Reading the Cards


Here is a link to my final project. Thank you to Ariel and Susan for editing my project. Have a great holiday, everyone!


Digital Reflection

As always, there are many things I would do differently if it were possible to begin this project from the start!

The number one thing I would change is the platform. Initially, I had the idea that I would use Tumblr’s tags in order to create a project that could be navigated in a non-linear format. In the end, however, that was too confusing for this project’s purpose. I ended up putting everything into a relatively linear format, and in doing so I had to cut and amalgamate a lot of of the posts, so the tags aren’t nearly as useful or necessary as I thought they would be. You can still navigate by tags through the header, but it’s no longer fundamental to the project’s form.

The biggest problem with Tumblr is that it’s impossible to alter the post order once something is online. This was a much larger disadvantage than I’d expected. Given infinite time, I would attempt Scalar, or go back to Twine.

With that being said, working with a platform to do something it wasn’t specifically designed for was an interesting challenge, and I think I learned a lot from it.

(If professors also had infinite time to mark work, I would have published everything through TinyLetter — I think it would be really interesting to experiment with a serial essay! I wasted a lot of time trying to make this work, but it’s very impossible.)

As a final note, I used Chrome while I was putting this project together — Firefox seems to generate a small broken image link at the top of the header. Hopefully that’s just a problem with my computer, but in the future I’ll remember to check cross-browser compatibility much earlier in the project.

Overall, this has been a really interesting course. There are a lot of platforms that I’m looking forward to trying out during the holidays. I’m also really looking forward to reading everyone’s projects!


Final Post!

This has been an interesting course!

I really enjoyed the theoretical material that we looked at early on in the course — Of Writing Machines and Scholar-Gipsies is the one that has stuck with me the most.  (Here’s a video of the automaton, in case anyone is interested!) The work on PDFs was also unexpectedly fascinating. It’s definitely changed the way I think about literature, digital or otherwise. Other courses have talked a lot about how format and structural constraints change the way we think while we read — this one has made me think a lot about how they change the way we think while we produce.

For the eLit, I loved the Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries work, and I’m looking forward to going through their other things during the break.

I liked the first assignment a lot. It was fun to do, and it was a great way to be use some new tools and apply our new theories.

I also really loved being able to look at each other’s work! At first, it was definitely intimidating to know that our classmates would be looking at what we were doing, but it also made polishing the final product feel more important and useful. It was so cool to be able to see other people’s projects! Usually, even in seminar projects, we’re all a little isolated with our own essays and assignments.

I also think it would be good to reduce the number of presentations. They were interesting, and I loved seeing what everyone is working on. They do take a lot of time to prepare for and present, though, and I would have liked more class time to discuss the readings. I also would have liked a little more time to muck around with the early stages of the project before committing to something.

I love the flexibility that working in on digital platforms has provided (and will provide in the latter stages of our final project). Writing for and on digital platforms definitely come more naturally to me than working on static text, and it’s been great to be able to present academic material in that space and mode. It’s even been useful for other classes, because it’s exposed some limitations in the format that I don’t think I would have otherwise noticed.

Week 11: Braid

Throughout this game, I found it interesting that Tim is usually the person who instigates violence. Most of the time, the goomba-like creatures wander around on their own until you get in their way, and most of the bunnies don’t attack you until you walk across their fields. The first boss doesn’t do anything until you start throwing chandeliers at it. Even after that, it stops and waits in the corner where it cannot be hurt until you draw it out with more chandeliers. It also felt strange, after a while, to be continually protecting the goombas just so that you could kill them in order to reach a target.

I think this works really well with the ending. You know how this kind of game works (kill the monsters, get the keys), and you get so involved with winning it that you don’t pay attention to what you’re actually doing in order to win. Likewise, Tim knows what the archetypical romance story works (beat your rivals, get the girl), and so he doesn’t notice the damage he’s causing.

It’s also interesting to think about how the game hails you. You play as Tim, but he’s also a separate person from you. In this particular game, there’s no alternative way to play the game — you can’t progress without trying to ‘rescue’ the princess, or without killing a lot of possibly innocent monsters, so you don’t have to feel responsible for Tim’s choices.

