All posts by kellyseegers

Long Blog Post #2-“RedRidinghood” by Donna Leishman

When I came across this piece of electronic literature on I <3 E-Poetry.com I was initially very excited, because I saw that it drew inspiration from a short story by Angela Carter that I love. Her story, “The Company of Wolves,” is a reworking of the traditional story of Little Red Riding-hood that spends the first three and a half pages beautifully describing the sinister wolves. Angela Carter does an amazing job of making the reader sense something ominous in the story before picking up on the familiar tale. She also manages to make the readers feel afraid of the wolves and sorry for them at the same time, through beautifully crafted lines such as “The long-drawn, wavering howl has, for all its fearful resonance, some inherent sadness in it, as if the beasts would love to be less beastly if they only knew how and never cease to mourn their own condition.” The story is twisted but wonderfully written, and ends in a somewhat strange sexual encounter between little red riding-hood and the wolf–who is described at the end as “tender,” suggesting that perhaps the display of love has tamed him.

Anyway, I went into exploring this work of electronic literature with the hope that it would be an interesting extension of her story story, or a similarly interesting adaptation of the original Little Red-Ridinghood story, but was sorely disappointed at what I found. There were no words in the program other than the initial “Once upon a not so far a way” that the “reader” clicks on. The plot would have been extremely confusing if I had not already known about the Angela Carter story. It begins with Little Red Riding-hood being handed a basket from her mom, then the “reader” clicks on a picture of a forest in order to shift to a scene with Little Red Riding-hood walking through a forest. wolfShe is followed by an animal that appears to be a raccoon, and then the scene changes to her being approached by boy with very hairy arms (who I know from the description is a boy/wolf).They don’t have much of an interaction other than looking at each other, and then little red riding-hood starts picking flowers and falls asleep in the middle of the forest.

The “reader” has the option of making her dream or just waking her up, and the dream is the most interactive portion of the story, but I was very confused as to the purpose/ what was happening Untitledduring the dream. It dead ends at this scene (which I don’t understand at all) for a few moments until you hear an alarm clock beeping, and return to Little Red Riding-hood laying in the field.

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The rest of the story moves very quickly, as the reader sees the wolf/boy approach the grandma, zoom in on her scared face, and then see little red riding-hood approach her grandma’s house. She finds the wolf/boy laying in the bed, and then the last scene is her laying on the bed. She appears to be pregnant (?) and the wolf creepily pulls up her eyelid as she is sleeping (or at least I hope she is sleeping and not dead).

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My experience with this work of electronic literature was similar to seeing a movie made out of a good book. Something about another person’s visualization of words isn’t satisfying.  I think that is the main reason why I am skeptical of electronic literature of this nature. Part of the experience of literature, mainly fiction and poetry, is the reader’s imagination. Nobody experiences texts the same way in their mind, and that is the beauty of it.  The black and white words on a page of a book become transformed into a vivd world in the reader’s mind, and I do not think that process should be expedited by someone else creating those images for us. When the experience involves images already present on the screen, it reduces the possibilities associated with a given work literature. While I am a die-hard fan of print literature, I can appreciate the merit of some forms of electronic literature that craft words in a different or unique way, such as the words flashing across the screen at different paces. Yet even so, I believe that part of the craft of writing is creating the same reading experience only using words and punctuation. Perhaps the craft of writing is expanding to include other techniques such as this, and I am still willing to include those types of works in the genre of “literature,” but nevertheless I find it less impressive. However, when electronic literature takes the form of “RedRidinghood,” where it is more of a video game, I do not believe it even comes close to counting as literature.

