Lit 80, Fall 2013

Author Archives: Sheel Patel

Media Archaeology Response

December 4th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

After the Media Archaeology chat on Friday, I began to see more and more of the complex intertwining between media archaeology and everyday life and how technology of the past, present, and future are utilized in this field. Much of the discussion was dedicated to talking about the role of technology in media archaeology and a very interesting point that Drew Burk made was that often obsolete technologies must be revisited to learn about the past. The example he gave was using or rebuilding old machinery (ex. old printing press) in order to produce books, but also analyze the book creation process and how it effects the medium as a whole and its effect in relaying a message.This leads into a major point talked about regarding the process of creating a final product or medium. Media archaeology not only studies and elucidates patterns from final products but also from the production of these items and technologies. My tennis coach would always say “it’s not about the result, it is about the process,” and I think that media archaeologists would agree with that statement. Often society focuses on results and final products and tries to determine what these final products elucidate. But delving into the process of reaching these final products can also be crucial to understanding things like technology, social media, cinema, etc. as a whole. That was the idea that Frederich Kittler meant when he said “we cannot study media before we learn how it works.”

Along with this idea of studying the process of how technology and media came to be, Parikka also spoke about the paradox of technology. He stated that “what we consider progress today, is also the other side of catastrophe.” This can be directly seen with digital gadgets, comprised of precious and often toxic metals and components that may be helping us today but, once they are deemed obsolete, will be left to destroy the earth. I find this point extremely eye-opening because I don’t believe many people realize this fact. As a global population, the zeitgeist seems to point towards creating the newer, faster, thinner, more powerful tool to help ‘make our lives easier.’ But is this technological impetus actually making our lives better? Or is it a temporary ‘high’ that will eventually fade away leaving us crashing into a world ravaged by technological waste?

These were just a few of the ideas I found extremely interesting during our talk. Overall, I believe Parikka is correct in stating that “we all live in an augmented reality,” especially here at Duke, a consortium of scholars and students from all walks of life. Whether this augmented reality expands our knowledge and view of all aspects of life or temporarily shelters us from ‘reality’ is up to the individual to decide. Regardless, I’m not afraid to admit that I currently live in an ‘augmented reality.’

XperienceLearning– Google Glass Challenge

November 20th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

A link to our presentation of the Google Glass App, XperienceLearning


Ebocloud: Towards social singularity or human efficiency?

November 16th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

What if we lived in a world where the dynamic of families and the whole idea of social interaction changed completely? A world where people associated themselves with groups of ‘strangers’ more so than their biological families. This may sound like science fiction, but the idea as seen in Ebocloud by Rick Moss may reach reality faster than we are expecting. Ebocloud details a society in which people have become members of a ‘cloud’ society and the idea of loneliness is completely abandoned. This works through the setup of, which when used, allows people to be assigned to ‘ebos’ or groups that serve as pseudo-families and strive for humanitarian gains. Unlike facebook, “ebocloud pulls you out of yourself rather than competing for who has the most friends” (Moss 203). Coinciding with the main plot of artist Ellison Luber trying to elucidate the mysteries surrounding his girlfriend, the reader begins to see the truly transformative power of ebocloud and its effects on society. For example, with membership to an ebo most members decide to tattoo their ebo logo on their arms. This changed many things, including the way people walked. “Pedestrians’ eyes, rather than straight ahead and unfocused, are directed at the left wrists of passers by, and those wrists are exposed to view…” (Moss 215). The reader can see how a simple online ‘social network’ could start changing the way society functions. Slowly, the cloud continues to expand to a point where people begin adoption “dtoos,” digital tattoos that can map the human brain and send signals to and from the cloud.

