All posts by ronnierooker

Long Blog Post 2 – Ask me for the Moon

Ask Me for the Moon: Working Nights in Waikiki

            “Ask Me for the Moon: Working Nights in Waikiki” is a non-linear work of digital poetry created by John Zuern, an English professor at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. The work was first published in the Iowa Review Web in 2005. The poem begins as a series of white words fade in and out against a black background. The words intermingle with one another in such a way that the reader feels a sense of ebbing flow, similar to the waves on the shore. Slowly, the Waikiki night skyline appears, with the words continuing to wash in and out beneath the Waikiki scene. Eventually, the intro ends, leaving the reader with the choice of several different photographs from a collage to click.

From this point, the poem becomes non-linear, allowing the reader to choose his or her own path in the poem. Each of the five options available from the main menu branches into its own sub-menu, complete with several options of its own. Many of the choices have sounds to accompany them, mostly consisting of a combination of waves and working noises in keeping with the poem. Additionally, several of the poems end in larger amounts of text in paragraph form outlining particular points that Zuern wants to highlight. Throughout the poem, black, white, and a few shades of light turquoise dominate the color scheme, giving the work the feeling of a rundown resort.

The actual text of the poem emphasizes the life hidden beneath the commercial side of Waikiki – the life of the workers in the shadows, of an island overrun, and of a culture forgotten. Through its simple black and white text, the poem mourns the loss of indigenous culture to tourism and vacationers. One of the most textually effective techniques that Zuern employs is the morphing a sentence into another by allowing all of one sentence to fade from the page except for a single word. Then, another sentence will fade in, incorporating the word left by the first sentence and allowing it to take on a whole new meaning. For example, he writes at one point, “in frigid kitchens in florescent corridors all work.” Next the entire sentence except for the word “work” fades to black, eventually being replaced by the phrase, “work is night work.” This method of replacing the sentence around the word to change its meaning helps to illustrate his point in a way that plain text would struggle to do. Just like the word, Waikiki’s beach and tide have remained, but they mean something completely different to the tourists who now walk the beach at high-end resorts than they do to the people who work the night shifts to earn a living and than they did to the original Hawaiians.

Several portions of Zuern’s work include short phrases and paragraphs by philosophers and political theorists. Each of these paragraphs appears at the end of a section, often along with a paragraph or two that explain the motivation behind that section of poetry. Throughout, however, the feeling is one of despair; a feeling that broods of a culture on the brink of collapse looking back at its simple glory in pre-colonial times. The quotes included by Zuern reflect such a feeling.

Something that I found frustrating about the site was the inability to return to particular places or portions of text. With no written table of contents or simple menu, there was no way to return to or find a quote that I was interested in re-reading. Although this made the text more difficult to explore, the inability to return continued to demonstrate the theme of the poem. Just as I was often unable to return to a portion of the poem that I enjoyed, so the original owners of Oahu were unable to return to their land that had been turned into resorts and private beaches. As I began to realize this, the site’s design, layout, and features began to make more sense to me, and I started to appreciate it in ways that I had not before. Without the digital design, much of the feeling, motion, and sounds of the poem would be lost, and the poem would fail to have the intended effect on the reader. In this way, Zuern utilized the digital aspects of the site to create a true digital work of poetry.





Welcome to the wealth of the rainforest.
shop the most popular wet
and dry ingredients,
RAISING the price of Bronze Badges.
Reproductions to one-of-a-kind,
bronze rain compartments over
the Rio Grande.
Rain Drums|Frog Drums|Bird Drum|
Steve Balmer spurns rain tax…


I used searches combining “rain,” and different colors and cooking ingredients.  I enjoyed the combinations and phrases I was able to find- especially the hyperlink I included. I’m not sure how I would read the hyperlink if I were reading the poem aloud, however.

The Intelligence of Technology – Essay 1

Does the Feed inherently increase dependence upon technology while decreasing intelligence, or is there a scenario when feed-like technology could make people more intelligent?

In M.T. Anderson’s novel Feed, characters are implanted with a “feed” that projects advertising and information to their minds, eliminating much of the need to learn.  Consequently, in this scenario, characters become seemingly less intelligent and more dependent upon the feed embedded in their minds.  It is the advertising projected through the technology, however, not the technology itself that poses the greatest threat to the characters’ minds.  The technology, if used for other purposes, is neutral, simply enhancing the intelligence or naiveté of the user.  In short, the feed technology, or computer technology in general, magnifies the user’s inherent brilliance, producing a more powerful good or evil than the user would be able to attain solely using his or her own power.

In Feed, many characters have the feed made a permanent part of their person, connecting with the flood of advertising that it provides at all times of their waking and sleeping hours.  The corporations who provide the feed content, have used the technology to hold captive an audience, ensuring that they will have the final say in what people buy, what people know, and how people act.  Because people in Feed have become so reliant upon the technology, even the supposedly most intelligent among them have lost some of their ability to know and think for themselves.  For example, when a doctor is examining Titus and his friends before releasing them from the hospital, the doctor remarks to the nurses, “Okay.  Could we like get a thingy, a reading on his limbic activity?” (page 69)  When the doctor calls the limbic activity reading “a thingy,” it appears as though he was waiting for his feed to provide him with instructions and names for the task he was performing.  Although the doctor is executing the role the reader would expect, the feed has obviously made him less intelligent, forcing him to rely on words and instructions that the feed provides him and reducing the skill needed to work successfully in his occupation.

