Inklewriter

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Inklewriter is a platform for interactive fiction in the Choose Your Own Adventure Mode. They provide an example Sherlock Holmes story. They also have a digital edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Check out the very short example called “Holography” by theorist of interactive fiction Emily Short. This review by her of the Inklewriter platform reflects on the process of writing this piece and also mentions an app for converting an Inkle story to a Kindle book.

Can you find any compelling examples of stories made with Inklewriter for courses?

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Twine

If you want a break from the heavier reading about e-lit, consider breaking for a Twine, which we’ll be exploring tomorrow together in class.

Twine has become a very accessible platform for creating interactive texts online–and as Adam Hammond notes, people tend to refer to such texts as games with players rather than texts with readers.

Twine is really easy to start using, and also possible to do amazing things with if you know some coding.

If you have time before we meet, you might want to explore a couple of examples.
One of them is actually on our list for discussion tomorrow, Anna Anthropy’s queers in love at the end of the world, which uses a timer extension for Twine. I’d suggest playing/reading it a few times before reading what she says about it hereDepression Questwhich we are getting to later, was also produced with Twine.

Another is much more visual and show how extensively a Twine can be customized for look, feel, and mode of interaction. At least I believe that Nicky Case‘s

WE BECOME WHAT WE BEHOLD 
a game about news cycles, vicious cycles, infinite cycles

is also a Twine game, although I am nervous asserting that here since a somewhat extensive attempt to confirm this yielded nothing. It’s well worth playing (about 5 minutes) either way, though, and Case’s other work is worth looking at, such as Coming Out Simulator which is formally somewhat similar to Jellybones, though more minimalist.

Interactivity in Week 1 Readings

Coming into this class one week late is definitely something that made me nervous, particularly after I saw the number of readings to do before the next class! However, moving through these examples of digital literature did not feel like work, but rather provided me with interesting topics to think about and potentially discuss, one of which was the level of interactivity that I experienced while working through the readings.

I have to admit, when it comes to reading, particularly for pleasure, I’m one of those people that enjoys a physical book, or if not that then an ebook on my Kobo app is also acceptable. I was not prepared for the opportunity to interact so completely with the work, and it definitely threw me off.

The readings can be sorted into a sort of hierarchy, each one more interactive for the reader than the last. Agrippa had a lower level of interactivity, and the reader or viewer simply took in the text and sounds as they came. Next, there were “These Waves of Girls” and “Jellybone,” where the reader had contact with the text in order to move it forward, but had no impact on the story itself. Finally, “queers in love at the end of the world” and “Lucy Hardin’s Missing Period” forced the reader to interact in order to move the story forward, but also allowed the reader to influence the story line.

Though I found myself excited at the prospect of influencing the story myself, and spent a far amount of time playing around and experimenting with the different outcomes, I was drawn to the works at the middle level of interactivity, where I had to advance the story, but had to wait and see what would be coming up next. “These Waves of Girls” and “Jellybone” both used text, images (moving and still), and sounds in order to advance the plot, which drew me in deeply. This turned out to not be a great thing in my case, because when I read standard texts, I’m already very adept at visualizing everything in the story, so when the additional images and sounds and videos were added, it was almost overly stimulating. I found myself very deeply focused on these works, and quite scared at certain parts. While watching the video attachments in “Jellybone,” I found myself moving my phone farther away to gain some distance from it so I wouldn’t be startled… I was anyways.

Overall, my expectations for this week were that I’d be reading some ebooks, maybe with some hyperlinks or images embedded, but I was surprised at the form that the readings took. This week’s readings forced me to redefine my outlook about digital literature, and I’m excited to continue to add to my definition and expectations of it during this course.

week i: reading vs. watching vs. playing

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“What are you playing?” asks my roommate as she walks by.

“My readings”, I respond.

In this specific instance, it was queers in love at the end of the world, which, itself is better experienced than explained (Abi did a really great job of this in her post!). And though all of the our readings have indeed been (e-)literature, I found myself perplexed that the medium can perceived, at least to an onlooker, as simply video, or simply game, or, most offensively, as something mindless. No, even referring to e-literature as e-literature seems to discount the reality it encapsulates: the frantic unpredictability of real life, digitized.

