, Robert Coover uses key phrases to link the reader to characters. For example, the repeated phrase of “light brown hair” identifies Mr. Tucker, while “enough’s enough” or “that’s enough” identifies Jack. As the story develops, the character’s points of view begin to blend, and annoying attempts are made to differentiate among them. When we get to the end of the story, chaos has substituted the stories simplicity and reason. The shift in viewpoints is supposed to simulate channels changing and the fragmentation of realism in television. When we look at the beginning of the story, it was somewhat easy to recognize and distinguish the different points of view. By the end, it was somewhat jumbled.

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Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter”: Multilinearity and later works of hypertext fiction

Image result for coover the babysitter

Rettberg stated that movement within a multilinear narrative can be demonstrated through a change of tone, shifts in point of view, and through fragmented texts. (Rettberg 2019, p. 57). Coover’s story “The Babysitter” achieves just that, involving the reader in multiple narrative paths by rewriting the events within the story, alternating between points of view, and by telling the story in fragments.

Every so often, Coover would revisit an event in his story but change the details in subtle ways (this happens more frequently as the reader progresses the story.) This served to build up tension and cause the reader to think critically about which narrative they were following at any given moment. In addition, Coover alternated the point of view in each paragraph, allowing him to introduce more elements to the narrative for the reader to explore. He also presented fragments of the story at a time, cueing the reader to mentally change the setting, characters, and mood in their minds with the corresponding narrative paths.

To conclude, the story’s structure involved the reader in multiple paths by presenting them with rewritten passages, alternating points of view, and with only fragments of the story at a time. Each of these features caused the reader to think critically, introduced more elements to the narrative structure, and cued the reader of transitions within the story, which in combination helped to move the narrative along and presented the reader with multiple paths.

In many ways, Coover’s story “The Babysitter” was a model for later works of hypertext. Generally, the hypertext genre includes fragmented text, alternative narrative structures, and complications of character development and chronology (Rettberg 2019, p. 68), which can all be identified within Coover’s piece.

As discussed earlier, the author represented the story in fragments. This enabled Coover to utilize an alternative narrative structure that was unlike the classic format of printed works. With this alternative structure, the author was able to arrange events in a loose chronological order that made it somewhat complicated for the reader to interpret. He also shifted to a different character’s point of view after every passage, inviting the reader to ponder the characters’ motives in a complex way. Each of these aspects- fragmented text, alternative narrative structure, and complicated chronology and character development- are all reflected in later hypertext works, which were largely based upon Coover’s model of storytelling. I am interested in somehow including these aspects in my final project.

However, there are features in hypertext fiction that are absent in Coover’s story, such as link and node structure. These are key aspects in many hypertext works due to their usefulness in identifying paths and representing the story in some visual form. Another feature that is absent is the exploration of navigation apparatus. Generally, hypertext writers use the affordances of technology by providing the user with new ways of navigating and experiencing text. Readers follow a linear progression of paragraphs in Coover’s piece, allowing limited agency for navigating text or choosing the story’s direction.


Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

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Gorge Taroko Gorge: Combinatory Poetry in Motion


While taking DTC 101, I learned about Electronic Literature. I was fascinated by the medium because I am a writer. Combinatory Poetics is style of writing that I have never heard of. While reading the text I found that it was part of the early avant-garde/ abstract art movement which I have never been a fan of. With that said, I do fine that Poems that I read to be exciting. The poem Taroko Gorge is about nature. It appears the poet admires nature. While reading the poem, the images of trees and rocks I seen while hiking last year came to mind. The poem Gorge is about the human body. It was as if the poet was a practicing coroner that was studying the human body; Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man came to mind.


I not familiar with source code. To be honest, I did not understand what the heck I was looking at. I can only assume that it was generated through an algorithm. While reading the poems I kind of felt like I was the scrolling text at the beginning of Star Wars. The way to poems are presented allows the readers to be part of the action. If a few lines were missed by the reader the first time, the reader would have to read it again to fully understand the meaning of the poem. It’s kind of like watching a movie again and seeing something you missed the first time. I would like to try my hand at writing this kind of poetry.

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Combinatory Poetry & Taroko Gorge

Before reading these chapters and viewing both the original Taroko Gorge and several other versions, I had heard of blackout poetry and collage, but not combinatory poetry (either physical or digital). Similarly, I had learned about Dada (visual) art in an Art History class, but not much about their textual or audio art, or how that influenced forms of e-literature. With that, I have found a new appreciation for the Dadaists in light of how they paved the way, in a manner of speaking, for Taroko Gorge and other forms of combinatory poetry. Taroko Gorge also seems to have derived at least partially from the surrealists (I believe that this is mentioned in the book as well) as the poems (or poem, if each version is seen as simply one small part of a whole, rather than several distinct versions separate from the source) seem to speak to a subconscious chaos that combines aspects of both Dadaism and surrealism.

