Response to first week readings by @hirschjh

The readings from our first week were an excellent introduction into the genre of digital literature. I still consider myself a traditionalist when it comes to reading — I prefer my magazines and newspapers delivered to my doorstep and my books cracked open to reveal the “new book” smell. But despite being a traditionalist — at least for now — I am also a realist. I understand that the way we see text is changing. A reading experience now has the ability to be interactive and rendered wildly different depending on who the viewer is.

Take for example, my body – a wunderkammer. This online experience seeks to provide readers with a thorough examination of the author’s body. I experimented with this piece in two ways: 1) I clicked every section of the illustration on the home page in a methodical order from head to toe 2) I clicked a random section of the body and then navigated between links in the text. I think the second method is a much more authentic way of reading. It doesn’t make sense that one’s curiosity about a “cabinet of curiosities” could be completely satisfied by approaching it with a pre-decided method. Traversing from link to link, retracing steps, or even skipping sections of the body is very stream of conscience-esque. I liked being able to read what I wanted to read, when I wanted to read it instead of being forced to follow a supposedly “sensible” order.

That being said, my experience with my body – a wunderkammer, was the most positive of our readings this week. Perhaps it’s because I am not a gamer — in the electronic, digital sense — that I was not particularly fascinated by Galatea. Galatea’s programming does not change, only her answers to your questions based on how they are asked. Every participant will create his or her own path from start to finish, but in the end, all the possibilities for completion are already embedded. While I was somewhat interested in Galatea’s responses to my inquiries such as: “t childhood” or “t love,” I didn’t feel inclined to share any of my own experiences. Not sure of how to actually finish the game, I proceeded to type every letter in the alphabet to see what response I would get. When I typed “L,” I was brought to The Gallery’s End and Galatea was back on her pedestal. Did I win? Did I lose? Or, am I still missing the main point of this endeavor?

Similarly, after realizing that the content of videos in Change the Code, Save the Text was the same as the text below, I paused the videos and only read the text version. Their messages were important and I wanted to access them in the most concise manner. I found the computerized voice too distracting and unappealing to my ear. That being said, this reading certainly gave me a better understanding of the challenges of coding.

Lastly, Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel left perhaps the greatest impression on me, and I hope we can discuss this piece further in class tomorrow. At first I was a little thrown off because it is so unlike his other writings and I was worried that because it is a translation that some of the meaning would be lost. Borges wrote this short story in 1941, a time of no computers, no internet and certainly no coding. Yet he believes it possible that a library exists that contains every single book every written or that will be written based on different combinations of select characters (hey, doesn’t that sound like coding?). I certainly am going to keep this reading in mind each week as we encounter new forms of digital literature and media. Is his hypothesis truly as far-fetched as it seems?

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~ by survivingshanghai on January 17, 2011.

One Response to “Response to first week readings by @hirschjh”

  1. Your topic of not feeling inclined to tell Galatea about your own self is interesting; namely that Galatea was clearly meant to be an interactive process, but you perceived it as more one-sided (in that Galatea tells you her tale, and your part in the narrative is the passive acquiring of knowledge). That definitely raises of the issue of whether or not Galatea succeeded in providing an immersive experience for the player (or if it was even trying to).

    I, as well, only read the text portions of Change the Code, Save the Text. Somehow, the video animations were distracting and somehow unsettling. The site layout, as well, was chaotic; perhaps we both chose to stick to the more traditional format of reading the articles because we were overwhelmed by these non-conventional methods. Mostly, reading the text from the source code seemed a bit bizarre…it is traditionally meant to be hidden. But, then again, that is the whole point, isn’t it?

    You also talk about the freedom you felt being able to deviate from a “sensible order” in my body – a wunderkammer. This is undoubtedly one of the favorable aspects of interactive fiction. But you did not feel this way about Galatea? For what reasons?

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