The Final E-SSAY

Wow, do you know long it took just to get a working link to Scalar? First draft issues all over again! Word to the wise: don’t use ampersands in your Scalar book titles–the world isn’t ready for it.

Given that some of the Youtube videos on Scalar are set to private to avoid the Copyright police, anyone who wants to view them will need to be signed in under a account. For you Professor both the emails you gave me to link you under Scalar are also listed as accounts permitted to see the Youtube videos so they should work!

Works cited and platform reflection are all up on the Scalar book.

On a side note–should we include a word count on the reflection or essay component? Or word count per each page?

Happy holidays everyone.


Lim & Tampon Run + a note on “Distance Mirrors and the LAMP”

Distance Mirrors and the LAMP

A few people have quoted the  part of Kirschenbaum’s transcript “you didn’t have to worry about how many followers you had or if you were popular or pithy enough to be retweeted. You didn’t have to ask someone else if you could be their friend in order to converse with them” as evidence that the early internet was more about information than socializing. I personally, doubt that power-arrangements didn’t quickly develop or weren’t present. Perhaps though the earlier listserv’s platform didn’t support that kind of social development, or didn’t support it well. Kirschenbaum then notes, “Strange, down-the-rabbit-hole geographies of influence formed, where the mainstay of a list would turn out to be a graduate student, or an emeritus at an obscure institution in New Zealand” –a mainstay here means a cornerstone or base, in other words, there was some kind of distribution of power and the ‘mainstay’ instigator of a topic could be ‘strange’–someone unexpected, which therefore denotes expectations. You did not follow people or get followed, but you yourself were a follower of the ‘list’–so you were subscribed. The change is that nowadays we follow individuals than groups. Even information exchange is a social process, mostly because by nature, we are social creatures. Even the absence of socialites, say a plain email with just a file, has a social affect by the act of not saying anything else.

Tampon Run high score 109 yeaaahhh

First off this game reminds me of my one favourite vines:

WordPress embeds vines. I just discovered.

It’s fun and I enjoyed the opening commentary or instructions. I don’t believe you can’t skip them so I wouldn’t necessarily consider ‘extraneous’ to the game, but text, rather than paratext. Okay you CAN skip them, but they are part of the game, rather than say, Lim where the game itself has no description or introduction: the two are keep on separate pages.


I read the description & instructions and was a little doubtful: violent? Ok, I suppose: then I played the gamer. Honestly–when prepped by the description blurb (I can’t say how I would react without the contextualizing blurb) I really felt as though I was experiencing a kind of violence. You’re only ‘power’ is to blend. You can’t fight back (I tried). You can ‘run away’ and blend.

I’m not sure how I died. For one thing the shaking got very bad and the noise very loud as I was boxed in on all sides by the squares  and then–nothing. It went all black. There were no words to tell me what had happened. No ‘would you like to play again’? How’s that for atheistic. But why did I die? My square had changed to the same colour as the opposition squares–but they attacked me anyways, surrounded me, and after much struggling, shaking, and screaming, I died. I couldn’t even seem at that point to change the colour of my square to anything else, but other times the game automatically changed the colour of my square without my input to blend in–so the mechanics were a little odd on that part.

I’m currently trying again and I’m stuck in a path: regardless of what colour I am, the damn other block won’t move. So there are, I think some design errors to make out.

When you blend, there is low repeated thud noise, a beat, and the camera zooms in on the square. I definitely got the sense that my square was feeling stressed, and started to understand what the description had meant by the “violence of blending”. When you zoom in, you lose track of your surroundings, the path you need to take,and what obstacles lie ahead: which reminds me of how it feels to be very stressed and isolated–you become disoriented, lose sight of the bigger picture, and become lost. Psychologically the game can be very stressful–but would this affect be there without the description and priming of the player?

And I have to ask more questions about Lim. Tampon Run seems pretty straight forward—I doubt it has an end. You probably just keep going and going , but does Lim? Does the maze go on forever or can I actually be free of it?

