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.
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.
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?
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 http://www.motorhueso.net/degenerative/about/ 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?
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
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.