HYPERTEXT: Fake Freedom of Choice?

November 27th, 2013 by susan


On the TV cartoon series “Family Guy,” the writers chose to kill off a major character (Brian, the family dog) on a recent episode. The public uproar inspired media coverage and twittering and Facebook posts and pages to express not only (some) viewer outrage, but an attempt to reverse the event and its implications in the series.

Today I also noted that one of my favorite PBS shows, “Doc Martin” in its latest season (which is not yet available here in the U.S.) has chosen to write into the script an automobile accident in which a starring character is not killed, but injured. Here again, some of its audience is upset by the scene and is voicing that displeasure and shock. Some using as a basis for their opinion that it’s too real for what they expect as a comedic entertainment.

My question is this: While audience reaction is certainly the main goal of any art form, at what point does it interfere with the writer’s freedom of expression? His/her right to write what was in his/her head rather than to allow the reader/viewer to rewrite the script more to their liking? I remember a young woman in one of my creative writing classes whose critique was always focused on rewriting students’ stories to a happy ending.

When I first got into the study of narrative hypertext and the possibilities it offered I believed that the reader “wrote” the story by controlling his choice of links to wander different plots of story. As I wrote hypertext narrative, I realized that the original author still maintains control by the necessity of keeping the flow of narrative to whatever ultimate end or endings he has devised to his story.

This may be why hypertext does not have the appeal to a wider audience. People REALLY want control of the story, particularly when it is implied as it is by hypertext form.

What then, would make it more effective to meet the demands of today’s social media conscious and highly vocal reader? Shall the writer include specifics as to where the choice will lead? Should it offer the choices as did “Choose Your Own Adventure” Books so that the reader has the potential of making a more informed decision? As hypertext stories are written now, it seems that the highlighted word that offers a link to another area of story is still a mystery as to where it takes the character and the reader. The choice of word to offer as the link is often a clue (i.e., “local bar” versus “church” but even then it’s the original writer’s connection and not the reader’s.

It’s quite a dilemma. What exactly can we as writers do to upgrade our use of the medium to match the new audience of readers?

 

TINDERBOX Gardening

May 21st, 2013 by susan


One of the more mundane uses of Eastgate’s Tinderbox, but the map view certainly does the job and I’ve used it for house plans as well.

Garden 2013

 

Social Networking – Some Perils and Pitfalls

April 16th, 2013 by susan


First of all, let me say that I’ve always been one to pick the wrong battle. To hold my tongue until it finds escape when I’ve let down my guard. Secondly, I’ve apologized to the injured party three times (though no acknowledgement has been made by them).

Here’s the situation: A members only writers’ site to post stories, poems, along with a forum to discuss writing matters and posting etiquette and news of the literary world. The site, though by invitation only, has been ongoing for about five years, expanded to just under 5,000 members, with about 100-250 currently active. The site, however private to post to, is open to viewing by the public.

Since the ultimate purpose is to share their work, writers often post a story and post links to it using other social networking platforms such as Facebook, twitter, etc. Primary reason is to share–as we all understand the need for an audience or else it’s like writing in your locked diary–and links to the piece will bring readers outside of the site’s circle, perhaps even encouraging them–if they’re writers–to request an invitation to join. These readings are counted and show up as a number of “Views.” Views don’t really tell you if people have actually read the item; I’ve clicked on posted stories intrigued by the titles or opening lines only to find that I do not have time to read a longer story, that it’s poetry which really needs to drag me in immediately or I’m outta there, that it’s politically themed or a genre that I’m not taken by, or that the opening lines were the only thing good about the piece. Still, that quick click and click out count as a view.

There are other elements of acknowledging a posted piece: that of the star or favorite (again, a click that shows up in an accumulated counting–though you can click again to remove); and the best of all (in my mind), leaving a comment of either appreciation of the work or suggestion, anything that you feel the work has brought up to you. Each member feels differently about the numbers (views/stars/comments), some completely ambivalent and some desperately absorbed with them. Me, I care, but it’s not what instigated my action to call out a particular story that suddenly was off the charts on the views.

6,000 views in less than a couple of days. Only a single story, by a well known writer, surpassed that number of views and it took years of remaining onsite. All others in the 1000-4000 range had also been there for years. The average immediate response to a story, within a week’s time is under 200. This story had 0 stars and only about 6 comments. But 6,000 views!

