Episode 44: Texts in a Different State of Matter

It’s been a while since I posted anything and I have to admit that a lot of stuff has been happening around here and very little of it is academic. Might do a more stalker friendly bio update once I get into the proper discipline of writing regularly. Still, I have been keeping with some of my readings and will probably write on some 90s sitcoms in between readings just to keep things fun.

I’ve been working a lot on John Bryant’s The Fluid Text. This book was a pretty cool one from MA thesis and being able to redifine textual fluidity to make it fit within the model of serial fiction in that the publication forms of the narrative make it change. Now the first few chapters of this book are editorial theory pure gold. I don’t rarely underline and mark up things in books but man I’ve got whole pages with huge asterisks of awesomeness. The one problem is that I think I’ve got all the good stuff already, hence any good passages I assume that I’ve already quoted before. And the rest I mark off as irrelevant because it’s all about Hemingway and his bookTypee. Short version: The British/European version was really good and rathe raunchy. When they brought the book to be published in the US it was basically gutted and edited worse than watching the tv version of Scarface. Whole chapters were removed, a bunch of small sentences just about everywhere and they never acknowledged the short sequel. The UK version however was unedited and included the sequel in its subsequent reprints. It’s like what you actually imagine the Director’s Cut/Unrated version of a movie. It gets even weirder once a bunch of textual theorists got together to make a version of the book that contained all of its variants between the version, something called a “genetic edition”.

So yeah, textual fluidity is awesome and can be applied to anything. I wonder if I could ever make a genetic edition of OOTS showing stuff like time between installments, footnotes gallore to explain references, and all the bonus comics from the books. That would be amazing.

 

Episode 43: Holodeck Serials Part Deux

Finished reading book a while ago but post about it completely escaped me. There are two things that were readily apparent throughout my work with the the text. As I mentioned previously, you can really feel the book’s age. There are a lot of moments where Murray contextualizes digital narratives by saying that it is in its early years and that the future holds so much potential as to how storytelling can get to. The weird thing is that I feel that I am living in this future that she hopes for, where computers do some pretty amazing things when it comes to cool digital texts. Especially when it comes video games, where the narratives is really extended and has gone beyond the “violent natures” that Murray says is a staple of the medium (which I totally get even before GTA 3 changed the landscape of freeform violence but it feels like she is putting video games down).

The second point is the weird equilibrium act that Murray goes through by saying in one part how hypertext and digital expansion are completely new and then saying that you see the spirit of it hundreds of years before. It was a similar feeling to what I went through when taking a New Media class during my MA. If you really push beyond the boundaries of the metaphysical box you will see that there are a lot of innovations and acceptance into the mainstream but very rarely do we get to see anything actually new. If you ever want to see old school hypertext, just take a glimpse at motherfracking Finnegan’s Wake, you need like six extra books and an old map, not to mention a million footnotes to understand pretty much anything.

Something else that pops up is the importance of exploration and interaction. The holodeck and the promise of digital storytelling is that you can go off the rails and be free to basically do whatever you want. This seems a lot more ludological than narratological but it’s a pretty cool idea. The whole multiple perspectives is considered to be kaleidescopic, shifting changing and colorful.

Now I will go through some of my highlighted material and give some quick important parts for future review.

Introduction: Pedagogically speaking, it’s important to “create immersive learning environments.” 6 very ludological

“the computer is not the enemy of the book. it is the child of print culture. 8

Ch.1 p.21 Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World is presented as the dystopic version of how technological storytelling can screw you up. “multisensory media is overpowering.

p. 26 the whole page is cool. holodeck vs feely. “eventually all successful storytelling technologies become transparent.

Ch 2 p.28 “incunabula” indicates the outputs of a technology that are still in their infancy.

p. 30 “multiform story”  story that has same plot shown in different versions. Like Rashomon or It’s a Wonderful Life

p. 55 “lexias” reading units, originally proposed by Barther, later adapted by Landow to denote hyperlinks.

