Semester Reflection

As the semester is coming to an end, I would like to reflect on what we have discussed. Some of my main takeaways are that “things” are just things until we notice them as something more than that, technology is changing and we should think about how we are reading texts and who is actually doing the writing– us or technology, and that literature can be more than simply literature, it can be art.

At the very beginning of the semester, we discussed the idea that “things” are only things until we notice them as something more. We talked about “Thing Theory,” and we even discussed this idea after a couple of the other readings. This is the idea that we do not notice objects as what they are until they break or need our attention in some way. One example we talked about was if there was a green chair and something that you needed was set on top of that chair, you would likely ask someone to get you that object “on that green thing.” You would likely not recognize the green chair as more than a green “thing” until it was broken or needed to be moved. This was an interesting idea to me, I had not heard it before. It made me think about how I view the objects in my house.

Technology is always changing. We first talked about how we read books. Personally, I said I would rather read a physical text rather than online. Some people said they like being able to flip through the pages, they remember where certain parts of the book are better in physical texts, and that ebooks or online texts make their eyes hurt, or make it harder to focus. We then talked about who is actually doing the writing these days. There were comments made about how computers are only as smart as humans and some other comments about how we, as humans, are only pushing buttons, while computers are processing and forming the letters, therefore the computers could be the ones doing the writing. This idea stood out to me because I had not previously thought about who was doing the writing. I just assumed that people were the ones doing the writing, but after hearing both sides of the argument, I am not sure where I stand. It makes sense that computers are technically writing, but they are writing for us. We still have to tell the computer what to write, and how to write it.

Literature can be art, not just the story within a book, but how it is shown. We looked at electronic literature and even the text Between Page and Screen. It was interesting to see how people could come up with these ideas. I did not find these convenient to read, in fact, it took far more effort to get through most of these texts. I usually found myself focused on the structure and how the words were presented to me rather than what the text was really about. It will be interesting to see how this type of literature evolves over time, but I cannot see a world where people prefer to hold a physical book up to a screen in order to read it. The world is all about making things easier, and that form of reading is far from easy.

Reading Machines and more!

I found the book Reading Machines hard to get through. There were a lot of technical terms which made the book confusing for me, but also frustrating because I had to put in so much effort to try to understand things. I found it interesting to hear about what the different programs do, it is not something I think about until it is put right in front of me. It is amazing how fast computers are and all of the behind the scene things they are always doing, like keeping track of how frequent words are used and waiting for you to push a key on your keyboard.

I also found the extra readings cool to go through. I liked that I could interact with the “What is Code” article by Ford. The other article, “17776” by Bois was very unique. It reminded me about our conversation about Between Page and Screen and all of the online poems/stories/etc. that we looked at. I kept scrolling through the entire way just waiting to see what would come next. It was an interesting read.

I think that it is so amazing that there are people out there who can make all of this possible. I have no idea how people learn how to do this kind of thing, I could never. I was also shocked to find out that this was happening in the 1940s! I realize that computers were invented around this time, but again, I just had not thought about every single detail that goes into creating computers and their ability to function.

Between Page and Screen

Wow. So I am not one to usually be interested in this sort of thing, but I admit that this book was very cool to look at. I had never seen a book like this before, but it is a very interesting idea. I am not sure if I would like it as an actual book to read, but it was fun to mess around with. I do not think that I would like to read a book like this because it was SO much extra work. I had to flip the book all around to figure out how to get the words the right direction (upside down), and I had to really focus on holding the book still and at a good angle so that the words didn’t disappear. I have to say, I am not too sure what was going on in the text because I was so distracted by all of the other elements.

I also looked at the Young-Hae Chang works, this was less interesting to me. It is still cool, but it did not feel like a book. To me, it felt like a video I would be able to see on facebook or something. We have videos like this all over the internet. I think that is why I was less impressed with his work. And again, there was a lot happening that made reading hard to focus on the actual information. In both of these texts, I feel that the content is less emphasized because technology is a bigger focus. Whereas in a regular book, the readers can focus easily on the content.

Reading Writing Interfaces by Lori Emerson

This book was another challenging book. I know I say that a lot, but most of these texts are so packed full of information and are extremely wordy that it is hard to make sense of them. This book was exactly that.

I found the structure of the book interesting. I expected the text to go from Emily Dickinson to typewriting, to desktops, to our modern day technology (and everything in between). I expected this simply because my brain tells me that the right order is from oldest to newest, but Emerson changed this. In fact, she did the opposite. She changed the way that I read the book.

This book, along with some of the others we have read, made me think about how little attention I pay to the interface. Emerson makes it clear that in our modern day reading and writing, we no longer are forced to think about the interface. The technology makes the process easy for us, unlike in the 60s and earlier. Emerson shows us that back then, people had to interact with the interface at a much deeper level. She provided us with examples of this, I think, to make us consider our own interactions with interfaces.

Plowing the Dark by Richard Powers

I was skeptical of this book at first. The beginning was not anything special, but as I read I found that I actually liked this book more than I expected to. It was a complicated read at certain points, but overall I was able to understand the book fairly well. The storyline at least.

There are a couple of things that I am curious about. The first thing is, what exactly does the title mean? I was not really sure where the book connected to the title. The second thing I am wondering is, why do the main characters never meet? Is there a reason?

