Multi-Media

Currently, my multi-media project is conceptually undeveloped. I want to work with my own poetry, as well as audio and video to create a multi-dimensional reading experience; however, I am not entirely sure how this will flesh itself out. I know that I will not be approaching the project as if it were an electronic edition of  a text, because within that schema there is still a layer of division between the different types of media. Instead, I wish to create a project in which the different type of media are inseparable and vital to the experience of the piece as a whole.

I intend to use Thanksgiving break as a time to begin reflecting on the different ways in which this type of integration might be presented.

 

 

 

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In her final chapter of her work, Hamlet on the Holodeck, Janet Murray brings up an interesting point regarding the thematic roles of cyberdrama stating

We fear the computer as a distorting fun house mirror of the human brain, but with the help of narrative imagination it might become a cathedral in which to celebrate human consciousness as a function  of our neurology.

It is in this statement that I find a sort of implicit connection between two ideas that I have already explored some throughout this blog; the mind as an emergent complex system, and the human need for narrative. For the purpose of this post, however, I will reexamine certain key elements of these ideas.

Our thinking about human cognition has grown greatly through and is shaped heavily by the metaphor of the computer. I call it a metaphor, though I suppose it really isn’t a metaphor at all, but rather two varying forms of the same concept; the human brain IS a computer, though one that is made of organic components and is considerably more advanced than its mechanical counterpart. And, of course, the most important difference is that we have yet to create a computer that is conscious; however, there is nothing standing in the way of this innovation but time and continued forward momentum. It seems reasonable then, as I have already argued in my past blog post, and as Murray argues in this chapter, that the computer would be an ideal place for creating imprints of human cognition.

However, computers lack a vital need of the human brain; the need to translate the world around them into a running narrative. This is not to limit this to the creation of written stories of literature; the human brain creates narratives out of everything–our experience of the world around us is, in actuality, a narrative constructed by the brain to better understand the flood of stimuli that it is receiving.

So, if Murray is correct, and we moved toward using the framework of the computer, which simulates a simplified version of the human brain, to create a space in which narratives can be formed out of a simulated reality that serves as the raw data, then we are one step closer in bridging the divide between the way we actually use narrative on a daily basis and the ways in which we consider narrative as an art form, confined to words on a page. This connection is vital, I would argue, not only for our understanding of the art of narrative but of ourselves as humans.

 

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A Look at Coover’s The End of Books

In the conclusion to Robert Coover’s  1992 New York Times article “The End of Books,” he asks a series of pressing questions:

 With an unstable text that can be intruded upon by other author-readers, how do you, caught in the maze, avoid the trivial? How do you duck the garbage? Venerable novelistic values like unity, integrity, coherence, vision, voice seem to be in danger. Eloquence is being redefined. “Text” has lost its canonical certainty. How does one judge, analyze, write about a work that never reads the same way twice?

Of course, the easy answer, the one given in response to Coover, is that it won’t matter; people are not making the move over to hypertext fiction, which argues that people don’t wish to be “liberated” from notions of narrative but rather view the things that hypertext fiction is attempting to dissolve, such as structure and authorial voice, as some of the chief delights of reading fiction.

So here comes what seems to be a recurring question in an epoch of literature that is constantly forcing itself forward: is progress for the sake of progress really the goal of literature, even if it alienates the reader base? The response reminds us that the only people who read hypertext fiction are those that write hypertext fiction, comparing it (in what amounts, for me, to a painfully accurate insight) to the way that only poets read poetry today; so who is our audience? The scholar, the academic, the critic? The fellow writer? The undergraduate in English literature studies? Is that really why we write stories, to churn them  out of academic institutions and have them eaten up again in academic institutions, to create a little perfect isolated ecosystem of literary pursuit and perusal?

And, on the flip side, should those trying to progress literature buckle to the demands of the common reader? Should we, as writers, keep going full steam ahead into the unknown and have faith in the readerbase to catch on and catch up? Or perhaps the reader base is there to let the writer know when they’ve gone off the path; should their lack of interest in hypertext be read as a proclamation of “You’ve lost touch! Take your progress down a different path!” or will that only lead to the death of our T.S. Eliot’s and our James Joyce’s and a flooding of the market with Vampire erotica fanfiction?

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The Not-So-Impending Doom of Post-Literacy

In his article “Knowledge Really is Power — for better or for worse,” Ben Bova attempts to argue that, as technology grows more central to our lives, humans are making a shift away from literacy. I say that he attempts to argues this primarily because his points have a tendency to fall flat, giving him the appearance of a frazzled old man who, unable to cope with or understand the changing scheme of the world around him, becomes an anti-progressive doomsayer.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on Bova. However, he does make several assumptions that make it difficult to take his argument seriously. The primary assumption that strikes me as closed minded is the underlying implication that the increased popularity of new types of literacy, such as visual literacy, necessitates the end of written literacy. Bova writes the following:

Go into a typical bookstore and look around. The shelf space devoted to books shrinks every year, while more and more space is devoted to audio books, graphic novels (comic books), music, videos, greeting cards.

