Archive for the ‘LITERATURE’ Category

New Media: New Venue

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

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

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

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.


Saturday, September 18th, 2010

I’m always thrilled when literary hypertext is published, particularly by a magazine that isn’t driven by new media. What I mean is that by including hypertext pieces among their static text offerings, the magazine not only displays an open-minded attitude towards alternative presentation, it widens the potential audience  by exposing literary enthusiasts of traditional story and poetry to a different form.

Dorothee Lang, writer, photographer, artist, and editor of the Blue Print Review, teamed with Karyn Eisler, another multi-talented artist in many mediums, and Karyn’s brother Lawrence Eisler, an illustrator and designer in new media, for  a hypertext poem that’s visually exciting  and well planned out.

Published in the current issue of Wheelhouse, (R)Evolution is a journey that allows the reader to choose the narrative path. As Dorothee explains it,in comparing it to a piece called Poptagon which was published at Locus Novus:

Poptagon had a linear structure: every page leads to a defined next page.
(R)Evolution, in contrast, has “crossing”-pages that come with a choice, with options for the way to take. the curious thing is that there in fact is only 1 main “crossing”, and 2 sub-“crossings” – it’s really a simple hypertext form. yet when working on it, it took a sketch to be able to keep track of the structure, even though the whole thing consists of “only” 7 pages, plus title and ending pages.

The piece begins in a garden which the speaker compares to a shopping mall, where the flowers are selected by occasion, where she stands at the ready with shears prepared to clip blooms. This notion of choice is mimicked by the concept of hypertext where a choice can be given, a decision can be made, but an interaction with the piece is required of the reader.

The question of choices brings questions, the gardening bringing to mind the relationships with others. The metaphors in the piece extending flowers into words, manipulated again in the same manner as this hypertext piece.

The different pages of the poem are painted in visuals that are bold and contemporary. Here the text is designed into the image, enhancing and reinforcing the movement of the piece. Circular, forcing the reader to adopt an entirely new pattern of reading than the norm, sideways, mimicking stems or offshouts of the main stem–another shout-out to hypertext form. This piece takes readers out of the comfort zone into a more interesting and easy enough to negotiate concept.

A really beautiful collaborative effort by these talented folk that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and I’m so pleased to spread the word.


Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

Two interesting articles today on the neverending speculations about what e-books will do to change reading habits:

John T brings up the NPR note that focuses on Amazon’s reader and this statement by a writer:

“Over the last couple of years, I’ve really noticed if I sit down with a book, after a few paragraphs, I’ll say, ‘You know, where’s the links? Where’s the e-mail? Where’s all the stuff going on?’ ” says writer Nicholas Carr. “And it’s kind of sad.”

But I find that to be a back and forth switch that toggles itself depending upon which method of reading is being done. If I’m reading “straight” text for a while–a while meaning anyplace from an hour to a couple days–I’m momentarily stumped by finding links in a hypertext piece–and here, I’m talking seconds of indecision. Then back to straight reading where I will indeed be looking for links, as Carr notes. Though not with the sense of sadness, but rather mere readjustment to the medium.

Then this in MacWorld:  “Sales of electronic books topped their paper-based cousins for the first time this past Christmas day, according to”  With the caveat:

“Given the timing of the event, it’s likely that the spike in e-book sales recorded by Amazon was due primarily to the high number of gift recipients who opened up the brand-new Kindles they found under their Christmas trees; nonetheless, this milestone could represent a watershed event for the inexorable rise of e-book readers in general, and the Kindle in particular.”

Yes, that would explain a good portion of it. It’s the typical case of receiving the expensive medium as a gift and then need to feed its hunger with the software.

I don’t know why we’re really even arguing at this early stage of the transition. Any innovation that changes society’s manner of “doing” necessarily involves a bit of generational changing of the guard. Grandpa doesn’t always give up Old Nellie for the Model T that easily. Not by choice, perhaps, but by habit, income restrictions (think about how upgrading even a home use computer is a major decision when old programs won’t work anymore with Bill’s latest software releases) and a small percentage by stubborn resistance or by mere desire to remain in one’s comfort zone of familiarity.

Time will tell, then; though I believe that while all the old literature slowly finds its way onto disk and internet servers, there will always be shelves built for books.

