Lit 80, Fall 2013

Tag: augmenting realities

Ebocloud Novel Response

Recent years of rapid technological development demonstrate increasing societal dependence on technology. Devices and programs are being invented one after the other that alter our perception of the world around us and augment our ability to communicate with one another. Google Glasses overlay technology onto the world around us and improve our ability to interact with the world around us. Applications on our mobile devices allow us to perform tasks on-the-go formerly thought to be impossible. In this way, man and machine seem to be becoming one. As social integration and access to such technology becomes more popular, we may be simultaneously losing the power to remain independent of technology. This dependence on technology is not completely grounded in necessity, either; while we do use it to store the information integral to running our infrastructures, we also have come to rely on it to live socially amongst each other. The amount of data being generated about and shared with millions of users on the internet’s social media networks is endless. Facebook generates about 500 terabytes of data on its users each day, none of which is essential for our existence or survival. Yet, people have turned to social networks because it is a very accessible, easy, and instantly-gratifying method of finding old and new friends and sharing your life with them (without going through the work of actually doing so physically). This social dynamic begs the question: What is the next stage in merging sociality and technology?

Rick Moss’s Ebocloud is an immersive science fiction novel that depicts a near-future in which a new social network entitled “Ebocloud” has become a huge social construct in daily life. This network groups its millions of users into separate families (based on their personalities and preferences) and utilizes a data cloud that acts as a server for sharing information between the members. The cloud connects to their minds and bodies via digital tattoos and stores thoughts, ideas, and experiences within the cloud. These tattoos, among other things, have the ability to control hormonal balances within a person, allowing for neurological rewards for doing certain tasks and good deeds within your Ebocloud family. Clearly, Ebocloud is an example of system that is almost 100% integrated into the daily lives of mankind. The cloud “families” you are placed in group you with those who are similar to you, allowing facilitated communication of thoughts and ideas. This type of system has major drawbacks alongside its supposed benefits. While it does help you meet new like-minded individuals while simultaneously accomplishing volunteerism/positive karma/social helping (via the kar-merit system, in which those who do “good” things are rewarded with more influence and power in Ebocloud), the negatives may outweigh these benefits. Not only are you essentially forfeiting all of your privacy to those in control and maintenance of the cloud, but you are slowly and surely losing your individuality by separating into a cloud. Families can be seen as separate homogenates of certain individuals who, after a certain amount of time, may fail to contribute new ideas and content to their families and simply perpetuate the same shared ideas instead (after all, there is no privacy among families, and everyone is working towards the goal of attaining kar-merits). Most importantly, however, the biggest danger in using such a system is the biological component of this network. Without the tattoos, this network is relatively harmless. However, allowing a vast system beyond your personal control to directly influence the inner processes of your body (i.e. hormonal balances) is a dangerous, terrifying idea. You are forfeiting your control over your body – it is as if you are giving a set of strangers the green light to drug you whenever they desire. There is also no escape from participation, as the tattoos are permanent. To engage in such a network is to have complete faith that the system is and will forever remain free of corruption, which is a dangerously naïve mistake. The plot of the novel goes on to show a scenario in which the controlling few of the cloud fall into the throes of corruption, putting the protagonists into a dangerous, compromising situation. This not-too-distant hypothetical raises some interesting questions about our real lives. When will we draw the line between technology and privacy? Is it likely that we will ever settle for a certain level of technological development, or will we continue to integrate it into our daily lives? Also, how will increased reliance on technology shape the way we interact with each other and live our lives? How much is too much?


Final Project Abstract

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.


Rememori Critique

 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.


Daytripper makes excellent use of the graphic novel’s unique strengths in storytelling to draw the reader into Bras’ mind as we delve into his life. For instance, the novel utilizes the ambiguous voice of the panel’s expository text to suggest that the intriguing characters described in the opening will be important characters in the story. In fact, the descriptions are obituaries written by Bras, the true main character. These obituaries, while they may have had a passing influence on him, are just his day job. If they come to mind now, it is probably because he was working on them earlier that day. It is not until the bottom of the page that the actual narrator takes over, a transition which is demonstrated to the reader visually with a change of text box style. The obituary-style text boxes are used again at the end of each chapter to describe Bras’ deaths. It would be difficult or impossible for a traditional book or film to achieve this ambiguity. A book would have to forgo the distinct forms of delivery which make the transitions in voice clear. A film would have to let the actor playing Bras deliver the opening lines, which doesn’t provide the same sense of narrative layers and would be less effective when used to describe Bras’ own deaths.

