Author Archives: Mithun Shetty
Created by Mithun Shetty, Shane Stone, and Xin Zhang
Bob Kane’s Batman comic series is incredibly expansive; however, a steady, well-known constant in the universe is the relationship between Batman and his main nemesis, the Joker. The two characters go far beyond a clash between”good” and “evil;” the most important story arcs in the Batman universe explain these two characters from more of a yin-yang perspective, in that one’s existence justifies the other. Certain story arcs on this topic are better received than others, and I believe that it in most cases this is due to that particular arc’s adherence to the original Batman canon. While each may slightly differ plot-wise, the majority of Batman and Joker story arcs begins and ends in quite similar places: two unwavering characters, with rigid moral codes that appear to be ideologically opposite, end up justifying the existence of each other, with no real long term resolution (no triumph of good over evil, etc).
My project aims to look at the various visual representations of their relationship across several media and observe the similarities and differences between them. This transmedia study will include analyses of the film, video games, and graphic novels. The works that will be studied are The Dark Knight film by Christopher Nolan (2008), the graphic novels The Killing Joke by Alan Moore (1988) and The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke (2005), and the Warner Bros/Rocksteady video game Arkham Origins (2013). For a media element, I will attempt to analyze the major plot lines and story progression of each work by means of a visual map of the major stages of Freytag’s Pyramid, which will include examples from each of the works listed. By mapping out all these different story lines, I hope to emphasize the nature of the relationship between Batman and Joker, and note the importance of this aspect of the original narrative canon.
In her book Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary, Katherine Hayles defines “electronic literature” as “work with an important literary aspect that takes advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer” (3). In the classic sense, literature refers to the written medium exclusively. Thus, “e-lit” has many distinct characteristics that validate its existence as a separate medium. It is afforded certain functions that augment the reading experience in a unique way; when comparing it to popular media such as film, video games, or print, e-lit bridges the gap between text and multimedia most effectively. In other words, the balance between writing and audiovisual content is the most even. In addition, e-lit is able to utilize a wider variety of tools that enable authors to create a very specific experience for their audience (more so than static illustrations alone). These artistic media elements can be merely supplementary or integral components of the work, both of which can be seen in Eric Lemay’s “Losing the Lottery” and Mark Marino’s “Living Will.”
Lemay’s “Losing the Lottery” features a very interesting media element to supplement its writing. The work first brings you to a lottery mini-game: the screen shows rapidly moving random lottery balls with numbers, six of which the reader must choose to continue. The reader is then shown a two-column layout that displays a lottery simulator algorithm on the right side and a collection of 49 pages on the right side. Each of the 49 pages has a short paragraph, quote, or absurd statistic that has something related to the unlikelihood of winning the lottery, interspersed with personal anecdotes and thoughts from the author. The lottery simulator uses the six numbers chosen by the reader and cycles through randomly generated lottery sequences, with headers that show the number of times you have won, the degree to which your numbers match, and the time and money spent/earned playing the lottery.
This media element is supplemental to the text, but definitely enhances the simple message being portrayed. The combination of short excerpts and the miniscule winnings shown by the simulator shows the reader on a deeper level just how futile it is to play the lottery. The simulator serves as a personalized firsthand experience, and quietly runs alongside the text as you read. It allows the reader to glance over to the right and view his or her “progress,” while simultaneously taking in information about how difficult it is to win the lottery. Although the message in this piece is pretty simple, it is a very clear demonstration of how such a media element can simultaneously reinforce the ideas of a text effectively. This interactive simulator is a much more interesting method of visualizing an idea than merely showing data aggregates in a graph or table. While the simulation might not be essential, the work would be far less interesting without it.
Media elements can also play an integral role in the consumption of an e-lit work; Mark Marino’s “Living Will” is a great example. This piece functions as a highly interactive click-and-scroll story that allows the reader to choose what happens on a whim. As the reader scrolls through and reads the will, different parts of the text become clickable. Depending on what the reader selects, the document will alter itself instantly. The left hand side of the page has a box that explains who the reader is and what he or she is reading, and the right side of the screen features a simulator (just like Lemay’s piece) that runs simultaneously as the reader goes through the document, tallying up the inheritance (bequests, fees, taxes, etc.). In addition, the simulator features multiple points-of-view that let the reader see how much money the different characters of the work have earned as a result of the reader’s browsing through the document. This media element is very immersive and provides a rich storytelling experience. In a way, this feels like a role-playing video game (RPG), in that the decisions that the reader makes alters the course of the story. However, each of the various permutations of the path follows a parent storyline, implying that all arcs will eventually lead to the same conclusion.
