For the second year in a row, I ♥ E-Poetry is the first runner up in the Digital Humanities Awards, this time in the “Best DH project for public audiences” category. Here’s a link to the official results.
This accomplishment couldn’t have been possible without its fabulous team: the Advisory Board which suggested changes that led to our current expansion into a collaborative effort, the contributors who freely lend their expertise and insight to the project, and the interns whose behind-the-scenes work help develop this resource. Here’s the I ♥ E-Poetry team:
Nanette Wylde’s Storyland (2002) is a digital work that produces recombinant narratives within a frame that seeks to evoke the ethos of a circus performance. Each story within Storyland opens with a black screen, the title of the work lighting up in a randomized configuration of multi-coloured letters to a shortened subsection of of Louis-Philippe Laurendeau’s ‘Thunder and Blazes’ (1910), a small-band reworking of Julius Fučík’s Opus 68 march, ‘The Entrance of the Gladiators’ (1897). The stories within Storyland follow a basic six paragraph template, and are refreshed each time the user presses the ‘new story’ button. Each time this button is pushed, the page refreshes by playing its music again and produces elements in a new combination in order to tell the user a different narrative, seemingly depicting a whole new performance, although elements of the previous tale are displaced and repeated within each new tale.
On Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 6:45 pm Jeremy Hight announced that he had begun a new series that would be “published” on his timeline and allowed to “float away down its river.” To think of the Facebook timeline as a river is a substantial change in the metaphor Facebook has implemented as an organizing principle for the mass of status updates, photos, and other material people share on this social network. A timeline can be explored with considerably less metaphorical effort than navigating upstream. There are no ancient philosophical pronouncements about never being able to step into the same timeline twice. To think of Facebook as a river is to highlight its endless flow and the irretrievable nature of a moment– correctly so– but that isn’t the only metaphor Hight is activating here. He refers to these posts as “publication,” a word that comes charged with centuries of print history and the circulation of the written word in ways that suggests a modicum of permanence, the slice of immortality beyond the ephemeral moment that Shakespeare wrote about.
The problem is that Facebook posts aren’t ephemeral. They are digital objects stored and backed up in Facebook servers with timestamps and a unique URL, which like Twitter posts, can be embedded into WordPress blogs (as of September 2013). So there is a way to circumvent Hight’s intention of having this narrative exist only on Facebook, and here it is, embedded into this post:
Hmm. Well played, Mr. Hight, well played.
Okay then, let this be a reminder that just because while the entry is published, it isn’t public. Upon closer inspection, I (who have the privilege to be his Facebook friend), noticed that the entries for this narrative are shared only with his friends, so even if you “follow” his entries, he needs to become “friends” with you to grant access to this narrative. Perhaps this is an oversight, since he does post public entries in his timeline (I tested this by following him with a different account). Or perhaps, like Emily Dickinson, who shared her poems with her friends and acquaintances by copying them by hand and mailing them in letters, Hight wishes to share this work with a select audience of people he knows and trusts enough to establish bilateral communication with in Facebook.
The preservationist in me wants to capture these entries and it would be easy to do so, by screen capturing the posts or by cutting and pasting their text into a new document, but as discussed in my series on William Gibson’s vanishing poem Agrippa, I would only be capturing an aspect of the work by creating different computational objects. Besides, it begs the question: do I have the right to copy his work? Would this act be a violence against Hight’s intentions? I don’t wish to betray our friendship. I could provide links to the entries so fellow Facebook friends can access them, but it would be better to direct people to February 16, 2014 on his Timeline, which would provide a fuller context. Perhaps when it’s over, I’ll ask Hight to download his Facebook Archive and share the data with me, or archive it somehow.
Or perhaps I should enjoy it as it happens, share the experience with fellow friends, and appreciate it more for its “lability.”
You’ll note that I haven’t mentioned what the story is about. That will be the focus of the next entry in this series.
I ♥ E-Poetry is about love – for poetry in electronic and digital media, for poetry on and off the page, for poetry wherever it can be found, and more generally for what happens to language and literary expression in digital media. E-Poetry (using this most encompassing of definitions) is about many things, including love in all its expressions: familiar, romantic, of language, of media, of the self and the other, of the others, of all.
So to commemorate Valentine’s day I have compiled a brief selection of love e-poems reviewed in I ♥ E-Poetry:
M.D. Coverley’s hypertext e-poem “Eclipse Louisiana” weaves together different expressions of love at various points in the speaker’s life.
Judy Malloy’s narrabase fictions weave in love stories with multiple narrative threads and reward readers with characters that cross over from one work to another, offering closure to lingering questions about their relationships.
The Play Creatividad Editions are more than illustrated editions of Edgar Allan Poe’s texts. The reader can interact with the illustrations to discover what lies beneath (and, Poe being Poe, what lies beneath is generally a nasty surprise). The tales have been supplied with sound and music. But not with the kind of music that one would expect of a repetitive video game: each text has its own piece with a mood and rhythm that complements it perfectly. It is a labor that requires ideas, but also talent and love.
If we take “The Oval Portrait,” for example, the music is sweet and haunting, ultimately sad. The opening of the story, which describes the “chateau” in which the narrator will discover the oval portrait, is set over a grey scene on the background of which is the mansion, illuminated by the moon and surrounded by grey pine trees. In many of the illustrations, the movement of the device causes them to shift their angle. When we least expect it, the howl of the wolf merges with the melody.