This is where the book becomes very interesting and delves into some ethical questions that we may face as a society in the near future. The creator of Ebocloud and dToos, Radu Cajal, states one of the purposes of Ebocloud as the “way to get us to a state of cosmic knowledge, something only religion could previously do” (Moss 289). Essentially with ebocloud and dToos, all of human knowledge and experience can be pooled into the cloud and projected back, sharing the knowledge with everyone. This leads to an extremely efficient, intelligent, and compassionate human race where everyone is skilled and animosity is essentially eliminated between people. This however, is if the ebocloud was to work perfectly. The ethical issues that are raised generally have to do with the downfalls of a system like ebocloud. What if someone cloud control the minds of everyone connected to the cloud, and foster artificial relationships between people, groups, ebos, and nations for ulterior motives? These are the reasons why systems like ebocloud or a ‘hive mind’ scare me. With everyone being experts at everything, the creativity of the human race will soon falter with people just moving from task to task. Overall, the novel Ebocloud by Rick Moss is a very frightening, yet interesting perspective on the future of human society with the exponential rise of technology that is taking place. If used properly and ideally, a system like ebocloud could elucidate the full potential of the human race and the power that comes with cooperation. It could end the idea of wars, fights, and animosity between people. But if left in the wrong hands or used improperly, systems like ebocloud could lead to the generalization of the human race and essentially eliminate what makes everyone of us different.

Delving into a Seizure through Music

November 7th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Seizures effect millions of people around the world and can be very harmful to normal bodily function and can in some cases even cause death. The aim of this project is to visualize the occurrence of seizures using Electroencephalograph (EEG) data. By visualizing this data through music, one can vividly see the effect a seizure has on a patients brain and how large of an impact it has on normal brain function. In order to do this, raw EEG data will be taken and converted into a WAV file, which can then be analyzed by music editing programs. There will then be two different elements to this media project. First, the raw WAV file will be analyzed by WIDI Pro, which will analyze the peaks and troughs of the WAV file and convert any peaks it recognizes into piano notes. Along with this visualization, I will also mirror an actual piano piece and match the tone, tempo, and volume to the EEG data. In order to do that, I will analyze the changes in distance between each peak on the WAV file and use that measure to change the tempo of the piano track. I will also measure the heights of the peaks and troughs of the WAV file and subsequently change the volume of the piano track. Therefore, the seizure data can be visualized with actual tonal music, and the listener can enjoyable see the effect of a seizure on the brain. I believe this visualization is important in showing listeners what actually occurs in the brain of someone suffering from seizures and the severity of the issue. This could also further be used to educate people who are at risk for developing seizures and elucidate how it effects their brains and body’s.

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.


Daytripper Novel Response

October 25th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Before reading Daytripper, I had never read a graphic novel or even stumbled across one, for that matter. So before delving into Daytripper, I really had no idea what to expect as the only conception I had of graphic novels and comics pertained to super-heros fighting evil.  Never did I imagine that this graphic novel would move me in such a profound way. The novel itself is structured in a very unique way. Initially, each ‘chapter’ or installment of the book was released separately to the public before being collected together to create the graphic novel. The story follows an aspiring author named Bras de Oliva Domingos, the son of a famous Brazillian writer, who writes obituaries for a Brazillian newspaper. Initially Bras feels the burden that comes with his fathers fame and often resents him for it. In the first installment of this novel, Bras eases himself with a drink at a local bar before attending a gala celebrating his fathers achievements. All seems well, before a drastic plot twist takes Bras life at the hands of an armed robber. Right off the bat, this novel causes an uneasy feeling in the reader, but that is what makes it beautiful. Each installment that follows, continues to explain more of the realities that may have been Bras’s life, with his death ending each chapter. Just as the reader starts to become attached to the young writer who’s trying to figure out his life, he is taken away by the hands of death. This unique plot, elucidates far more than just the life of Bra’s.

Death is often a subject that most societies look down upon. A topic that is correlated to darkness, pain, and melancholy. It is a subject most people chose to avoid until it directly effects them. Why is that the case? Why should we shun the idea of death and do everything in our power to prevent it when simply stated, death is part of life. If there are two things that are certain in this world it is that there is life, and life is followed by death. Death is inevitable and necessary to facilitate future life in all realms from humans to plants to single-celled organisms. Death is simply part of living and will be part of everyones life. That idea is what makes Daytripper beautiful. Death is often portrayed as a very saddening event and something people try to avoid, but in the case of Bras, death reaches him at sad times in his life but also at happy times. We may have peaks and troughs in our lives, but together they constitute to our experience on earth and can be ended at any moment. The story of Bras in Daytripper, takes us through these highs and lows of his life and with his death, makes us appreciate these moments in our own lives even more. Through heartbreak, love, success, and pain, we follow Bras de Oliva Domingo’s life and his realization that death will be just a single part of those life experiences, rather than the end. Through heartbreak, love, success, and pain we follow our own lives as well, and hopefully come to a similar conclusion.

