Reflecting on my Blog Posts

After reading over my blog posts from throughout the semester, I had a few different observations. First of all, I noticed that in virtually all of my posts, a reoccurring factor was that I often connected my own personal experience to the readings and works of electronic literature that we examined in class. Most of my posts consisted of a short summary of a work we looked at for the day’s class, followed by a deeper analysis linking the work to a class reading, a central theme, another work of electronic literature, or all three.

An observation I had about my blog posts that somewhat surprised me was that for all of my blog posts except my post about DAKOTA, where I embedded a YouTube video, the piece of illustrative media I used was either a screenshot or an image taken from Google, meaning that I never utilized a GIF or an audio file in my posts. This was a bit surprising because I knew that I was a visual learner, which probably explains my constant use of images as opposed to other forms of media, but I hadn’t taken the time to examine all my blog posts as a single entity before.

Overall, I think the blog posts were a helpful way to process the different works we examined over the course of the semester and tie them into both our class readings and our personal experiences. They were also a good way to get us thinking about the material in an academic manner, and helped me personally to move beyond the simple question of whether I liked or disliked a text.

Final Reflective Blog

From the start to the finish, oh, what a journey it has been. After re-reading all my blog posts, I have realized that I tended to focus on broader themes rather than specific topics. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but I feel that analyzing more specific topics is more meaningful than analyzing broader ones. Not only that, but I found myself commenting that I should have been more direct with my connections in each post. I tried to make my blogs encompass the themes that we were discussing in class, but I did not mention those themes explicitly. I did notice that I tried to add a bit of humor every now and then in my blogs, as well, but I think I focused too much on my style of writing in the beginning and lost a bit of focus on the actual content itself.

In my first blog post, I made a lot of personal references and there was a noticeable stretch to connect my writing with the photo I chose. Even in my second blog post, although I had used a better fitting photo, my writing ended up taking a completely different turn than what the photo initially made it seem like it was going to be about. I did become excited when I noticed my first use of a hyperlinked text in my second blog post because it was a clear sign of some sort of improvement. My second blog discussed social norms and how they impact the type of literature we read as we get older, which could have been a good topic to discuss later in the semester. This topic could have paired well with our analysis of the different mediums people use to display their works, such as, with the app, Pry. Completing our own “port” also helped to solidify the idea that all forms of literature are valid sources of information no matter what society tells you.

Overall, I felt that my writing had a lot of weird transitions and jumped all over the place in the beginning blogs. Though I was not completely satisfied with my progress, I will say that, as time passed and as I gained more referencing knowledge, my blogs had a better flow to them, which is still an achievement worth celebrating.

Until next time,

Stay hungry, my friends

Questions about Form and a Love of Digital Literature

In examining my posts over the course of the semester, I found that I was particularly interested in the intersection between form and content in digital literature and how the affordances of digital environments contribute to storytelling.  Regardless of whether I felt that the environment helped or hindered the story, each new work of digital literature revealed something new and interesting about the potential for storytelling in a digital age.

In my posts on “Dakota” and Ice Bound, I lament the difficulty I had with experiencing those works due to elements of their digital environments.  Despite the difficulty in reading them, I think I unintentionally learned a lot about electronic literature with those two works.  On “Dakota,” I wrote, “‘Dakota,’ to me, called into question our entire practice of reading poetry.  ‘Dakota’ suggested that the way we’ve been taught to read – slowly, deliberately, and carefully – is limiting.  Not all works are meant to be experienced that way.  For ‘Dakota,’ the form is just as important as the content.  The stark contrast of the black flashing text and white background, the frenetic drum beat, the anxiety a reader feels when she can’t keep up with the text are all as integral to the experience of reading ‘Dakota’ as the text itself.”  Having trouble reading “Dakota,” while frustrating, was in fact very instructive and made me question poetry as a whole.  The tension between form and content of that work in particular invited me to adopt a more open-minded perspective on what qualifies as literature and how best to read it.

In reading “Dim O’Gauble” and “Perfect World,” I was also interested in how form and content intersected.  I felt that the glitchy interface of “Perfect World” and the unsettling imagery of “Dim O’Gauble” helped to tell a story and communicate a message far more effectively than they could’ve done solely in print.  In looking back over my posts, I find that I was almost always excited about the new storytelling potential of digital environments.  I loved how electronic literature provided more opportunities to render a tone, theme, or story than traditional print literature.  Discovering all the different ways digital environments could contribute to storytelling was one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of the semester.