Update: I had refresh because that block wouldn’t move. Now another blue block has chased me to a different section WHERE THAT BLOCK DOESN’T EVEN BELONG and is blocking my path AGAIN. YEESH. I give up.


Fitzpatrick & Authorship: Week 10

Fitzpatrick touched on many interesting points in her chapter on authorship. I found it interesting how our modern ideas of authorship are not actually reflective of the print technologies. Instead it seems those ideas that we often associate with print came later, and are instead reflective of modern aspects of western culture (capitalism = ownership, intellectual or otherwise, say of the ideas or words in a text, and individualism).

At the same time she also addresses the anxieties surrounding writing, and possible anxieties about losing our ‘right’ to our own writing, or to be able to think of our writing as our own.  Perhaps rightly so–the open liberal take on publishing in revolutionary France didn’t apparently go over so well.

“Enlightenment thinkers such as Condorcet argued that knowledge could best be disseminated through “authorless and opened-ended [sic] texts, circulating freely between all citizens…[this] led however, to a chaos of sedition, libel, and piracy” (“the rise of the author” 22).

[Upon a second reading “authorless and open ended texts circulating freely” sounds a lot like certain websites online….]

Instead Carla Hesse reportedly says that our current ideas about authorship originated

“from the political revolutions of the late 18th century, a system that reflects those revolutions by embodying…the ideals of the autonomous, self-creating and self-governing, property-owning individual,’ as well as such liberal values as the ‘universal access to knowledge, and the assurance of cautious public reflection and debate'(28). Our assumptions about authorship… derive less from the technologies and…more from the legislative and economic systems that govern those technologies and processes” (“rise of the author” 22).

Fitzpatrick further notes that since the 1960s post-structuralist thought has sought to change these ideas about the author. Frankly I barely grasp any of what Barthes or Foucault says about the author. For example the idea that  the author, only being formed by the act of writing “in claiming ownership over the product of writing, perversely deprives it of meaning” is a bizarre one to me. Barthes seems to go on to be saying that the author’s identity is “detrimental” to the meaning of the text (“the death of the author” 23). 

While I do adhere to the intentional fallacy,I don’t think the author’s background or ideas are irrelevant to a text at all. Texts are after all, products of their times-and I think like performances, they are to a degree temporal. This sounds heartbreaking, the idea that the texts we view are not the same texts they once were, or were in their time– that some quality that made them unique, thrilling, or powerful cannot be felt by us. I felt heartbroken when I learned that many of the paintings we know today didn’t look like they did when they were first painted. To think Van Gogh’s Sunflowers were once a brighter yellow, or the “Bedroom in Arles” may have been violet not periwinkle blue is marginally upsetting. But maybe that’s the basis of art. Certainly the physical medium of the printed text has always been at risk of degradation and aging (as are digital forms as discussed earlier in the semester) but the physical medium is not the entirety of an art piece: all art experience is made up of audience and the piece, among other things. If a piece plays upon a particular culture, its audience, in order to make its meanings, that meaning is temporary and subject to the same aging as the physical text. Examine background, including the author’s intent, can be valuable to discover how a text once was, what it was meant to mean and what it meant to audiences then. 

You may think then that text’s meanings are unstable but I want to note that looking at the changing of meaning in a linear, chronological fashion is important, because human’s live and die linearly.

Back to Fitzpatrick: she feels that perhaps our ideas of authorship haven’t really shifted though, and haven’t shifted because of or in this age of digital writing. I’d have to agree.  The author is still a big deal, still a celebrity, and still important, for numerous reasons.

I liked that she got into some of the capitalist aspects of productivity in universities in “from product to process” and what it might mean to try a form of writing that focuses on live, collectively maintained growth in a system of “versioning”. A comment on P14 by “amandafrench” discusses how this still might be turned into a profit-model with “legal definitions” of versions (i.e. most of us are familiar with “YOU  NEED THE MOST RECENT EDITION OF THIS $130 DOLLAR TEXT BOOK THAT’S REALLY ONLY HAD ONE CHAPTER ADDED THAT WE AREN’T DISCUSSING”).

