Lit 80, Fall 2013

Electronic Literature Critique: Implementation


In the 1980’s, with the advance of computing technology, literature began to move from the printed books into computer screens. That is the birth of electronic literature. N. Katherine Hayles argues in the online article Electronic Literature: What Is It that, “electronic literature, generally considered to exclude print literature that has been digitized, is by contrast ‘digital born,’ and (usually) meant to be read on a computer.” According to the Electronic Literature Organization, electronic literature or e-lit refers to “works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer”. Although there are a huge amount of different forms of electronic literature, the Electronic Literature Organization gives nine categories of current electronic literature, which are “(1) E-books, hypertext fiction and poetry, on and off the Web (2) Animated poetry presented in graphical forms, for example Flash and other platforms (3) Computer art installations which ask viewers to read them or otherwise have literary aspects (4) Conversational characters, also known as chatterbots (5) Interactive fiction (6) Novels that take the form of emails, SMS messages, or blogs (7) Poems and stories that are generated by computers, either interactively or based on parameters given at the beginning (8) Collaborative writing projects that allow readers to contribute to the text of a work (9) Literary performances online that develop new ways of writing”. Implementation is the kind of electronic literature project that is a writing project that allows readers to contribute to the work.


Implementation is a project about how texts resonant with their environment. The authors put their book chapters on stickers and then distribute those stickers to individuals.  Instructions which encourage people to peel the stickers off and place them in  public area are along with those stickers. Then the authors collect the images of those sheets of stickers and put those imagines online. Those images which are photographed by the readers at different placements give us an idea of the resonance between the texts and the environment. As written in the project’s introduction, the authors hope that “this form of interaction will engender new and unanticipated meanings as Implementation is situated in specific public spaces that resonate with the texts in different ways.”

Implementation sticker in Philadelphia

In my opinion, the most fantastic thing about Implementation lies in the interactivity. There are four kinds of people who participate in this project. The first kind is the “sheet readers” who have the sheets of stickers, read the texts and distribute those stickers. The second kind is the people who read those stickers in public area. And then there may be some “web readers” who want to know more about the book or the project by going to the website. The most important is the “participants” who read those stickers in public area, post the stickers they have, photograph those stickers according to their will and send those images back to the authors. It is those participants that make the whole project have interactivity because they decide the “interface” of the book and the way texts resonate with environment by photographing in different ways and at different conditions. This is a novel idea for interactivity. In the “classic” electronic literature such as Michael Joyce’s afternoon: a story, the interaction is achieved by hypertexts’ linking structures. In kinetic poems (such as City Story), chatterbots (such as Because You Asked) and interactive fictions (such as Knotted Line), the interactivity is achieved by the game element which means that the reader’s different reactions cause different but programmed  consequences. However, the interactivity in Implementation  is not achieved by either the linking structures of hypertexts or the programmed  game elements. In Implementation  the interactivity is achieved by the decision of the participants . The participants decide the places the stickers are situated, the way the images  are photographed, the resonance between the texts and the environment. Unlike hypertext fictions in which every link is read in isolation, the stickers in Implementation function  in a whole as a coherent narrative. The readers  who see the stickers can have access to the whole story by viewing the website to see the texts or images. Instead of using game elements which result in programmed  consequences according to the reader’s reaction, the consequences in Implementation are not programmed and are totally undetermined until the reader post imagines online.  This is the real interactivity instead of “inter-passivity”. This also offers a new way for collaborative writing.

Although the Implementation is an excellent electronic literature project, there are some aspects that can be improved from my point of view. The first one I would like to improve is how to show the places where the stickers are situated. In the current project, all the images are listed according to placement. This cannot give the reader a specific sense of how the stickers are distributed. It would be great if the stickers can be marked on a map just like what is done in the project Skin. In the project Skin, the literature pieces are written on the skin of volunteers with a map to show the place of each literature piece. From the map, the reader can easily explore the geographic features of literature. In the project Implementation, a map will be a great tool to find some resonance between the texts and geographic locations. The second improvement is about the way to show the images. In the current project, the images are not just listed according to the location name. It would be better to use some interactive way to show these images. For example, in the project the Knotted Line, the interactive way of reading makes the reader have a sense of development and a sense of uncovering story. For the similar reason, in Implementation, an interactive interface can give the reader a sense of the shift of geographic locations. That may cause some unanticipated meaning about the resonance between the texts and the environment.

In summary, the project Implementation is an electronic literature project that uses collaborative writing to allow readers to contribute to the work. The interactivity in Implementation is different from the hypertexts and game elements in other electronic literature projects. This collaborative writing way has unpredictable consequences instead of programmed consequences when interacting with the readers. It would be better if the project can improve aspects about the interactive interface on the website.




N. Katherine Hayles,  Electronic Literature: What Is It,

Electronic Literature Organization

Michael Joyce, afternoon: a story (Watertown MA: Eastgate Systems, 1990)

City Story

Because You Asked

Knotted Line,





The Xenotext Experiment

November 4th, 2013 | Posted by Craig Bearison in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Christian Bök’s The Xenotext Experiment is an ambitious attempt at harnessing emerging scientific technology to create new forms of artistic work.  Most generally, it is an endeavor to merge the humanities and ‘hard’ sciences. Bök writes about his plan to write a poem and encode it inside of the DNA of a bacterium to create ‘living poetry’. Along with the poem itself, Bök would create a number of supplementary materials and, all together, these would make up the Experiment. Bok is currently the first person to design a microorganism capable of writing a meaningful text in response to an enciphered gene. He is now working on getting a sample of the organism in culture. The purpose of the experiment is to convey the beauty of both poetry and biology and demonstrate potential ways for these fields to interact with each other in the future.