I found myself spending the most time this week exploring the hypermedia novella These Waves of Girls— a digital web of short stories and artifacts, exploring memory, girlhood and sexuality. Recounted through fragmented memory, the non-linear narrative is incredibly difficult for a reader to piece together. The text is full of bright colours, relying on visuals to aid in the process of storytelling. These Waves of Girls employs and embodies the nostalgia of the pre-2000’s internet where it was conceived, now appearing somewhat familiar but dated. Hyperlink after hyperlink leads a reader deeper into the layers of memory, into the layers of narrative. True to the experience of memory, this text shows how memory can be, at once, immersive and static: the same of which is true of the digital world.

These Waves of Girls tells a very normal, though fragmented and choppy, story of girlhood. When it is processed through the digital interface, it becomes not boring or mundane, but instead, universally relatable.

Our privileged notion of rational, linear subjectivity (premised on the book) may have initially fostered our ability to concentrate in depth and at length, but is most definitely not where it ends. E-Lit recasts subjectivity in a new medium that encourages not discontinuous reading, but a different type of reading that demands a different sensory involvement. Digital reading embodies the real.

 

reading out of time (week 1)

I’ve been ruminating on reading in the digital age and wondering about the ways in which we are more precious with our time when browsing text online.

With apps like Blinkist, which boast distilling all you need to know about a book or subject into a 3-5 minute article*, or Medium, which provides a celebrated feature that tells you how long it will take to read an article, hyper time-conscious reading feels to be the only kind I’ve been exercising since the advent of — well of what? Portable computers? Smartphones? What exactly is the genealogy (or genealogies, for the Foucauldians out there)?

I’ll leave that question hanging as I turn to Anna Anthropy’s “queers in love at the end of the world.” Anthropy’s interactive fiction (brilliantly) simulates apocalyptic urgency with a ten-second countdown the reader must heed (and then, by necessity, willfully ignore) as they race to read through the many possibilities embedded in the game/text.

In the case of Anthropy’s time-bracketed interactive fiction, quick reading becomes pushed to impossible limits and, instead of paring down, enriches the prose, making it all the more affective and amplifying the desperate, urgent, and intense love between the two women in the face of oblivion. Readers/players can work to stretch out this time by taking sneaky screenshots and then trying to slow down and piece together the narrative. The Afterword, unlike the rest of the text, is wonderfully static:

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I’m curious whether others have been thinking about time and the ways in which these digital apps and interfaces temporally mediate text in (potentially) troubling ways. But also, as I’ve started to unpack above, what other ways (if any) can time-bound texts enrich the content they deliver?

*I found this whilst doing a bit of research for this post! For a bit of www fun, check out this very web2.0 initiative.

Week 2: From Oulipo to oolipo?

ambigram-oulipo-by-basile-morin

So, the name of the app on which we are reading the Kate Pullinger story “Jellybone” is a reference to an important literary movement that has been very influential in the digital humanities.

The Oulipo movement (short for Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle or Workshop of Potential Literature) started in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and is famous for approaching literature through rigorous constraints, such as George Perec‘s novel La disparitionwhich avoids, in French if you can imagine it, the use of the letter “e”. You can read more about the movement in the Wikipedia entry.

The movement has been extremely influential in the digital humanities, which favours experimenting with what Jerome McGann would call “textual deformance” and is informed by a very similar sense of play. In fact the ARP lab run by McGann and Johanna Drucker at University of Virginia was named in homage to the Pataphysics  that gave rise to Oulipo. Closer to home, I believe that Stéfan Sinclair wrote his PhD dissertation on the Oulipo movement, and the tool that eventually morphed into Voyant Tools was called HyperPo.

There’s a nice discussion of Oulipo in a DH context in Steve Ramsay’s Reading Machines. Also a nice discussion here on the Momento blog, the source of the image.

So —— do you see any connection with the app?