 

Yodeling Bubblegum Snuggies

Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you
the processed bubblegum bullshit
churned out by the overlords of double-speak
They look like two, giant, gummy-pink, chewed bubble gum slugs

 

Fall into a huge, heaping pile of horse shit
to come out with a sparkling smile
like he is doing an Orbit chewing gum commercial?
A sucker for a woman with bubble gum colored finger nails

 

Stretching out in the empty bed,
I hear the yodeling efforts of Ms Ninja gaining.
This kangaroo punch, bubblegum brain
it seems that snuggies were involved

 

How I miss the bygone seasons of drunk yodeling and impromptu cheerleading
Huge Yodeling Pickle
Dancing like a spastic chimp
A big wad of chewing gum and duct tape will secure that sucker

 

I compiled this poem by typing the words “yodeling,” “bubblegum,” and “snuggies” into google at the same time, and then taking snippets of what the search returned to me. The poem doesn’t have any underlying meaning (as I think that is consistent with the original intent of flarf), but I did try to arrange the phrases in a way that could sound a little bit more like a narrative.

Long Blog Post #1—Humanity and the Ability to Resist the Feed

M.T. Andersons’ Feed tells the tale of a futuristic version of America—one in which everyone has a feed programmed into their brain. The feed serves almost any function—it broadcasts music, allows people to chat with each other without speaking, gives people the capacity to share memories, plays television shows, and has advertisements that constantly berate whoever the feed belongs to. While most people in the story embrace the feed as a part of their lifestyle, Violet and her father attempt to resist it. In the end, their resistance ends up leading to Violet’s death, which begs the question—how possible is it to resist the advancement of technology in society, and to what degree does integrating technology into one’s life detract from one’s humanity?

Technology serves as an extension of human capacity, and it can be used to enhance either positive or negative aspects of human nature. Most notably in current times, and even more poignantly in Feed, technology enhances the human desire for instant gratification. As the feed tells Titus, “We have only to stretch out our hand and desire, and what we wish for settles like a kerchief in our palm” (149).  While this ability could be put to a productive use if people found a way to use that technology to solve important world problems, Feed depicts largely negative manifestations of that power. Each family is able to choose exactly what they want their child to look like, exactly what weather they want around their house, and exactly when they want evening to fall. The culture fostered by using technology in this way is extremely self-centered and ignorant, as seen when Titus explains, “everyone can be super smart without ever working” (47). He claims that this is an improvement, but just because the information is available to them does not mean that they actually take the time to learn it. The feed presents them with the illusion that they know everything, but in reality they have misconceptions such as the thought that George Washington fought in the civil war (47).

Violet recognizes the need to resist the desire for instant gratification, and she fights against it by exercising an exaggerated amount of self-control and impeding the feed’s ability to market to her. Because she believes that “everything [is] better if you [delay] it,” she goes out of her way to deny herself instant gratification (143), and to deny the feed the satisfaction of understanding her consumer desires (98). In the end, however, that only results in her being deemed an unreliable investment, and she is unable to have her feed repaired. Since the feed is an integral part of the human brain, a malfunctioning feed also means a malfunctioning body, and eventual death. The culture around her is so immersed in using the feed for self-fulfilling commercial purposes that she is unable to successfully fight against it. This is the lesson that Violet’s father also learned early on—when he found that people with the feed would use the technology to chat about him in a way he could not hear without the feed. While their valiant acts of fighting against the individualistic society can make impressions upon people like Titus, to truly resist the feed it would be necessary for many more people to influence a systematic change in the way that people interact with the technology available to them.

Despite the ways in which people have chosen to use technology in Feed, the humanity of the people in the novel remains unscathed. The way people process the things around them has changed, as it has become harder for them to appreciate simplicity such as that depicted in the picture of the boat that Titus doesn’t understand (45), but despite this, there are still innately human qualities in everyone. People still drink Ginger Ale when they are sick (75), people still play basketball (52), there are still frat boys at parties (34), and kids still don’t want to hear how their parents conceived them (117). If they take the time, people still have the capacity to return to their pre-feed abilities to appreciate silence and personal contact. Titus appreciates how it feels to have someone “only looking at [him],” without the feed as a distraction (63), and how sitting in silence with Violet “wasn’t bad” (54). While being able to talk to each other through the feed makes actual conversations more rare, and the constant input they are receiving makes them less present in the conversations they do have, the feed did not make them unable to appreciate organic life apart from technology. It just made it more difficult for them to return to that state. Technology cannot alter what it means to be human, but it can cause people to forget to take the time to appreciate the simple joys of life—such as a surprise snowfall or the anticipation of discovering what their baby will look like when it is born.