I haven’t done much coding (I learned about HTML and CSS in Brenda Grell’s 201 class, but that’s the extent of my experience) but looking at the source codes were very interesting. I would definitely like to learn more about computer coding in order to better understand the digital aspect and the underlying mechanics of e-literature.

Of the other combinatory poems drawn from Taroko Gorge’s code, I especially liked Tournedo Gorge, which combined computer and cooking metaphors in a surprising yet effective way. I hadn’t thought about it before, but the poem showed how both cooking and computer art (or even computer science) are composed of many smaller aspects all lending to a whole, as well as both drawing from the past to build towards the future.

Another that stood out was ‘Wandering through Taroko Gorge’ by James Burling; this poem seemed to draw not only on variables within the code, but with words supplied by each reader. Unfortunately, the website was broken (I believe that the code wasn’t updated enough for Chrome, but again, I don’t know quite enough about code to tell exactly what as going wrong). However, even the broken quality of the poem spoke to the fragility of e-literature, illuminating just how fleeting, and therefore precious, it can be.

Overall, I liked the concept of both Taroko Gorge and combinatory poetry. I believe it builds on both poetic & literary foundations while forging new pathways for artists, writers, and coders alike.

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Exquisite Corpse

As the door opened, his worst fear stood before him.
Steve walked happily down the street.
She loved him, though.
The white roses glistened with blood as it dripped into the stream below.
He drank deeply from his glass, ruminating on the past.
I am lost and deeply afraid.
The boy lets out a frightful shriek.
Stunned, they quickly turned to find something they never expected.
They came to the crest of the hill and looked out over the landscape.
They decided to go out for some fresh mexican food.
But he bounded away into the forest before he was seen.
he climbed on his back and began to climb
They were gaining; she ran until her breath came slow and deep.
Suddenly the dog started barking.
Their cat had the face of a human man and giant strong human hands to match.
Down the bleak road a cat scurried across the path.
They stood there for a short while, letting the rain soak them.
They wandered around the marketplace in search for the perfect pear.
Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see.
I was completely incredulous; had that actually happened?
Watching t.v. while relaxing and having a drink.
In the corner of his eye was the reflection haunting him.
They’ve never felt sadness and emptiness like this before.
The man went into the dark room and faded away.
The screams echoed throughout the night
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Taroko Gorge – January 18, 2019

“Taroko Gorge” is a fascinating form of writing that is generated randomly from a bank of words. It may have a deep meaning, or it may have no meaning at all. Perhaps it was done for the sake of doing it, but, much like any form of writing, the great thing is that a meaning can always be found within. For the original piece, for example, the elegant word bank that exists portrays beautiful images of nature with words like “hum”, “crags”, “ripplings”, and “pace”, that can evoke calming, wondrous images. Alternatively, a piece like “Hey Gorgeous” follows a narrative of word banks that describe the story of people at a club. The beauty of this digital art is that no matter what environment is inserted into the code, it seems as if the emotion of that environment is present throughout the piece.

Although there is no true narrative due to its randomness, this technique gives these pieces of writing a feeling as if they are snapshots of what is occurring in the world of the story. It is as if each line of code is equivalent to a person within this world blinking.

The code feels oddly akin to how a program like Twine functions, jumping around from bubble to bubble, creating a sense of controlled chaos. In the words of Scott Rettberg, it is “calm, almost zen-like poetry.” Zen-like can even mean unsettling, however. “The Dark Side of the Wall” generates lines of lyrics from the band Pink Floyd, taking the often dissonant feeling of the band’s lyrics and continuing it via technology. It can be argued that this is not true writing, but this does not seem to be what Taroko Gorge and its varations are trying to accomplish. What it is trying to accomplish is shared with writing, however. It makes its reader think.

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Taroko Gorge

“Taroko Gorge” by Nick Monfort is an example of a poem generated by a computer, or combinatory poetics, as outlined in the Electronic Literature Organization’s list of existing electronic literature practices as part of their definition of E-lit. It fulfills John Cayley’s short definition of E-lit as it is “writing in networked and programmable media” and is primarily an example of writing in a programmable media. It also a good example of Stephanie Strickland’s definition of E-lit, which she says

“relies on code for its creation, preservation, and display: there is no way to experience a work of e-literature unless a computer is running it –reading it and perhaps also generating it,”