The idea of creating poetry in DNA is similar to a concept we read about earlier this semester, which is using DNA for storage. The article “Book written in DNA code”, published in The Guardian in August of 2012, discusses the first successful attempt at storing the contents of a book in DNA code. Currently, it is very expensive and time consuming to store information in DNA. The book was the largest file ever stored in DNA yet is was only 5.27 MB and it was stored in artificial DNA, not implanted inside of a real cell. However, the article reports that technology is improving rapidly and DNA might be a viable option for storage in the future, citing DNAs extremely efficient storage capacity. So the idea of manipulating DNA to create poetry and other forms of art seems like it will be a possibility sometime soon. Unlike the experiment with the book, The Xenotext Experiment is more than just using DNA to store the information of a text.

The Xenotext Experiment involves generating a poem with the intent in mind to have it stored as DNA sequence and having the molecules and bacteria themselves serve as part of the artwork. In living organisms, DNA and its associated machinery not only store information but also allow for the expression of the messages (protein production). Likewise, part of the The Xenotext Experiment is creating the poem and its cipher in such a way that the sequence containing the poem can be translated into a protein, which is itself another text. This concept is part of the art piece and the elucidation of the aesthetics of biology, having poetry mimic nature. The bacterium is not only the book but the printing press as well and part of the art piece.  As for the content of the poem itself, the topic is about the interaction of language and genetics. This, obviously, seems fitting given that the purpose of the project as a whole involves this relationship. Bök is also constrained in what he can write due to the nature of the media itself. As we learned from The Guardian article, artificially storing information in DNA is not only difficult but complicated and tricky as well. The poem has to be short to avoid a DNA sequence that is excessively lengthy and there might be more specific syntactical and dictional restrictions so as to make the sequence stable and capable of coding for the protein. Bok had to redesign the protein many times before he created one that could accomplish its intended function (in this case glowing a fluorescent green) while maintaining the poem sequence inside a cell. In the successful creation of the poetic cipher gene this year, the protein was able to glow and the poem persisted.

As part of the artwork, different types of images of the DNA, protein, and bacteria will be included in the piece. There are many imaging techniques in biology for visualizing organic structures, many of which produce aesthetically pleasing pictures. Bök plans to take advantage of this fact by including artwork of the compounds and in this way adopting the chemical foundation of the media as fine art. As we learned from our discussion with Jussi Parikka and Drew Burk a few weeks ago, the physical features of books are part of the experience of reading a book. The design of the cover, the type of binding, texture of the paper, and font/margins of the page are all attributes of the media and contribute to the message. In this new medium that Bök is envisioning, characteristics of the media again influence the message. Different poems and different coding schemes result in distinct DNA sequences that look different and create different proteins. Also, the choice of imaging techniques could be utilized by the author to establish styles and generate certain impressions, just like a painting can. Along with images of the products, Bök also plans to cover the scientific side of the Experiment as well by producing charts, graphs, outlines of the results, and an explanation of the chemical cipher.

The Xenotext Experiment is not just a written or digital text compilation of all of the documentations of this living poetry project. For example, Bök intends to organize an art exhibit with enlarged copies of the photos and charts, thereby creating a space for a discourse about the topic. One such tool Bök is already employing is a ball and stick model of his protein from a plastic model kit. The 3d protein sculpture has already made appearances in art exhibits. Bök also intends to publish a poetic manual at the end of the project detailing the text of the poem and including many of the pieces such as the chemical alphabet of the cipher, photos, and the scientific data. One cool plan Bök has is to include a slide with a sample of the bacteria with every book for the reader to examine. Providing an actual copy of the organism would enhance the affect of the poem by providing a tangible three-dimensional object for the reader to inspect and help the artwork resonate.

Picture of the protein sculpture on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver

Picture of the protein sculpture on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver

A final thing to consider is whether or not The Xenotext Experiment qualifies as electronic literature and if it even matters. On page x of the Read Me in Hayles’ Electronic Literature: New Horizons For the Literary, she says “electronic literature can be understood as a practice that mediates between human and machine cognition…” (Hayles x).  If we understand this statement with a broad definition of machine, including biological ‘machinery’ as a type of machine and not just interpreting it to mean computers, then I think this piece certainly counts as electronic literature. The Xenotext Experiment takes a human conception, poetry and other types of art, and puts it in biological terms. Hayles also comments that electronic literature is tied to the evolution of digital computers, just as print books were tied to the evolution of printing. Although existing in a biological and not computer form, ‘living poetry’ is dependent on and tied to digital computers for its creation and visualization so I believe The Xenotext Experiment fits this condition as well.

Currently, molecular biology and the arts are seen as exclusive fields of study and The Xenotext Experiment is an attempt to combat that notion. These two areas can be combined to create a multidisciplinary medium capable of transmitting information in an entirely new way. Additionally, this ‘living poetry’ makes arguments about both of these fields as well. Namely, biology can be art and poetry can employ technology and scientific principles.

Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons For the Literary. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 2008.

