Sometimes I sit down to make a post on my personal blog and find myself writing about things that I am not ready to share just yet. It is frustrating because I want to write and have my voice heard, but something holds me back. My studies at Marylhurst have been a beautiful and empowering experience that has allowed me to rediscover and reclaim my voice through writing. There are many things I wish to address with my voice, so many experiences I wish to share, so many hidden issues I wish to make known. Part of me wants to yell at the top of my lungs: I have a voice! But part of me fears how people will respond. Having my voice critiqued and workshopped in a class is one thing, but the world is another story. My voice is not strong enough to take on social order and all of its cultural fictions just yet. But the fact there is within me this stirring desire to write about that which cannot be shared makes me realize this is exactly what I should be writing about. Go ahead and write your struggles, fears, doubts, and beliefs. Write your voice and body onto the page or screen. Use your voice to explore the dark places that haunt you. Write them for your eyes only and share them when your voice is strong enough to deflect that which it is not.Write and keep writing writing writing! When it is time your voice will know.
When I begin to think about the future, I panic a little. Even the happy prospects of what could be and what could be accomplished make me a little anxious. Of course there always will be the fears of what could be and what could be lost, but pondering on these fears does not make me stronger or more prepared for the future. Far too often have I let my fears rob me of the present, and tamper with my sense of self and potential being.
But not this year.
This year I am going to greet my fears with the happiness of knowing what is opposite them. They are happy fears because without hope they could not exist. I am going to treasure my present, and let the possibilities of 2013 take care of itself. I can only live one life at a time, and I love the one I have and the people I have within it.
There is a beauty within the book that can be expanded by the digital interface, and the digital expression of language has shifted our approach to literature. It has opened the literary realm of hypertext, which is applicable to both print and digital interfaces. Hypertext plays with the visual representation of language, and challenges the writer in the presentation process as well. But perhaps the most beautiful element of Hypertext Literature is its ability to function as living extensions of one another. Hypertext becomes an expression of our ever changing lives, while having its roots in the history and tradition of book.
Hypertexuality is not the end of the book. It is a revolutionary expression of literary life.
What are your hypertextual thoughts on books in print and digital form?
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<h1>The thought once had</h1>
<h2>is quick to be un-had.</h2>
<h3>this thought forgot</h3>
<h4>is left to rot</h4>
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When we approach electronic literature, the aspect of coding becomes an interesting point of interest. In the case of computers it becomes a human creation of a mechanical extension of life. The use of HTML and other coding languages is built to operate according to its own purpose and its own reflection of humanity so to speak. It’s a little eerie your siri can talk to you and its a little errie that netflix knows (or thinks it knows) what movie I might like. But we use these functions and interact with the language it communicates with us with. The existance of the coded computer languages becomes forgotten, as we use it for reading apps or downloaded text. It becomes a hidden, forgotten world running parallel to our own concept of language. And I don’t know about you, but simply thinking about the vast amount of language that lies in just this dinky little post is mystifying! The infinite bounds of language continuously grow as a spiraling stair case, vertically extending through time and into digital space.
On that note I will offer you an example of digital poetry at work, in the form of a 1985 literary videogame called “Swallows.” It was originally created in 1985 for Apple by writer Paul Zelevansky and has been made accessible by Mathew Kirschenbaum. You can read more about the recovering Paul Zelevansky’s “Swallows”and how to run the original program through a blog post by Lorie Merson. So here you go, enjoy the “G R E A T . B L A N K N E S S” and consider the hidden code behind the literary work and its interface.
And on a final note, I will leave you with a question. How do you view the language of computers? Do you think coding humanizes or de-humanizes the use of digital language?
