Butter Archive #14: The Effects of Having No Physicality

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I haven’t (and maybe why the world hasn’t) taken interactive literature (like the ones we’ve been discussing) very seriously. As a super important preface, I don’t mean that they aren’t important or that they aren’t taken seriously by certain circles, but instead why they haven’t become very popular, why they aren’t taught in schools (like Susan pointed out, none of us have ever come in contact with these things as texts and we’re English Majors living in 2015!), etc.

One of my conclusions is that they don’t have the physicality of books. Now an argument against this (and a very strong argument, at that) is that we’ve learned to love lots of things that aren’t physical – films, video games, for example. But ultimately, those are things you can own – you can buy a film, you can buy a video game. When something is stuck on a screen that you can’t conceptualize as an object, maybe that has made it unable to compete, especially (and this is why I think it’s different to films or video games) because it IS competing against physical books.

This is just a watery idea I’ve been thinking about, and I am open to absolute disagreement. This is also just one of the reasons I think these types of literatures haven’t been more widely accepted, so it’s not “THE reason.” What do you think – does the lack of physicality have anything to do with it?

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2 thoughts on “Butter Archive #14: The Effects of Having No Physicality

  1. This is a really interesting question. Certainly the book as a material object has many qualities that are highly prized and as you say e-book or e-lit are up against books directly: they don’t have the tactility, the design qualities, the portability of books. But Facebook has become exceedingly popular without being something that someone buys–and you cite the examples of films as something that people have long loved (even before the days when a regular person could “own” a film). Games seem to me to be a very interesting analogy. People become adherents of online games as well as games they can own, and some of the more “popular” examples of e-lit are ones that gameified. The app that I’m recommending people at least start this week so that we can discuss it seems to me to be a hint of the direction in which e-it might go.

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  2. I think there’s also the matter of what E-Lit we’re talking about–they all vary much in terms of the type of physical content (beyond genre I mean, some were poems, some were monologue-narratives, some were…things I can’t even label) and they are vary in platform/presentation form.

    One thing to think about is the learning curve: as platforms change radically, we have to build an entirely new skill set in order to efficiently interact with the platform. Honestly, I have this problem with /bathrooms/ nowadays: there’s something disruptive about not immediately being able to figure out how a sink works. Sometimes platforms are intuitive. Other times less so. Look at what happened when windows users were exposed to Windows 8 all of sudden. Every single thing I knew about computers, how to fix them, how to open a program, or uninstall, suddenly became irrelevant in the face of the new program. So I did what most people did: shunned its name and kept the old interface. It’s not about the tool itself, it’s how well the user can master it.

    Secondly, when it comes to certain, platform exclusive forms of E-Lit, well of course the market then is going to be limited to those who have that platform and can use it (ie. Pry being only available on apple products).

    I’ll be honest: I like to /own/ things. I mean if I can do both, Ill do both. For me electronic is always the trial. I like to test things. I’ll learn about a band through youtube, download their music, and eventually, if I don’t bore quickly of their music, I’ll want the cd. A show I like online? I want the DVD. (More often than not, these things aren’t even /made/ anymore). Then again, my house tech is a little old-fashioned: if I want to listen to music in the stereo I need the cd (it won’t play burned copies idky) and we can’t hook up the old tv to our laptops, so DVDs are necessary for large screen viewings.

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