Rememori Critique

November 4th, 2013 | Posted by Matt Hebert in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

 Rememori is an online matching game/interactive poem which deals with the degeneration of the brain in the face of Alzheimer’s Disease. For each level, the player is able to choose an avatar from a list of users ranging across the spectrum of intimacy from “Father” to “Doctor” to “Stranger”. The player’s choice of avatar will affect the text generated during gameplay. The actual body of the game is a memory game involving matching pairs of cards with identical images. Everything is neurological in nature, either depicting the anatomy of the brain, or embodying an idea which the sick character must struggle to hold on to.

In “Electronic Literature: New Horizons For the Literary”, Katherine Hayles describes electronic literature as “a hopeful monster… composed of parts taken from diverse traditions that may not always fit neatly together” (Hayles 2008). Rememori is unquestionably a hopeful monster, though a highly successful one. It utilizes a combination of poetry, hypertext, gaming and moving art to present the player with a compelling depiction of Alzheimer’s disease which the player must experience firsthand. For simplicity’s sake I will refer to Rememori as a game, although to be more precise it is a piece of electronic literature without a clear genre.

The “poetic” portions of Rememori meet with Hayles definition of hypertext as text “characterized by linking structures” (Hayles 2008). Each click will produce a randomly selected piece of text which floats in the air for a few seconds. These components do not blend seamlessly with the gaming portions of the piece, but the dissonance between the hypertext and the gaming serve to make each as impactful as possible. If the player is playing the matching game in earnest, then this sea of disembodied phrases should barely register, acting initially as an emotional backdrop to the task of matching images. Of course, once the player recognizes the thematic importance of the text, the text explicitly distracts the player from the goal of completing the level, since completing the level means being unable to read more of the text. The disjunct nature of the text and images ensures that together they will always present the player with a chaotic blend of ideas that mirrors the fragmented nature of actual thoughts, particularly those in the disordered brain. With each advancing level, the interface incorporates multiple methods to portray degeneration of the mind. The card placement becomes more erratic, the images more volatile, the phrases less complex. In conjunction with one another, these components form an intuitive shorthand for the state of the mind at different stages of the disease and allow the player not only to understand it, but to feel it for himself.

Rememori is very effective as a game because it is based around forcing the player to experience distorted version of the familiar. Most people have played a memory game at some point in their lives. Even if they have not, the first level presents a very typical version of the classic matching game for the player to become acquainted with. Fragments of text appear with every upturned card, but this is otherwise a very ordered game. Of course this cannot last. The impact of each subsequent level is built upon its ability to distort the norms of the previous one. The second level has the images shake and turn. The third replaces images with questions. By the fifth level, the screen is a disorganized mess of misspelled words, poorly drawn clocks, and unanswered questions. These levels are not just visually jarring, they are more frustrating to play after having learned to play the game with more simple structure. Rememori is powerful because it mimics the experience of neurological disease by taking the familiar and turning it into something noticeably distorted.

The game is especially poignant in that it gives the player a small amount of choice, only to steadily remove that choice near the end of the game. Users begin to blend together as relationships lose meaning, cards become blank as thoughts fall apart. Nothing the player does really matters once the sixth level is begun. The player can make the arbitrary distinction between “Stranger” and “Visitor”, but in either case there is nothing left to do but click each circle one last time and watch the brain fade away. In the same way, life is sometimes unfair, uncompromising, and unwilling to wait. When a degenerative disease takes hold, one can no longer hold back the inevitable just by wanting more time. At some point, it is necessary to simply let go.

The final portion of the game, seeing the brain turn to white and fade away, is oddly serene after the more blunt, garrish imagery of the levels preceding it. The cross-sections of brains and jumbled misspellings of words are very agitating images for the player to be bombarded with. The plain white circles, while disturbing on an existential level, are in contrast very placid, allowing the game to end on a less violent note. And after feeling the frustration that comes from struggling to make sense of once simple concepts, I felt oddly calm when I resigned myself to the fact that oblivion was the only outcome. By removing the player’s ability to struggle back, the game forces the player into acceptance of the inevitable, which could prove very cathartic for players coming to grips with the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease.

At its core, Rememori is a meditation on death and loss. Things that we take for granted now – order, identity, continuity – may soon be gone. We may lose something that we didn’t even need a name for until we had to describe the world without it. The internal mechanisms of the mind are difficult to conceptualize and even harder to convey, which is what makes Rememori so clever for finding a clear “language of the mind” through which to communicate with the player. As a game built around random elements, it has no well-defined message, but its emotional tone and impactful finale are unavoidable. It is a rare game that wants to be ruminated on far more than to be played.

In an obscure corner of the Internet resides a barren page. Usually it shows nothing but a black background, though occasionally a single character may be found. The only clue to its past rests in its title, “degenerative”, and a brief about page archiving pieces of its history. A more thorough explanation is offered, but links to a hacked page, further contributing to the viewer’s impression that they are visiting a ghost town.

The theme of the “degenerative” project was destruction. To say that the webpage self destructed over a period of four months would almost be correct, except for the fact that its disappearance was inseparably connected with its viewers. When the page’s author Eugenio Tisselli originally created the page, he attached to it a script that would automatically change or delete a random character each time the page was removed. The page would in fact remain unmarred — until people looked at it. The script destroyed the page in the end, but needed the help of the public.