NEW MEDIA: The Scholastic Challenge

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

Via Steve Ersinghaus’ post on Dene Grigar’s informative essay Electronic Literature: Where is it? on the selling of a new media field of study within university courses I find myself needing to voice my own un-academic points. As a student and proponent of the creative arena and its opportunity and promise, I may not have the knowledge of the underpinnings of a campus (though I would suspect the red tape of corporate doings doubled by formal overseer requirements such as state mandates), but I do have enough interest to offer a view from the outside looking in. Maybe I’ll start by following Ms. Grigar’s format in addressing the major points of the issue.

Reading patterns:  With the new digital readers, i.e., Sony, Kindle, etc., the patterns of reading will be greatly changed and conclusions may not be drawn for a few years yet. My feeling has been that with the reading of news, communication via weblogs, social networking and emails, the door for e-lit is wide open, the opportunity for hypertext narrative the best it’s ever been because it is publishable and readable online.  It is not a replacement for all book-reading but an alternative and handier than ever to upload in minutes rather than involving trips to bookstores and libraries. New generations, used to the information overload and seeming confusion and flash of a website are not as likely to be turned off by the medium.

Literary quality:  I don’t think it’s just the idea of the visual effects and means that diminishes the work as of  not “higher” literary quality, as much as the theory of close reading applies just as it does with traditional text. It would seem that a good portion of readers of new media indeed are those that are more interested in the ‘how’ of the piece rather than the narrative right now. This is exactly the same situation with traditional text in that the majority of readers are interested in conflict, adventure, pace rather than the underlying truth of a piece. The ‘how’ and intricacies that new media allows a piece may be a distraction to some, a joy to others, it being just another aspect of new media reading.  Right now, no one really thinks about the font of a novel or the color of its page; yet there was a time when highly decorative illuminated pages were the norm and we’ve moved away from the visual.

Production and support of e-lit:  e-lit should be a part of every English and literature course, just as software is being used for Statistics course, online research is displayed in history courses, programs are used in engineering courses, etc. The computer is a necessary part of nearly every class taught at any level in schools today. Does it need a separate curriculum? Is e-lit considered new media rather than literature? I would think that while expanded courses should be available, it should be included in the Intro to Lit course just as is Blake, Shakespeare, whomever, as an invitation as much as base knowledge.

To me, the whole new media scenario may need to be sold to the reading public simultaneously as it’s being corralled into a package for the curriculum. I made the comment that no classes had to be instituted to play Pac Man; the appeal of this totally new concept of gaming was thrown out to the public and met with enthusiasm that allowed it to swell into the highly sophisticated games and storyworlds that are available today. This response by the public has in fact created the desire to learn how to create this new medium and resulted in courses in design, animation, and digital storytelling. If the more literary end of new media wants to expand at the academic level, it needs to create a need. Creative growth of the medium will expand with the interest.

There probably should be more hypertext stories written and published (and made widely available) that are geared towards the elementary and high school level of reading. There is a very contemporary (though aging into classic) small library of hypertext available now and its appeal is mainly for the more creative and open-minded reader. Much of it is based on the good old marketing theory of ‘sex sells’. There is also the theory that hypertext must conform to the concept of alternate pathways and other structured ideas that seem to be as restrictive to the medium as any white paper page filled with inked text and  bound to a bunch of others and packaged as a book. There is also the question of new material that might include some of the graphics’ appeal that the ‘classics’ just simply don’t offer. Just as Faulkner needs to be offered alongside Pychon, the original works in hypertext need to reflect the growth in the field on the production side. Few people who have played with Grand Theft Auto, Half Life, or the Sims will ever bother picking up Super Mario.

New Media literature also comes with a built-in obstacle to human nature even as it appeals to man’s curiosity and adventurous side; what I call the “getting in the wrong line at the supermarket” feeling. It is that unpleasant twinge that by making a choice, you’re making the wrong move. I personally love writing in the hypertext format and eagerly am trying to learn visual new media on my own, yet I must admit that I’m not all that nuts about either reading some of it for that reason, and often click out after a few ‘pages’ of floating, disappearing, and elusive text flashes by me. After centuries of being led through a narrative or poem, this concept of the reader creating the story is a hard sell to many who have become dependent upon the author to tell the story all by himself. I’ve done a quick survey of family and friends as to if they’ve ever pursued hypertext in their reading after college and unfortunately realized that most of them, having graduated in the early 90s, were not even exposed to it (and are getting anxiety attacks every time I force them to read it).  But it would likely be a good idea for professors who have included new media literature in their curriculum to send out an email survey to those past students and simply ask them.