“Taroko Gorge” could not be read and would not exist without a computer generating it.
“Taroko Gorge” was originally created in Python and then recreated in Javascript so it could be viewed in a browser. The poem is created by first announcing in the program a series of lists of words, which are then returned randomly in an order determined by the type of list they are in and displayed in phrases that create a poem. “Taroko Gorge” is what N. Katherine Hayles would call “born digital” and each iteration of the poem is unique. Every instance of the webpage will return a different poem than the last. The piece is not only “not easily produced or consumed in print literary contexts” as Scott Rettberg describes in the reading, but it is impossible to produce or consume as print. One iteration of the poem could be printed and distributed as print, but the intention of the piece would be lost.
The piece is a straight forward example of combinatory poetics. Scott Rettberg describes combinatory poetics as programs that “access and present data… and then through algorithmic processes, modify or substitute the data.” “Taroko Gorge” uses Javascript create lists of data, words in the poem, and select and present them randomly to form a poem. This is a similar process to the recipe for a Dadaist poem Tristan Tzara describes, cutting words out of a newspaper and gluing them down randomly as you draw them from a mixed bag. Combinatory poetics uses computer programming languages to create Dadaist poems instantly.

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Combinatory Poetics and Taroko Gorge

While examining a few different versions of the Taroko Gorge works, I noticed that many shared the same source code or framework. Nick Monfort’s original Python program was used for each of the works that I examined. Some versions, such as Camel Tail by Sonny Rae, modified the code enough that it looks like a completely different program. Sonny used blocks of text as opposed to individual words, as they were inspired by and using lyrics written by the band Metallica as opposed to individual words. The disclaimer that usually precedes the code about the original author is missing, and the names of the variables have been changed. The end result is similar enough as to be included in the list of versions of Taroko Gorge, and it looks similar when it runs, but it is different enough as to make one look closer at the code to find the common threads.

The meaning of each of the works would, I assume, vary from author to author. Each author uses similar framework but different content to generate combinatory poetry that speaks to them. Rettberg described Taroko Gorge as “ambient” (47) then went on to hack the source code, replacing Monfort’s verbs and adjectives with his own. He chose language he described as “frenetic” (48) which changed the entire feel of the work from one evoking peaceful Taiwanese scenery to an urban metropolis bristling with energy. To this end, the effect of combinatory processes on the reader are many-fold and widely variable. The uncertainty of what’s coming next can be exciting or unsettling depending on the reader. What is exciting, though, is how people and computers are working together and using one another (intentionally or not) to create these new, electronic forms of poetry that are contrived and organic at the same time.

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var blog = ‘words, writing, response, questions’


Farinsky Blog Post 1: Combinatory Writing

Combinatory texts such as Taroko Gorge by Nick Monfort are similar in code construction to Mad Libs stories. There are defined variables which randomly propagate words from defined arrays in an established, looping sequence once the program executes. The structure, color, font, and text size are all dictated within the opening lines of code below the header. The code also includes lines modifying the names on the far right column.

The text is both meaningless, and meaningful to the right mindset. From a pure programming perspective this is simply a program executing lines of code as planed by the programmer. However, human nature often finds creativity and meaning in places apparently devoid of such on the surface. Depending on the iteration of the code the lines within the program sound mysterious and elevated in a manner expected from prose or other poetry.

There is certainly a strong argument for the original Taroko Gorge to be included as digital literature because of it’s unique output, code structure, and clear evolution from similar programs in the genre. It is harder for me to personally agree that the other struck-through versions are also “literature” because in any other setting the high levels of similarity would be considered plagiarism.

One of the modern miracles of computer science is the strong push for open-source projects- projects that allow others to see, use, and modify existing lines of code for a separate project often with the only requirement being a credit to the original creator. Momentous amounts of work have benefited from pooling the collective knowledge base this collaboration of creators has communally built. However, is simply changing the words within a defined variable array really unique work? Does adding an image, changing the color scheme, or the time between publishing lines make the hypothetical edition different enough to be considered a unique work from the original? Is the copying only adding noise or adding to the genre of digital literature?

Even if one only considers the original work worthy of the title: “literature”, does it make the copy-cats not worth archiving? Digital literature is unique that it is constantly evolving in a very traceable way. With the rise of the internet, and corresponding platforms, directed for creative literature historians have the opportunity to catalog very distinct steps in the creation, or ignoring of, genre conventions. We can look at a network of similar programs and see exactly how the source codes are the same or divergent. This gives rise to the question of how can we tell what is significant though which is an entirely new dilemma considering in print the origins of “traditional” literature are very limited due to time or disasters.

The idea of word substitution in print or online is not something new- but creators such as Nick Monfort clearly deserve credit for creating a program which emulates human poetics in a more, and more human sounding manner.