Rather than simply augmenting a piece of text from the periphery, the script behind the webpage is the primary component of “degenerative” as a work of electronic literature. While the original text was a calculated creation of the author, it immediately became fluid as it was viewed in ways that were random and therefore beyond even his control. Thus the process becomes more relevant than the product when we consider questions about what the piece is arguing. This process exists in written form as the script used to modify the web page, but unfortunately this script has not been made available to the public. Instead we are given the current, nearly empty page and an archive of past versions of the page to read and analyze.

The author notes on his website that “sometimes, when it is visited, a single character can be seen… it is only a ghost”, but it is worth pointing out that there is still more to the page than a single character. If we view the source code for the page, we find

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN”>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=iso-8859-1″>

<body bgcolor=”#000000″ text=”#999999″>

This source code is still quite sparse, but it reminds us that the page is not completely devoid of data. The background color and text color are still set (if only to a simple black and white), the title remains, and the content type is still defined. In particular, we know that the contents of this page are html text, and that if any text were to appear on this page, it would be written with the Latin alphabet used in North America. Thus it seems more fitting to refer to the page as a skeleton instead, one that might be studied as an archaeologist studies ancient bones.

The analogy in which we think of the critic as an archaeologist is made even more apt by the fact that Tisselli neglects to provide the source code for the script modifying the “degenerative” page. While we have argued that this script is the core essence of the “degenerative” piece, we cannot actually study it. Instead we must dig through the available archives of page versions as if they were geological strata. With no access to the guts and flesh of a living version of the page, we are forced to study the piece indirectly by basing inferences on the fossilized relic that remains.

When analyzing the past snapshots of the “degenerative” page, the most useful to us is the original version of the page, as it is the only version in which every character is the direct result of a conscious decision made by Tisselli. Its contents give us a hint at the thesis Tisselli is arguing, as well as providing a framework within which we may place the work as a whole. It provides content for the piece while at the same time explaining the process that will manipulate it and likely will bring about its eventual demise.

Since all the text on the original page will slowly be destroyed, pieces of text and ideas that are repeated will survive the process longer, so we can guess at the relative importance to the author of a piece of text or an idea by looking at the number of times it is repeated. Analyzing repetitions of ideas and lines of text, we see that the author expresses that the page will be destroyed in many different ways throughout the piece, an idea that is clearly integral to understanding the project. We also notice, however, that the sentence “seeing is not an innocent action” is repeated four times in a row, giving the reader a good candidate for the thesis of the piece.

While it is natural to study how art affects the viewer, “degenerative” explores the opposite direction. In claiming that “seeing is not an innocent action”, Tisselli points us toward the idea that viewers affect art, an idea that he demonstrates both literally and destructively with the “degenerative” page itself. As he states in the about page, “the only hope for this page to survive is that nobody visits it. but then, if nobody does, it won’t even exist.”

Overall, “degenerative” does an excellent job of arguing Tisselli’s thesis simply through the nature of its existence, though it could still improve on other fronts in order to become literature of a slightly higher quality. Making all source code available and maintaining the website better are easy ways for the work to be improved, as I already mentioned earlier. One further thing that could be done, however, is remove the archive of past versions of the page.

Only with the archive gone would the destruction of the page be complete. Once the original page is no longer viewable, it will truly only exist as it is now, as a distant memory and a lonely skeleton that sometimes shows a single character.

[1] Tisselli, Eugenio. “degenerative.” . N.p.. Web. 3 Nov 2013.

Why do you stay up so late? is a poem written by Marvin Bell that utilizes digital media to enhance the reading experience by augmenting the literary elements. In the poem, Bell uses traditional elements such as theme, conflict (internal), style, tone, and figurative language; he uses colors, sounds, and animations to compliment his words and heighten the meaning in his work. The sounds set the somber tone of the poem before the author’s words have the opportunity to create it. The animation of a lit match on the first page reminds the reader that it is late at night and there is very little light to work by.

Bell 2004

Lit Match (Bell 2004)

Additionally, the hand tapping a pencil on the table is a visual of the author’s restlessness in attempting to write. The tapping makes the reader feel just as restless as the author, allowing the reader to sympathize with the author’s internal conflict. Also the animations visually represent the figurative language the author uses.

Tapping Pencil (Bell 2004)

Tapping Pencil (Bell 2004)

When the author describes the young poets and then transitions back to himself, the animation mirrors the transition by shifting from many tapping pencils to one tapping pencil.

The many tapping pencils that symbolize many young poets (Bell 2004)

The many tapping pencils that symbolize many young poets (Bell 2004)

The lone tapping continues until he says “I am frozen in the white page.” It is at this moment that the animation freezes, highlighting his conflict and figurative language.

Additionally, colors are used to set the scene as well as accent specific words and lines. For most of the poem, the words are set on a black background. It all changes with the appearance of the word “light”. The word is the only brightness on a dark surrounding because it is meant to be a single source of light that appears “through the ice.” This is followed by the screen flashing, and the background shifting to white. Here the sound maintains its repetitive beat, but the tone changes. This change creates a sense of optimism, but reminds the reader that things are still the same. This sentiment is echoed when the screen returns to a black background and Bell writes “this is not the story.” The contrast with colors and word selection is used throughout the poem as Bell sometimes highlights certain words by using different colors.

The affect that producing the poem in this form has is emphasized when you look at the poem in its pure html form. Here the reader finds a 24 line poem that when read does not touch us emotionally like the animated version does. Also, the animated version requires the reader to spend more time on the poem than one may necessarily spend reading it because you can only transition pages when the author allows. By using electronic literature as his medium, Bell is able to utilize multiple tools to create what traditional authors attempt to do with one. He creates the readers’ environment through manipulation of sounds, colors and time while traditional authors can only use words. Though critics may argue the latter is more difficult and therefore more impressive, the former assures that the reader experiences the environment the author intends.