Still , the idea that “Everything published on the web exists, in some sense, in a perpetual draft state, open to future change” (24) is an interesting one. Digital text seems, at least on some mediums, seem to exist in a peculiar middle area between spoken dialogue, those verbal exchanges that happen and are gone in a moment yet leave us changed, and relatively stable, printed text.



Authorship & Fitzpatrick: A Note on Form

On a side note I wanted to talk about Fitzpatrick’s choice of medium. I think the set up of text online is really nice, I particularly liked how the paragraphs were numbered and each had the option to be commented on.

This stands in difference to blogging or other digital mediums. Whether its reblogs or comments, it all tends to go at the bottom of the text and in a  long form essay, the comment being so physically and temporally “far” from the exact sentences it is a response to, the comments become divorced from the text–this separation of response and text seems to be a trademark of print texts, and this separation also tends to mark digital texts that mimic print.

What I mean by that is the “liveliness”* of the text. This goes back to the beginning of the semester to Michael Ong’s piece in which print text is briefly described as being “dead”, as compared to speech*. Print text is dead in the sense that you can’t argue with it–the author cannot connect to any scrawl you angrily write in the margins of your copy, and it is static, saying the same thing every time you open the cover. The discussion then of the text takes place outside of the text in say, written correspondence between the author and readers and critics. Online, the discussion of say a facebook post, or a youtube video, takes place below the text itself.

But with even those, if the text in questions is long, those comments begin to take place outside of the text. The distance from the reply and the section divorces the two and makes the comment seem foreign–the author must then search through the essay ( “where did I say that?”) and the reader must withhold comment till the end of the essay and may forget the detail they wished to comment on, or no longer hold a particular reaction as sharply (i.e how you feel about a piece at this point versus later). This is not necessarily a bad thing BUT you may become confused about the order of something, in the sense that something that needed to explained sooner was explained later, but all you can recall is that it was eventually explained.

Now I’m not saying Fitzpatrick’s set up is the best and all content needs to adapt something similar right away but it’s useful for that kind of text, and I think it definitely signals the kind of responses she wants. It’s built for a different kind of feedback than say a Word doc. review/comment set up which allows the reader to determine where and specifically what they wish to comment on. Word doc. seems then to better for very early editing or very precise editing, and Planned Obsolescence‘s for a more content oriented feedback. Actually that’s rather the difference in of itself: editing versus feedback.  Although we often call the processes by which academic papers are reviewed, “peer editing” these processes are usually, at least at the academic level, more about feedback. The process by which we edit grammar and syntax is not the same as content editing.

***I have been holding onto this one forever and I think I’ve posted about it elsewhere. Anywho, not all oral text (i.e. radio, recordings) is really “live” in the sense Ong uses. Liveness refers to the ability to have the author/speaker interact with the audience/reader. However, I think “liveliness” and “dead” can be misleading terms and some other word may be better used to describe this aspect of texts’ authors and readers: any ideas?


mentary writing.

“While making my way through the book,” Cunningham writes, “I found myself copying out Shields’ most interesting fragments into a separate notebook; when I want to “reread” Reality Hunger, I simply look at my own, private version instead”

Here Cunningham is discussing the fragmentary nature of writing and memory. At first I dismissed some of his assertions. While I agreed that when we recall texts we tend to remember parts, and not every single line or word in order, I maintained that I didn’t make notes while reading, certainly not for narrative texts. A moment later I realized my hypocrisy–I’d been highlighting various parts of the text with an app, one that gave me the option to see only the text I had highlighted.

Not only had I reduced a linear text into fragments, some of the fragments were out of chronological order, because the app lists the sections in the order I highlighted them, resulting the exact kind of fragmentary digital text that Cunningham discusses.