Literature’s very existence is based on its ability to be interpreted endlessly. It is a multi-dimensional expression of language, which has been a constant reflection of mankind through the course of history. In this day and age of technological development, the general use of language has transcribed itself into the digital container of the computer screen. Along with this shift, literature has extended itself into the digital arena. This has opened a cyber-door to what is known as electronic literature, and has created another experience for the current day reader to enjoy everything literary from the classics to new works fresh off the digital press. Such is the case for W.G. Sebald’s work The Rings of Saturn. Sebald’s book in itself functions as an interface with its use of text and photography, creating a container for the reader to explore the content as one would a map with multiple possibilities in which to read and interpret the literary journey. However, there the current day reader can experience Sebald’s work in the digital form as well. Barbra Hui has created a Google Lit Map project of the book with all places the narrator travels to as well as all the places of memory, with a sample of the text for each pinpoint. The print interface of Sebald’s work and its Google map digital interface creates a technological interface for the reader to experience the literary work in different ways, and allows the work to exist and expand in a digital space.
One interesting aspect of addressing the internet as an interface is that there is no single way to arrive at the intended map. If one enters “Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn Maps” into regular Google search, one gets a link to Google Maps Mania, an unofficial Google Maps blog tracking websites using tools created by Google Maps. There is also a link to the Hui’s actual Google Lit Map. So from the very beginning the digital interface gives the reader the digital means to turn the page to the intended page, so to speak.
The Google Mapping Mania page for this Sebald map, serves as an introductory interface for the literary interpretative work. It is titled “The Rings of Saturn on Google Maps” which creates an interesting reference point for the reader. Although the print interface of the book exists as a physical object, its existence on Google Maps create a mental place for the book, or at least it creates an accessible digital place for the text it contains.
The panned out map is shown with all the points in Hue’s Lit Map rendition of Sebald’s work. Underneath the map is a description of Hue’s digital representation of Seabald’s text. On the right hand side of the page there are adds for GPS Fleet Tracking, GIST Masters Program, and Instant Background Checks. These ads do not change. They all have the theme of mapping, even the background check functions as a map of one’s past. Below the ad links is a link for Store Locator, Google Sightseeing, and below is a search box for the Google Maps Mania blog. All of these links come with the interface and serve to remind the reader of the interface. As the reader scrolls down the page there are links to Other Texts on Google Maps. These serve as chapters of reference for readers of such literary works. It also serves as a preview for readers who have not read a work but are interesting in opening it in the future – a digital or print copy that is. Below this point there is space to comment, the reader has an automatic responsive voice in this interface. On the right side there is a list of the Google Mania Blog entry archives – another reference point for the reader to explore.
With just a click of the map, the reader is transported to Hue’s representation of Sebald’s text. Hue has created a visual interpretation of the space depicted within Seabald’s work, and transcribed it for the reader to explore in map format. Each pinpoint corresponds to a box of text in the panel list on the right hand side of the page. Each text box contains a selection of the text which speaks about the location that is marked with a pin-drop. This allows the reader to engage with the text as a way of moving through the digital space created by the interface. It can be used by a reader who is and who is not familiar with the text. They will have a different meaning and association for each reader. This is the textual reading option available through the interface, and as you see the image below, there are multiple options available to the reader with this interface.
The reader can zoom in and adjust the perspective of the map on the top left side of the screen. The digital interface possesses scroll-ability making the reader in control of the reading experience. The title of the map provides work’s name in both its original language of German, as well as English. It provides the author and translator, giving the work an authorial point of reference, and allowing the reader the ability to research the work later. It gives credit under this title to the map’s creator Barbra Hui with a link to her name that leads to her blog. To the right of her name is a link to read more about the project, which also links to her blog.The top right of the map has provides the options of Map, Satelite, or Hybrid. Again the digital interface gives the reader a different way to interact with the work.
The above Map function allows the cities to be shown, allowing the reader the ability to associate the countries, cities, and oceans around the location described by Sebald and marked by Hue. The colors change, as the points are now blue and the land is white with green to mark bodies of water, and the ocen is a soft blue. The Hybrid function combines the Satellite image along with the Maps image as the names of the countries, cities and oceans are named. This can be observed in the image below.