Ch 3. p.66 every new medium has an an incunabular period. In the case of film: “by aggressively exploring and exploiting these physical properties, filmmakers changed a mere recording technology into an expressive medium”

p.72 Eliza the computer program psychology that is the mother of all chatbots.

p. 77 Murral loves the game Zork, big use of participant interactions to help the story be developed.The problem is that programmers need to plan for everything by keeping the story formulaic.

p. 85 Just all of it is awesome. Fans are super important because they actually like narrative continuity. Websites surround just about anything now, adding a new level to the story via archive and open possibilities for fan interaction and further evels of storytelling.

p. 91 Ted nelson, guy who made up the word “hypertext”, says that it works best for our contemporary “hummingbird minds”

Ch 4 98-99 “immerssion as a participatory activity” learning how to swim. “computers are liminal, located on the threshold between external reality and our own mind.”

p 101 Peter Pan the play (clap if you believe, moment) is audience participation at its best

p. 104 Tristam Shandy and Daffy Duck are super examples of metatextual elements as I like to call them.

p. 107 hypertext vs hyperreal rides at amusement extending the narrative of the film, making an actual immersive environment

p. 110 It’s not suspension of disbelief but rather actively creating belief.

p. 116-117 MUDs and LARPs are AMAZING! because immersion at maximum, story is fluid.

Ch 5 p. 132-33 Deleuze’s rhizome, connectivity of ideas, applied to postmodern hypertext. Kind of like a kudzu plot.

p. 146 light gun is an “ideal threshold object”

p. 152-3 “Authorship in electronic media is procedural”

Ch 6 p. 156 Regardless of how weird a medium is we understand it because “we know how to read the conventions of these media.”

p. 167 The Bronte sisters loved to make their fantasy worlds with complex characters and plots that reflected their lives. They would have been awesome at Dungeons & Dragons if all the stories weren’t crazy romances.

p.170 Digital stories allow us to “enact stories rather than to merely witness them”

p. 174 Cool quote by Michael Joyce about the importance of closure. p. 175 people were really sad when Cheers ended “it provoked an orgy of public nostalgia.”

p. 181 “simulation narrative allows us to explore process… it allows us to participate in the performance.”

Ch 7 Master plots and tropes galore. Vladimir Propp and oral storytelling analysis.

Not much to say beyond that point.

 

 

Episode 42: Serials on the Holodeck: Part 1

In my attepmts to take my reading labor more seriously, I am attempting to turn my analytical responsibilities and to an etent my blogging capacities into my full time job so to speak. I need to get a lot more hours done a day but I’m working my way up. I have already gone through some of the more fun books in my list and need to balance it out with some critical theories. Now most of the books on the theoretical side of my readings were already read for my MA thesis, and by read I mean looked at the one chapter that made the most sense to my writing and quoted it extensivelly. To get me on the right track, I’m starting out with Janet H. Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodeck, one of the books that paved he way for electronic literature, digital humanities, and just about anything having to do with technology completely changing the way the printed word can be perceived.

The first thing that you will notice upon reading this book is that it is really obvious that this book was written in the mid 90s.I get this really cool feeling of nostalgia when they start saying that this new show called Wings uses a website, or that SimCity is a really realistic simulation city. It does however get really weird when you see that VIrtual Reality and super 3D was the hope for the future. It gets kind of odd once it gets to the parts where the most realistic version of a videogmae with interactive storytelling is an MUD or a full scale LARP game. So yeah the book does not age well but I think it goes to show just how crazy the advancements of technology have taken place in less than 20 years. Then again, had Murray been able to predict the craziness that is Google, Wikipedia, Augmented Reality (even if it just a marketing term), not to mention the gamechanger that is Minecraft, to see how much the Internet has changed between the ages of AOL 600 hours of free Internet and our present. Oh man the next generation is going to look at the Super Nes graphics the same way that I look at the Atari 2600. The good news about this is that it’s constantly changing so my research may actually be relevant towards the everchanging landscape of of narratives in cyberspace.

