“Circle” by Caitlin Fisher

“Circle” by Caitlin Fisher

This augmented reality (AR) work tells the story of three generations of women through a series of short poetic videos organized spatially on a table top installation. In the version documented in the video, the work used a printed out marker system and a webcam connected to a computer to move from one marker to another. As the camera is able to identify the markers, the software replaces them with a short video with a voice recording of Fisher reading a poetic text. Beautifully produced, the videos visually engage the theme of memory by focusing on old photographs, photo albums and family heirlooms, and reinforcing this aurally through vignettes that breathe life into these objects.

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“The Winter House” by Naomi Alderman and Jey Biddulph

Screen capture from "The Winter House" by Naomi Alderman and Jey Biddulph. Black background serving as a frame to a picture of a small pile of books laying on top of a wooden table with various lines of text written beside them. Next to the lines of text there ia a brown page with a magnifying glass laying over it. Text: "At her father's desk" followed by  8 lines too small to be read
Open “The Winter House” by Naomi Alderman and Jey Biddulph

This multimedia narrative shortlisted for the 2010 New Media Writing Prize combines a variety of genres and forms to tell an engaging story. This murder mystery brings the protagonist back to a mansion and boarding school to investigate her father’s untimely demise. The narrative and graphic design of this linear hypertext borrows heavily from the detective board game Clue (aka Cluedo), yet its treatment of the material using videogame interfaces, e-poetic deployment of its language, and smartly integrated multimedia keeps it from seeming cliché.

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“Underbelly” by Christine Wilks

Screen capture from “Underbelly” by Christine Wilks. Black background with various grey ominous images in the foreground.
Open “Underbelly” by Christine Wilks

Winner of the 2010 New Media Writing Prize, this work tells the story of women who make their lives by carving stone, be it for artistic sculpture or coal mining. Exquisitely researched historically, pictorially, and ethnographically, it weaves together these distinct strands to cast a spell upon readers who explore its interfaces. Initially, the work offers a video interview about a sculptor, who discusses her art and craft as “reductive” because she chisels away at stone to leave behind the figure of a woman. As the reader explores the space of the poem using the pointer as a kind of light that reveals details in the tunnels under the earth. When triggered by mousing over icons, one can hear either snippets of an interview with the sculptor or poetry read aloud by a commanding voice. Each movement eventually reveals the name and figure of a woman, who tells her story— generally one that places having children in conflict with their careers, be it as artists or miners. The uterine and fetal images that haunt the depths of this poem gesture towards an analogy between a woman’s body and the treasures that lie beneath the earth.

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“The O2 Tales” by Anna Pitt

Screen capture from “The O2 Tales” by Anna Pitt. A background of a drawing of a red train with only one white and blue door. A picture of a blonde woman is on the door that is white and blue, and another one in another window. Below the white door woman a text reads “The hedgefund Manager’s Wife’s Tale” and below the other woman is the text “The Lolipop Lady’s Tale”. There is a text between them reads “I used to go to a lot of concerts when I was in my twenties. I love the atmosphere, anything from a small pub gig to the huge stadiums.” There are a arrows below the windows and a strange picture in the middle of the screen shot of animals with only a bird’s head and legs.  Their feathers are black and their beaks are yellow.
Open “The O2 Tales” by Anna Pitt

This charmingly handcrafted hypertext work is built upon the narrative framework of The Canterbury Tales, but in a completely contemporary fashion, using the Simon Cowell’s popular tv musical talent show The X Factor as the motivation for a pilgrimage to the O2 concert arena in London. The inviting hand-drawn train (reminiscent of Max Dalton’s art used in Wes Anderson’s films) uses its characters as an interface to learn about their motivations and interconnected stories. The background music consists of amateur performances of popular songs, of a quality that might give Simon Cowell abundant opportunity for a snide remark, but in this case fits the tone and aesthetics of the piece. The poem in the Prologue echoes Chaucer in its structure, but is cut from the same cloth as the music— offering lines that win readers over with enthusiasm and charm, as it does when it rhymes “telly” with “melée.”

For the most reading pleasure, leave any snarkiness at the door and be willing to sing along.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2010

Read more about this work at elmcip.

“Yes, really” by Katharine Norman

Open: “Yes, really” by Katharine Norman

This “fiction for three voices” is sent via e-mail to readers’ inboxes every five minutes until all seven mailings are delivered. This story is told using an epistolary style in which two characters (Josie and Doreen) are writing e-mail messages to a loved one and friend (respectively), and one character (Annie) whose stream-of-consciousness arrives as an e-mail. Annie cannot type or dictate because she is blind, deaf, mute, and mentally handicapped from birth— a “disabled resident” in the “C-block Special Care unit—” so as readers we need to be willing to accept these e-mails from her as a way to access her perspective. Her voice is the most poetic aspect of this work, presenting visually textured messages that contain both ASCii art and interspersed lines of highly metaphoric free verse.

Whether you read the e-mails as they arrive, or simply in order, the interconnected stories, situations, and perspective of each character will enrich the narrative, developing in directions full of irony, reversals of fortune, and changes in attitudes— including your own.

