All posts by emilysnell

Long Blog Post 2: “Ah”

“Ah” is the title of the electronic literature that I chose to explore and analyze. This experiential piece articulates a simple paradox of animated digital literature. Essentially, the eye, by extension the mind, is given jumbled up letters that slowly spread into legible words. The entirety of the electronic poem is to provide the reader with a defined breathing experience, whereby the words are only legible at a certain time, which enables a controlled timely experience of the work. Additionally, the viewer isn’t given the chance to reread an already perceived word or phrase. In “Ah”, the central object of meditation is Einstein, but just as the physicist pondered the numberless variations between the presence of a “1” and “0,” this experiential and textual animation of poetry brings us back and forth between clever articulations and the ambiguous expressivity of single letters and syllables.

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The starting-point of Ah (a shower song) is a text that moves between breathing and singing, representing the flow of time. Words glide in and out of each other in a way that reminds us of respiration, or of the “stream of consciousness” of somebody standing in the shower whose thinking and poetic thought about the unfolding of time flow beautifully into each other. It’s almost as if the reader is allowed passivity, but the reader’s role changes. The endless loop of the work forces the reader to adjust his or her reading and method or strategy of interpretation. The process of breathing is a very individual experience. To have the exact respiratory rhythm as someone else is a rare occurrence. However, by unraveling these poetic words of the unconscious thought, all readers are empirically linked in the dimension of time and breath. Thus, mentally and physically linked. (Which I find to be a very cool experience, as my roommate sat beside me and we read it along together, breathing and unveiling these words at the very exact same time.)

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In reading the unwinding words, you’re not suppose to use the words not, no, and ah or oh. After going through the electronic presentation a couple times, I realized that no, and not were making the sentences break. When disregarded, the words in context made sense! But that made me wonder why those words were there in the first place. My own personal analysis is that they are representative of the noise of any unconscious free flowing and natural thought; they’re used as white noise that occurs as mental fillers in the midst of meaning and purpose. But why does our mind speak these contradicting words? No and not are the opposite of yes and are—the mode of action and existence. So if we unconsciously include these contradictions amidst our conscious thoughts, are we thereby doubting our own mental capacities and ability to assuredly produce a plan of action or definition? The content works very well with the experiential dimension, as the syntax is concise and simple, which I believe is what the method of digital experience is trying to invoke by method of control and breathing tactics associated with the readers systematized and controlled breathing experience.

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The word “experience” is a very accurate depiction of what this electronic literature work is. The words align themselves in a lateral order, unscrambling at a specific time in order to provide the reader with a particular breathing sequence. However, in addition, at a few points the words raise and separate into two lines, creating a lyrical curve that to me, is extremely symbolic of the literature piece as a whole. It rearranges into a DNA type form, some words going up and down as others go down then up, meeting in the middle. The experience and the text go hand in hand to develop a sense of individuality, met with unison. These two elements, for me, create a moment of catharsis in a very unexpected and original way.

Short Blog Post 3: Country Night Summer

He’s taking a sideways stroll down a country road

Come summer, the Land of the Midnight

Take time to enjoy the wonder

What if you knew you only had one chance?

Love is my religion

 

Slow nights, summer love

He comes by his country influences naturally

Seamless background, Cartoon landscape

enhanced by a solid oak, race track style dance floors

Enjoyed by young and old alike

Music transcending all ages

 

Old Country, New Country,

Barbecues, pool parties, long days, warm nights

Lots of sun, its summer nights, babe!

Life’s too short to live in the past

My name is Summer, since you didn’t ask

 

These are the moments we can share

Come on let me take you there

You say you wanna see the city lights

They shine so bright

Before you go you need to know

Think it over before you turn the page

 

Artist’s Statement: My approach for writing this Flarf poem was (as discussed in class) to source the Internet with three random terms and refine the descriptions of the search results to create a work of writing. In addition, I clicked on several of the links and copied phrases that stood out to me, such as a lyrical line or title.

 

Long Blog Post 1: The effects of technology on human autonomy, ethics, and authenticity

In just the mere twenty-one years that I’ve been alive, technologies have advanced tremendously, and as a result, society has transformed to rely on these advancements. Young people’s engagement with this media culture of television ads, marketing campaigns, texting, emailing, facebooking, etc. is relatively a new phenomenon, and these innovations threaten the integrity of our lives. M.T. Anderson’s novel positions the reader in an even more technology-dependent world, delving into the potentiality of technology in the future, where young people are implanted with “the feed,” a computer chip which connects them with a global network of images, audio messages, and text-based communication. As technology advances, and we are provided with easy-to use products that allow us to access information easily, how are we, as humans, as learners and thinkers, affected? In the future world of Feed, FeedTech Corp is a powerful corporation, which acts as a conduit for advertisements and attainment of information, supplying children with “the feed”. Through data mining, people’s thoughts and emotions are monitored and studied in order to engineer desires for products and experiences that accord with consumers’ profiles.

