Long Post #2 Digital Literature and Narritive Space

The work I chose to explore was an electronic literature piece by Jason Nelson titled With Love, From a Failed planet. I found it using the Electronic Literature Directory, the title sounded intriguing so I chose to explore it and really enjoyed it. The piece is simple and easy to use and had a sense of humor about it. The work itself is pretty straight forward in terms of engaging the reader. When you load up the website, there is a rotating planet that is covered by familiar corporate logs like McDonalds, Facebook and Google. The ‘planet’ is simply a clear 3D sphere that the user can manipulate by simply using their mouse and scrolling over any particular logo. When you scroll over a corporate logo, at the bottom of your screen there appears a unique paragraph about that coincides with that logo. There are 45 logos total and all the paragraphs are numbered one out of 45, two out of 45 ect… but because of the user can click on any logo they want in any order, there is no correct order in which to explore this piece. Though the paragraphs are numbered, the user cannot determine the numerical order unless they scroll through all 45 logos. This is interesting because it allows the reader to dictate pacing and technically no two readings will be the same. There is a way to cheat however; the author gives you the option to download the text where one can view the piece in the correct numerical order. It is interesting to first play around with the digital version and experience the work as the author intended, then to read the word document and see if the piece has lost any of its appeal. When I did this, I noticed almost immediately that the digital version created a sense of cohesion that was lacking in the word document. This is because the paragraphs are not related to one and other. Each paragraph is to be read, not as a piece of a whole, but as an isolated paragraph strictly relating to that particular corporate logo. The cohesion comes from the general theme of the piece and the way this theme is presented in digital form. The author is making a statement about the harmful effects that large, profit driven corporations have on our planet and our species. The first page on the interactive site has a small paragraph written by the author where he sort of explains what his digital piece is all about:

A interactive (sic) logoed world populated with 45 strange and fantastical stories of the societal/cultural failure of influential net portals fast food giants, newspapers, airlines, manufacturers and other oddities.

In many instances, the paragraphs describe reasons a corporation failed by subtly saying describing that corporations effect on the planet or society as a whole. That is to say the author believes these corporations are creating a harmful and unsustainable situation, either in our culture or in our ecosystem, that ultimately leads first to the failure of that corporation and then later to the destruction of our species or planet. These notions are cleverly hidden in the satirical paragraphs through clever word play or absurdist fake situations. For instance, if one clicks on the Taco Bell logo, the paragraph that appears describes the failure of the Taco Bell brand by having a drunk college student have a come-to-Jesus moment when she realized that she would rather spend her money on ‘proper food.’ This ‘shocking revelation’ began to take hold of the campus and other campuses until it became a nationwide fad and Taco Bell was forced to file for bankruptcy. In the Bank of America paragraph, the author details the failure of BoA and says it occurred not because of bailouts or loss of revenue but by their vanity and parasitic nature towards the country. The executives at BoA were killed by ‘off food.’ For a NYE party, they ordered fancy salmon cakes that needed to be shipped in from the coast, but due to shipping problems, the food became tainted and they died. When I read this, I am drawn to the fact that the lynchpin of that story, the thing that caused the failure of BoA was ‘shipping problems’ and I immediately think about how BoA does not really produce anything concrete for the consumer, rather it ‘makes money from money by moving money’ and they play very little in taxes. These shipping problems could have been the effect of a deteriorating infrastructure (roads, bridges, ect) that could arise from pro-business policies and corporate tax revenue (also interesting here is the author takes about BoA receiving nine bailouts from the government and taxpayer). For the Exxonmobil logo, the return of alien dinosaurs causes the corporation to shut down because these highly intelligent beings agreed to eliminate all the pollution in the world in return for mankind no longer desecrating the alien’s relatives. Again, subtly the author is saying that Exxon is in the business of creating pollution and destroying the planet by taking something that is natural and harmless and turning it into something unnatural and harmful. But once pollution is eliminated and Exxon can no longer replicate that process, then they serve no function and fail. There are many other examples like McDonalds failing due to the ‘weight’ of lawsuits filed by relatives of dead burger consumers and Wal-Mart failing because the government, in a time of peace and prosperity, decided to spend money on the nation’s education system which created a country filled with intelligent, fit people which directly cut into Wal-Mart’s consumer base. What the digital part of this project does is it reinforces this idea of a world of powerful corporations and their effect the planet and society. The 3D planet, while a real pain to navigate and keep steady, provides an interesting way to explore the author’s message. The author could have do so without the digital aspect, but it would not have worked well in my opinion because there is an argument being made, but when just reading the paragraphs on a page one by one, that argument certainly would not be as forceful and coherent. The rotating plant keeps you in a narrative space and provides a background for every absurd story of corporate failure.

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