The users of the feed believe that the feed has made them more intelligent by increasing their access to information.  Titus explains why he believes the feed has made people smarter, saying, “That’s one of the great things about the feed – that you can be supersmart without ever working.  Everyone is supersmart now.  You can look up things automatic, like science and history, like if you want to know which battles of the Civil War George Washington fought in and shit.” (page 47)  Although Titus claims that the feed can provide educational information, rarely if ever does a character use it for educational purposes in the novel, instead it is used for advertising and more advertising, billed as entertainment.  Titus also claims “everyone is supersmart.”  This statement implies that people are “supersmart” because they all have easy access to information.  Readily available information, however, is not a measure of intelligence, although it can be a significant advantage for learning and for the development of ideas.  Intelligence is perhaps more easily measured by the way that each person’s mind interprets, comprehends, and utilizes the information available to him or her.  This confusion of intelligence with information availability is a concept that is central to understanding the ways in which technology like the feed is misused in Feed, but could be a powerful tool under different circumstances.

If one were to imagine feed-like technology under different circumstances, the impact it could have might look radically different from the effect it has in M. T. Anderson’s novel.  If, for instance, the feed technology were presented to users in the same format as the feed, but with no male-intent in mind, simply as a more neutral technology (much like an implanted version of the internet,) the technology could be seen as useful and valuable for productivity in today’s world.  Although it would not automatically make each user “supersmart,” it would grant users the ability to complete more mundane tasks in less time, and it could aid users in the completion of more complicated undertakings.  Although the technology would undoubtedly produce its fair share of harms to our society, it would certainly also produce progress and enhance quality of life for millions of people.

M. T. Anderson’s novel, Feed speaks to the dangers of corporations and technology in our society, demonstrating and predicting the ways in which the unaware are and will be influenced by advertising in their daily lives.  The concepts presented in Feed, however, demonstrate the magnification effect that technology has upon the intentions its producers and users.  With the right purposes, the feed could have been utilized as a productive addition to the wide range of tools available to enhance peoples’ everyday lives.  Though the feed would not have the ability to make people more intelligent, it would provide a platform from which they could use their intelligence to create value for themselves and those around them.

QGIS: Short Blog Post 2: Group B

QGIS is a open source GIS mapping system that links all kinds of data to geographical coordinates or points on layered maps.  The free QGIS program can be downloaded onto most operating systems and has the ability to create and read GIS maps and run installed plugins to enhance the features of the basic program.  GIS, or Geographic Information System, is a system used to organize data geographically, using points on a map as tags for specific data, thus linking the data to a certain location on a GIS map.  QGIS is a means of creating and reading GIS files.

The program can run and create two different types of graphics to display the data- vector graphics and raster graphics.  One simple explanation of the difference between the two is the ability to zoom in or out of a map created using each.  When using a map made with vector graphics, the shapes and images on the map are infinitely enlargeable (like images created in Adobe Illustrator), while a map created using raster graphics becomes pixilated when the user zooms in too far (like digital photographs.)  The QGIS program has the ability to link data in a database to specific points on a layered grid, whether those points are created using vector or raster graphics.

Although the QGIS tool would be a bit too advanced to use in a digital project in this class, it could prove useful as a literary tool if used correctly.  One specific way that QGIS could prove useful would be if incorporated into a work of literature as an interactive guide for the reader (for example, a map of Marlow’s journey in Heart of Darkness, or an interactive guide to the places in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.)  The tool would add the most value to a work of literature that included travel and or journeys between and among varied locations.

A second conceivable use for the QGIS tool would be to map important literary locations in a specific city.  The GIS file created could contain data about poets and authors who lived in that city (where they lived, where they wrote, where they were buried, etc.)  Thus, the GIS file could serve as a guide to bibliophilic tourists when they visited the city mapped, or simply as a manual for locals wishing to know more about the literary history of their region.

Blog Post #1: Planes

For this post, I decided to see if the hyperlinks to the literature that google provides below the Ngram graphs could improve the Ngram’s usefulness as a literary tool.  To do this, I searched the word “plane” in the Google Ngram from 1800 to 2008 to see what the database would retrieve.  The graph portrayed a small spike around the 1830’s followed by a gradual upward slope culminating in a large spike during the early 1940’s.  After the 1940’s the word’s usage gradually declined until the present day as pictured below.

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 10.31.41 AM

After looking at the shape of the graph initially (assuming that the spike around 1940 was related to the Second World War,) I used the links below the graph to explore how the word had morphed in usage from the 19th century to the 21st.  I found that most of the early usage (19th century) of the word was connected to geometric planes and academic books on geometry.  As the graph moved into the early 20th century, many of the references corresponded to bi-planes or bi-plane gliders, with an emphasis on the Wright brothers and build-your-own guides.  Although much of the literature during the 1940’s does feature airplanes, an equally significant amount concerns developments in the scientific fields which also spiked during the 1940’s.  Finally as I looked at the references closer to the present day, many involved book titles that punned on the word “plane,” such as “Plane Truth: Airline Crashes, the Media, and Transportation Policy,” or “Geometry: Plane and Fancy.”  These later references also often dealt with airplane crashes or malfunctions.

Although I was able to infer a few detail relating to the word “plane” by simply looking at the initial graph that the Ngram tool presented to me, the graph was little more than an interesting gadget.  With the addition of the links to the sources that made up the graph, however, I was able to not only grasp a general idea of what influenced spikes or dips in the graph, but I could explore the way that the word developed over time from a solely mathematical figure of speech to share its meaning with a military weapon and a method of travel.  The source links add a new dimension to the Ngram tool, enhancing its literary value.