So, how does technology affect our ability to make autonomous and ethical decisions, as well as authentic thought? The centrality of The Feed questions our human agency and ethics in a world where individuals are bombarded with information about products and services. The constant attack of advertisement warrants the loss of individuality, through conformity to the group consensus. The novel shows the juxtaposition between the characters of Titus and Violet; Titus indulges in the patterns of The Feed, and lives a life focused completely on vacuous consumerist pleasures, whereas Violet tries her hardest to resist The Feed, and seeks to disrupt it by pretending to have an interest in arbitrary products so that the FeedTech Customer Assistance component of the corporation is unable to develop a reliable consumer profile for her. Violet’s resistance to the norm of the effectuation of The Feed is due to the way in which she was brought up. Her parents resisted the idea of implantation, so that her feed is less securely established than those of her friends. It is by the resistance to The Feed that allows Violet more autonomy and ability to make ethical decisions. She states plainly, “Because of the feed, we’re raising a nation of idiots. Ignorant, self- centered idiots.” (112) For example, a scenario that particularly exposed the juxtaposition between Titus and Violet was when the Coca-Cola company had announced a promotion where “if you talked about the great taste of Coca-Cola to your friends like a thousand times, you got a free six-pack of it” (158), and so the friends agreed, and Titus said he was, to “rip off the corporations, which we all thought was a funny idea” (158) by talking incessantly about Coke. His use of “we” suggests an element of groupthink, acting according to the consensus, rather than individually. However, on the contrary, Violet takes a different action, but not before truly thinking over the information presented before her.  Violet bravely and assertively disrupts the group’s effort for free Coke by reflecting on the processes whereby individuals are introduced as subjects. She says, “Sometimes I try to think back to the first time I ever had Coke… If something’s an acquired taste, like, how do you start to acquire it? For that matter, who gave me Coke the first time? My father? Who would hand a kid a Coke and think, ‘Her first one. I’m so proud.’ How do we even start?” (164) Thus, Violet’s resistance to the norms of The Feed doesn’t affect her autonomy the way it does Titus. He’s quick to act upon these advertisements of The Feed, whereas Violet carefully chooses her own actions, despite the information forced in front of her. Even after proposition of a different action, the boys are still greatly affected by the advertisement. “The boys conclude that “all this talking about the great taste of Coke” has made them thirsty, so they decide to go out and buy some.” (162)

By loss of authority, society loses its ability to take moral and legal responsibility. For example, as Violet’s Feed begins to fail, Titus received messages from her about her circumstance, but decides to ignore them, stating that he didn’t receive them, in part because he didn’t want to stray from the majority. When the “software/wetware interface” (170) of her feed breaks down, which results in physical and mental failure, FeedTech Corp refuses to repair it on the grounds that she is not a committed consumer, and by the end of the novel she is comatose and near death. It’s not until it’s too late, that he speaks with a glimmer of authenticity. “I cried, sitting by her bed, and I told her the story of us. “It’s about the feed,” I said.  “It’s about this meg normal guy, who doesn’t think about anything until one wacky day, when he meets a dissident with a heart of gold.”(296) However, despite this seemingly awakened moment of ethical capability, there’s a sense of high-saturated media language, taking their interactions and painting a picture of perfect romance; something their relationship is definitely not.

Not only does excessive invasion of information create the loss of autonomy and ability to make ethical decisions, but it also impedes the process and ability to create authentic thought. The novel questions the sense of agency we have as technologies advance, and the influx of information doesn’t necessarily make us smarter. It actually makes us dumber, for we don’t need to acquire and store information, for it’s placed in front of us for us, at all times. This is shown when Titus wakes up in the hospital with a broken Feed. Rather than having a moment of clarity and catharsis, he declares, “our heads felt real empty.” (46) From this pivotal point moving forward, we as readers are threatened with what too much technology can do to the integrity of our motives, and the decisions we act on, and the authentic thought we are able to generate. When the feed is broken, their minds felt empty. This therefore suggests that the increase in information will implement a dependence on readily accessible information, rather than acquiring information through learning.

Mallet: Short Blog Post 2; Group B

MALLET is defined as “a Java-based package for statistical natural language processing, document classification, clustering, topic modeling, information extraction, and other machine learning applications to text”, which may be found on the company’s website. The acronym stands for Machine Learning for Language Toolkit. The main motivation behind the company was text classification and information extraction to be combined and used through the application of a single software package.