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1/18 Combinatory Writing

If I were to show someone the readings about Taroka Gorge without giving them context of how they were put together, they would probably get frustrated because they include realistic phrases that encourage them to keep reading but provide no meaning. The stories I looked at were made with JavaScript and used random variables to put together certain words to make grammatically correct phrases or sentences. The program is designed to do this, but it is not really telling a story. I could say the works are about Taroka Gorge, but they are really just words that somewhat relate to Gorge randomly put together. I agree with Rettberg when he says, “This sort of story, like the output of many text generators, invites the reader’s involvement not by providing an excess of detail but, instead, by proving the reader with a minimal sketch, with a great deal of interpretation space left for the reader to fill in” (Rettberg 42). I look at the phrases within these works as images to be used when thinking of my own story of Taroka Gorge or a place similar. I have never been to Taroka Gorge before, so thinking about these works in relation to another place helps me remember aspects of it I may have forgotten. This is the effect combinatory writing has on readers. It lets them apply it in whatever way they want rather than forcing them to understand it in a certain way set by the author. I still think there is more value in engaging with a story that has real construction, but ones like these provide an interesting alternative.

“Minimal outlines such as this can serve as provocations, engaging our imaginations with prompts to flesh out a richer storyworld than actually denoted by the text that appears on screen” (Rettberg 42).

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Combinatory Poetics Blog

Combinatory poetics is a form of writing that I’ve come across before but I never knew the name of. The foundation upon which it was built has a colorful cast, ranging from the seemingly paradoxical Dada group with the cut up technique, the surrealist with automatism, the Fluxus artists, etc. all helped shape combinatory writing.

Taroko Gorge serves as a representation of combinatory poetics. Taroko Gorge is a poetry generator created by Nick Montfort, as Retterberg explains in Electronic Literature, “It is a relatively simple script that produces an endlessly scrolling poem, cascading ceaselessly in the web browser until the reader closes the window in which it manifests.” (Retterberg 47)

Looking at the code, in the script section of Fred and George, by Flourish Klink, in the script section there are nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Now words aren’t completely chosen at random, there is a structure as shown in the actual poem. In the main sections of the poem, it starts with a noun, then it follows up with a verb, and then another noun. Now the words that are actually selected within the set variables are mostly random.

The picture below shows an example of certain parameters set within the poem generated to give a sense of coherence and structure.

These similar parameters can be seen the other variations as well, like in “The Dark Side of the Wall” by Bob Bonsall. The main difference lies in the fact that rather than the variables contain single words, Bonsall’s put entire sentences and questions within them. Outside of that main difference, the code is virtually the same as the other variations.

There is a basic meaning that can be taken from these poems, like for example “Fred and George” is incredibly sexual and this was intentional on the part of Flourish Klink. There are wizards and wands involved, I think it goes without saying that Flourish Klink really likes Harry Potter.

There is one point in the book that I believe is worth discussing as it relates to combinatory poetics within the digital sphere. On page 43, Rettberg discusses how combinatory work isn’t made to produce the greatest pieces of writing, but rather as a way to represent a “range of possibilites in interesting ways”.

“If a generative system only operates to demonstrate a concept while producing texts that can only be appreciated as output of a computer program but not as compelling language, in my view it fails as a work of electronic literature.” (Rettberg 43)”

When I looked at the various examples of Taroko Gorge I never viewed any of the poems as compelling in any way, I simply viewed them as demonstrations of a concept. Now maybe I’m simply blind to the beauty of combinatory poetics through the use of story and poetry generators but I don’t take any real meaning in the actual text. I certainly appreciate the technology, as it is incredibly impressive, but outside of that, theres nothing.

When I listen to a song like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana it isn’t just the words and the music alone that are compelling, it is the fact that the Kurt Cobain actually experienced those emotions. With each note and lyric you can feel the passion and emotion behind it all. When you’re a teenager or even an adult, you can relate with those emotions and connect with not just the song, but the artist behind it.

Lets say that a song generator creates a song that is just as powerful if not better than “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Even if it was an objectively better song, I would still like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” more, and I would view the product created by the generator as a lesser product. I say this because a generator does not know what it is like to experience emotion, it doesn’t know what it is like to struggle, it doesn’t understand the frustrations of being a teenager and how that affects someone. Anything that it creates rings hollow because it can’t actually experience anything it describes.


Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

“Taroko Gorge” by Nick Montfort

“Fred and George” by Flourish Klink

“The Dark Side of the Wall” by Bob Bonsall



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18 Jan 2019-Blog 1

Taroko Gorge

I found it fascinating this week, perusing through the list of various versions of “Taroko Gorge”. Each work had its own theme as they were created by others. The concept of this code was very interesting to examine. Though I could not understand most of the HTML, it was easy to spot where the words of the poems were drawn from. Two of my favorite pieces were “Tasty Gougère” by Helen Burgess, and “Dress for overcast” by Clare Bryden. “Tasty Gougère” brought my mind into the kitchen, baking with my mother and sister and I just became hungry. A phrase like “Butter rolls the herb,” though it makes no practical sense, adds a sense of home to the theme of the poem where butter and bread and various pastries are being made. “Dress for overcast” simply reminded me of the Pacific Northwest. Every line was accurate as to what an average day here might turn out to be. The clouds moving by in the background definitely helped the ambience. These pieces, and others that I browsed, reminded me of a way of writing that is, just write whatever comes into your mind. I thoroughly enjoyed this assignment.