This idea of the acceptance of death as part of life can be vividly seen towards the final chapters of the novel, as shown in the annotated pages below.

Chapter 10

Chapter 10

The Difference Engine

October 12th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The advent of the computer and the internet has drastically changed the way the world functions and has even greater implications for the future. But what if the computer, or a simpler form of it, was invented in the early 1800’s rather than during the 1980’s? That is the subject that William Gibson and Bruce Sterling tackle in their novel The Difference Engine. The book delves into the idea of a society where Charles Babbage was successful in creating an iteration of a computer and the effects it takes on society in England. Although this book may seem dry and bland to many, the purpose and message can be seen through the descriptive narration rather than any firm plot. Gibson and Sterling provide and immersion-like experience where one can see the new technologies that have taken over society, stemming from Babbage’s Difference Engine. Things like automated cashiers, credit card systems, and even personal identification numbers can be seen in this faux society, centuries beyond their fruition in the real world. Other technologies like the kinotrope, a primitive version of a projector screen, can also be seen and its effects on society are immense.

One of the major points that I found interesting was the idea that Globalization, or the interconnecting of the world, seemed to have sped up due to this technology. Gibson and Sterling showcase this fact through the scenes of the novel where Dr. Oliphant is interacting with Japanese businessmen. These man bring along a robotic tea-pouring woman but yearn for Japan to learn and utilize the technology Britain holds. During the 1800’s in real life, many people did not leave their own countries and the world was still very defined in terms of national boundaries. Although there was a lot of trading going around the world, the images we have today of globalization and the interconnectedness of the world was not present. The fact that Japanese businessmen where essentially begging Oliphant for information on how Japan could access this technology and stating that “they would be willing to do anything for it,” showcases the fact that technology causes some countries to progress faster than others. In a society where technology was emerging, countries who did not learn to utilize it would rapidly fall behind in all aspects of the economy. Gibson and Sterling make this interesting connection between this faux world and today and inherently showcase the significant impact technology and computers have had on shaping interactions between nations and the world’s economy.

Let it Be by The Beatles (Haiku Version)

October 11th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Don’t be, there
Mother, wisdom,
Must Whisper.



Lord Ichabod Ringwood

Literature as data?

October 3rd, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The question of literature being data brings up a lot of controversy depending on who you ask. To answer this question, one must define what data is. Data does not really have a set definition, and can vary depending on what kind of data you are talking about. In terms of data being a quantitative set of points that can be analyzed, I argue that everything is data. Therefore literature is data. But I don’t believe that treating literature as data is ‘the end of the book as we know it’ as Stephen Marche believes. Treating literature as data, or distant reading literature and other forms of writing adds to  the experience one can attain from reading. But distant reading and treating literature as data is completely optional, a practice that one can abstain from if they chose. In that way, books can have a multidimensional character to them that can allow a literary scholar to simply analyze the text of a novel, while a digital scholar could analyze the word count and frequency of that same novel. Both people could come to significantly different conclusions of the meaning of the novel, but this just adds to the creativity the author put into it rather than taking away anything. Distant reading and treating literature as data can only add to the experience of reading, and can give us a grasp of ideas that could not have been discovered with just human brainpower. Tools like Google N-Gram, or text analysis of ‘JK Rowling’ novels use the idea of distant reading and the data in literature to elucidate complex patterns that show real meanings. Projects like these, especially Google N-Gram, augment scholarship by analyzing sets of data that are so large and impossible for one person or even universities of people to analyze by themselves. Through digitizing and searching over 6% of all literature ever published, N-Gram gives us insights into times of history when record-keeping only took place in literature. It allows us a holistic insight into periods of history, that could only be achieved in the past by reading as many books from that time as possible. Now we have libraries upon libraries at our finger tips.