Unsurprisingly, I was generally excited about digital environments and the Internet as a whole.  “I confess that I adore the Internet,” I wrote in my post on “Hana Feels.”  This love of the digital pervades most of my posts.  Whether expressing my appreciation of the Internet in telling untold stories such as “Hana Feels” or commenting on the sublime nature of Wikipedia, I noticed a constant excitement about the digital world.

In looking back over my posts, I found them to be overwhelmingly positive and excited about the opportunities provided by digital environments.  This class was in many ways a perfect fit for my interests.  In literature and art, I tend to be fascinated by the new, innovative, and unusual.  We certainly read a lot of works in all three of those categories over the course of the semester, and I think my excitement about them is quite evident from my blog posts.

Reflections

Some common themes in my blog post have been interactivity, which is one of the main affordances of electronic literature.  My pre-major advisor, a physics professor, asked me what electronic literature is.  And I basically described it as literature that is interactive with the reader; although this participatory element of e-lit is relative to the style of the work, in one way or another there is a participatory element, even if it’s using your mouse to navigate through a story, which is unlike physical literature which has different affordances such as the ones we talked about in the rare book room.

Upon reflection of my blog posts, one thing comes to mind.  Description.  I’ve noticed the blog posts have been good exercise for me to get stronger at describing class literature, making connections to other things that relate to course topics, as well as just think about the course readings in depth.  In essence, the blog posts forced me to think about readings in a way that I could create rhetoric that without the blogs, I might not have thought about.  For example, in my first blog post about Ice-Bound, I connected it to Rick and Morty.  Without the blog post, I don’t know if I would make that connection.  And as the class progressed I improved in my ability to do so because of practice.  For example, the sightings posts that I made about Happy Death Day being uncanny and music being sublimes expanded my mind to think about the meanings of the words uncanny and sublime in ways that I hadn’t done in the past.   I was also more comfortable, and therefore confident in my writing towards the end of blog post writing.  I think these blog posts in this way have helped me ultimately write better in a way that was stress free and almost fun!

 

An Interview with Myself

What do you usually write about in your posts? Are there broad themes or specific concerns that reoccur in your writing?

Themes, yes. Many common themes. The other day, I did an exercise with myself where I tried to list out the ideas that I’m truly interested in working on. I tried to be as explicit with myself about the topics that I truly feel internally motivated to learn about independent of external reasons (grades, career opportunities, etc) for pursuing a topic. Here is a picture which illustrates where this landed me.

I don’t think this list is exhaustive. Three days later than the drafting of this, I’m already surprised that I didn’t jot down anything about the politics of self-representation or the ways in which comics can be used as an artistic medium to express information.

Anyways. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these themes came up in my projects and posts. The politics of language appears most prominently as a theme in my submission for the Tracery Project. This project at its core aims to tackle the ways in which the words we choose to use have political implications. I talk about explicitly the concepts of intellectual property and crediting in my first two blog posts, The Hoax of Originality and Write Bad Poetry, Sing Out of Tune, and Other Relevant Platitudes If The Robots Don’t Take Over. Constructions of mental and emotional (dis)ability came up with Mental Illness in Electronic Literature Tropes and Scattered Thoughts on “Pry”. My blog post on The Game on “Empathy Engine”  clearly explored the idea of games as a proxy for larger societal issues and conversations.

How have your blog posts evolved over this semester?

I’m free! Not really… but I have managed to at least partially unchain myself from my internalization of the conventions of academic writing that so often distress me. This course, inadvertently, has challenged the ways that I think about my own writing. By reading digital literature that so clearly pushed the bounds of what is considered literature, I’m given the opportunity to think about the ways to communicate information that aren’t as clearly narrative-oriented, or that carry out a narrative in a way that’s different than what we’re used to. Social psychologists have discussed that we read at a reading level much higher than our own writing level, which perhaps explains why so many of us internalize our struggles to create and publish content at the collegiate level when we’re bombarded with a series of highly edited, peer-reviewed articles and books that people devote their life to creating.

Of my pre-conceived notions about writing that have evolved this semester, I feel that the most significant has been my understanding of structure and linearity.

What ideas or threads in your posts do you see as worth revisiting?

Externalizing through blog posts some ideas about originality has allowed me to process it more consciously and actively. While I discussed the concepts on a more global level, I think that it’s worth exploring the effect that the collegiate emphasis on originality, original ideas, original research, original art, etc actually serves to reinforce existing systemic inequalities. While most transparently, a system of intellectual property serves to stop ideas from being stolen (which by the way, still happens unchecked to authors and artists of color all the time), the system as it currently exists also encourages us to only treat the published, well-regarded works of others as what we need to credit, rather than our mothers for listening to and shaping our ideas, our friends for encouraging and supporting certain pursuits and conversations, our professors that truly set us off on thinking about a topic in a particular way, the novels and short stories we’ve read that influenced our worldview and ideologies.