Another particular finding also caught my eye:

studies that indicate 'people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links.'Essentially, hypertext distracts the reader enough to change the reading experience — even a long, linear text becomes fragmented with the addition of links, because the unconscious mind is forced to devote energy determining the value of the link (and whether or not to click on it). In Carr’s telling, the Internet creates not fragmentary but fragmented reading, where the mind is so distracted that it is difficult to become fully immersed in a given text. 

What I want to add is that fragmentation is necessary for (my) learning. Not regarding fiction narratives, reading long-form is a challenge for me. I don’t know whether its a matter of interest in topic, screen-reading irritation, or short attention due to familiarity with fragmented digital text (i.e. twitter, text messages). I either prefer something short and fragmented (i.e. point form) or I must go through a process of committing aspects of a long text to memory or notes if I wish to retain any of that text in a particular way.

Likely, this is in line with Cunningham’s assertion that memory is fragmented. If our memory is fragmented, then it serves that fragments will be best remembered. So if learning and memory need fragmentation, where does that place the finding that “people who read linear text comprehend more, remember more, and learn more than those who read text peppered with links” ?

It seems to be in line with the differentiation between “fragmentary” and “fragmented” reading. Fragmented, as I gathered from the essay, is a broken up kind of reading, having to do with distractions of the internet. Fragmentary reading I am a little more unsure still how to define beyond the reading of a fragmentary piece.

There seem to be some significant differences between analogue fragmentary works and digital ones.

Franz Kafka — another writer given to fragments, whose work served as a key influence on Beckett’s — Albert Camus declared, “The whole art in Kafka consists in forcing the reader to reread.”

What strikes me about this assessment of non-digital fragmentary writing is that its not aspect of writing that is valued on the web. Unless we are talking about some kind of verbal joke, writing that ‘forces the reader to re-read’ seems to signal a kind of writing not immediately accessible or understandable. In the attention economy of the web, you need to transmit as fast and as efficiently as possible, your point. To be fair the exact kind of reading you want from a viewer depends on what your intent is (do you want them to see your ad? A news article? An essay?). But in general, readers do not have the ‘luxury’ or of re-reading, because of the numerous distractions inviting their attention elsewhere, let alone to the same  text again. In this way the fragmentary writing on the web differs from the analogue fragmentary writing of Beckett or Kafta: the first aims for simplicity (theoretically) and digestibility, and the second for layered, multifaceted expression that requires extended thought and analysis for understanding.

You’ll perhaps notice that some of the spacing in the grey text boxes is messed up. I hesitate to fix it, since its an example of the fragmentation possible in text (I think?).  EDIT: The grey boxes show up as boxes in the editor and as horizontal-scrolling boxes on the blog. I did not know. WordPress is full of surprises.

IMLTHO, I dislike it, since it impedes smooth reading. Is the horizontal line break then also an example of fragmentation? Are chapters or paragraphs also such? At what point (or zone) then is something fragmented or not fragmented?

The grey text box spacing also reminds me of the last text discussed in this essay, Masha Tupitsyn’s (print) book Laconia: 1,200 Tweets on Film. I don’t get it, frankly.

For example, tweets 782 and 783 (each tweet in the book is numbered and time-stamped) appear this way:

Our feelings and emotions about our lives and our faces are in other people’s faces. Changing movie faces are our feelings and emotions

about our feelings and emotions.
It would be very easy to recast these tweets in a way that keeps both sentences whole:

Our feelings and emotions about our lives and our faces are in other people’s faces.

Changing movie faces are our feelings and emotions about our feelings and emotions.

What then, was the point of using twitter, if you didn’t want to adhere to the character limit that forces you to construct your thoughts in short, whole or near-whole ideas? How is this text different than simply writing up your thoughts in a linear program and then copying/pasting into twitter (and then screenshoting them all to be printed in a book)? While it highlights the “digital origin” of the text, it just seems to be an unnecessary misuse of a writing platform. After all, if you have a plethora of writing programs to choose from, why would you willingly use one that doesn’t reflect the writing style you wish to perform (aside from artsy advante-gardism)?