This type of e-lit piece shows the powerful applications the medium can have when it comes to fictional storytelling. It is hard to compare this to film or video because it is mostly comprised of words as opposed to moving images; however, it is a dynamic experience that could be more aptly described as a video game of sorts (maybe not the most entertaining or colorful, but certainly interactive).
One of the few flaws that e-lit pieces are unable to rectify currently is the issue of accessibility. While they can serve as very interesting and immersive methods of consuming literature, one must have a computational device (a smartphone, computer, tablet) to experience it, which restricts access to many different people. Also, depending on which device is used, the full experience can vary. Personally, I would not enjoy navigating through “Living Will” on a small smartphone screen as opposed to a regular laptop screen. These are all considerations the author must put into account when producing a work. Furthermore, while this is not necessarily a limitation to the medium, it is difficult to reproduce such a work and present it in other media, as the author has purposefully designed the work with a specific representation in mind. Having a knowledge of coding flash/java/html scripts would be quite useful in attempting to do so.
While “Losing the Lottery” and “Living Will” are quite in depth, they do not showcase the entire range that the e-lit medium possesses. Some other e-lit works such as Robert Kendall’s “Candles for a Street Corner” or Campbell and Jhave’s “Zone” feature much more audiovisual content than text. In this way, they are more similar to other visual-heavy media such as graphic novels or film. There is an emphasis on what is seen in order to communicate certain emotions and feelings more effectively than text alone. However, one cannot exist without the other in e-lit pieces; without the writing to justify the media element, it is enormously difficult (and often unsatisfying) to navigate these elements without direction or apparent purpose. This is one of the reasons why the e-lit medium has such great potential as an effective means of telling a story or communicating information – the tools it has in its arsenal to relay a multidimensional experience far outnumber those which books can employ, which help the reader understand works on a significantly more personal and profound level.
Campbell, Andy, and Jhave. “Dreaming Methods : Zone.” Dreaming Methods : Zone. Dreaming Methods, 2013. Web. Nov.-Dec. 2013. <http://labs.dreamingmethods.com/zone/>.
Hayles, Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2008. Print.
Kendall, Robert, and Michele D’Auria Studio. “Candles for a Street Corner.” Candles for a Street Corner. Michele D’Auria Studio, July 2004. Web. Nov. 2013. <http://www.bornmagazine.org/projects/candles/>.
Lemay, Eric. “DIAGRAM :: Eric LeMay.” DIAGRAM :: Eric LeMay. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2013. <http://thediagram.com/11_5/lemay.html>.
Marino, Mark. “Living Will.” Living Will. Markcmarino.com, 2010. Web. Nov. 2013. <http://markcmarino.com/tales/livingwill.html>.
I really enjoy reading graphic novels. I prefer them to any other literary experience, because their format allows me to almost instantly immerse myself in the different visual worlds on the pages. The first graphic novel I read in full was The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore; since then, I have spent many hours poring through the artwork, frames, and dialogue of all types of graphic novels. However, Daytripper, by Ba and Moon, is a one-of-a-kind experience that I have not had before. The story follows the entire lifetime of Bras de Oliva Domingos, starting from his birth to the final days of his life. This ten-issue novel presents different stages of his life in chapters in a non-chronological order. At the end of each chapter, Bras suddenly and unexpectedly dies. However, each chapter follows the previous with no acknowledgement of the death that immediately precedes it. Each death is thus a hypothetical scenario that ends that particular stage or event in Bras’ life.
One of the most powerful tools that graphic novels have at their disposal that traditional literature does not is the artwork. It often has visual subtleties or stark imagery that can affect the reader both mentally and physically on a subconscious level. Among other things, these annotations highlight the importance of one element of the novel’s graphics within the frames: lighting.
What makes this work so profound is the emotional introspection it evokes in the reader. The deaths that occur happen at very pivotal moments in Bras’ life, asking the heavy question “If I died today, what would I have to show for my life?” It is not until the final chapter of the novel that the reader understands what each of these deaths represents – Bras considers how his life, legacy, and the lives of those around him would be different had things ended during the moments he considers the most important his life. This made me think about my life from a larger perspective; stepping back from the microcosm of a college campus and the daily grind of academia, I wonder if the way I choose to live my life may merely scratching the surface of the potential life experiences I could be living. The book’s keen ability to make its audience think about such profound topics is a testament to the power of graphic novels as a medium and its value as a method of storytelling.
Following our in-class discussion of Jussi Parikka’s Media Archeology excerpt and his article “The Geology of Media” in The Atlantic, our class attended a symposium during which Mr. Parikka discussed the study of Media Archaeology, as well as fielded our questions regarding the nature of different media and mediums. An important theme that accompanied the majority of our discussion of Media Archaeology is that the informational content is not the only important feature when studying different works – the context and medium through which the media is communicated is arguably equally important.
