Chercher le texte

It was a pleasure to attend the Electronic Literature Organization‘s annual conference in Paris: Chercher le texte. In addition to planning and brainstorming about the Consortium on Electronic Literature (CELL) , I presented a section of my manuscript and received fantastic feedback that helped me revise it for publication, both for the book and as a stand-alone article for the electronic book review.

MLA 2013

MLA 2013, Boston:
Digital Technology, Environmental Aesthetics, Eco-critical Discourse

Objective
The objective of this special session is to initiate a conversation about the specific ways that digital technology participates in environmental aesthetics and practice. In particular, we aim to discuss the importance of codework, digital archivization, and digitally-based pedagogical techniques to environmental poetics. Continue reading “MLA 2013”

Orange you glad…

The MLA was a jam-packed extravaganza. My panels went well, I met lots of neat people, and I got to see many amazing people that I don’t get to see nearly enough; I also learned lots of new stuff about online games, OCR, phonographic audio-books from the Victorian period, Thoreau, code, and the evolution of microfiche. But my favorite part of the conference occurred at around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, in panel #486. It was at this point that Mikhail Gershovich demonstrated to a crowd of many the pedagogical potential of MaKey MaKey by using the kit to control his computer with…wait for it…a banana. Yes, a banana.  The MLA has reached new heights.

Flower

We recently checked out “The Art of Video Games,” on tour from the Smithsonian.  It was a blast!  Not only did we get to play old arcade favorites and wax nostalgic about the home entertainment systems of our bygone youths (hello, ColecoVision!), we also got to see some games that departed familiar gaming conventions (i.e., the first-person shooter, the quest-oriented adventure, the OCD creature that needs to consume (or touch) everything in its path).  I enjoyed the whole exhibit, but I particularly enjoyed playing ThatGameCompany’s Flower for PS3.  There’s no object to the game, really.  You “play” the wind and as the wind you blow through different environments, picking up flower petals along the way.  It’s a gorgeous game.  You get to be the wind.  You get to participate in an (albeit simulated) eco-system.  You get to move your whole body, not just your wrists and fingers.  I enjoyed how I felt when I played it: I could lean into it, bend away from it, glide and drift with it.  I didn’t feel anxious or tense (the way I can sometimes feel in games in which I am chased) when I played it.  Instead, I felt relaxed and a little dizzy, like I’d been flying.

Kafka in CATMA

I’ve been wanting to do more with markup but don’t have the time I would need to do it in XML.  So I heard about CATMA (Computer Aided Text Markup and Analysis) and have been playing around with it.  It allows you to load a text and tag it up according to your own logic.  I picked Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” because I am curious about the way transformation works in the story. The title of the story suggests change in general and Ovid’s poem, in particular.  But Ovid’s poem is filled with marvelous transitions and transformative sexual encounters, all contained within a highly mobile text that leaps from character to character with facility.  In Kafka’s story, on the other hand, the change is painfully singular and ironically (paradoxically? satirically?) a result of societal and personal stagnation. The story’s form, too, is excruciatingly confined (we remain trapped with Samsa in his bedroom for the duration).  But even so, a transformation has occurred, and I am curious about how the words about change that appear in the text might be linked to the way that Samsa’s roach-body gets revealed, in parts, leg by little leg.  So I went through the first section of the story and tagged all word-level instances of change, bodies, and body parts.  I don’t have any conclusions yet, but it was cool to see what my tags revealed in terms of frequency and distribution. (Lots of little legs.)

Robot Evans

Robot Evans is the name of my Avatar in Second Life.  I didn’t “make” Robot Evans so much as I customized her from the template.  With that said, Robot Evans made me aware of both the limitations and potential of these pre-packaged (but malleable) bodies and helped me think through some ideas I have about self representation online.  Many thanks to my friends in Second Life for the stylish tuxedo and top hat.

Here is an interview with her, conducted in-world.

Dragon Balls!

I made the game DRAGON BALLS! in Scratch to accompany my husband’s awesome web comic, ODIN AND FRIENDS, which is also my favorite web comic, and not just because it’s by my husband. You can blast some of Odin’s enemies here:

Notes: Scratch was fun and easy to get started with, but I was useless when it came to the math involved in timing the speed of fire, so I used the pieces of another scratch game to help. Also, all of the images in the game come from ODIN AND FRIENDS or other projects. In other words, I assembled pieces of other people’s stuff to make DRAGON BALLS! work.

baby

It’s no wonder that Robert Coover’s “Babysitter” is often invoked as a hypertext precursor.  The story is filled with recursive text chunks, overlapping timelines, and shifting centers of perspective, all of which destabilize a clear linear progression and  make the story a convincing precursor to hypertext fiction.  But what if you turned the text of Coover’s story itself into hypertext?  What if you linked to different characters within the story and followed these links?  I conjectured that, if you did so, you might find that hypertext, in this case, would make a more linear story out of what is a nonlinear print-based text.  To test this conjecture, I took a section of Coover’s text and linked all the instances of the word/character “baby.”  You can check it out here to see how it reads.

Location Tracker

I made this “Location Tracker” for William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer for a graduate seminar I took with Alan Liu at UCSB: ENG236: Landscape and the Social Imaginary.

Because Neuromancer is a frenetically paced novel that moves through an overwhelming variety of urban landscapes, this “location tracker” attempts to help orient the reader by offering a succinct “map” of the many physical, virtual, and referential references to place, chapter by chapter. Feel free to report errors and/or omissions to swanstro@gmail.com.

Notes: I used Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and BBedit to make this project. It was a fun project because it was simple in terms of its design. It also helped me visualize in a (mostly) non-verbal way what my reading of the novel had suggested.

The larger project I did for the class is here:
http://www.lisaswanstrom.net/landscapeprez.html