Now, you might ask what a language toolkit is. The “language toolkit” is what founder Andrew McCallum, with other fellow graduated student classmates at The University of Massachusetts Amherst named the software itself. By creating this software, they implemented a program that had many different tools inside of it; its application is multifaceted. It’s a combined collection of Java code that can be used in several ways. For example, MALLET includes sophisticated tools for document classification: efficient routines for converting text to “features”, a wide variety of algorithms, and code for evaluating classifier performance using several commonly used metrics. Furthermore, it includes tools for sequence tagging for applications such as named-entity extraction from text. Algorithms include Hidden Markov Models, Maximum Entropy Markov Models, and Conditional Random Fields. These methods are implemented in order to identify gene transcripts, and are instrumental in gene discovery and gene sequence determination.

Another tool MALLET incorporates into their software is topic modeling. This is used for analyzing large collections of unlabeled text. A “topic” consists of a cluster of words that frequently occur together. Using contextual clues, topic models can connect words with similar meanings and distinguish between uses of words with multiple meanings.

This tool or rather, “toolkit”, as it has many different tools, would be useful for researchers, and commercial interests, as it enables us to dig deeper into deep-seeded information, statistics, and then organize these all in a way to better understand the web and the information it contains. It would be very useful to have a serious understanding of mathematics and computer programming in order to understand the MALLET directory and its instructions. As stated on the company’s website, “Many of the algorithms in MALLET depend on numerical optimization.” It’s important to have a developed understanding of mathematics before delving into these, among other optimization methods included in the software before usage and implementation.

Perceptions of Perfection

As we move into a world that seems more rapid and fast-paced than ever before, I wanted to delve into the literature of the English language, and see what’s at the forefront of what individuals consider to be “perfect”. By searching this one particular word, I hypothesized that I would find the centrality of what one values and strives to achieve, depending on the year and what is going on in culture at that given time. In looking further into what the Google Ngram advanced settings offers, I was extremely interested in examining how America’s views of what is considered “perfect” is perceived and measured. I searched “The Perfect *”, and studied how America’s views have changed over time.

The trend that I found most alarming was that “The Perfect Man” and “The Perfect Woman” were among the most popular used phrases from 1900 to now. Since 1951-1952, these phrases have been on a pretty steady incline. Most everyone is familiar with the storybook image of America in the 1950s. Images are continually popularized of a simpler, happier time emerging from the aftermath of the Second World War. Families moved to the suburbs, fostered a baby boom, and forged a happy life of family togetherness in which everyone had a specified role. Women were considered domestic caregivers, with sole responsibility for the home and child rearing, while men ‘brought home the bacon.’ The creation of the “perfect woman” and “the perfect man” gave a clear picture of what is desired at this time; emulating their proper gender role in society. In effect, men and women began to construct their identities around this image, and may still continue to do so today. As such, the use of “the perfect man” and “the perfect woman” is still on the rise, to this day.

However, since the 1980s, “the perfect place”, “the perfect time”, and “the perfect opportunity” have overcome the emphasis on the man and woman. I believe this is attributed to both the sexual revolution and the increase in divorce in the 1980s. Therefore, there’s more focus on the individual, rather than on finding the perfect person to compliment one’s life. In the 1920’s, especially, there was the most usage of “the perfect way”, which makes sense considering the ideals and norms of the 1920s—the parties, the glamour, and the overdone qualities of society to achieve a state of great indulgence. However, the 1980s mirrored a very different perspective than that of the 1920s trends, and that of the 1950s.

The sexual revolution fueled the marital tumult of the times: Spouses found it easier in the Swinging Seventies to find extramarital partners, and came to have higher, and often unrealistic, expectations of their marital relationships. Thus, they were less focused on finding the right man or woman, and instead began to highlight their own personal circumstances, looking more into their opportunities, and current state and place. Increases in women’s employment as well as feminist consciousness-raising also did their part to drive up the divorce rate, as wives felt freer in the late ’60s and ’70s to leave marriages that were abusive or that they found unsatisfying.

As the sexual revolution took full swing, inevitably, so did the increase in the divorce rate. America’s divorce rate began climbing in the late 1960s and skyrocketed during the ’70s and early ’80s, as virtually every state adopted no-fault divorce laws. The rate peaked at 5.3 divorces per 1,000 people in 1981.

The effectiveness of measuring the changes of America’s ideals throughout time is quite amazing. Ngram offers us a new perspective into this ever-changing world, and provides us the opportunity to really understand the variations and fluctuations of our values and what’s most highlighted as both culture and time turns its course and changes pace.