Looking at how this contributes to the electronic literature conversation, I turn to the questions presented by Katherine Hayles in Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (2008).

1)      “Is electronic literature really literature?” (Hayles 2008)

This question is difficult to answer because it depends on your definition of literature. Hayles has a more inclusive definition of electronic literature that includes work that that provides the reader with an experience (or gives meaning to it) and is “digitally born” to be read electronically. Personally, it is too specific but at the same time too inclusive. If Hayles limits electronic literature to work created electronically, then she eliminates some the projects discussed in class. By her definition, projects created using code would be the only forms of electronic literature because that is the only way for something to be truly “digital born.” Would her definition exclude remediations? Implementation, for example, is in a remediation of a book. Since its origin in a print source, does it lose credibility? Or perhaps should it be considered experimental or some other form of literature.

To me, literature must use words in the form of a poem, play (scripts), or novel to create an experience. By this definition, Why do you stay up so late? would de defined as a type of literature. Bell’s poem uses words to create an experience. However, not all electronic literature falls under this category. For example, Arteroids is an ‘end of language piece’  that uses words to create meaning. However, the medium is a game, and the words are used more as a piece of art rather than a piece of literature.

As a result, I would alter Hayles’s definition to include remediation, but to exclude projects that are without words in the form of a poem, play, or novel.


2)      “Will the dissemination mechanism of the internet and the Web, by opening publication to everyone, result in a flood of worthless drivel?” (Hayles 2008)

In short, yes. Based on the list that was discussed in class, there are numerous examples of “worthless” electronic literature.  Nonetheless, I do not think this is a reason to prevent its development. In traditional literature, there are plenty of examples of literature that critics view as worthless, but that has not deterred writers. If poorly written books did not end traditional literature, then a few poorly created projects should not end electronic literature. Furthermore, the presence of mediocre literature, electronic and traditional alike, creates a contrast by which ‘valuable’ literature can appear even better.

3)      Can traditional literature coexist with electronic literature?

This question parallels the discussion we had earlier in the semester on whether E-readers will eventually become more prominent than written novels. I think that in this scenario, both forms are invaluable so they should both continue. Unfortunately, because of the trajectory humanity has taken away from books and towards television and video media, electronic literature may be the only way to captivate future readers. Therefore, I think that electronic literature will become the primary source of literature, but I hope that future authors include non-augmented transcripts like Bell does.

All of the attributes I described involving how Why do you stay up so late? augmented the nature of the poem are not only why I feel that it is an effective use of electronic literature, but also the reason I like it. Bell effectively balances the electronic and traditional literature elements to create an aesthetically pleasing and well written poem. Nothing too abstract is done, and the electronic medium is used to achieve features that cannot be completed in different media. As electronic literature develops, I hope that it will be able to utilize improvements in technology to augment and improve the reading experience.


Works Cited:

Bell, Marvin, and Nikki Ruddy. Shakespeare’s Wages: Fifteen Poems. [S.l.]: Gendun Editions, 2004.

Hayles, Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2008.


Thank you Amanda Gould for the advice and recommendations to improve my critique.

