Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature

Ebocloud response

November 7th, 2014 | Posted by Pooja Mehta in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I thought that Ebocloud, while it started off confusing and a little dense, ended up being a really good book. While reading the novel, I focused mainly on the role and ethics of big data, the value of being online and the value of online connection as shown in the book. Big data plays a huge role in the novel. Not only do members of Ebocloud start off with all of their standard information online (name, birthday, interests, etc), they also share their interests, and that is used to group people into particular Ebo’s. Later on in the novel, we see the appearance of the dToo, which then gives the cloud access to people’s thoughts and actions, and allows the cloud to control it to an extent.

I think the world described in the novel has a big dependence on being online and being connected to others. For example, Jared bases everything he does on Ebocloud. He wants to build up as many karmerits as he can, and is one of the first in line to get his dToo. Matt is fully immersed as well, and even Ellie warms up to the idea. He is weary of it at first, but after meeting up with other Firewheels, he realizes that he really likes his “cousins”, and agrees to be a beta tester for the dToo, which he ends up loving.

This whole concept terrifies me. I agree that there is a value to being online and a value to being connected, but the extent to which it is shown in Ebocloud is a little much. The cloud has access to people’s brains and fields of vision and all sorts of crazy stuff. What if a bug is introduced into the program? What if it gets hacked? Who knows what kind of stuff people could be forced to do? The society seems to be pretty utopian, but I see the potential for it to get really ugly really quickly.

Moss, Rick. Ebocloud. New Orleans: Aqueous, 2013. Print.


Electronic Literature

October 26th, 2014 | Posted by Pooja Mehta in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

“Electronic literature is…a first generation digital object created on a computer and usually meant to be read on a computer” (Hayles 3). As Katherine Hayles states in her book, there is a new mode of literature coming about. Much as the change from handwriting to type brought about discomfort and fear, electronic literature is being met with some opposition. It is a very different experience than reading a book, even if it is an ebook. I personally am not a fan of electronic literature. For me, this was my first interaction with electronic literature ever, and it was a very disorienting and unpleasant experience. Unlike my experience with Daytripper, by Ba and Moon, I had no indication of how to “read” the project, and perhaps because of that I lost out on a lot of the merit of the piece and was not able to enjoy it.


One piece that was particularly unappealing to me was Dim O’Gauble. Initially, the theme was totally lost to me, and only after a little Google searching told me that this work is about a grandmother reflecting on her grandson’s visions of the future that came to him in nightmares. The presentation of the project itself is interesting. You start off by clicking in the middle of the panel, and the screen zooms in to reveal a small block of text, only four or five lines long. You then click on an arrow in the panel, and it takes you to another panel, again with a few lines of text, usually about a verse in a poem. You travel this way though the piece—some panels have text that appears and disappears, others have text that cycles through different words or phrases, and still other have hyperlinks that lead you to a completely new pane, where a video runs. These videos all showed a boy turned away from the camera, and each one was set to a different background. The backgrounds look somewhat like they have static, or have flickering shadows, like they’re lit by a fire. There are never any sounds or voices in these videos—only the background music and occasional temporary text appearing and disappearing. Watching this project with the “plot” in mind, I can see how the use of animations and the background graphics of the project convey the indecision and haziness that comes with recalling and processing memories, and how the videos could be of the grandson in the settings he sees in his dreams.


Dim O’Gauble does have a lot of literary merit to it. To paraphrase Hayles, electronic literature must have a foundation that is in accordance to what readers have come to expect with literature. It must have a “deep and tacit knowledge of letter forms, print conventions and print literary modes (Hayles 4). Electronic literature takes these foundational pillars and twists them, with the help of computer interfaces and programming, to the limits of our definitions, and reshapes what we think of literature as a whole. Dim O’Gabule does a good job of upholding this definition. The base of the project is a story that is told through text. Because all of the information we get is through text, and not through the videos or the music, it is indeed literature. However, it is not just text that is presented to you panel by panel, like Candles for a Street Corner. There is no way to take this text and simply type it out without losing a significant portion of the message that the author is trying to convey to you. Part of the message is how the text appears and changes, and if you were to read it all at once, rather than panel by panel, you would lose the process of understanding that the grandmother develops for her grandson. Additionally, the interaction that you must have with the project in order to appreciate the whole thing adds a level of intimacy with the text that simply isn’t possible with a book or a Kindle. You decide where to start, and the story only progresses if you choose for it to. The disappearing and changing text forces you to pay full attention to the project at the onset—you can’t simply skim over it and go back to look at it again, because there is some text that flashes briefly then goes away, even if you return to its home panel.

Regardless of the literary merit of the piece, it was not something that I enjoyed working with. For me, there is a certain pleasure associated with having a text in your hands and flipping through it (to this end, I do not particularly enjoy ebooks either). Even with online literature, you can print it out and get the exact same piece in your hands—the only thing that is lost is the necessity of a power cord and a few sheets of paper. With electronic literature, depending on the intricacy of the project, there is no way to do that. Candles for a Street Corner, a very early and simple piece, could be printed on a piece of paper, but it would lose the graphics and animation that help present it. Indeed, the piece has a link to a plaintext version of the poem, and it fully conveys the theme of the poem. Dim O’Gauble could have the text printed, but then it becomes a poorly written story about a hypothetical scenario of fear and confusion.  An even more extreme project, Rememori would not be possible without the use of interactive computer interfaces. This project involves the audience to choose a persona, and then through that persona play an interactive game. As the audience clicks on the tiles to match them to each other, text appears, a short phrase that is the persona’s perspective on Alzheimer’s disease. If the text were to be printed on paper under all of the different personas available in the story, it would be a completely different piece of work, one that dosen’t have much resemblance to the original. For me, this reliance on interface severely compromises the durability of electronic literature as well. If I love a piece that I saw, and one day want to show it to my child, there is no assurance that the platform it is available on will be accessible. Paper is a sturdyobject that to me, is what literature should be conveyed on. While Dim O’Gauble is a piece that is sound from a literary perspective, I did not enjoy it and would be devastated if electronic literature went on to be the dominant form of literature.