As we advance in the tale, we discover that some of the phrases of the story are emphasized by using a darker and larger font. Eventually, the candlelight, allows us to illuminate the oval portrait, just after the narrator has discovered it.
The degree to which “The Oval Portrait” achieves the merging of the interactive features and multimedia elements with the original text goes beyond what the reader would expect. In a print edition, for example, we read:
And then the brush was given, and then the tint was placed; and, for one moment, the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought; but in the next, while he yet gazed, he grew tremulous and very pallid, and aghast, and crying with a loud voice: ‘This is indeed Life itself!’ turned suddenly to regard his beloved:- She was dead!
This could be modified with clever design, but in iPoe, we have a story presented with skilled subtlety. In one screen we have:
And then the brush was given, and then the tint was placed; and, for one moment, the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought; but in the next, while he yet gazed, he grew tremulous and very pallid, and aghast, and crying with a loud voice:
The typography of the last phrases bold and increasing in size (in the iPhone version, the iPad has the same size through that paragraph, as it can be seen in the image above) perhaps referring to the state of excitement exhibited by the character. In the next page we have the portrait, covering blurry letters.
The reader is forced to move the portrait out of place to discover the dead woman and the text above the corpse: “‘This is indeed Life itself!’ turned suddenly to regard his beloved:- She was dead!”
The wonder is of iPoe’s “The Oval Portrait” is that it can enhance the reader’s experience. This is not just Poe’s text in a new edition, it is Poe for the 21st century reader. I, for one, will never teach Poe from print again.
“sc4da1 in new media“, a Flash poem/rage-game by Stuart Moulthrop, is as outrageous as it is delightful. The piece is composed of two alternating interfaces: a rage-game remediation of Pong; and a transient text. Every time you beat a level of the remediated Pong, you access a new installment of the transient text. There are six levels to the remediated Pong. The perversity of this rage-game version of Pong makes Chiku’s “Syobon Action” (“Cat Mario”) a piece of cake in comparison. I almost broke a vocal cord when I made it to level 6.
I ♥ E-Poetry welcomes its new contributor, Jonathan Baillehache.
Jonathan Baillehache is an Assistant Professor of French at the department of Romance Languages at the University of Georgia, where he teaches French Literature, Electronic Literature, and Video Games. His research focuses on translation studies and new media studies. His current book project explores the relationship between textuality and computing in the context of the radical remediation of literature by authors of electronic-literature and digital humanists. In collaboration with the Digital Humanities Lab, he is currently building the Digital Arts Library, a library dedicated to the preservation, research and teaching of video games and electronic literature at UGA.
His research in the rich traditions of French electronic literature and video games will help expand I ♥ E-Poetry’s scope into other languages and cultures.
In the next few weeks, a series of entries will appear here that will concern themselves with the notion of a digital rebirth, a sort of digital reincarnation of printed texts. These entries will not refer to merely digitized versions of classic texts. Instead, they will highlight digital publications that present printed texts in a completely new light and that share with born-digital literature the need to be read in specialized devices.
In March last year, my attention was caught by iPoe, an edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories specifically designed for mobile devices. In turn, this sparked my interest in other similar publications and my involvement in the CantApp, an edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales conceived for reading in mobile phones and tablets which will be published this year. This reimagining of classical texts for modern multimedia devices is what I refer to as born-again digital literature.
10:01 is a hypertext novel set in a movie theater during the ten minutes running up to the screening of the film. The text was published in 2005 in The Iowa Review Web. It consists of the image of a darkened cinema where black silhouettes sit in various rows. This image serves as one of the possible ways to navigate the text. By clicking on a figure, we read from one to five texts, each of them advancing the narrative. The text can also be navigated by using the time bar, but the reader does not feel constrained to read it chronologically. Each of the characters has its own story, which is told by an omniscient narrator that has access to their innermost feelings, hopes, fears and desires.
Even though critics like Alice Bell, Astrid Ensslin and Hans Rustad describe it as a “Web-based version of Olsen’s print Novel” (Analyzing Digital Fiction, Routledge 2014), the authors state in the credits that: “A print version of 10:01 that complements rather than reiterates this hypermedial version is available from Chiasmus Press.”
The novel is built using a combination of HTML and Flash, which allows video and sound when required by the story. The sounds represent a particularly significant contribution to this work, by setting both tone and pace. The text also presents hyperlinks (although some of them are broken) which alternatively illuminate or complicate it. The brilliancy of this work resides in the shifting tone, from harsh and critical to satirical and funny. If you would like to know how a real shrunken head ends up in a cinema in the Mall of the Americas, you should read it. You might also discover that “America… is a land of excellent pies.”
On Tuesday, February 4, 2013, Facebook released a generated video titled “A Look Back” to commemorate their 10th anniversary.
A Look Back is an experience that compiles your highlights since joining Facebook. Depending on how long you’ve been on Facebook and how much you’ve shared, you’ll see a movie, a collection of photos or a thank you card (link).
For those who have share plenty, this work assembles images and status updates from your Facebook feed and arranges them to be displayed on a video template that organizes them into several topics, to be described below. One could see this generated movie is a kind of Hallmark ecard from Facebook to you, designed to please you with pretty music and images you’re most likely to enjoy. And at that level, the work is a likeable bauble, as enjoyable and forgettable as a well chosen greeting card or something you’ve “liked” on Facebook. But part of its interest is in how effectively Facebook is able to use its metadata to mine its user’s database and generate a a surprisingly effective customized experience that could be considered an unexpected e-poem.