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A look at digital combinatory poetics


Taroko Gorge was not something I was familiar with before taking a look at the pages for this week. So before I began sifting through the many different works, I made a Google search. In looking at Taroko Gorge, it is quite picturesque and looks like the type of place one puts on a bucket list. After viewing these photos I was expecting all of the poems to be poetic takes describing the scenery of the Gorge.

The original page is a never-ending repeat of phrases. Mixed together they make a random poem about the Gorge. In the code, the author gives everyone the freedom to manipulate and make their own work from his, as long as they give credit. He uses javascript and creates a function that will randomly pick words from an array, and sort them in a way that the poem will still be understandable.

To the side of the original is a multitude of links, showing what others have done with the code. Looking through them these are the ones I found most interesting.

Brendan Howell took the original code as an inspiration to make Designer Gulch. Not only a digital work, but also physical art piece that sits in the Berliner Technische Kunsthochschule. There two dueling computers sit side by side spitting out content. They are programmed to string together “industry jargon” to create the verses. This is the one I found with the most coherent outcome.

Then there was Gorge by J.R. Carpenter, who’s generated poem I would describe as an anatomical feast. It’s quite odd and sometimes offputting with the results, but it does keep the attention of the viewer.

Overall, I liked taking a look at this different form of making poetry.

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“Taroko Gorge” Blog #1


In looking at our assignment and Taroko Gorge’s poem I am struck with the similarity between it and the bots on Instagram and twitter. While it is different in one make an infinity scrolling poem the twitter bots post something new every day, but at its core they are both randomizing words within the confines/ parameters of the code and making poems that will never be the same. In Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg he writes about how using technology changes how we create and what we create. In todays society we are ever more the consumer so is that due to technology or our own doing? While the effects impact humanity I as a user of technology must wonder if by looking at what these programs make, we will learn anything or if we will have a good laugh. Maybe in the future algorithms will be able to create novels and poetry but for now we can impute the variables and it will show us a little bit more about ourselves. Another example written about in Electronic Literature is when Scott is writing about Alan Turing, Christopher Strachey and the Mark I. The M.U.C love letters produced by the Mark I are rudimentary at best but that was because of the technology available at the time. Looking at the code used in the Mark I and the code used for Taroko Gorge’s poem they will be vastly different just because of the technology used but have the same result. Taroko is an infinity scrolling poem and the Mark I had that capability in its time. The abilities of Taroko Gorge’s poem are far better than the Mark I and while reading it I wonder if in time we will get to a point like Alan Turing was, where a machine can emulate and use a language so well that we cannot tell the difference.       



Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

Taroko Gorge:




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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.

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Electronic Literature and Combinatory Writing

Entry #1

On this weeks entry I have encountered very interesting work named “Taroko Gorge” made by Nick Montfort and, with the help of such software like JavaScript, CSS and HTML, he was able to put together a very intriguing poem that displays keywords. I found this piece of work to be very interesting because other writers where able to pick up the same type of story-telling and make it their own just by changing a few words.


Another variation of this type of poem I read was “Taroko Gary” by Leonardo Flores. It was structured just like Montfort’s Taroko Gorge but the background really spoke to me. I felt like I was being taken on a quest to just observe the rainforest and the mountains. It reminded me of when I was a kid, going camping, and I would just love to go out and explore the landscape with phrases such as

“Rain coasting the creek.”

“Creek Stand.”

The technology behind this is really fascinating because the format of making poems like this one and “Taroko Gorge” is it looks like you put different variations of words in a div and you can see that the words get randomized to try and make very compelling poems and can really make you think about what sort of content that you can produce by knowing this sort of language.



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Taroko Gorge and Combinatory Poetics

For the assignment this week, we were tasked with reading multiple variations of the poem “Taroko Gorge”. First, I took a look at some of the poems, and I noticed that they all had a very similar structure going on with them. After looking into the source code, I determined that it looked like each variation was different because of different key words that were replaced by each author of the poem. I noticed pretty early on into the reading this week of “Electronic Literature” by Scott Rettberg, that kinetic poetry was mentioned as a genre of Electronic Literature. After looking a little more into kinetic poetry, I discovered that it was essentially a form of combinatory poetics. It takes random words out of a piece of text, and they will all be floating around each other. Eventually the words will be drawn towards each other, forming different phrases.