We’re conditioned to treat only the subject material that directly relates to the methodology of the work that we’re conducting as worthy contributions worth accrediting. And that’s not a quick fix. Until the mass inequities of women and especially women of color in higher education and professionalized spaces and the labor of traditionally feminized roles is anywhere near addressed, this reality will continue to result in the invisibilization of the labor that our communities (largely held up by supportive women who hear us out) have put into developing the people and ideas that we hold near and dear to our identities today.

Final Reflective Post

In reading my past work, I have noticed that the nature of my posts has changed. Towards the beginning, I focus more on the specific characteristics of digital environments. I think this is because I was getting my bearings, learning what a digital environment is and how I operate within it. My first post is pretty straightforward. I mention in detail how Marie-Laure Ryan “divides the levels of interactivity of digital environments into four basic sublevels” (Aug. 30). A post shortly after that one discusses the difference between physical and electronic literature (Sept. 10). However, in the later posts I apply these concepts to broader themes. For example, I reference Ryan’s work without feeling the need to explain its every detail. I think this more seamless inclusion of concepts demonstrates how I learned to fully understand the critical readings from our course.

In terms of what I tend to write about, I was surprised that the most recent post before my port Artist Statement also deals with language and theory. Although I am more wide-reaching in my Artist Statement, I am ultimately interested in abstract concepts, the works that “pose interesting questions about the structure and nature of words . . [the ones that] ask who creates words, and what or who actually determines their significance” (Nov. 8). In fact, the post before that mentions my favorite linguistic tool: Thesaurus.com. I say about the tool: “in exploring works that emphasize the importance of words and their relationship to one another, it is intriguing to notice the ways in which these procedures can be put to practical use” (Oct. 24). These are the topics that normally interest me. Towards the end, once I more fully grasped the course’s themes and concepts, I had acquired the tools to write about the more nuanced, complex topics that really intrigue me.

Interestingly, I often don’t reach concrete solutions or answers in my blog posts. I found those unanswered posts to be the most thought-provoking. For example, in my post from September 19th, I talk about authorship and how YHCHI does not reveal their intention for a work. Some think that to watch the work as a Youtube video defeats the purpose of the work. I ask eventually, “is using the Youtube video to read the text incorrect, or defeating ‘the purpose of the work’?” The only answer I really draw is, “I don’t think so.” A semblance of an answer is useful because open-ended, thought-provoking questions engender conversation and new ideas. In fact, I found that I wanted to go back and explore the question of authorship more. When I started the process of blogging, I thought the purpose was to investigate questions and draw precise conclusions in the space of 250 words. Not only do I realize that this was presumptuous of me, but I also think that this approach to blogging is less stimulating than the alternatively provocative, inconclusive posts.

Reflective Blog Post

This class challenged me to think in ways that I never had before, and blogging was always a crucial element in understanding the intriguing world of electronic literature. In reflection, it seems that I often found myself reflecting on some aspect of a work that we had just been assigned to navigate through. I analyzed these works by relating them to the various reading given to us. One example of this is when I wrote my post titled Twitter Bot Takeover. I used Christopher Funkhouser’s article on First-Generation poetry generators to discuss permutations and their uniqueness in the digital environment. This was helpful, as I ultimately used this article to help describe my tracery project.

Certain articles were essential to my learning, and I found myself using them time and time again to understand different works of e-lit. One such article that I used to write my first blog post, Rare Opportunites in the Rare Book Room, was Bookscapes, written by Matthew Kirschenbaum. This article, along with the visit to the rare book room, really established my understanding for the rest of the material in the class. It also was effective in gearing my mind to look for certain elements of digital literature, rather than just absorbing it on a surface level.

One of my favorite projects to look at was Dakota, created by Young-Hae Chang Heavy industries, and I expressed my interest in the blog post I wrote about it. This was one of the first instances where I realized just how many pathways you can take in e-lit. I described how the music, alongside the fast-paced text encouraged a different method of reading, which I had not experienced before. This project even inspired me to do my Lets Play project on one of YHCHI’s other works, The Last Day of Betty Nkomo.

Overall, I feel like the blogs were essential for my comprehension in the class and I enjoyed writing them. They ensured that old ideas stayed fresh in my mind, and enriched my other projects by providing references to what I wanted to get out of any work of electronic literature.