Here’s some context for those with minimal nerd cred out there. Let me explain what exactly is a Holodeck. You see, my generation’s perception of Star Trek brings to mind The Next Generation series rather than the original. As someone wrote in something else which I can’t remember but the quote itself was pretty awesome: Star Trek reminds me of a bald British guy trying to act French. Also, if anyone says that Picard is a heartless captain, they are technically right because he has artificial pump that looks like Tony Stark would want to upgrade to for better cardiac output. So, ST:TNG had many geektastic elements but the holodeck was certainly something that made imaginations suddenly rethink what was possible in the realm of reading, and more importantly for storytelling. It is a slightly big room that has nothing in it, you go inside and tell the computer what you want, and then the magic happens. Ok, not magic so let me go into some technobabble to explain the process. The holodeck uses hard light technology to project holograms that actually have mass and are thus perceptible by all senses. Thus, objects that are presented have an actual texture and weight, something that is pretty impossible your standard CNN/Tupac hologram. The cool thing about the holodeck is that any variable can indeed be changed by just asking the computer to make necessary alterations. All of these things are pretty awesome when you consider how you can custom tailor a virtual vacation to incredible specifications.

As cool as a holoprogram sounds, it pales in comparison to a holonovel. Imagine that you were seeing a movie but were no subjected to the camera’s gaze as your only vantage point. You see, there’s an observation mode that allows you to walk around the entirety of the setting without effecting the story. You are Emerson’s invisible eye, wandering around with complete freedom. Remember, how I said that any variable can change, well that includes the personalities of the actual characters. That means that the computer can alter any aspect of the story from the original text and will continue going without even so much as a hint of lag. To be fair, the computer on the Starship Enterprise and Holodeck is Siri to the power of Jarvis.

That’s not even the coolest part about the holonovel system. You can take the place of any character, or even ask the computer to make a new character for you. Now you are a leaving and breathing part of the narrative. It gets pretty funky when you think just how much adlibbing you can get away with, or when you act completely out of character. Every other character will act accordingly but may easily dismiss you if you start talking craziness or think that you are a witch depending on the temporal setting. It gets even cooler once you see that you can use the holodeck to playback historical archives. There’s a weird episode of one of the most recent version of Star Trek Enterprise, technically a prequel with Scott Bakula of Quantum Leap fame being captain. The cool part was that the entire episode was the now Admiral William T. Reiker of ST:TNG was going to give an important address to Starfleet and used the holodeck to see  and live through a harrowing moment  that those members of the Enterprise went through. He was even the cook so that he could talk to several people in the crew and get their thoughts on the matter. Pretty awesome stuff that the 25th century might have eventually.

Anyways, tomorrows post will go into more detail as to the book itself. Provided of course that my arms will be in working order. If you haven’t seen it yet, I posted on my FB a photo that for every like in a 24 hour period I have to 5 pushups. Last I chacked I’m up to the 150 mark, if you want to add to that, feel free. One last thought on serial fiction that has little to do with this book but it came in a dream and I figure I should write it down and share it.

Serial fiction is ultimately a revisionist exercise in writing. Issues of narrative continuity and consistency in overall tone are just a few of the elements that must be in constant balance with the publishing of each new installment. The story will inevitably change as time goes on but one now needs to edit previous events without being able to go back and alter the original text. Here we see the power of retcons, how the most recent installment contains the closest thing to an available truth, and even that what was originally written in stone can easily be erased. Future editions beyond the original searilization can make necessary changes to previous moments in the narrative so that they fit with the most current interpretation. Don’t believe me? Ask your nerdiest friend why it’s such a big deal that Han shot first or how putting CGI Hayden Christenson next to original Obi Wan and Yoda is a travesty.

Episode 41: Avengers Assemble and a Character’s New Orientation

After a long and adventorous, but pretty draining day, I’d figure I should write a few things I’ve been to provide my two cents about. The first is of course the awesome Avengers movie that is breaking records all over the place. The second is the speculation over which character from the DC Universe. Let’s get right into it.

I’m pretty sure you would be asking, wait that movie came out weeks ago and everyone important has already written about it, not to mention I’ve already seen it. To which I respond, hey that stings. I waited this long because I didn’t want to ruin all the spoilers. That and I’m lazy but let’s focus on the important things. First off, let’s not consider Avengers as simply a congregation of Marvel heroes for an epic movie. Consider it a sequel of converging narratives within the interconnecting storylines of many characters. Each of the previous movies serves as an introduction to each of the characters and various plot points to their own complications but also of bigger problems that will require the help of all these things. Many are quick to say that Black Widow didn’t have her own movie, but I remind people that her role in Iron Man 2 did pretty much work as her intro to the stage. Haweye had all of two minutes in the Thor movie, in which he aimed an arrow for a while, menacingly!,  and that’s it. By making him a brainwashed vilain for the first half of the movie you got the whole mysterious crazy dude that is deadly well trained. Also, he was a loner from the start, there isn’t that much of an emotional connection to the character. We got all of his backstory via Black Widow and she is the only person to at least have a something of a budding romance in the film. As an aside, it was certainly refreshing to not see a romantci subplot throughout the movie.

