November 30, 2003

The Ballad of Sand and Soot

I have been meaning to post this link to an interesting essay by Jaishree K. Odin about "The Ballad of Sand and Soot" for some time now. I figure it is better to do so late than never. The essay, entitled "Image and Text in Hypermedia Literature" confronts the mixture of images and words in hypertexts (that N. Katherine Hayles's discusses, most recently, in Writing Machines). Additionally, the essay performs a close (content) reading of Strickland's hypertext poem and offers interesting ways to approach the "Coda" section of the hypertext.

Also, if you are interested in the (nonexistent) hypertext author's intentions see this interview with Strickland.

For the original hypertext, "The Ballad of Sand and Soot," click here.

- Patrick

Posted by pjagoda at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2003

"Main" and "Minor" Characters in Twelve Blue

In thinking about the connections between form and content, I've been stuck on a quote that, I think, necessarily appears near the beginning of Twelve Blue: "Some choose to be minor characters. There is nothing wrong in this despite your suspicion, itself most likely colored by your own understandable and ordinary desire to take a central place in someone's story. Few of us think ourselves wild iris in backwater..."

In Twelve Blue, though a number of characters apparently see themselves in the terms "minor character," there aren't really any minor characters, just as there is no one central character. Perhaps this is what is truly "democratic" about hypertext, at least in this case? The thing that makes it the most "realistic" or "lifelike"? While the novelistic form has informed our worldviews from an early age and taught most of us to think of ourselves (understandably, as Joyce suggests) as main characters or protagonists, Twelve Blue is teaching us that all characters, if you read enough of their stories, are essentially equal. We are all living mostly parallel, occassionally intersecting lives, and no one is more important than any other. In this case, the hyperfiction doesn't necessarily level the power dynamic between the author and the reader; but it does offer us a different, more democratic way of reading the world around us, without the ego-distorted problem of viewing a story through identification with a so-called main character.

Mind you, these reflections may say more about me than about Twelve Blue, since I'm admitting that I certainly see myself as the protagonist of some kind of crazy, cosmic novel. But then again, I don't think I'm the only one...

Posted by wstubbs at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2003

Be careful what you blog

Here's an article from the Onion that is ever so pertinent to our class. Enjoy!

Posted by ascott at 01:47 PM | Comments (5)

November 11, 2003


I found an online version of one of the First Video Games Ever (as Chris mentioned in his presentation), Adventure. The game, originally written in some archaic code of 1977, is playable through your web-browser in this version. Also, there are directions on the left side.

Anyone have any comments about the game? Is playing it just boring, compared to what video games are capable of now? Is the experience of playing this text-based game different than or similar to reading the hypertext fiction we've been looking at in class? Does it mean anything to you that the first interactive fiction (or even, more generally, electronic fiction) was, specifically, a game?

Is it interesting at all, in any way shape or form? Why? Why not? Question mark?

Posted by aazuolas at 10:03 PM | Comments (4)

November 07, 2003

Backtracking a little bit...

We haven't talked about Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 for a while, but I came across a link today that reminded me of the book. A product called WASTE has been developed to provide smallish groups with a highly secure method of communication over the internet. Though they haven't cited Pynchon as inspiration for the name, the correlation is fairly obvious. WASTE is also, of course, the name of Radiohead's own merchandise shop, which attempts to circumvent the middleman in order to sell t-shirts, concert tickets and the like directly to their fans at lower prices.

Not that either one of these websites is horribly relevant to the theme of machine literature, but I thought it was pretty interesting that Pynchon's WASTE began as a fictitious creation but, in a way, has lately been granted its own self-referential existence, yet another case of life imitating art.


Posted by cmeyer at 08:57 PM | Comments (5)

November 02, 2003

Hypertext, Internet, and the Medium (as message)

I would like to do two related things in this post. First I would like to respond to Audre's response to my "Archeologies of the (Post-)modern Archive" post (see Literary Machine Blog, October 26, 2003). Second, I would like to suggest how these topics are tied to the issues of "hypertext" and "hypertext fiction" (that we will be discussing shortly).

In her comment, Audre asked about the idea of "internet-as-archive," and how this model suggests a move from "message" to "medium." What I had in mind in my initial post was that an archive contains historical documents (message or content), but that, from a historical perspective, the archive itself (medium or form) is an historical document. In a way, modes of classification might be more historically interesting than documents themselves.

So what does this mean for the internet as an archive? Well, my first instinct is to say that the information stored on the internet is not significantly different from information stored in a library, a research institution, or any archive. Rather, it is the medium (the winding labyrinth that is the internet) that changes with new technology. Thus, in order to study the history of technology or media, we must focus on the form in which information is stored and communincated. Furthermore, in a network where there is an overabundance of information, it becomes difficult (some, like 20th century French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, would say impossible) to make sense of those large quantities of information and convert them into meaning. Thus, we might say that the medium (of the internet) is all we have left of the message; the medium is the message.

However, this argument might oversimplify a complex situation. After all, a medium alters information or content (it does not simply overtake it). As an example, we might suggest a number of postmodern literary texts. One that comes to my mind is John Gardner's Grendel. Although the story is virtually identical to that of Beowulf, the meaning is altered (though it is not swallowed up) by the change in narrative structure and form. The same might be true of Christa Wolf's Cassandra (as a re-imagining of the Iliad and the Oresteia trilogy) and many other books.

So how does the medium of the internet affect the information that it stores? Obviously, I cannot address this question in a single post, but I hope that you all will take a stab at it. We might argue that the internet, unlike other mediums, is a true network in which everything is connected to everything else. However, I am hesitant in making this overly broad claim. I am not sure if this distinction between (for instance) the old, static print culture and the new, interconnected internet is fair and accurate. After all, a scholarly text may offer us many of those same connections even if the connections cannot be made instantaneously. A scholarly work may include footnotes, a biblography, further reading suggestions, and so on. Thus, we could start with one book that would lead us to others virtually forever (is this not what happens in Calvino's novel, If on a winter's night a traveler?). Does not a library offer similar (not identical) search features and intertextual possibilities as the web? (One possible and divergent way to answer this question: 'Absolutely not! A modern library actually incorporates the features of the web into its classification. It fuses with the new; it re-fuses to be replaced. What do we need a card catalog for if we have an online library catalog?!?').

Is there something about hypertext that constitutes a discontinuity between the world of the old-school archive and the internet (as) archive? (For a definition of "hypertext" and its connection to other words, go to the hyperdictionary). If there is not a major distinction or a historical rupture, do hyperlinks make us more conscious of our participation in a network of meaning?

Furthermore, how do hyperlinks change the way that we read and process information? I have not thought about this question enough to give a confident answer. However, speed might be one of the major ways in which the internet changes the way we read. With a plethora of hyperlinks on a page, we are less likely to read everything on that page or to linger without moving on to something new. But the interesting thing is that the internet might not simply affect how we read things on the internet. Perhaps, it also affects the way we read print fiction. Does it make us more likely to skim? Do hyperlinks affect our attention span? If hyperlinks do decrease our attention span then is "hypertext fiction" (like the work of Michael Joyce) a better way to write and read fiction in the current age of the internet? Why is hyperfiction far less popular than print fiction?

I am aware that I am throwing out more questions than answers, but I want to spur some more conversation (even though many of these questions are a bit leading). Please do not feel compelled to answer all or most of the questions. Just approach the issue in any related or digressive way that comes to mind. Thank you for the interesting question, Audre. I hope we can all discuss these questions in the coming weeks.

- Patrick

Posted by pjagoda at 08:47 PM | Comments (3)