I suppose what I’m coming down to here is that while I have no voice as an academic to say what should or shouldn’t be available or how it should be presented in schools, I would as an advocate be a passionate supporter of this field of creativity and would more strongly support it as it shows promise of not being simply something passed through in lit class but available to the general public as an exciting and entertaining form of reading. The marketing to the public needs at least the same attention in order to create a basis for marketing to university structure.

(Added Note: Go ahead, get on and see what’s available for hypertext reading, aside from ‘books’ on hypertext.  A few of the oldies but goodies like Joyce and Falco, and they’re often listed as “out of print” (sic) and no longer available.)

LITERATURE: Scott McCloud’s The Right Number

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

Though I’m not a big fan of comic books now that I’m grown up (ooooow!) I do acknowledge them and the graphic novel as a fascinating medium of story.  In a New Media class, I read Scott McCloud’s book on Understanding Comics and learned an awful lot not just about the combination of text and images but much that would apply to text only in describing images.  I really have to get myself a copy of that book.

In wandering around the weblogs this morning I clicked on Scott McCloud’s site and from there, checked out his latest work in progress which is presented online The Right Number 1 (and 2), and in a new format of zooming in page to page.  This has certainly changed the image of traditional comic strip layout.  For one thing, one or at the most, two panels are available at a time, with the inset of the next panel embedded within it.  The method  of reading has not only changed from paper format of turning pages, but from one of the established online interactive ways of reading, that is, clicking on buttons or arrows to progress.  Now, the zooming effect is what McCloud has implemented, as the small "next" panel zooms in to cover the previous.  Clicking on the panel is only one method of going from frame to frame.  Another is a layout of numbered squares that correspond to page numbers.

On the visual end of things, the colors of this particular story are two shades of blue and white.  The theme is numbers, and the plot is one number gotten wrong–or right–changes relationships and lives.

While I’m not likely to start writing graphic narratives in the format of comic strip style, I just know I’m going to learn something from McCloud that’s valuable.

LITERATURE: And new media methods

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

From Mark Bernstein, a post on Game Debate and a link to an interesting point made in a discussion by Roger Ebert concerning literature presented in the new means of new media.

I remember how long it took me to accept with rolling eyes and tongue-clicking aplenty to accept Barthes as my Savior and turn my back on this kind of thinking as necessarily a bad thing:

"Ebert: He is right again about me. I believe art is created by an artist. If you change it, you become the artist."

Bernstein also includes a link to HBO Voyeur which I’ve watched and sent around but am not sure I have it included as a link here yet and it is one that is both entertaining and fascinating in concept.  A keeper for reference.

SOFTWARE & TOOLS: Scratch – Options

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Without even thinking twice, I automatically set up for "Animation" and story in a project playing with this software.  There are games, interactive pieces, music and stories suggested and some examples of each included with the free download.  This helps tremendously because if there is an action or sequence that you’d like to mimic, the projects are set up in the same format as the program so that you can see the scripts to see how they are set up to work.

My method was to leap ahead and take several steps back before I got a plan in mind.  I started out with the kitty character provided–which looks to be the posterboy for the Scratch program–and messed around a bit with the script to see what I could make him accomplish.  It was easy enough to make him move, change size and color and direction, add some noise and music, and give him a buddy.  Right there I got sidetracked by the desire to be completely original and so drew him a rabbit buddy in a Paint-like screen, although you can import images from other sources, and in fact, I did import one f my own photos for a background and considered playing with one of my drawings (Edgar? Jesus? Any one of my numerous penciled ladies?) as a character. 

Eventually, after I had played with the rabbit a bit and made some interesting stuff happen, a story came together and decided to book kitty out and drew another character that would suit the simple story line, and also imported a new photo image of my garden that seemed perfect for the setting.

I am now in the process of making the two characters interact, each character having three or four "costumes" or different stance so that a cartoonish motion effect can be accomplished by quick-switching between costumes.

With any luck, I may finish up something tonight to post with a link to the Scratch site to show the finished product.  There is a way of embedding the video into the weblog, but it seems  much simpler and more likely to work if it’s just downloaded to their site.