Although the poem has seemingly infinite different versions that could be created through just changing the key words, the part thats most interesting to me is that no matter what words you change in it, the basic structure of the poem will always stay the same. Such as the first sentence of the poem will always be “*Key Word* *Key word*s the *Key Word*”. I also noticed while looking at the poems, that it doesn’t let you scroll back up to view a certain part of the poem, like it’s forcing you to live in the moment of the poem and focus on what’s appearing in front of you while it infinitely continues on. Since the poem is also randomized, once something disappears it’s very unlikely you’ll see it again even through replaying the same poem.

“Taroko Gorge” is very similar to a dadaist poem, which are created from other types of literature, but when cut into pieces and mixed up, they create something different than originally intended. The difference is, you can reread a dadaist poem as much as you like and take as much time as you like with it, which isn’t true with “Taroko Gorge” poems. Hit refresh and even with the same words, everything will be completely different again. As a reader this makes every line feel even more important, since you’ll never be able to read it again. On page 23 of Electronic Literature, Rettburg shares a quote from Manovich that perfectly sums up Taroko Gorge and Combinatory Poetics,

“a new media object is not something fixed once and for all, but something that can exist in different, potentially infinite versions”(23, Electronic Literature)


Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

Taroko Gorge:

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Dylan Niehaus – Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge is a piece of electronic literature that generates a never-ending series of poems from a word bank that the author created through Python script. This strategy of creating code that generates random phrases that make some sort of sense is known as combinatory writing. The original version of Taroko Gorge focuses on natural things. Here is an example of generated phrases from when I opened Taroko Gorge –

The crags sweep the rocks.
Rocks hold.
Brows frame the cove.

translate the rough sinuous arched cool —

Stone commands the shape.
Veins hum.
Brows linger.
Stones frame the vein.

shade the encompassing straight cool —

The word choices of Taroko Gorge create poems that Scott Rettberg describes as “calm, almost zen-like poetry”. (Electronic Literature, p. 47). This is achieved by writing code that generates poems that follow a specific pattern. The poems seem to follow a pattern like this:

(noun 1) (verb) the (noun 2)
(noun 3) (verb)
(noun 4) (verb) the (noun 5)

(verb) the (adjective 1) (adjective 2) (noun)

Taroko Gorge is unique because several other authors have borrowed the code and inserted their own bank of nouns, verbs, and adjectives to create their own randomly generated poems with a unique feel for each. Scott Rettberg, the author of our class textbook Electronic Literature, created his own version of this poem entitled “Tokyo Garage”. The word bank that Rettberg has created is entirely different from that of the original poem by Nick Monfort. While the original Taroko Gorge has themes of zen and nature, Rettburg’s take has a more modern, dystopian, and kind of edgy feel to it. Another version of Taroko Gorge that caught my attention is Toy Garbage by Talan Memmott. Talan’s word bank consists of popular toys for nouns, with adjectives and verbs that are dirty and/or unpleasant, resulting in poems that describe popular toys doing things that would not be expected of them. This strategy of combinatory writing catches my attention in a unique way. Instead of just thinking about what the writing means, I think more about what goes into the creation of the writing. When I am aware that the poems are generated randomly- it adds a new level of unique interpretation to the poems. I put in an extra effort to make sense of things when I know that the writing is being created on the spot by a script.

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Blog 1: Taroko Gorge

Before we begin, I would like to say that this type of reading is not my strong suit. What others may be able to comprehend, I will get stuck on or take a completely different route. After trying my best to read and absorb the knowledge from the first two chapters of Rettberg’s book, Electronic Literature, I began to see some connections between the book and Nick Montfort’s Taroko Gorge. As you may have noticed, the poem is very long and written with sentences that are honestly are worded in such a way that it makes my brain have to take five over and over again. So for my first “reading” of it I just observed its structure. The poem has this pattern where first it writes 2-3 lines that are describing something (such as a river or a forest). Then the poem inputs a space and writes something I would like to call an “action line”, a line that tells the reader that something is going on by using words such as “stamp”, “translate” and “enter” at the beginning of the sentence. We can see these traits in Stuart Mouthlrop’s poem Mock Tin Front. I believe both of these works were authored in a simple and interchangeable way. In Montfort’s, the author is having the reader create a forest. This is done by repetition of keywords such as “stone(s)”, “cove”, “rippling”, “monkeys”, etc as the text itself flows up the page as if it was a continuous flow of water. We see the same flow in Mouthlrop’s poem only this time the poem isn’t describing a forest. We see words such as ” instantiate”, “circuit boards”, “engines”, and “generate” as the text disappears at the top of the page. While the text still has that same flow the reader reads the poem a bit differently because of those keywords. Reading it over our mental depiction of the last poem’s forest slowly transforms into some sort of a machine. These transformations causes the reader to go from feeling calmed and relax to a more alert state of mind. With this in mind I believe these poems were both created in a similar fashion given the information that we have here. The poems were designed in the simplest way to loop but with a variation based on a set of keywords and a format that was determined by the author.