Electronic Literature

November 3rd, 2013 | Posted by Kim Arena in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Throughout history, literature has continued to progress alongside the medium through which it is received. The development of print technologies increased public access to literature and expanded the methods through which it could subsequently be interpreted and analyzed. This trend continues today with the continual expansion of technology and electronics, giving rise to a whole new genre of media from which literature can be expressed, interpreted, created and manipulated. Electronic literature provides an endless stream of new ways to experience written works in ways that print cannot. But does this aspect take away from traditional literature? What is considered to be literature? According to Oxford Dictionary, literature is defined as “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit”. Literature does not aim to make print obsolete, but rather to expand what we can obtain from written works. The technologies provide us with new ways to think and increase our level of interaction with the text—allowing us to explore concepts, patterns, and more that go beyond the words, but that delve into the art of the work itself and the components that make up the literature. In her book, Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary, N. Katherine Hayles describes how electronic forms of literature allow for “the criticism and analysis of programmed media without sacrificing the interpretive strategies evolved with and through print” (25). The use of technology as a medium for literature does not replace traditional print literature, but rather opens alternative ways through which it can be experienced. Electronic forms of literature expand the artistic merit of the written word, establishing different ways through which we can explore interactions between words and meaning. Similarly, we can employ multiple senses in our interpretations through visual and sonic components, altering our experience with the work and thus the understandings and interpretations we can extract from it.
Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, for instance, explores the interactions between music and literature and provides a medium through which we can appreciate the interplay between the two forms of art, thus augmenting the individual interpretations into something more complex. Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries pair their jazz pieces with a movie-like stream of words and phrases of varying sizes, speeds, and colors. Though the words do not form complete sentences, they are associated in a way that they flow with the music; rhythmically creating a disjointed stream of consciousness that comes together to tell a story. It is together the display, music and the words themselves that are telling the story, and thus how the story unfolds depends on the interpretation of the receiver, and how they associate the visual, sonic, and textual components. Thus, the result will be slightly different for everyone, and may even be different for a single person each time they listen. The patterns, colors, sizes, timing, and orientation of how the words appear on the screen in addition to the blinking and changing backgrounds augment the way that the meaning behind the text is associated along with the changing beats and notes of the music. These two artistic components are intertwined to establish an ultimate experience that changes that way we interpret both, interplaying off each other to affect the way each is perceived in relation to the other. Words can invoke feeling just as music can, and that feeling can affect how you interpret the music, or vice versa. Certain words may stand out to you, whether it is because of how they were oriented on the screen or the timing from which they appeared in relation to the music, whether it had gotten quieter or louder, faster or slower. This specific kind of experience differs for each person—different things stand out to different people and thus have different significance to different people. Subsequently, each person will have a different interpretation of the piece, and thus the story. These components can even establish a mood, and thus they are not only augmenting the perception of the work itself, but also the environment through which the receiver extracts such interpretations. The simultaneous interpretations determined from listening to the music, viewing the colors and timing of the words, and reading the text affect each other, thus the overall experience differs from the individual experience of each of these elements. This can be observed by muting the sound for one of the pieces. The words and their motions along still portray the story; yet do not produce impact on the reader. The music helps guide the reader through the text, providing pace and extracting emotions that the words along cannot. This process works in the reverse as well; listening to the music alone without the words deprives the sound of any particular meaning. It is the pairing of these two components that augments the way we perceive the literature as a whole. This concept can be experienced in their piece “Lotus Blossom”.
The Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries project adds an artistic element to written work that serves to enhance it and provide a means through which we can expand the boundaries of both music and literature to heighten the potential of both media and increase our levels of interaction and interpretation. The combination of reading and listening skills allows our interpretations to interplay with each other, forming an augmented version of a musical piece and a work of literature. Literature should not be bound by the confines of print, but rather should reach out to other medias to build on what the print has given us; to work together to build upon our knowledge and heighten our intellectual stimulation and explore the full potentials of the data presented by written word.
Jason Lewis in his digital poem “Nine” utilizes images, phrases, and game-like interactions to depict the layering of life and simulate how aspects of our lives interplay with each other and present themselves in different ways as time progresses. The convention is simple, nine squares each with a different image that can be shifted around—with the goal of forming a total media. Each time a square is moved, a textual piece of information is revealed about the life of the subject, whether it is a fact, an event, a thought, or another piece of the story. But, as the player interacts with the poem, the images change and fade into one another, creating a loop. While some of the images may not fade all together, some may be clearer than other and some may superimpose themselves upon another. These visual factors, alongside with the textual story, act as clues towards the lives of the characters—what is important at the time, what they may be feeling, what parts of their past may be reappearing or playing a subliminal role in the present. The artistry of this is that Lewis does not need to tell us these aspects of life—but rather lets us discover them on our own as he guides us through the story. And, because the reader is in control of the tiles, you are thus in control of how the story unfolds—which details you see at which time, which images are side-by-side, how the overall mood of the nine tiles is perceived—and it is through this interaction that the reader makes the story their own. Everyone who “plays” Lewis’s poem will be “reading” the same story, yet the path they take to get to the end will be different, thus the experience will be different. This concept expands the poem from a few lines with many interpretations to an infinite number of layers of information that can be perceived different visually, emotionally, and textually each time they are encountered. The interaction gives the poem a depth that reflects life itself, and thus establishes a connection with the reader that goes beyond written word.

Jason Lewis' "Nine" puzzle

Jason Lewis’ “Nine” puzzle

Both Jason Lewis and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries incorporate multiple dimensions into their works to increase the output that the reader receives through experiencing their respective projects. In both cases the authors tell a story, yet it is the way that they present the story that determines the way the reader perceives it. The musical, visual, and interactive elements that both authors implement aid to demonstrate concepts and themes that the written words alone cannot. The timing and changing tones and beats of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ pieces guide the reader through the text and put emphasis on certain ideas or phrases without having the text explain it—the reader simply experiences the increases or decreases and pairs the text and thus its meaning with the changes. Similarly, in Jason Lewis’ puzzle, the reader learns about the characters and the story through exploration and the connections between the text and the images on the tiles, along with the order through which they are revealed and the way that the tiles overlap, are established as the reader pieces the story together. These untraditional stories require the reader to learn as they go along, and it is this element of experience that helps to alter the perceptions produced by the literature.

Works Cited:
Chang, Y., & Voge, M. (1999). Young-hae chang heavy industries. Retrieved from
Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 2008. Print.
Lewis, J. (2003). Nine: Puzzling through several lives. Retrieved from

Electronic Literature Critique

November 2nd, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


Electronic Literature is one of the more interesting forms of literature that I have come across. The main premise behind electronic literature is the idea that it is created on the computer, and is meant to be read and accessed through a digital medium like a computer, tablet, etc. Therefore, this literature is created and distributed through many variable sources, yet holds all of the powers and tools that a computer can process. That is why I believe that e-lit, if implemented well, can augment literature in ways that were previously unimaginable and significantly alter the reader’s experience, for the better. The internet and computer hold millions of tools and allow the writer to take full creative control over the literature and tailor their pieces perfectly to relay their message to the reader, using multiple media rather than just text. An example of great implementation can be seen in the E-Lit piece titled “Entre Ville” by JR Carpenter.