The problem with this statement is that it reflects not necessarily an end for linguistic literacy but a shift in the business model for bookstores that reflect the growth of new literacies; it is only natural for them to include a wider range of products to sell, and it’s only natural for these products to represent a wider range of the types of ways in which humans construct meaning. In this digital age, it is true that there is an increased need for auditory and visual processing, but this, contrary to Bova’s opinion, does not necessitate a regression of written literacy. In this digital age, we process more information than ever before in the history of man. This includes written text. Though the shelf-space for books might be slowly shrinking, the vast written archive of information on the internet has grown at a rate so exponentially unfathomable that there should be no doubt in Bova’s mind that reading and writing are still necessary parts of our daily lives.

Finally, though we may have the opportunity to process all of our reading through audio books and to do all of our writing through voice command, there really seems to be no evidence that these ways of approaching the construction of meaning are usurping the written text; rather, they provide just another valuable tool in processing the world around us.

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Constructing Literature

In the sixth chapter of Hamlet on the HolodeckMurray argues for the new possibility of a “novel that is not presented as a paperback but rather an electronic construction kit.” The idea of the reader constructing the text, in this most literal sense, is a fairly recent idea, but metaphorically it certainly has its roots in the kind of thinking that has been developing within reader response criticism. 

This new constructed novel, Murray argues, will be an extension of childhood imaginative play; the reader will construct the world and the actors within the world based upon a series of formulaic frameworks. Murray goes on to argue that through a series of creating, enacting, transforming, and reenacting, the reader will eventually manifest their fantasy in a sort of catharsis or closure to the play acting. While certainly this new approach could be a valuable way of shifting the way we think about narratives, the question arises as to how much creative and imaginative agency is best; as with most things in life, the answer seems to lie in moderation.

In order for the reader to manifest their own latent fantasy in the narrative, a certain amount of control over the characters, the setting, and the story must be present; this much Murray makes clear. However, to give the reader absolute imaginative control actually hinders the creation of closure, I would argue. For catharsis to take place, a certain amount of immersion is necessary; that immersion is compromised when the reader is also the creator, just as the director of a play can not fully immerse himself into the action on stage. 

If the reader is given god-like creative omnipotence, immersion will be broken, for to be truly immersed you must both act and be acted upon; if the reader/creator is the sole designing force, he cannot be acted on, and therefore cannot become fully immersed in the experience. 

However, having a limited amount of control actually increases the sense of immersion. When a situation acts upon the reader/creator in an unexpected way, the presence of some control will serve as a foil that will actually amplify the effect of helplessness, thus allowing for deeper immersion, and for greater impact on the reader. 

The new image of the reader/creator, then, is one of a demi-god, who, while being a powerful creative force, is sometimes a victim to unchangeable circumstance.

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October 23, 2012 · 12:17 pm

Class Heuristic

In approaching a class heuristic I began with the current heuristic and integrated my own ideas as well as some of the more key points from the two more concise heuristic examples given.

Content:

  • Length should be appropriate to demands of the content; ideas should be well developed. 
  • Analysis is more important than summary (engage with the ideas). 
  • Posts should be thought-provoking and relevant, and should include original ideas, rather than just opinions on the author’s ideas.
  • Does the post make use of elements of design and multimedia?
  • Is the project executed in a creative or innovative way? 

Clarity:

  • Can your post be misinterpreted or misunderstood?
  • Do the design and the non-textual elements hinder or aid understanding?

Believability/Credibility:

  • Include specific references to the text you are using – i.e. quote the text or include a page number
  • Include links for sources outside of the required reading
  • When in doubt, include some form of citation

Audience:

  • Write and design for a specific audience, even if it is a general audience
  • Keep in mind the “unintended” readers – this is a public blog!

Grammar and Mechanics:

  • Proofread for readability
  • Remember that this is a 500-level writing class!

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Google Books

In How the E-Book Will Change Reading, Steven Johnson looks at a not-too-distant future in which E-Books have shifted the way that books are read and produced. Of his arguments, perhaps one of the most alarming is his notion of the indexed and ranked paragraph and page:

Imagine every page of every book individually competing with every page of every other book that has ever been written, each of them commented on and indexed and ranked. The unity of the book will disperse into a multitude of pages and paragraphs vying for Google’s attention.

Johnson envisions a world in which we search and discover books based upon the collective suggestion of other readers in terms of most visited and remarked upon passages. This assertion seems to make the assumption that Google will structure its book searches in this way, which is a scenario that I find particularly unlikely.

It makes very little sense for Google, who, for the most part, are fairly renowned for their creative and intuitive approaches to technology, to base their book searches on something so fundamentally flawed. Readers don’t read books for individual passages, and Google undoubtedly understands this. I would envision instead a search result system that is multi-faceted. The user would be able to browse numerous lists of top ranking books based upon a number of criteria: best-selling, trending, most critically acclaimed, etc. Even the inclusion of an online ranking system, which allows each user to rate the books they’ve read, would create a ranking system more intuitive than one that bases the search results off of most googled passages; after all, a passage might be googled not for its merit but for its confusing or convoluted nature.

Finally, online book stores don’t shift one of the main driving forces to read, which is a desire to be included in a social and popular experience. Word of mouth will always be the most influential driving force for readers, and the internet allows for a greater network of shared opinions; these opinions, by the very nature of how humans read, will not be broken down into individual passages, but rather will be based on books as a whole.

For further exploration of this topic, why not examine Google’s current book store?

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