Another character that got some interesting development was The Hulk. And by that I mean that they didn’t give him a huge emotional back story and made Bruce Banner all mopey and emo about how no one understands his pain. They wanted to distance this version from the one done by Edward Norton, good but not great, and the one from a little before that that many fans pretend doesn’t exist. You didn’t see a Banner that was completely in conflict with himself, you just had a scientist that could turn into a raging mass of muscle, sure you had to be afraid of the transformation but Bruce was pretty cool about the whole thing. That and having Hulk smash everything was just awesome. “Puny god”! may be my new favorite line after curbstomping people with delusions of grandeur.

The movie itself is pretty awesome but only when you don’t think about it too much. As a conversation with a friend of mine today revealed, if you know Joss Whedon’s style, it quickly turns into a game of Trope Bingo, and you won’t enjoy the movie. I’m just glad he didn’t kill off Agent Hill,Robin, Colbie Smulders or Black Widow. Also, if you are a big fan of the comics and know decades worth of material and an intricate knowledge of Norse mythology then you will have some problems with the whole evil plan thing. This blog makes a really awesome analysis of the whole thing and is definitely worth the read. http://exurbe.com/?p=1368 

In short, awesome movie no way they could make it had they not had the intro films for the main characters beforehand to develop their characters beforehand. It stays pretty faithful to the source material but true comic book geeks will have some issues with the film, and honestly I’d be scared if they didn’t. Let’s see if the next round of sequels for the indiviual heroes and a probable Avengers 2 movie against Thanos and with more schwarma.

Here’s something I’ve been getting asked about because I have some knowledge of comics. DC has recently revealed that they are about to reveal that one of their iconic characters would now be a homosexual. Speculation about who would it be has gotten a lot of people wondering and conservative political pundits into a stupor. A lot of experts have weighed in on which character it would be so this part is going to be a quick summary plus my own thoughts and bets on the subject. First off it won’t be any of the big heores like Superman or Batman. Some of you may remember that George Clooney did an interview when he played Batman that he acted the role out as if he was gay. In the immortal words of Seinfeld, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Any popular enough character that goes through a change of any kind that completely alters the character will make readers go nuts and the comics industry has alienated it’s core base way too many times before. Not to mention the fact that if you make Batman gay then Frederic Wertham was right and that would just be bad for comics from now until forever. Just because DC said it was iconic doesn’t mean that it has to be a staple character, it means anyone that has ever been a part of the Justice League.

The most obvious choice is a weird character called Jive, from the 80s when the Justice League was in Detroit for a few years. I think his powers were basically super breakdancing abilities and maybe something with urban slang linguistic manipulation but that one doesn’t come up as often. Look at his costume and you would also go for that one. But by making him too obvious you make it so that it won’t be him to have some sort of shock value. I personally believe that it’s going to be a second version of a well established character. So yeah, the second Green Lantern Guy Gardner or the second Robin Jason Todd are on the top of my list. As my dark horse pick I have to go with Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen because I think that his hero worship of Superman is more of a mancrush, which is actually a crush. Now let me write that in a way that can get me some hits via random Google searches:

Jimmy Olsen is the new gay character in DC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Confirmed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (by no one)

FYI DC already has a pretty cool character who is homosexual. Renee Montoya, Hispanic female was a cop in Gotham City for a while, I think she showed up a few times in the 90s cartoon but might be wrong, was outed as a lesbian and fired. Last I checked she became the newest version of The Question, who is like Rorschach only that he/she doesn’t actually have a face. I wonder if she’s the one that’s going to be doing the outing this time. Also, no matter who they reveal, a lot of geeks will be mad and a lot of people are going to say, who the hell is that person and why is this news?