Videogame Critique

September 27th, 2013 | Posted by Sheel Patel in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I’ve never really been too much of a gamer. Don’t be mistaken, I have played my fair share of video games ranging from Pokemon on the GameBoy Color to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the PlayStation 1 to Halo 3 on the Xbox 360. Although these games have brought me enjoyment, I never really got into the stories of most games or was never willing to invest that much time into something I may never complete. After analyzing multiple independent games like Portal, Fl0w, and The Company of Myself, I really regret not getting into video games earlier. My preconceptions of video games as simple or complex challenges with no real meaning or function except to entertain have definitely changed after my realization that games can be used as media.

A medium is a dynamic substance or object that can be used to portray a message, implicitly or explicitly. Classically, artistic and intellectual mediums were restricted to printed books, music, movies, etc. But today, with the surge of technology and the internet, a rise of the Digital Humanities can be seen which incorporates a wide range of mediums from interactive charts to sound banks and even video games. If a medium is a way to express a message, why can’t a video game be a medium? According to Ian Bogost in his book How to Do Things With Videogames , video games are a medium that let us play a role within the constraints of a model world. I completely agree with this idea. The world we live in today is controlled by sets of inherent rules, physical laws, traditions, cultures, that inhibit us from doing many things. Gravity keeps us from soaring into the stratosphere, laws prevent [most] people from ravaging cities and stealing cars, most people are not athletically capable of playing in the NBA. These sets of rules and facts of life are why I believe people play video games and why video games can serve as a medium, a way to escape and test the limits of human imagination, and learn about ourselves doing so.

One way I can justify this is through the game Portal. Portal is a first-person puzzle game where the user controls or is embodied as a women wielding an electronic gun that shoots two distinct portal ends, orange and blue. The portals create a visual and physical connection between the two different areas in 3D space. The user is challenged to solve a series of puzzles using only this device. Portal shows an element of how a game serves as a medium, through its capability of allowing users to experience a ‘cyberworld’ where portal teleportation is available while maintaining general physics. If users jump through a portal on the ground, they will be propelled at the same speed out of the other portal maintaining linear momentum. This serves as a medium for users to break the boundaries of the physical world and explore the ability to travel instantaneously from one place to another. Another main point that seems to be interesting in the game Portal is the choice of a female protagonist. In most video games that are characterized as shooter games, where the character wields weapons and shoots and usually kills others, the main character or avatar is generally male. Portal breaks this stereotype with the female protagonist and I find that very interesting and deliberate by the creators of the game. This is a key example of how a video game can serve as a medium. The main character being female, brings attention to the fact that many first-person shooter games are male dominated. Another possible purpose is to entice more female gamers, in a hobby that is often characterized or stereotyped as male dominated.

Other uses of video games as mediums can be seen through the game Fl0w, which personally kept me entertained for hours on end. At first glance Fl0w may seem like an over simplistic, evolutionary interactive game but after delving into the game you can see that it is way more than just a medium of entertainment. Fl0w’s distinct visual color palettes, image rendering (especially on the PS3), and simplicity deem Fl0w as an artistic medium, along with its playability. Playing Fl0w feels like playing through a piece of artwork and its different layers. As your organism slowly grows, you can progress through different levels or layers of the medium you are in and encounter new organisms, colors, environments, and sounds. Fl0w is much more than an interactive video game, it is more of an experience of ‘flow,’ a term often used in psychology and Neuroscience. Flow is a state between anxiety and boredom where if completely engaged, the user loses track of time and the outside world and becomes fully focused on the task at hand. Personally, through the visual palette and simplistic gameplay and music, I entered a flow like state when playing Fl0w. In that way the game Fl0w served as a medium showing that video games or mediums in general do not have to be over saturated with complex plots, scenery, music, characters, in order to maintain the ultimate stage of focus, flow, of the user.

Overall I think that critically evaluating video games based on principles like the effect they have  on users both mentally and physically, the message they try to get across, and the sheer entertainment level they offer  can be beneficial in many realms. The use of video games as experimental mediums is something I believe can change the way we think about different issues ranging from ethics to physics. I think that video games can be used as tools for people to explore unrestricted boundaries and break away from the constraints of the physical world. Thus by doing this, they can teach us more about the physical world and the mentality of humans in general. Therefore studying video games of the past and present should be at the same priority for scholars, as books and movies are today. We cannot ignore the dynamic and inherently experimental properties of video games and how these properties and the way they are implemented reflect on the zeitgeist of society.