One of the scholars discussed his current project at his publishing press. They are working on reverse engineering a facsimile of a work from many years ago. To do so, they are utilizing the same material and machinery used at the time of the journal’s original production (in lieu of modern printing technologies). This raises the idea that the experience of consuming a work has an important value in understanding the work fully. I want to know what this value is in regards to his current project. I understand the importance of distinguishing different media when it comes to music, video games, and other multidimensional mediums, but I do not know what new information they aim to discover from creating a tactile replica of the original work when they already have copies of the journal scanned that contain the informational content. Nonetheless, the process of gathering the materials and the research involved in operating dated printing technologies is both interesting and exciting. Our class discussion had many connections to this part of the symposium. Most notably, the disparity between digital and print media is an example of distinct experiences of consuming works (such as the tactile and visual sensations of looking at a physical book versus a computer/LCD screen). This will probably be a very relevant idea during our analysis of the comic book, Daytripper.
Recreating this journal could provide insight regarding the environmental impact of older printing methods, which may in turn predict said impact’s development. Towards the end of the symposium Parikka discussed the environmental repercussions of creating new media. With contemporary digital media, these repercussions include energy expenditure, electronic and chemical wastes associated with production and distribution, and a carbon footprint. The so-called “dirty energy” used to power our major electronic mediatic structures (such as the cloud) is noticeably damaging our environment. He at one point even referred to this concept as the “pathology of media.” I thought this was an interesting way to describe the problem; it is almost as if the excesses of information and pollution are a disease that needs to be treated. This issue has been brought up in class in our discussion of The Difference Engine, specifically the rampant pollution that was a byproduct of technological innovation in London. Parikka continued this discussion by bringing up the idea of progress being accompanied by destruction. The destruction is not just of our physical world either; the creation of factories and technology is accompanied by many ethical issues, such as the acquisition of labor resources (workers who are often outsourced and underpaid). Parikka refers to the sum of these issues as “gray ecology.” This could be one of many benefits of studying media archaeology – finding alternative methods of setting up production of new mediums that are less detrimental ethically and environmentally.
The computer is arguably the most indispensable cultural artifact of our generation. They are essential to our world’s infrastructure – it is the primary method of communication, information transference, transaction, and so much more. We have developed a subconscious reliance on technology to function as a society. Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine entertains a very profound and intriguing related concept in the most thorough way possible – what would our lives be like if the computer (namely, the Babbage’s Difference Engine) was invented almost 200 years before they were actually invented? Gibson and Sterling’s attempt to delve into this hypothetical situation is admirably ambitious and impressively complex. They depict a “speculative past” that loosely parallels our actual past, making assumptions about the supposed trajectory that technological inventions may have taken, as well as societal development that might have occurred following Charles Babbage’s successful creation of the computer. The setting of the novel takes place in 1800’s Victorian London onwards, and features important figures or organizations in London’s history (or fictional analogues) such as The Duke of Wellington, Lord Byron, the Luddites, the Labour Party, etc.
The value of reading this novel is not necessarily derived from its plot – it is instead the distinct structure and rich narration that make it stand out. The novel is divided into five separate iterations of a story, with the fifth iteration being written by the “Modus.” Essentially, iterations are revealed to represent computer-generated alterations of a similar story, which raises some interesting questions about the recording of history and the seemingly infinite variable possibilities of computers. The authors also took on the formidable task of creating a logical environment of an imaginary past. This includes creating systems of politics, economy, communication, and even fashion – they had to communicate an entire, immersive society different than our actual society merely through the art of storytelling. The technological innovations of the imaginary society have many notable counterparts in our real world, which makes the story a unique experience – it serves as a form of social commentary on our present society. Specifically, the balances of power and relationships in the novel based on the hypothetical invention of the computer may perhaps demonstrate how people use technology and information to obtain and consolidate power and develop relationships in our real world. While this novel’s plot might have come across as seemingly disjointed or incoherent, it is a very intricate display of society that neatly explores an alternate past, comments on our real-life present, and suggests an alternate future.
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I recently downloaded a really, really cool game pack from LA Game Space, a nonprofit, interdisciplinary center for art, design, and research. They got some great developers, artists, and creative minds (including Pendleton Ward, the genius behind Adventure Time) to help develop some really cool independent games that I think fit really well with this course, or at least the types of games we tried out in class. They are all over the place, and mess with perception, perspective, and even how you input controls . 30 different games were released in a game pack that was supported by a kickstarter campaign.
This video is the promotional teaser for the games, and the second link shows some videos of a few games as well as descriptions of the others:
Experimental Game Pack 01
If any of these games interest you, or you want to try them out, let me know. They’re definitely worth playing around with.