Archives for category: Rant

Schafer and Gendolla talk about the theory of human-computer interaction in their essay “Reading (in) the Net.” They start by discussing the three original ideas of communication, Human-Human, Human-Computer, and Human-Computer-Human-Computer. The first was imply the idea of humans talking to each other over computers and working together to create works or art. The second involves a human giving some creative control to the computer and having a program create some part of the work. The third is an example of a potentially endless collaboration of writers and programs can create something ephemeral. The works created using the third method would always change after each reading. This calls into question terms like “author,” “work of art,” and “reader.” Since the work would always be changing, a single person would not be able to claim it as his own because people are always adding and contributing to the work. Thus, they said, a new writing theory should be created with four considerations taken in its wording: attraction to networks (a series of points in which each point can connect to every other point), synchronizations by resonances, narratives as means of creating meaning from coincidental actions and occurrences, and connections of texts, images and sounds as multimodal operations between the central nervous system, physical-sensual interfaces and computers.

The main point they seem to be making is that the traditional idea of author and reader do not really apply to these new kinds of works since they are not concrete pieces. The fact that they can change leads to the idea that the reader has some control over the piece, which leads to the notion that there is no reader, only authors viewing their own pieces of work. I believe that each piece still has an author that is not the reader. The reader is the person that interacts with the piece; they may change it and that may lead to a different experience for the next person, but the author is the one that created the rules governing why the piece changed and how it might change again. There is a new video game coming out soon, FireFall, that is going to change the world and have events generated based on what the players have been doing. The community will be, in a sense, controlling the direction of the narrative which is the FireFall world. However, the author of that story is not the community, it is the creators of the game. The players may make decisions on what actions they take to affect the world, but the game designers are still the ones that determine the effects of their actions. So while sometimes it may seem like these new forms of work are blurring the lines between author and reader, I believe there are still some clear ways to define each.


Espen J. Aarseth wrote that the screen would change the way we read and how narratives themselves are written. His book Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature (1997) discussed the new forms of media that were appearing at the time (text based games, Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs), and adventure games) and believed that they would lead to a new form of narrative in which the reader was in as much control, possibly more, as the writer. He compared cybertext to being lost in a world and finding actual hidden passages and secret rooms as opposed to the metaphorical ones a person could say they found in a book. However, the world did not change to suit his vision. Books still continued to be published and people continued to write linear narratives. Even the examples he cited began to shift back to the linear structure, MUDs in particular began to constantly become a story being told around the player with the only control being your actions would eventually move the plot forward. There is a resurgence of this type of story telling with games like Fallout 3 and Skyrim which are completely open to the player, there is even a new MMO (multi-man online game) that is going to allow that player community to shape their world and all the content will be player driven. However, the idea now seems so foreign that many are applauding FireFall for this unorthodox approach and hoping, as Aarseth must have, that this may have a profound impact on the medium. The point is that they did not take off as Aarseth envisioned they would; whether they do in the future is anyone’s guess but I do not see it completely replacing the narrative structure any time soon.

The fact that the Kindle and iPad allow for users to recreate the feel of turning a page even though they are obviously just holding a tablet does not seem like a step back to me. On the contrary, it seems like the logical step forward. The Kindle, and at least the eReader part of the iPad, are not meant to be new forms of narrative; rather they are meant to be a new way to access the same things we have always been reading. Laptops gave people access to the internet from almost everywhere, however, they were (and still are) slightly bulky and you can’t just pull one out and use it comfortably; it still requires some setup, usually a table or at least a chair. The iPad however is small enough to be used everywhere without having to sit down or find a table. Thanks to that, people found that they could access all portions of the internet and all their files without having to carry cumbersome things, and if they didn’t want to carry around things that may be necessary, ie. their laptops, why would they want to carry around a multitude of books to read when they might have some free time. Apple, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble realized this and each created a device to condense their books into a light weight object that people would not mind carrying. The Kindle, Nook, and iPad eReader are not technologies designed to help ease people into accepting some new breakthrough in the story telling method; they are simply newer devices to distribute the same material we love, ie. books to Kindle as records to CD Players and then iPods.

What is the screen as an environment? How does the screen evoke the semiotics of space?

The screen is our window into another world. It is how we see the vastness that is the internet. Anyone who makes a website has to understand the concept of space since they have to know where to place what they want seen. Afterall, the screen is a set size, and if you do not take that into account, your site can look huge and unwieldy. No one wants to go to a site and see a scroll bar on the bottom of the page because that means that the viewer has to constantly be scrolling from side to side to see if anything extra is there.  Tablets are also expanding on the screen’s number of uses. They use the screen as a controller, allowing touch to manipulate the device in a simple manner that reduces the number of peripherals needed to explore the world that the screen shows you.

The screen is also fundamentally different form the page in that it is fluid. Nothing on a screen is permanent and so one screen can show a multitude of books or other pieces of information, while a page will always show the same finite amount. The fact that it is forever changing makes it seem more like we are looking at a huge map through a microscope. It is so vast and yet we can only see a small portion of it at a time. However, we enjoy feeling like that about the internet, but a single page should feel like a single page and be easy to navigate.

The screen has evolved from the page into a more fluid and dynamic format, and yet it has also devolved back to the reading format of the scroll. While people still separate their writing with different pages, there is no set length for a page and so the same problem that scrolls had (being incredibly long and having to scroll top to bottom constantly to look at references) can reemerge. While it is true that if you are using a standard computer there are functions to quickly find certain sections of a page, but that is not a function of the screen itself, eg. you cannot press CTRL+F on an iPhone. Will it change how people write? I think it already has.

The eGnoetry poem generator is definately a nice work of art in and of itself. It has great value for people who would like to play around with certain styles of poetry but cannot make it themselves. The generator can create three different types of poems (Free Verse, Quatrain, and Haiku) with three unique styles (Alice in Wonderland, Shakespeare, and Heart of Darkness) and if all you want is to see something new in the same style, then I believe this is the perfect tool for you. The only problem I have with this is that it requires no effort on the part of the user. For personal use this is fine, but for any other use, it would be as if someone told Christopher Nolan that they wanted to make a Batman movie and then taking credit for The Dark Knight. The generator is the poet, not you.