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Taroko Gorge and Combinatory Poetry

The concepts and ideas behind combinatory writing provide insight as to how poetry can be manipulated and enhanced through technology. Nick Montfort developed his poetry generator Taroko Gorge in the programming language Python, later converting the project to HTML, CSS and Javascript which not only made his work both easily accessible for web users, but also simple to hack and manipulate for other poets to engage with poetry through this medium. The open-source characteristics of Taroko Gorge allows for anybody to express their ideas through the medium of front-end web technologies and to expand the possibilities of what poetry can be by co-creating with the computer itself.

While analyzing some of the notable renditions of Taroko Gorge, it can be noticed that an infinite amount of ideas can be expressed through the generator by making simple adjustments to the source code. John Pat McNamara’s rendition, Take Ogre incorporates a background image on the webpage as a personal artistic decision to provide context for his work. The image of a desk and the impeding darkness of the night help articulate that he created his remix while isolated on Archill Sound, Ireland. Chuck Rybak’s remix, Tacoma Grunge explores themes of the Seattle Grunge scene while maintaining a minimalist aesthetic.

Each remix of Taroko Gorge is created by manipulating the keywords that lie within the Javascript variables, where the use of arrays organize the text. Due to the structure of the code that Montfort created, all of the numerous renditions of Taroko Gorge follow the same poetic structure, creating a sort of communal feel between each rendition.

While the work of Montfort certainly creates new possibilities for poetry and literature, it also has roots in the traditional ideas of  Surrealism. As stated by Rettberg:

“Surrealist writers and artists were just as likely to write together, and to freely mix image and text, as they were to write alone or in one medium” (Rettberg 25).

Combinatory writing and the work of Mantfort is not only a new and exciting form of literature, but is also a homage to traditional forms of art and poetry.





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Blog 1 – 1/17/19

Nick Monfort’s poem, Taroko Gorge is a reproductive poem about the Taroko Gorge National Park. The words scroll down infinitely, originating from a simple nature poem. On the surface, it is a countrified description of boundless landscapes in a variety of variations and length, yet confined like a river’s gorge by its short sentences.

The poem’s simplicity is reflected in its JavaScript code that is less than one thousand words. Each line of the poem that is generated from a small collection of adjectives. Another thing I noticed when researching this poem is that Nick Montfort allows the modification of his poetry generator by users or readers, provided the users give an original copyright notification.

Scott Rettberg’s Electronic Literature reflects on new forms and types of writing that manipulate the abilities of computers and networks such as works that would not be possible without the modern digital framework. Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg is a vital book for students and researchers studying literary concepts.

Rettberg puts the most significant categories of E-literature in a cultural, technological, and historical context. Some of the categories in this book talk about digital, hypertext, and interactive fiction. Rettberg argues that E-literature needs to be read through the view of the specifics of the technology used to produce the work. This book offers a fundamental introduction to a vast field that both reacts to innovative literature and traditions of art that generate various new forms of stories and poetry that are specific to the modern era.

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The Potential of Combinatory Writing

January 16

Entry 1

This week, I encountered an intriguing work called Taroko Gorge by Nick Montfort. Utilizing JavaScript, HTML and CSS, the author was able to create a generative poem that displays random keywords in a poem-like structure. Inspired by his trip to Taroko Gorge, Montfort uses keywords such as relax, dream, mist, cavern, vein, stone, forest, crag, and other terms related to nature and calm emotions. The work stands out to me because it has passed through many writer’s hands overtime. There are numerous variations of this work—all a writer needs to do is swap out the keywords for their own.

One variation I found was Pigeon Forge “Action Packed” by Zach Whalen. Though it was structured like Taroko Gorge (a stanza of four lines followed by a single line), the interface was almost reminiscent of a postcard, and I was reminded of road trips across the northwest. The keywords also reinforced this idea, which included asphalt, drive, moccasins and trail. The source code of this work is largely the same as Montfort’s, except that it utilizes different keywords to present a different theme to the reader. Toy Garbage is another variation, and reminds one of a children’s room. The background looks like the wall of a nursery, and keywords such as slinky, crawl, and play with are used.