DayTripper introDayTripper intro last page
One powerful recurrent image is that of the tree under which Bras’ father, Benedito, writes. When the tree is first shown to the reader, it juts out from the landscape, a scraggly mass of roots with Benedito’s legs seamlessly intertwined. It portrays both the aura of grandeur surrounding Benedito and his perpetual isolation from all those around him. Bras seems tiny in comparison, even as the tree stands far in the distance.

DayTripper tree first

Later the tree is used more subtly. In this panel, the tree complements the text, its image a symbol for the growing influence that Benedito’s image as a great writer is having on Bras. As we look into Bras’ later years we see that he becomes far more like his father than he would ever wish to admit – frequently absent, larger than life, prioritizing career over family. Though the line here refers to Bras’ family tree in terms of genealogy, it also gives a name to the iconic image of his father that would eventually grow to dominate his life.

DayTripper tree seed

The tree reappears in the penultimate chapter when Bras takes over for Benedito as storyteller and begins to explain the importance of life and death to his son as only he can. He has at last carved out an identity for himself that is not primarily defined by his father. As such, he now appears larger than his father within the frame.

DayTripper tree book end

Again, these images convey complex emotions and themes more effectively than a textual description or film could do alone.

Media Arch Response

The point that intrigued me most during our discussion with Jussi Parrika was the idea of analyzing media by understanding the processes through which they were created. The particular example given during the discussion was recreating the printing of an old journal with a long outdated printing press. The process of assembling raw materials and physically producing the journal was naturally much more difficult than it would be in modern times. I believe that understanding the way in which something was created can help us understand it more completely. Of course the end result, having a copy of the journal assembled from comparable materials, is not significantly different from a scan of the document stored on a Google server. But by taking part in the process of creating it, these scholars now better understand the mindset of its original creators. It is very rare for creators to have full autonomy to create whatever they wish. They are restricted by the means of production and distribution. Modern recording artists release albums short enough to be contained on a single CD. Painters decide what to create as much according to what hues and brushstrokes are available to them as they do out of self-expression. For having investigated the constraints that the original creators worked within, these scholars are more aware of how important the information within the document was to its creators, or what might have been included out of pragmatism or convention. Although this is a more low-tech example than most of what we discuss in this class, I would argue that this process of understanding through re-creation is a form of augmenting reality.

I think this, in conjunction with the field’s focus on the margins of society rather than the mainstream, is one of the most interesting sides of media archaeology. Historians have given a good deal of attention to the advantages and limitations of past technologies, but sometimes in broad strokes and often focused on the most prominent media of the era. It is very valuable to give more detailed consideration to the less studied pieces of history. Even technologies that are well-understood by historians may offer some interesting implications about specific works or creators which are not as well-studied. Also, using these methods of creation offers scholars a more intimate understanding of the technologies limiting creators than merely studying the theory could.


Media Archaeology Chat Reflection

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.

Game(r) Critique

            I have played video games for most of my life. My first video game device was the Gameboy Color, on which I played games like Pokémon Yellow, Red, Blue, and an assortment of others religiously. My first console, the Nintendo 64, was also played into the ground – 3D environments of the Legend of Zelda and Mario 64 brought me to a place that a 2D handheld screen could not. However, regardless of what the game looked like, I’ve always been able to immerse myself in both the environment and storyline of the game. Rather than a mere diversion, most games became an alternate reality for me – I handled the tasks and challenges of the game seriously and sometimes forgot that I was even playing a game. This early experience to video games was definitely a formative experience for me as an individual.

Games have a profound academic value and should be studied – they are multidimensional works that have value in the natural sciences and humanities alike. A game is absolutely a work of art – this is evident in the video game Journey for the Playstation 3. Simply looking at the game is breathtaking – serene landscapes, minimalist ambient noise, and character designs are carefully detailed to produce a pleasant audiovisual experience. One could study a game environment similar to how he or she might study a painting in a museum – more often than not, game environments are specifically designed with a purpose (as opposed to simply repeating a series of textures to fill empty space). Perhaps the environment seeks to disorient the player with bright colors or strobe-like visuals. These types of games could be classified as abstract art:

LA Game Space Experimental Game Pack 01: “DEPTH”

As technology and computer hardware are continually advancing, so too are the graphics of the games being produced in terms of replicating real-world images. Games are becoming so life-like by way of texture detail, colors, shading, and a slew of other computer miracles. In a decade alone, one series managed to completely reupholster its image while maintaining its gameplay:

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition (2011) vs. Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)

These types of games are prime examples of realism in art and can be classified into their own genre.