Through his implementation of text, pictures, videos, and audio, JR Carpenter effectively contributes to E-Lit and immerses the reader into his quaint neighborhood. The title “Entre Ville” means “the city between us” in French, and that is essentially what Carpenter aims to show. It is an interactive “notebook” that coincides with a poem written by Carpenter that gives the reader the complete aura of the neighborhood that the poem takes place in. Upon opening the piece, one sees a beautifully depicted apartment building in the province of Canada with interactive windows and elements that can be accessed. When you click on the windows of the apartment building, you often get a video that coincides with a segment of the poem. For example, one of the poem stanzas says, “a french man, waits for dinnertime, while he points his trumpet towards our window.” When you click on the coinciding window, a video of the beautiful view out the window with trumpet music in the background pops up, immersing the reader into the specific stanza. I liked this E-lit piece because for someone who is reading this poem, to experience the ambience of a city or neighborhood, reading about it can only get you so far. In order to fully be immersed into the area, the videos and audio that coincide with the text give you a fully immersive experience where you almost feel like you are in the city, in the apartment, etc. This is successful E-lit because it takes the best parts of writing, and its ability to vividly and specifically describe aspects of the neighborhood in detail with the sense-drawing appeal of video and audio, which allows the reader to delve even deeper into the text. This text shows not only the artistic side of Electronic Literature, but also the functional aspect of it. It completely visualizes what is already a very sense-provoking poem and serves as a “virtual tour” of the neighborhood. Along with E-Lit pieces such as “Entre Ville” which further describe and augment the original text, some authors have taken E-Lit and molded it to form political pieces.

This is definitely the case with “Death Moves it Forward” by Jody Zellen. This piece is actually a little frightening with all the information being thrown onto the screen, which makes it very effective in portraying the intensity of death in war. In this piece, clicking on some parts of the screen pulls up cartoon figures indicating how many people have died each day during the Iraq Crisis, another click, on the word ‘death’, begins to zoom out more and more eventually showing the sheer number of people who have died, especially women and children. Finally, the screen fills up rapidly with the figures of women and children, creating a sense of fright and it is very shocking and shows how many people actually die through conflicts like the Iraq War. Another click causes a scrolling through a bunch of newspaper articles that show key words like “bombing”, “death”, “guns”, etc.  Throughout this piece, there is radio broadcast in the background that often is very jumbled making it difficult to hear what is actually being said. Overall, this piece explicitly uses all of the reader’s senses to get its message across. Many of the pictures that pop up tend to show horrifying images of war. The jumbled and muffled radio broadcasts in the background, instill a scary aura due to the fact that you cannot really make out what is being said. This seems to be a political version of E-lit and can be quite disturbing to the reader as it gives off a deep dark aura regarding the deaths that occur daily through violence. It does it well through its use of quick flashing images, scratchy noises, and overall dark appearance, all which invoke a fear like state in the reader further making the actual content of the E-lit, more effective and eye-opening.

by Jody Zellen

by Jody Zellen

As a reader, this piece was a little difficult to take in all at once. It was necessary to replay the animations multiple times and analyze each aspect separately to fully understand what was being said. Going through the piece, I had to focus on just the text the first time through and then proceed to analyzing the audio in the background and then the pictures that were being displayed. This sense of utter confusion and fast paced images being flung at the screen again show the confusing and catalytic nature of war itself, and how devastating it can be to all of the senses. Compared to “Entre Ville,” this piece felt a little less “literary” in the sense that the words displayed on the screen had less of an impact than the pictures and audio that was displayed. But in its entirety, the pictures and audio augmented the literary elements and the through-provoking words and phrases that were being displayed.

Overall, I think that both “Entre Ville” by JR Carpenter and “Death Moves it Forward” by Jody Zellen are perfect examples of the multi-faceted nature that Electronic literature can display and how that affects the reader’s experience in understanding the message of the pieces themselves. Electronic literature in this case employs the use of audio, video, and images to immerse the reader in what is being stated and thus makes a profound impact in the reader’s mind. Whether the impact is pleasant in the case of “Entre Ville” or disturbing and thought provoking in “Death Moves it Forward,” Electronic literature has the ability to implement virtually any form of media to augment literature and make a significant impact on the reader.



October 28th, 2013 | Posted by Craig Bearison in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba was the first graphic novel I have ever read in my life and it was an overall great experience. Based on the nature of the medium itself, at first the narrative seemed choppy and was hard for me to follow, giving me a headache in the process. However, I became more comfortable with how to read a graphic novel by the end of the first chapter and was able to fully appreciate the book. The illustrations (which are beautiful) of course make the task of picturing the scene in your head much easier and more vivid. They also streamline the text, allowing the reader to focus more on the dialogue of the story. Getting to actually see the facial expression on the characters’ faces combined with the focus on dialogue in graphic novels provides the same or maybe better type of characterization a real novel would accomplish through describing thoughts or expressions. This is another example of different media being able to transmit the same message through different means, to different affects.

One concept Daytripper plays around with a lot, which we have discussed a lot in our class, is time. The novel jumps around between important scenes in Bras’s life, not in chronological order. Many scenes also include flashbacks to earlier points in Bras’ life, in some cases these flashbacks include new information from events described in previous segments. Although not in chronological order, the sequencing of the scenes is clearly deliberate and extremely effective at building up tension and suspense. Throughout the novel, characters refer to things from the past that the reader doesn’t know yet but which are covered in later chapters, from earlier times. For example, in the first chapter Bras’s mom refers to him as her little miracle and Bras and Jorge reminisce about the time they spent in Salvador. The reader is left wondering what these things mean until they are both covered extensively in later chapters.