As a reader of these renditions, I discovered the same effects across the combinatory readings. As more of the text was presented to me, I attributed meaning to those words and their connections with each other. They presented me with unique ideas that I had never considered before. As a result, I would argue that combinatory writing can produce inventive concepts that readers and authors may have otherwise never conceived of. As postmodernist author William Burroughs once wrote:

“The best writing seems to be done almost by accident… you cannot will spontaneity, but you can introduce the unpredictable spontaneous factor with a pair of scissors.” (Burroughs qtd. in Rettberg 2019, p. 26)

Though in this case, instead of using scissors to cut words from newspapers we would be utilizing computers as the “unpredictable spontaneous factor” that generates texts. Despite the author’s influence in the process (e.g. selecting keywords for the machine), what happens afterwards is completely left to chance. Though some may argue that random generators cannot create great works of literature (and indeed, even computers today can’t produce anything that comes close), I believe that it gives authors the potential to write something great for readers to experience. Oftentimes, an author’s best ideas come from the least expected sources of inspiration, enabling them to create memorable and strikingly original concepts. It is very possible that I will be applying random text generators to my final project, as the coding does not seem overly complicated and the results can be quite intriguing.


Taroko Gorge:

Pigeon Forge “Action Packed”:

Toy Garbage:

Electronic Literature by Scott Rettberg

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Taroko Gorge

As with all works of Electronic Literature, these variations or versions of Nick Montfort’s “Taroko Gorge” are born digital. Through the use of javascript, each version including the original implement if/else conditionals, variables and arrays with a variety of words to alternate the contents of the poem as lines appear.

Given Montfort’s note within the code granting permission for the copying, modification and redistribution of the software, as well as the number of other known E-Lit authors including Talan Memmott, Scott Rettberg, and Judy Malloy, among others, brings one to draw the conclusion that perhaps this also played into a sort of collaboration among the Electronic Literature community or an experiment of sorts.

Each text provides a different meaning based on not only the subject or focus of the version, but also the words that appear as they appear, creating an almost individualized experience that changes each and every time it is read. It is poetry so the meaning is up to individual interpretation. For instance, J.R. Carpenter’s “Whisper Wire” follows a similar pattern to Montfort’s “Taroko Gorge” but instead focuses on electricity and sound and how noise travels.

Andrew Plotkin’s “Argot Ogre, OK!” takes one of the other remixed versions and shows simultaneously the work’s process along the right side of the browser while also showing the actions the background code is taking with the conditionals along the left side.

As Plotkin phrases it, the process he implements is,

Combining the word-lists of any two poems;

Mutating the stanza schema.

In this version of the work, he shows the effect of the conditionals in numerous ways but places more emphasis on what lays beneath. As if exposing the skeleton instead of looking at the surface of a person’s skin.



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Language Arts and Combinatory Poetics

I think these works were authored by taking an original poetic work and then creating a code/program/etc. of some sort that selects certain keywords that can be replaced, and then allows for artists to input their own chosen keywords to completely alter the original poetic work. I take the meaning of these texts to be quite literally a way to take a poetic structure and alter it by having different artists/authors input several keywords which then have the ability to change the meaning and adverse effect of the poem as a whole. The different versions of Taroko George prove to be a way for artists to collaborate in a way that still allows for individual self expression. Combinatory poetics within these works allows the reader to distinguish their own interpretation of the various artist interpretations of the same work. This is especially proven by the fact that more recently, combinatory poetics have “tended toward simplicity” (Rettberg 41). The simplistic nature leaves interpretation up to the reader, rather than more complicated works, which can sometimes create a more direct explanation of the artists’ original thoughts for the work.

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Joel Cummings

Hello I am looking forward to this class I am a DTC major.

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An Intro to Me

Hey guys this is a test.

My name is Noelle Tadeo, I am a DTC major, and this is my second semester at WSUV. I previously received a degree in Paralegal in 2013, worked as a Paralegal for 4 years, decided it wasn’t for me, and am now coming back to school for my Bachelor’s. Yay for quarter life crises.

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Megan’s Post

Hi, my name is Megan!

Check out this cool video I made:

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I’m 28 years old, returning to school to study digital media.
I’ve been a radio DJ for nearly 5 years and like to dabble with audio and video editing. I like to make weird videos and weird art. I’m trying my hand now making weird games.

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My name is Sydney Standish, and I am a junior DTC student at WSUV! I love all things creative, and I am excited for the blog posts to come.

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Jarid’s Post

Hello everyone, my name is Jarid and this is my test post!

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My name is Ian Farnham and I am a DTC major. My superpower involves Illustrator, premiere, and after effects. My interest is film and cinematography. I have worked on twine before and enjoyed it and would like to learn more about twine and find out how to use more of it.

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Jacob Cook

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?


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First Post

This is the first Post

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Another Post

And there you go. And there you go. And there you go. And there you go. And there you go. And there you go. And there you go. And there you go. And there you go. And there you go. And there you go. And there you go.

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