Final Reflections

I thoroughly enjoyed being able to use a blog as the medium to discuss the works we’ve looked at. I find that at least for me, the less formal tone of blogs helps me be more original with my analyses and engagement with the work. Reading back through my posts, I remembered how exciting writing each one was; This House Has People in It and ‘The Automatic’ unit as a whole, in particular, kicked my creative side into gear. I felt truly in tune with the topics we were covering, and they made me want to dig even deeper and find other works of e-lit to explore.
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Upon looking back at my posts, I immediately noticed how often I mention the topic of control. I guess I’m a ‘control-freak’ in one sense of the word! In my first post, I discussed the issue of true control in narrative games, using TellTale’s The Walking Dead as my case study. Later, I chided people for thinking bots were going to ‘take control’ of social media, and cursed Abra for not giving me complete authority over my poetic masterpieces. This theme is intriguing to me, and I’m not entirely sure what it says about me that this issue keeps cropping up. Perhaps I have a subconscious fear of not having agency and the power of choice.
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As mentioned earlier, This House Has People In It was one of my favorite works to experience and write about. After my general discussion on the uncanny, I talked about how uncanniness can function as and work in conjunction with societal critique, as it did in the video. I’d be very interested to find more examples of this in film, games, AdultSwim videos, etc.
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If I were to rewrite these, I would want to interact and respond more to other blog entries. Because I often submitted my posts the morning of class, I didn’t have much time to muse over my classmates’ thoughts. I also would have liked to explore the other works of notable artists we’ve discussed, like Jonathan Harris and the artists behind Dreaming Methods.

Reflective Blog Post

Looking back at my posts, I found that I have a tendency to question the categories assigned to works as written on the syllabus. I remember doing this often because, as an overall form, electronic literature is somewhat new and perplexing to me and it often seems impossible to categorize any of the works we look at as serving a single purpose. Reading it so often in my posts, however, made me think about how vast electronic literature is overall. Admittedly this isn’t an entirely new thought, as it’s one I found myself thinking various times when doing the readings for this class (especially with 17776), but when you think about all the works we’ve looked at as a whole it somehow becomes even more overwhelming and exciting than each text as an individual unit.

Another thing I seem to latch onto in general is the visual presentation of the textual works we’ve looked at. As an English major who is far too familiar with analyzing words for their explicit meanings and discreet implications, I clearly found it really refreshing to take in works of literature as pieces that hold both literary and aesthetic qualities. For example, my post on These Memories Won’t Last explores a potential visual layout that doesn’t technically exist in the work as a means of comparison. I think it’s fair to say, based off my posts, that I  spent a lot of time in this class thinking about rearranging this work – and most others – to see how else they could function and whether or not their message would maintain effectiveness in these alternate ways.

Overall, I will admit to having a lack of inspiration for a handful of these posts, It’s clear to me that the ones I wrote at the end of the semester and near midterms season were a bit less in depth. Frankly, I often found more inspired to write on something assigned to group A or B, but despite this I think it’s interesting to see that I noticed pretty similar things in each work that we looked at as a class. It was also really nice to have the option of Token posts, which I definitely took advantage of. Considering how digital the typical modern student’s life is, I should’ve expected how often I would find something outside of class that could relate to one of our readings or class conversations, but am actually surprised at how frequently it happened.  It was definitely nice to be able to actually apply these random instances as a grade boost. It was especially amazing to have an outlet in which I could shamelessly promote Zero Escape!

 

Musings on My Blogs

Looking back at my previous blog posts, I wish I had been somewhat more creative. For the most part, my blog posts were on the formal side in terms of tone. I generally focused on that week’s aesthetic quality and how it related to the work as well as how the qualities of the work fit into the work’s goal or message. Similarly, I focused too much on strictly the works at hand. I never incorporated outside works of electronic literature, outside discussions and analyses on topics, or even videos that remind me of the given aesthetic. I was most creative with my post regarding the uncanny where I recounted an experience involving my “uncanny coats.” Generally speaking, I think I should have taken advantage of the “less formal” aspect of the blog posts as opposed to treating them like miniature essays. I also never used a blog post to reply to another post. Using another’s thoughts as a springboard, a reply post would have been a good chance to incorporate outside perspectives, likely altering my own thoughts or at least inspiring new ideas. Despite these minor regrets, I take pride in my blog posts as they allowed me to express slightly complex ideas and theories in a fairly concise manner. These blog posts also granted me the chance to further consider the work and synthesize my thoughts into more meaningful interpretations of the works. Regardless of my formal approach with less creative aspects, I believe my blog posts accurately reflect my musings on each subject.