Now this is what I call blogging™

So you buy a house.

It’s a nice house. It takes some getting use to. You learn where everything is. How wide the halls are, how many people can get along aside you in them. How the windows are best opened. There’s the bathroom and a closet and they are -this- big and -this- small. You have a living room and a dining room furniture and gadgets.

And one day you come home and realize all the furniture’s been moved around. Someone’s painted the rooms a different colour. The grandma floral-print couch and curtains have been replaced by minimalist Ikea furniture.

In other words my bank changed their online user interface today and I don’t recognize my stuff.

I’ve been complaining a lot about interface changes (mostly to Matt) and occasionally on here. I literally do not use Youtube very much anymore because I don’t understand it and can’t be bothered to relearn the whole interface again.

((Did I mention I have this problem with bathrooms? You know-some bathrooms have hand dryers, others paper towels. But sometimes those paper towel dispensers are automatic, sometimes they’re not. There’s a mall in my city that has none of the above. No, their hand dryers are cleverly hidden in the sink and are a part of the faucet. It’s like I’m in Ravenclaw and have to solve a riddle everytime I want in to my own house.))

When you travel to a different country, Matt pointed out to me, the electricity is different.

Mac and Windows have different interfaces. Have you ever watched me try to use a Mac? It’s terrible. They also can’t use the same programs, not with out adapters and specific versions, and you need special tools to connect Macs to non-apple products.

So I’m lost on my banking account. Paypal did this to me too. As did youtube and other accounts  that I only occasionally visit (and really how many online accounts does the average person in Canada have nowadays?). Maybe my house metaphor is wrong. Maybe it’s more like driving somewhere, except what the hell they’ve changed the roads and now there’s a Walmart and a Starbucks but where is the dentist that used to be on the corner?

Maybe I’m just not good with new rules. And I mean situational behaviour-guiding rules. For example: In a class room you speak like this (“I find the sentiments that Millennials have no patience to be incorrect”), at home you speak like this (“yo fuCK Time magazine”) and these reflect different constructions of the self. But how many versions of “I” can we split ourselves into? Even if you don’t think you’re a different person on Twitter than on Tumblr you’re using a different interface and having to function within a particular community with particular customs. How many different interfaces are we capable of managing? I’m not capable of that many, or at least, not as many as are being demanded of me.

And why do we have so many different interfaces? Open-source coding (if I’m using the correct term in the correct way) allows us to work together and make complementary technologies. I’m so glad most things use USB cords now.  Similarly, look at XML. It only works because its shared, because we all, mostly, agreed to do things “this” way. But I’ve noticing that the market seems to be diversifying technology and mediums–and making their products very exclusive.

There are numerous things happening that I am trying to get at:

  1. Interfaces changing when maybe they don’t need to & changing often so that users become lost. Many popular websites are guilty of this.
  2. The diversity of online interfaces and the way they demand different ‘social’ versions of ourselves and different ‘user’ versions of ourselves
  3. The diversity of technological interfaces
  4. Incongruousness between technological and online interfaces and their demands of us

So there’s a lot of stuff being thrown at us. We are constantly having to relearn things. Remembered when you changed your password that you relied on for five years? You made the new one yesterday but you can’t remember it. What happens when a website (Say Tumblr) decides to switch the places of the “post” and “close” buttons? You’re like, “this isn’t my house”.

On thinking of on it briefly I can guess that the reasons some companies are diversifying their user interfaces. You need need to buy the additional products of that company to work with your first product. So $$$ right there for the company. You would think that making it more accessible would be better because it should be more useful, and therefore appeal more to buyers but alas. Secondly, if you get your users used to a particular platform that works very differently than other platforms, you will essentially “wire” those users to that platform–making other platforms difficult or frustrating to initially use and thus, you have in fact, successfully “wired” those users to be incompatible with competing products. In the end you have a what we’ve mentioned before in class, the “guaranteed audience”.