Obviously something was amiss–or appeared to be and was noticed by those members who had seen strange things happen via a quirk of algorithm, by trolling or spamming, or by clever manipulation. When the first mention was made of the oddity here I, like a fool, chimed in.

Here’s where it gets exciting; all hell broke loose. From my high horse, determined to defend the integrity of the site, I was my passive/aggressive self in my sermonizing. By implying that the numbers were false, I of course was insinuating that the writer had manipulated the system. He insisted they were genuine, I still doubted. He contacted me via private message where I stated that I felt it was a discredit to him and his integrity if he was indeed abusing a crack in the system since this numerical standing placed him at the top of the top ten list and kicked off someone else’s work by doing so. From there, he took an image of our private mail, posted it online (along with my name) and tweeted a link to it. He personally called me rude, unkind, and insulting. His friends called me much worse.

Then as it turned out–he didn’t manipulate numbers; the site administrator confirmed that they all came in from a link posted on an unrelated site of which the writer was a member. Indeed, it was not his fault that 6000 people clicked the link to “read” his story.

I apologized again. But here’s the kink: the link was “I don’t know what this is, but it made me laugh and that’s enough.”

Wouldn’t you click on that?

But here’s me again, being a nasty picky purist, still feeling that the system as it was meant to work, has been hijacked–innocently–but its meaning indeed has changed completely. That single story posting is being held at the same standards as the thousands of other stories and poems there, but not under the same method.

I realize that I am seeing the scenario and the site from my own experience with it and with my own expectations of it; everyone uses it differently. Some use it in lieu of their own weblog. One has formed groups within the site to use as a personal filing by theme. Most are trying to catch the eye of editors. Many, in fact, are ecstatic that the site has had that much interest and thrilled to think of the post going viral (and, with the hope that theirs will too, I’m sure). But gee, somehow, I’m still self-righteously feeling that views aren’t reads and that somehow the value of the site and its intent has been damaged just a tad bit by this occurrence.

Note that while the incident may be known and recognizable to some, I have not and never did post names or links, nor call anyone names or use vulgarity. I’ve learned more from this and post this as a memo to myself as well as making a statement on the transparency of the internet. Private only means if both or all parties are trustworthy and professional. Online forums and commentary at social networking sites like Facebook or twitter or the like encourage an immediate reaction, often to the statement of a stranger, sans helpful hints like eye contact and body language that give one pause.

There are fantabulous things about the technology of the net but problems will arise as well. We learn as we go. Then again, I’ve always been one to pick the wrong time to mount my steed and go charging into the night. Let’s hope next time I can’t get my foot into the stirrup.

 

New Media: New Venue

March 17th, 2013 by susan


I’m excited about a new literary journal “Awkward Papercuts” that’s being formed. Currently dependent upon Kickstarter funding, it will be another of very few journals focused on audio/visual poems and narrative and as a new media enthusiast, I’m donating to the project and encourage other artists, writers, poets, musicians, to help out as well.

Michael Dickes is a talented lyricist, musician, poet, and friend from Fictionaut where I’ve had the pleasure to view his work. Michael is dedicated to expanding his own artistic endeavors and has always supported the work of others as well.

Check out the video samples that are on the Kickstarter page.

NEW MEDIA: Breaking Through The Fourth Wall

February 26th, 2013 by susan


Technology has given us social networking and social networking has given the audience (of any medium: newspapers, internet, television, telephone, etc.) a voice. That voice of the reader/viewer has just broken through the literary fourth wall.

Normally the fourth wall is breached when an actor turns to an audience and addresses them directly. In its most subtle form, it would be the actors gathered around only three sides of a table, thereby silently acknowledging the existence of an audience by granting them the fourth side of the table, not having an actor sit with his back to the viewer. In literature, the narrator speaks directly to the reader, not merely from first or second person point of view but rather by stating that he is speaking from the page as you, the reader, read his words. In our age of technology, the voices of the reader/viewer are now able to join the act so to speak via twitter.

Watching The Bachelor, a so-called “reality” based television drama, I noticed a strip along the bottom edge of the screen (usually reserved for news alerts or weather warnings) and realized they were real-time tweets from viewers. The irony is that the tweets were real-time but the show was not, being shot several weeks to months previously.