Human beings have the ability to shape technology to fit whatever function they desire, but it is important to ensure that whatever function is chosen has the common good of humanity in mind. Once technology takes a turn towards gratifying selfish desires, as it has in Feed, it becomes very difficult for an individual, such as Violet or her father, to resist the systemic structure that is put in place. Human nature will always remain constant, but if it is used improperly, technology has the potential to distract people from important joys and values.

Blog Post #2- Neatline

Coke and pepsiNeatline is designed to display exhibits made through Omeka in an aesthetic manner, through customizable maps and timelines.  Last semester in my American Studies class, I created a neatline site to display items related to the Soft Drink Industry–particularly with relation to the rivalry between Coke and Pepsi. I kept it pretty simple, but there were many ways in which I could have customized it more if I wanted to. This is my project/ the link to it:

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http://amst2001.neatline-uva.org/neatline/show/the-evolution-of-the-soft-drink-industry

The map is definitely more useful for things that have a more geographical base–it was a little difficult to find ways to map the history of Soft Drinks because they have to do with consumer behavior all over the place.  But if it were to be used for a book where someone is traveling, it could be very useful. When you click on a spot on the map, an item (photo, video, document, etc.) pops up with a short description. This is what differentiates it from other mapping tools such as google maps or google earth, because they are strictly used for navigational purposes.  Neatline was specifically designed to be a digital humanities tool. You can play around with how things look. I know there is a cool looking water-color map that you can make, and you can create your own color scheme with the dots on the map and timeline.

On the neatline website they have some demo exhibits, and one I thought was cool mapped out different letters from the civil war, and actually has the physical pictures of the letters placed on the map:

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I think this makes it a little bit difficult to actually read the map, but if reading the map isn’t as important as making it look good, then that probably doesn’t matter. Neatline definitely offers a lot of possibilities, and while it is sometimes frustrating to use, if it is implemented successfully neatline could be a very helpful addition to a project.

 

Blog Post #1- Is Chivalry really dead?

I took a slightly different approach to this assignment, because my central interest was in how Ngram could shed light on the phrase “Chivalry is dead.” I went about exploring this in several different ways. First, I just searched the word by itself to get a general idea of the history of how it was used. In the default timespan of 1800-2000, the data completely supported the idea that chivalry is dead, but when I decided to expand the time span to 2008, I was surprised to find that chivalry is on the rise once again.

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I thought perhaps this recent rise was due to an increase in discourse about the fact that chivalry is dead, so I decided to search that phrase, and found out that it, in fact, declined around the time that the word “chivalry” began to be used more:

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So, with this information, I added in some other words that I associated with chivalry to see if there was a correlation between them, and there was.

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It is difficult to see the pattern of chivalry since it is not used very much in comparison the respect and dignity, but in general the trend of the three words is the same, which I found very interesting.  To push this even further, I decided to compare chivalry to its opposite, disrespect, and see the relation between the two.

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It appears that sometime in the 1990s and early 2000s chivalry was at an all time low, and disrespect had for the first time surpassed it. Yet, in what is good news to an optimist and romantic like myself, chivalry recently regained its dominance, suggesting that it might be becoming important once again.

I then looked up the books that had these words in them. The top result for chivalry in the early 1800s was titled “Tales of Superstition and Chivalry,” and it is unclear whether or not it is suggesting that the two are the same.  However, it appeared to be discussing chivalry in the present moment, whereas recent texts were all historical fiction or non fiction accounts of the days when chivalry was more valued. As for disrespect, the earlier texts had much to do with reverence and religious matters, whereas the more recent ones had to do with racial issues and bullying, which displays how society’s values have shifted over time.

I think Ngram definitely illuminates the trends of words that would take lots of time to gather data upon otherwise. I found it interesting to see the correlation between these different words, and I never would have guessed that words such as “respect,” “dignity,” and “chivalry” would be taking a turn for the better, but Ngram has fueled my sense of hope.