Apart from building suspense, the manipulation of time also serves to highlight one of the major themes of the book, which is figuring out the important things in life. The most important things in life are the meaningful relationships and the moments that form and build those relationships. All of the segments of Bras’s life shown involve him meeting those closest to him or in some way building upon those relationships. The skipping around through those moments makes the reader realize that these are the most important ones in a person’s life. Getting your first kiss, meeting your best friend in college, your first love, your first boring job, meeting your future wife, the birth of your child, and then the birth of your grandchildren. These moments are what matter in life and Daytripper presents this message in a beautiful manner with an engaging story and interesting progression.

     Daytripper is the first graphic novel in my life. The first impressive thing is its special features that are incompatible compared with other media. Here are four most impressive features:

I. Capture of the most important moment:

capture moment

Graphic novel can ignore the flow of time to frozen a special moment for the author to express opinion. For example, Daytripper the moment when Bras was shot to death to say his opinion about life. It is really amazing to hear a dying man’s opinion about what is the most important thing in life.

II. Highlight special scene:



The author select a special scene without considering the spacial scale in order to show some indications. In Chapter 2 of Daytripper, the small toy is used as an indication to show that Bras has been drown. And this is also a indication to show that Bras and the girl are separated forever.

III. Use colors to show augmenting reality:



1) emotion: The sudden change of color shows a big contrast of emotion change.

2) environment: The red color is full of the page. It seems that everything is on  fire.

3) action: At the moment when the man cut himself the page gets red. It strikes out a bloody and crazy action.

IV. Show timeline in a 2-D medium:

movie effects


In the picture shown above, the development of dream is shown as pictures. But the background is unchanged during this development. This is like a movie. This makes graphic novel have time line.

The second thing that makes me impressive is the theme of Daytripper. In the dream, Bras died at the important moments of his life: in his father’s birthday party, on the way to find the girl the loves, the moment when his son was born etc. It really makes the reader feel sorry for him. But is Bras everyone. He is not special. As shown in the picture below, every elements in hie life are the same as us. Maybe we will die at a party or on the way to find someone we love. What if we die so easily like Bras? Should we live a life like now? Will we know what is the most important thing of our life? The fact is that we could die at any moment. We live a short life. We are the “Daytripper”.  People keep dying everyday, but we survive. We are the lucky one who are still breathing the air, who can still see the world, who can talk to people we love.   So try to live as if we are the lucky survivor because we do not have much time. God does not tell us when we will die. Enjoy every moment when we are still breathing.



Daytripper Response

October 28th, 2013 | Posted by Joy in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

When does life tuly begin? Does it begin at birth? The pursuit of our aspirations and dreams? A major event that changes who we are? Or does it begin at the point in our lives when we face the reality of death, and accept it? These are just a few of the questions that Daytripper – a captivating, enigmatic, yet guardedly optimistic graphic novel – invites its’ audience to ponder. This brilliantly crafted narrative explores themes about life, love, loss, memories, family, change, and death – themes that in literature easily become boring and cliche – in a refreshing way.
Daytripper strikes me as unique both in the style in which it is written, and the use of the graphic novel template as a medium. The first several chapters of the book itself chart a year of the fictional protagonist’s life, and each end with his death – it isn’t until the end of the book that one realizes that Bras’ deaths were merely dreams, and that he has indeed lived a long life. As soon as it became evident that death was inevitable in each chapter, I paid more attention moment by moment to the life of Bras page by page – the intricate details of the illustrations, and every single word of text suddenly took on new relevance and importance. I believe that this is the essence of what the authors want to convey to their readers – the sentiment that death could happen at any moment, at any chapter of our life – if we really internalize that, how will that change how we live and view life? The written obitiuaries that accompany each of his deaths are also a question and answer within themselves – how would we be remembered, who would we be at any particular moment that death would claim us? This book
Another intriguing element in this novel is the chronological disorder of the chapters – the book begins at Bras’ life at 34 – yet the very next chapter introduces us to his 21 year old self, and it isn’t until several chapters later that we are introduced to 11 year self, and later still, we witness his “miracle” birth. I believe this stylistic approach serves several purposes; one of them being to de-emphasize the “big picture” long enough for the reader to focus on Bras’ life moment by moment.
Using the the graphic novel as the medium through which to tell this story allows its’ authors, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, to bring Daytripper to life in ways that would not be possible otherwise. Although it contains considerably less dialogue than the standardnovel, the visual component augments the narrative in a way that is just as poweful. The scarcity of text and the accompanying illustrations in the moments that they are saying them makes each word that much more powerful and less convoluted. Some examples include the use of these elements:


The use of scale captures the idea and power of life as a collective experience, without losing meaning in the more intimate moments of day to day life that could easily get overlooked.][IMG]


The sequenced illustrations in the book put words into motion in a way that text can’t.

Visual Symbolism:

Athough text anaysis is limited with phic novel, iluminate symbolism and symbolic meaning without diluting or clouding up the message. This is a particularly interesting element in Bras’ dreams, which contain literary symbolism in art form. For example, Chapter Two is filled with various sketches of a turbulent storm, which provide insight into the conflict that still possess the the subconscious of Bra’s mind, and is manifested through his dreams.

The illustrations of Bras with Jorge in the desert are symbolic of the isolation Bras feels once his best friend abandons him.

In many of his nostalgic dreams about family, there is a large tree, his father’s tree, in the background. This is representative of Bra’s close ties to his family roots.

(Still editing)