Campbell, Andy. “Dim O’Gauble.” Dreaming Methods. The New River, 2007. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.


Hayles, Katherine. “Electronic Literature: What Is It?” Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, IN: U of Notre Dame, 2008. N. pag.


Kendall, Robert, and Michele D’Auria. Candles for a Streetcorner. 2004. E-Literature. Born Magazine.

Wilks, Christine. Rememori. 2011. E-Literature.

Novel Blog Post DN

September 8th, 2014 | Posted by Diego Nogales in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

This past week our class went to the DiVE (Duke’s Interactive Virtual Environment), a cube with projected walls creating a 3-D interactive atmosphere, and we tested various different simulations within this environment. Looking back at this experience, after having read Neuromancer by William Gibson, I am fascinated and at the same time scared by how quickly technology can, and is, evolving human life. In my mind, the perspective of the DiVE and the perspective of Neuromancer on the subject of technology’s future uses were opposites.

The DiVE team has many developing projects focused on training simulations that can prepare someone for a real life situation, removing the real risk of a dangerous situation, while still mentally and tactically schooling an individual. One example the DiVE crew gave us was the cave military training that can be implemented to mentally prepare soldiers before they would actually have to perform the mission. These potential projects demonstrated the usefulness and positive outlook that technology can have to enhance our real (non-virtual) lives.

In contrast, the Neuromancer reading takes an approach where a dystopian futuristic society rises through the evolution of technology. To me, Case was an example of how technology had, in a sense, overpowered and belittled a life without the matrix. In a setting where there are holograms and where characters all had some level of technological or physical modification, technology was intertwined to the point of blurring the distinction between technology and the natural. Case explains the view of the sky as, “the color of television, tuned to a dead channel” (Gibson 1) due to this technology-driven culture.  Furthermore, Case represents the dependency that continues to grow for technology, after the “adrenaline high… jacked into a custom cyberspace deck that projected his disembodied consciousness into the con sensual hallucination that was the matrix” (Gibson 8), he prefers the virtual life of a hacker in the matrix than the real in his life. His disregard for the real in his life is perfectly depicted by his sense of confinement within his own body, a “relaxed contempt for the flesh. The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh” (Gibson 8).

This perspective on a technology-dependent future is a scary thought, and it is dangerous to think about how just as technology can prove to be so beneficial to society, society can also become an “unsupervised playground for technology itself” (Gibson 11). Technology is already creating dependencies in our lives, but looking as to how fast technological advancements are occurring, I wonder how is it that we can “supervise” ourselves from reaching a point such as this Neuromancer society.


Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

The DiVE is a cube made of movie screens, and into which an entirely new experience can be projected. While I was in there, I felt as though that if we could get better graphics and more biointeraction with the scene that was being projected, it would be very easy to forget that what was being projected onto the screen was not real life, but instead a program that our senses and mind are bring tricked into believing. That being said, while reading Neuromancer, it made me wonder, “Is Armitage nothing but virtual reality taken one step further, into virtual mentality?” In Neuromancer, we are given a short blurb about Armitage’s past, as Corto. “Case watched Corto work corporate defectors in Lisbon and Marrakesh, where he seemed to grow obsessed with the idea of betrayal, to loathe the scientists and technicians he bought out for his employers…[he] had been taken to a Paris mental health unit and diagnosed as schizophrenic,” and then “[he was] provided with microcomputers and encouraged, with help from students, to program them. He was cured, the only success in the entire experiment (Gibson).” Basically Corto goes crazy after Screaming Fist, and as a cure he undergoes an experimental treatment that bestows a new personality upon him. The DiVE came so close to tricking us into believing that we were in a different place then we really were—is it possible that it could progress to the level where it tricked us into believing we were totally different people, and change all of our Cortos into Armitages? There is an entire episode of “Futurescape” that talks about the idea of preserving interactive personalities on computers, a similar concept to the ROM, and then being able to still maintain a relationship with a person long after they have passed away. So then, is it so unreasonable to think that we can reverse the process and take a personality from a computer and put it into a person? Of course, the original personality will still be there, and if the artificial one fails, like it did with Armitage, then what? Do we have a Jekyll and Hyde situation, where one personality tries to kill another and ends up damaging the person? Or is it a battle of man vs machine, where one wins and the other has to succumb?

If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t want to know the answers. Its scary to think of the implications of programmable personalities. For some reason, this reminds me of slavery—how hard would it be to just program a group of people to be submissive and obedient? And then, if they “want” to be in the position they’re put in, is it wrong to put them there? If we’re programmed, is our right and wrong just 0’s and 1’s?


All text references from the E-Copy of Neuromancer:

From Pooja: “My favorite documentary about future technologies and how they affect what we do: Futurescape: Robot Revolution”

See full episode here:

Thanks, Pooja!