Yes, really.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2010

“Unravelled” by Spenser Wain, Zac Urness, and Kollin Branicki

Screen capture from "Unravelled" by Spenser Wain, Zac Urness, and Kollin Branicki. Background of two images of a man that is fragmented with words written in each fragment. Text: "LOVE" "HEALTH" "FINANCE" "RESIDENCE"
Open “Unravelled” by Spenser Wain, Zac Urness, and Kollin Branicki

This hypertext poem tells the story of a young man whose life unravels because of “one bad day.” The hypertext is structured to display four aspects of his life—love, health, finance, and residence— at different stages of deterioration. In the first stage, he seems to have it all: a relationship gone public via Facebook, a new house in a sunny tropical climate, an iPhone with whom he hears a message about needing further medical testing, and a $20,000 loan with a complete balance due at the end of the month. That financial situation is probably all that is needed to push anyone over the edge. I’m unsure what led to such a casual e-mail from a bank requesting full payment of what is probably a defaulted loan, but it’s hard to believe this situation happened in a single day. Perhaps losing his job should’ve been in the first node, so the narrative sequence is more logical. The casual, prosy diction of the “poem” nodes (identified as such in the title bars), along with their center-justified large fonts express the speaker’s voice in short units that evoke title headings more than stanzas.

Like “Chasing Pandora,” this work was included in the 2011 New Media Writing Prize student shortlist, and it shows a young generation’s worldview shaped by contemporary items and services, such as Facebook, banks, iPhones, and psychiatric medication, in which life moves at such an accelerated pace that a single bad day can throw everything into disarray.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2011

ELMCIP logo with text: “Read more about this work at ELMCIP.”

“Chasing Pandora” by Allyson Cikor, Emily Devereux, Greg Turnbull, Mathew Vickery, and Trent Redmond

“Chasing Pandora” by Allyson Cikor, Emily Devereux, Greg Turnbull, Mathew Vickery, and Trent Redmond

This hypertext poem included in the 2011 New Media Writing Prize Shortlist (in the Student category) tells the story of a stalker and his victim. The speaker is the stalker who opens a Facebook account under the pseudonym “David Mills” (after typing and deleting “Micheal” from the name field) to be better able to stalk the subject of his obsession, a young Canadian woman called Pandora Oaklear. The stalker is not much of a poet, writing in more or less iambic tetrameter and dimeter, rhyming words like “distance” with “persistence,” and using a rhyme scheme so irregular that it is surely a reflection of his perturbed thought process. He is smart enough to open accounts under multiple pseudonyms and in different cloud-based content hosting services, such as Webnode, Flickr (a Yahoo! service), Facebook, and YouTube (a Google service). Only this disturbing bit of center-justified verse and the focus on the victim weave all these photos, accounts, and videos together, including a newspaper clipping that chillingly gestures towards a blurred boundary between fiction and reality. And it is much worse than the Quicktime audio clip that sets the tone with creepy music.

It is a rough piece, but its concerns are very timely.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2011

“Maybe Make Some Change” by Aaron A. Reed

Screen capture of "Maybe Make Some Change" by Aaron A. Reed. Small white font on a brownish background. Text: "SHOOT"
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This work is integrates video games, interactive fiction, fiction, reality, news, audio, video, and texts in prose and verse to craft a viscerally thought-provoking experience for audiences willing to play along. The work eschews the mouse to focus users on a keyboard based interface which draws attention to the textual mechanics of the work. The description places the reader into a situation that is always the same, except for some key variables that keeps one’s focus on each generated iteration. The interface doesn’t provide much information on options for valid actions, except for the verb(s) prominently displayed on the left hand column. This is a game that places readers in a difficult position, but trains them towards the kind of behavior that Reed wants them to enact and the thematic reflections such interactions produce.

Repetition is part of the interactive fiction genre that informs this piece, but Reed succeeds in making the call and response of an interactor with the parser into a kind of poetic refrain. This is a Steinian use of repetition, which is “not repetition but insistence.” And it is an earnest insistence on an topic that should not be ignored, yet gets little enough scrutiny. Be patient with this work and it will unfold powerfully before you.

Featured in New Media Writing Prize 2011

Read more about this work at ELMCIP.

“Living Will” by Mark Marino

Screen capture of "Living Will" by Mark Marino. A will is displayed with instructions. Text: "LIVING WILL / by E R Millhouse / LIVING WILL / You hold in your hands the Living Will & Testiment of E.R. Millhouse, making you the controlling executor/rix, beneficiary, and heir. / INHERITANCE / My daughter, Salomee / Bequests.......4 / Legal Fees........605 / Medical Fees.....160 / Ta........4 / DRXL........93 / POV.........Salomee"
Open “Living Will” by Mark Marino

This next generation hypertext fiction and game shortlisted for the 2012 New Media Writing Prize is a wonderful example of how contemporary HTML and JavaScript can bring in multiple nodes into the same page to produce a seamless new document— a testament to the paths taken by the reader. Powered by two JavaScript libraries, Undum and JQuery, this work uses a scoring system to reward and punish the choices made by the reader/player who controls a character in the story, presumably with the goal of getting the most money. All this, conceptually framed by the structure and language of a legal document— a last will and testament— provides a genre through which a deceased character with an aptly Victorian name, E. R. Millhouse, can address his living heirs.

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“88 Constellations for Wittgenstein” by David Clark