Authorship and the Work of YHCHI: How do we Read it?

I would like to respond to Adam’s post referring to Jessica Pressman’s analysis of YHCHI’s removal of user interactivity in their work. Adam mentions that recording the work on Youtube “defeats the purpose of the work by reintroducing interactivity.” It is true that Youtube allows for stopping and starting, pause and play, in order for the user to take his or her time in comprehending the words, and this particular manipulation of the original material invites once more the question of authorship. Pressman notes that YHCHI “refuse to say much about their work” (80). She goes on to analyze Dakota based on the sparse information that the authors themselves have provided. I find this interesting because Pressman is so bent on reading Dakota authorially, deciphering the artist’s intention in creating the work, yet YHCHI do not support this reading. They “can’t and won’t help readers ‘locate’ [them]” (80). The alternative, then, would be that YHCHI support Barthes’s perspective – that they would rather their audience decide the meaning of the work.

Jessica Pressman, in her authorial reading of Dakota, ignores the clearly explicated intention of the author that is to not perform an authorial reading. It is a Catch-22. However, I argue that at least one reader of the text made meaning of it in creating the Youtube video. So, is using the Youtube video to read the text incorrect, or defeating “the purpose of the work”? I don’t think so. In fact, because YHCHI explicitly denied their opportunity and ability to provide meaning for the text, I think that any way a reader decides to decipher the text is meaningful, including choosing to stop and start it. So I ask my classmates, is there a such thing as a “better” way to read this text?

If you’re interested, check out this extended interview with YHCHI.

YOO: How would you define the work of YHCHI? Digital poetry or more, digital art? Or something completely new?

YHC HI: Actually, we wouldn’t pin it down. No use making it easy on guys like you.

Quote from one of YHCHI’s projects that hints at the question of authorship.


“Dakota”: Digital Literature That Breaks Its Own Rules

When I first opened the link to Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ Dakota, my immediate reaction was confusion. Was the page broken? Why was it blank? Then, the thrumming drum beat began in sync with the page color lightening gradually to white, and the first words of introductory text, a countdown from ten to one, flashed onto the screen, disappearing as quickly as they’d materialized. No less confused, I focused all of my attention onto the words appearing in front of me and braced myself for a reading experience different from anything I’d read before. And in this aspect, Dakota definitely did not disappoint.

As I got further along into the story, I grew increasingly frustrated. Some of the text flashed by in less than a second, much too quickly for me, or any reader, to be able to comprehend. What’s the point of having this part of the text if you can’t read it? I wondered. But, as I learned from Jessica Pressman’s “Speed Reading,” removing interactivity from the equation was exactly the authors’ intention.

As we mentioned in class this past week, one of the five elements of digital literature is interaction, or a lack of it. There are no buttons in Dakota to allow the reader to stop, pause, or slow down the rate at which the text appears (or even to pause the music), and this is precisely the point. As quoted in Jessica Pressman’s “Speed Reading,” Young-Hae Chang has said, “My Web art tries to express the essence of the Internet: information. Strip away the interactivity, the graphics, the design, the photos, the banners, the colors, the fonts and the rest, and what’s left? The text” (81-82).  This is a very bare-bones approach to digital literature as we know it.

The YouTube video above, though one could argue is convenient, blatantly defeats the purpose of the work by reintroducing interactivity into the work. This is because, due to the way YouTube as a platform functions, the audience is able to pause, rewind, and fast-forward through the text at will. To someone who hadn’t gone through the original text on Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ website and had simply watched the above video instead, the experience and its impact on the reader would be dramatically reduced. This only further serves to emphasize how radically different Dakota truly is from other forms of digital literature.