As we examine the digital interface’s textual references to Sebald’s work, it is interesting to observe that one who has read the work will note that one of the functions, which the physical book possesses, is missing. This being the images which are dispersed throughout the original print interface of the book. If one reads the text for the pinpoint marked 33 Rendlesham Forest the page citation can be found for page 228-229.
If one examine this page in the book, one will find a black and white photograph with dead broken down trees. The digital interface lacks the literary content that the book as interface offers. The reader’s experience as presented by Sebald is therefore made complete by the book as a print interface. The digital interface provides a different visual effect as the only image the reader can reference is the Google image associated with the place of reference, and in this case Rendlesham Forest.
So as we examine this interpretative digital literary interface through the digital interface of my blog with its text, links and images, we can observe some of the many components within a literary experience. The container, whether it be a page of a book, Google map or blog, creates a space for the reader to experience, interact and absorb literarature in multiple ways. The interface provides the reader with options of readability, and allows the reader to move through the work at an indivdual pace. One could read Hue’s map and grasp a general idea of the book The Rings of Saturn. But it most likely serves as a complimentary interface to the text, rather than an alternate interface. The digital container of this work creates a place for the reader to have interpretative freedom. And it allows me, the literary student, the ability to create my own digital container to examine and analyze the work further. It perpetuates the literary discussion, which is what literature in all its complexities is really all about.
In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Man-made artifacts could always be imitated by men. Replicas were made by pupils in practice of their craft, by masters for diffusing their works, and, ﬁnally, by third parties in the pursuit of gain. Mechanical reproduction of a work of art, however, represents something new.”
We live in a revolutionary digital age of heightened technological movement. This innovative movement holds great cultural and material changes for us as artistic consumers and producers. This is not the first age of substantial growth, nor will it be the last. As technology effects the material production of art, how does art and literature exist in a time that threatens to put art into extinction? How can art (and most specifically literature) function within the fragile socioeconomic fabric of society through this process of significant change? And how do we come to locate our sense of identity and individuality in a constantly changing labyrinth of knowledge, language and ideas. These questions can seem a little anxiety producing, but I think returning to Walter Benjamin, renowned literary critic, philosopher, translator and author, will help to absolve some of this stress. Examining his observations of the technological revolutionary developments, and the change it has generated for art and literature in previous generations, offers us a different perspective of the emerging new works of electronic literature.
In the above introductory quote, Benjamin eloquently points out that, “art has always been reproducible.” He goes on to suggest it is our natural desire to imitate and re-create something that is seen as good, special or powerful. There is an attraction to the possibility of capturing the spirit and unseen energy, which a unique masterpiece possesses. We can observe this in the process of converting older literary works into electronic form as they are formatted for the kindle, ipad, etc.
The digital interface functions as a mechanical reproduction of literature. The mechanical reproduction of literature in electronic form creates new ways for us to interact and engage in a work. It creates a new sort of literary trail for the reader to embark upon. My classmate points this out in her post discussing the online version of T.S. Eliot’s famous poem The Waste Land. This transfers into our relationship the traditional and the digital revolutionized work.
We all respond to the digital interface and act upon the natural desire to reproduce literature differently. Whether we wish to read a reproduced work, reproduce a work ourselves, or create a work of our own, we all interact with the reproduced copy to some extent. The challenge comes in finding our own personal way in which we perceive and identify literature in a digital environment. The new representation of literature pushes us to re-examine how we comprehend and interpret art within the digital medium.
So as we stand here in this revolutionary period of technological change, we can look at Benjamin and consider how we relate to the reproduction of art. We can look at our present day as a digital wasteland, or we can chart our way through the new mechanical production process. We can cherish the precious literary tradition while we create new representations of art. All the while we must reflect upon our creations and how we relate to them. We must examine the mechanical reproduction of electronic literature, as this new work of digital expression has the ability to change our relationship with not only the interface but with literature itself.
How do you see your relationship with it in traditional form? How do you see your relationship with the mechanical reproduction of literature in electronic form?