It’s no big deal and we’ve come to accept these intrusions without question. Yet the thought of the fourth wall being breached from the outside is a big step in the process of presentation. Think about it.

NEW MEDIA: Google and The Microwave Oven

January 9th, 2013 by susan


This morning I received two emails from WordPress to approve two comments made on a 2006 Spinning post entitled, “Similes that Sizzle, Fizzle, Drizzle Out Your Ears” that was merely a point made about metaphors and similes by adding a visual.  The comments:

“I wanted to describe drizzle”

“Not to sizzle/fizzle/drizzle out my ears”

Both comments were made within a minute by the same person from Dubai. She/he evidently used “similes to describe drizzle” as the search term in Google.

My initial reaction to the comments was, “So?” I mean, what am I supposed to do about it? Go complain to Google. Refine your search terms. Learn something about description and simile and make up your own.

But there is more going on than a student’s frustration with the internet and the fact that the more we use it, the slower and dumber it seems to be. Like a microwave oven that amazingly heated a meal in two minutes, two minutes fifty years later seems like too long.

So that didn’t surprise me but what did is taking the time to respond by entering a comment. Prior to the internet it was rather tedious to research through physical books to find what you were seeking. On all the wrong leads as well as the good ones, you didn’t leave your mark, no one knew you were there, there was no one on the page to respond to, no ears or eyes to vent your frustrations or even your eureka! moments. Online, even a blog represents a person and while both the writer and the commenter are unknown to each other, there is communication of sorts, particularly when a comment is made.

But I rarely get comments on weblog posts, though there is heavy traffic on literary reviews I’ve posted over the years. Spam is easy enough to filter out but the school semesters are thick with online searching as literary critique via class papers comes due. The comments above took time to type up, fill in the form, go through approval. There appears to be a tendency to blame the post, as written by me, for not providing the proper information the commenter was seeking. This doesn’t truly surprise me either as it seems the norm in society today, but still, when you think about it, here’s this student (I’m guessing) looking for the easiest, fastest method of finding a way “to describe drizzle” and getting upset enough with what’s being laid at her feet (or rather, within her fingertips on the keyboard) and feeling somehow gypped in the process.

Interesting. The new media technology is definitely effecting a change in our way of thinking, of interaction, of learning.

 

SOCIAL NETWORKING: Current Affairs

December 18th, 2012 by susan


The devastation and pain caused by Hurricane Sandy in October was not about you and your activism on the cause of global warming. The horror of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was also not about you and your opinions on gun control. These tragedies are about victims and how we can help THEM. It is obnoxiously pompous and cruel to turn their pain into your podium.

Personally I have supported my first activist group this week. It is one which will hopefully keep the Westboro Baptist activists from their planned demonstrations at the funeral and memorial services of the Newtown victims. The Westboro “church’s” cause and platform is something I find despicable and their completely tasteless and thoughtless disruption at a family’s time of grieving is something I cannot avoid helping to stop.

NEW MEDIA: A Timeline of New Media

November 30th, 2012 by susan


Thanks to HLit for a link to Labirintexto which gives us a nice listing of new media works and informative articles and books according to timeline.

Labirintexto

None of my work has been listed nor have several others that are really important to the development of the genre, but this does give a wealth of links to some of the great pieces in the field and I’ve added it to my New Media category link listing.

HYPERTEXT: Something New

June 2nd, 2012 by susan


Thanks to HtLit, just found two new resources for interactive storytelling.

Signed up for Storynexus and should find out shortly what that’s all about.

Downloaded HypeDyn, which looks similar to Storyspace from Eastgate (which I already have, love, and used much before I started writing into Eastgate’s Tinderbox instead). I’ll play a bit with this in the next week and post my thoughts on it here.

 

HYPERTEXT PROJECT 3: ON HOLD

May 3rd, 2012 by susan


Well I bought a guitar, tuned it myself using this online tuner, plinked a few strings, tried to hold a chord, and once again came face to face with my own inadequacies.

So while I learned much about introducing audio into hypertext via Audacity and Garage Band, and, I learned how to transfer hypertext onto removable drives and installation on PC or Mac hard drives, this project is going back on the shelf again.