I found it very interesting that Powers decided to use the second person when he was telling Taimur Martin’s story. I think it added a good amount of depth to draw the reader in.

When considering the interface, I think there is a lot going on in this book. We have VR (in the mid-1980s?) and we have the mind. Those are two different forms of interface that I do not believe that we have not covered yet. These were interesting to me because I had not really considered them. I also think that the connection between the characters was interesting. Even though they don’t actually meet, we, as readers, still get to see the connections they are making with the interface and with each other. We saw both of their worlds changing around them when they were not able to notice it (for different reasons of course- Martin was locked away and VR took over Adie’s life).

The Interface Effect and Interface

In Interface by Hookway, on page 12, he says, “To return to the human-computer interface, the interface is not only defined by but also actively defines what is human and what is machine.” I noticed that he seems to talk about the interface as a form of relationship with technology rather than simply technology.

In The Interface Effect by Alexander Galloway, in the preface (vii), he says, “Inter­faces themselves are effects, in that they bring about transfor­mations in material states. But at the same time interfaces are themselves the effects of other things, and thus tell the story of the larger forces that engender them.” This tells me that the author thinks about the interface more historically than Hookway did. Hookway thought about the relationship between people and technology while Galloway seems to think about the interface as the actual object or technology itself.

When it comes to the interface and our interactions with it, I believe that Hookway showed a better connection. They both mentioned how the format of the technology affects us, but I felt that Hookway focused more on the connection between two forms. I found that Galloway focused more on the interface itself rather than how it is used.


Paper Knowledge by Lisa Gitelman

I found this book hard to get through. It is just a topic that I am not interested in, and I have no background knowledge on the subject either so it was hard to follow along and to force myself to read. Although I do find it interesting that Gitelman put this information together and that she actually thought about something that most people would not even consider. The history in this book makes me think about ideas that I would have never thought about so I can appreciate that about this text, but I just could not get into it as much as I tried.

I found the structure of the book to be helpful. I liked that there was an introduction and an afterword, but also that the middle portion was broken up into four sections. I liked how the media history of the past 150 years was listed chronologically and in a way that made it a little bit easier for the reader to follow.

I have to admit, though I knew a majority of the media forms she mentioned such as letterpress printing, typing, photocopying, and scanning. I was shocked to find out that I was missing a lot of information too. Some forms that I was unfamiliar or less familiar with were mimeograph, microfilm, and offset printing. I can say I learned something from this book, but I wish that I could have enjoyed it more. It felt as if I was reading a textbook rather than a novel.

The Intuitionist

I found this book to be very confusing at times especially towards the ending, but also kind of humorous throughout the story. I found it interesting that Colson Whitehead created a story about an elevator, and political sides (The Elevator Guild in general, the Intuitionists, and the Empiricists). It is such a wild idea to me to write a book like this, but I think that it worked well.

I found it interesting that the Empiricists were the typical people that we would imagine to be fixing the elevators in our society, and that the Intuitionists were some type of magical beings. I also found it interesting that the Intuitionists were supposedly more accurate, this leads to a lot of questions I think. Another aspect of this book that I loved was that the author created Lila Mae Watson as the first African American, female to be an “Elevator Inspector” in the city. Speaking of this city, thinking back, I do not recall ever hearing a name for this city? Did anyone else find the name?

This story reminded me of our society today in some ways. When the elevator crashed and the people (the Empiricists, mostly) blamed Lila and the Intuitionists as a whole, I enjoyed that Lila had to fight to clear her name and the Intuitionist reputation in general. It all just seemed to align fairly well with our society.

Project Proposal D2

I would like to do my project on the idea of Instagram being the interface connecting technology to how people communicate.

I think I want to do a creative response. I would like to use my Instagram account for references, as well as look at the pages of actual influencers. I also might throw in some research to back up some of the points I make.

I would like to start off saying what my Instagram account is, who some of the influencers I follow are, and why I like to follow them. Then, I might go on to the steps of how people sometimes become influencers, and once they are, what do they use their page to promote. Good health, fashion, etc. One example I would like to talk about is the world record egg. I would have to do a little bit of research for this because I do not know the whole story, but this egg seems like it started out as a fun post to get likes and followers but that influencer has now used it to promote mental health.

To connect this idea better to my project idea of how people use it to communicate, I think I will also want to point out how, for example, this egg has 10 million followers which allow that many (and more) people to see the content. This is way different from less technologically advanced things in the past. Important information about mental health, physical health, and basically anything you can think of, can now be easily accessed through the internet, and more specifically, Instagram.

Track Changes by Matthew Kirschenbaum

I found this book incredibly hard to get through. Because of this, I do not feel like I was able to read it thoroughly. I am not very interested in technology at this level so it was hard for me to stay focused and fully understand the text. I found that the author played with language so much that it also made it hard for me to follow along. I felt like I had to look things up all of the time and honestly, I got so tired of it that I gave up towards the end. I just did not have a good time reading it. Content-wise, I liked that the author used stories from individual writers, but this book was focused on opinions and I felt like the stories often just reiterated what another writer had said. The story of how word processing has changed over time and how it has influenced the way people write is an interesting idea, but this was a lot to take in. If you are interested in this sort of thing, I bet the book was very enjoyable, but as someone who is not very knowledgable on the subject the book drug on for too long and was just too complex for me to enjoy it.