Not to open up a whole can of worms in regards to video games and violence, but I do think that a narrative of violent conquest is really common in most media (video games maybe especially, but not by any means exclusively) and Braid does a great job of critiquing that situation.

I absolutely did not manage to get the extra-secret-second-ending — to get it, you need to complete a puzzle that involves waiting in place for two hours, and that is too much of a time investment for me. For anyone who doesn’t mind extra-secret spoilers, though, there are always walkthroughs:

According to those, the bonus ending shows that Tim is actually a nuclear scientist and the princess is a split atom. I’m honestly not sure that this is an improvement on the first ending! It’s very clever, but I don’t think it’s as surprising or well-integrated into the form of the game as the first one is. I haven’t personally played through to the second ending, though — maybe it would feel as natural as the first one did if you experienced the game in the ‘correct’ manner. Did anyone actually manage to get that ending? What do you think about the difference in the two endings?

Week 9

I really like what Lisa Gitelman says about how the corporate roots of PDFs influence their functionality and reception. She says that they create hierarchical labour structures, where recipients of PDFs are encouraged to read without writing. I think that’s definitely true. Technically, it’s not difficult to highlight and annotate a PDF, but it doesn’t feel natural to do so.

A couple weeks ago, we were talking about how it’s easier to focus on a PDF than a website, even if the content is identical. Combining the two articles for this week, I think this is probably related to how PDF documents aren’t fragmentary. They do feel very static, and they’re really unlikely to have distracting hyperlinks. They also open in a separate program, so they don’t feel connected to the internet. For the sake of reading academic documents, these are probably good things.

How does everyone like to take their notes? What file format do you prefer to read academic work in? What about other things, like books or comics? Personally, I prefer epub for books because the text and page style are malleable.

The point Lisa Gitelman makes about our physical hands disappearing from our consciousness when we use computers is also really interesting. I think that this might be changing as touchable screens become more popular, and it probably varies a lot depending on what OS you use. Apple computers place a lot of emphasis on gestures, and both their mice and touchpads give a fair amount of physical features — they seem to want you to be aware of your hands as part of the machine.

I love talking about writing interfaces.

NaNoWriMo starts today, and one of the things that comes up every single year is users begging each other not to waste all their time choosing the perfect writing tool.

I think there’s a lot of sense in that — if you’re not writing, it doesn’t matter what interface you’re not writing in — but the interface you choose definitely does matter. Typewriters make it difficult to go back and cross our your errors. Scrivener lets you separate all your work into movable chapters and scenes before you’re even come up with a first draft. That has to change the way you think about the story you’re making.

I bought Scrivener the first year I did NaNoWriMo, but even with my fancy writing software I did most of my writing on the backs of napkins and homework and half-filled notebooks I scrounged up from under my bed. What that says about anything, I’m not sure, except that pen and paper is an extremely stubborn interface and I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

What kind of writing interface do you all use? Do you find it changes based on whether you’re doing fiction or nonfiction? (I can’t stand anything fancier than Pages for fiction, personally, but I use Scrivener all the time for essays.)

Sorry if I’ve posted this twice — my computer was acting up a bit!

Here is my outline

Here is what it looks like, visually.
Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 9.34.55 PM

Digital Strategy
I’ve chosen to present my project in Twine.

Twine appeals to me because it’s a relatively simple way to produce a text with multiple, nonlinear, branching pathways. I like having the freedom to introduce tangential arguments, and to allow the reader to read the essay in an order that interests them. I believe that this more closely replicates the way in which most people think and speak than the traditional linear academic essay does.

I also like the idea of attempting to use a medium intended for storytelling to present a nonfiction essay. I think this will be a good way to become familiar with the tool, and to test its limits. I think you always learn something new about a tool when you ask it to do something that it wasn’t strictly designed for. One issue I can see right off the bat is that the default theme fades in and out when someone clicks a link — this works perfectly well for fiction, but it’s disorienting for what I’m trying to do. That will be easy to fix outside the outline stage, and it will be good to be on the lookout for similar possible problems.

In a visual sense, the associative links that Twine makes between passages replicate the associative links that are made between various cards in a tarot deck. Part of my argument involves suggesting that the cards are part of a hyperlinked network. Accordingly, it seems fitting to write about them in a hyperlinked network.