Further, games can also be studied from a psychological or neurological perspective. Exposure to video games, especially at a younger age, changes how individuals choose to handle real-life situations (BBC). Depending on its difficulty, a game can make an individual more detail-oriented or thorough in real-life tasks. Additionally, studies have shown a correlation between playing video games and hand-eye coordination skills (CNN). Also, the effects that the environments of games have on the visual cortex can provide information regarding certain patterns that explain how humans direct their attention to external stimuli (USC). The level of engagement required in individual games would be interesting to study as well. As Laetitia Wilson describes in her “Interactivity or Interpassivity” (2009), all video games are interpassive experiences. Compare this idea to the idea of interactive games, which have a direct effect on the player. An interactive game (such as Portal) requires a serious level of engagement from the player. It requires critical thinking skills, spatial reasoning skills, understanding of changing physics, and much more. Interpassive games, such as Flow, are much less taxing and serve a different purpose. They are “calming” games which feature soothing colors, music, or simplified gameplay. Interactive games have the player creating his or her own emotional states, whereas interpassive ones transfer these emotional states to the player passively.

Games are also quite useful in providing concrete examples to abstract philosophical concepts. Many philosophical or ethical dilemmas are difficult to understand on paper; video games allow the player to more profoundly understand the dilemma by “living” the experience. For example, The Company of Myself requires the player to kill what is assumed to be his girlfriend/wife in order to progress. The player can choose to continue the story and kill her, or cease playing. Another example is found in the Bioshock series. The game takes place in a dystopian society under the sea. Without getting into too much detail, the player is often times presented with the decision to harvest a parasite from another type of character (which yields more monetary gain but kills the characters) or exorcise the characters (which saves them but yields less monetary gain). The effects of this decision are manifested in the ending of the game, which changes according to how many characters were killed or saved.

Bioshock 2: Harvest or Adopt (Rescue) Little Sisters?

Bogost says that a medium is characterized by the variety of uses it has: “we can understand the relevance of a medium by looking at the variety of things it does” (Bogost 3). The aforementioned examples already qualify games as a medium, but they merely scratch the surface of what games have to offer. It is quite easy to see games as a medium when they are compared to classical examples of media. Books, for example, contain information and, in some cases, rely on the reader’s imagination to transport them to a different reality. Video games do much the same – they contain text information, graphical information, and also serve the function of transporting the player to an alternate reality. The feeling one can get from playing certain games is an escape from the real world. The avatar/perspective in the game is a conduit for the player to experience a wider variety of physical skills or abilities. This alternate world allows us to use our imagination and experience sensations beyond our physical capabilities. Cloud gives players the gift of flight; The Company of Myself and Braid gives players the ability to control time. These functions provide something books cannot – they have a wider range of functions and can convey information in a different manner. It is likely that people consider games as not being a medium due to the subject matter and general stigma of many commercial video games (violence, sexual themes, time-wasting, etc.) However, games have serious potential to be used as valuable tools of transmitting information and should be utilized as such (in addition to recreational purposes).

Works Cited

Bogost, Ian. How To Do Things With Video Games. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2011.

Fleming, Nic. “Why Video Games May Be Good for You.” BBC, 26 Aug. 2013. Web. Nov. 2013. <>.

Roach, John. “Video Games Boost Visual Skills, Study Finds.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 28 May 2003. Web. Nov. 2013. <>.

Steinberg, Scott. “How Video Games Can Make You Smarter.” CNN. Cable News Network, 31 Jan. 2011. Web. Nov. 2013. <>.

Tortell, Rebecca, and Jacquelyn F. Morie. Videogame Play and the Effectiveness of Virtual Environments for Training. Http:// USC, 2006. Web. <>.

Wilson, Laetitia. “Interactivity or Interpassivity: A Question of Agency in Digital Play.”Fine Art Forum 17.8 (2009)

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