While looking for more sources I stumbled on a rather good article by Scott Rettberg, about the future of E-lit within academic study. He is a professor at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Late in the post he says that it’s more likely to end up in the domain of studio art programs as opposed to creative writing. He offers a good argument for the issues facing e-lit and where and why it may end up fitting into the academic world. He mentions a few of the pieces and some of the others we dealt with in the ELC1. Although it isn’t totally on topic for my paper, it was a good read none the less and may be of use to someone else. Rettberg actually has quite a few good articles online about digital literature and video games among other things. Here’s the link if anyone is interested, First Person, Games, and the Place of Electronic Literature. If you go up a level to the posting board there are a lot more articles on similar subjects too.
Since prehistory human beings have used one method or another to record information; mediums as simplistic as charcoal and ochre smudges on cave walls to quantum computing by reading electron spin. The longevity of storage has become an issue with newer recording mediums. Writing either on or in stone has obviously stood the test of time, though logistically impractical. Recordings on printed paper (papyrus) stretch as far back as 2000BCE in the Prisse Papyrus, though in admittedly atrocious condition. Storage on paper does not have an indefinite life span, but given ideal conditions this medium can last millennia. More modern mediums, especially digital ones, have made dramatic improvements, most notably improvements in size. Today entire multivolume dictionaries can be stored on the head of a pin. Unfortunately there is a draw back to digital recording mediums; with newer mediums longevity has taken a back seat to size. The most obvious problem with the longevity of digitally stored media is that even under ideal conditions information will disappear. Magnetic storage (cassette tapes, hard disks, etc.) only lasts a few decades; even compact disks cannot last indefinitely. This however can be averted in much the same way it is with books, with reprinting. There is another issue that has already started to arise with modern storage methods, that is obsolescence of a medium. The transition from stone to clay to paper took hundreds of thousands of years and examples of each remain to this day, yet in the past fifty we have go from vinyl to magnetic tape to compact disks and beyond none of which are likely to last a century. The ability to access information is already an issue and will only get worse with time. How many of us still have access to a working 3.5” floppy drive? How many even care if they do? However if the only accessible form of Van Gogh’s or Oscar Wilde’s works were stored on floppy disks, we certainly would care. The idea of just letting go of great works is inconceivable. Unfortunately this is a possibility with some newer works which are designed in and bound to a digital medium. Electronic literature could suffer a sad fate if steps are not taken. Just as floppy disks have fallen by the wayside, the technology used to read e-literature could suffer a similar fate. All of the pieces in the ELC require a program to be accessed. If Quicktime, Flash or Gargoyle became obsolete and no longer available, almost all e-literature would be lost to us. The preservation of art, literature, science and philosophy; all the best of human culture is invaluable. The ability to access, use and enjoy this wealth should be available to everyone including future generations. Libraries, archives and museums need to begin taking measures to prevent the loss of digital culture in all forms. Whether by keeping all programs needed to access digital art forms or by transcribing them into newer technologies as they come. Measures must be implemented to prevent the loss of digital culture before it disappears.
Who wants the best toy ever conceived? Why everyone of course! Imagine it now, your very own Slinky! Just joking, it’s myBALL: the dream toy of tomorrow. This bad boy does it all: plays roll and catch; give your kids someone to talk to; helps with indoctrinating racial prejudice and best of all, can be dressed up like your favourite financial institution. That’s myBALL, the toy that replaces any need for human contract for the kids and eliminates any point in having kids for the parents.
Over the ages literature has grown and spun off in countless directions. The advent of computers has allowed the creation new subgenres in literature. Interactive fiction is one of these young genres which would be impossible without computers (debatably in some cases.) Interactive fiction fuses traits from both literature and gaming, forming a piece of work which requires reader participation. Though interactive print novels are possible, digitalized pieces can be far more complex and offer infinitely more possibilities.
In ELC Vol. 1 Emily Short contributed two pieces which fall under the interactive fiction genre, Savoir-Faire and Galatea. Though both are dramatically different types of stories with different styles of interaction; both require the reader’s interaction in order to form a story. Looking over these two pieces helps demonstrate the broadness of this genre. The first can be likened to an adventure story and or game. The later would better fit the description of a dialogue story: a narrative between the reader and a non-player character creating the story.
Savoir-Faire creates a story using interaction in a form of game play; much like a video game would but purely in text. The reader collects items and solves problems while wandering around, putting together the pieces to create the story. Similar to a traditional adventure story in print, Savoir-Faire is linear with a set beginning and end. In this case however, the reader manipulates the path between these points to create the story. Traditionally this would have been solely the realm of the author. The major difference is that the path is no longer a straight line set by the author but rather a winding road chosen by the reader.
Apart from the need for participation from the reader to form the story, Galatea shares little in common with Savoir-Faire. In this piece from Short, the reader creates a story out a conversation between you and the other main character in the story, Galatea. In Galatea reader participation takes the form of asking questions, telling anecdotes and performing actions, like touching and thinking, to progress the story to one of its many endings. The structure of Galatea is multi-linear because it has a set start and many possible endings, a feature extremely difficult to replicate in print. “Choose your adventure” books offer readers a rudimentary form of a multi-linear story telling, but they are limited by logical constraints. The introduction of a computer allows an author this possibility without horribly inconveniencing their reader with a giant book accommodating all the possible routes.
Interactive fiction is an excellent example of how computers can be adapted by authors to develop sub-genres of literature, that would be to impractical in traditional print. I’ve offered only two examples of interactive fiction, though vastly different in their manner of telling a story. Even as a sub-genre there is broad potential for design in interactive fiction. The sole requirement to fit into this group is that the reader must participate in order to create the story.
Review of Brave New World
Huxley’s novel, “Brave New World” offers readers a glimpse at a futuristic dystopian society, where social stability is fervently guarded behind the guise of individual happiness. Huxley’s use of dark humour provides for a satirical look at a potential path the changes of the early 20th century could take. The inter-war period in which the book was written, was ripe with numerous new and revised philosophies, which Huxley takes to extremes. Socialism, consumerism, eugenics and new technologies; all major issues of the day, have been teased to the utmost to create a perverse futuristic global utopian society. The story can easily be seen as a social critique and also a forewarning of the potential dangers the future could hold. Huxley’s “Brave New World” may not be considered an entertaining read by many, but without question it is a thought provoking one.
People are manufactured en masse to fit prescribed roles and then contribute to social stability and maintenance, up to and even after their death. The [Brave New] World State’s motto “Community, Identity, Stability” goes beyond cradle to grave; it lasts from preconception to “phosphorus reclamation” during cremation. Huxley has created a society which has in many ways combined key qualities of the two primary economic ideologies of his day: socialism and capitalism. Marx’s famous saying “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” has been modified in “Brave New World” to something closer to: from each according to their design, to each according to their desire. With the preservation of social stability being paramount, people are conditioned to fulfill every social need and to be ecstatic in doing so. If ever anyone has a momentary lapse in happiness there is a perfect miracle drug to bring them right back. As Mustapha Mond a “World Controller” put it “… if ever, by some unlucky chance, anything unpleasant should somehow happen, why, there’s always soma to give you a holiday from the facts.” People have been indefinitely spared the burden of anything unpleasant, feelings included.
Until we are introduced to John the savage, we see only the faintest examples of discontent in society. On paper their world seems near perfect, everyone has a place and a purpose and no one is ever neglected or unhappy. John’s experience with the “civilized world,” quickly leads him to be dissatisfied with it. Upon his eventual meeting with the world controller we learn the consequences of social stability, the death of high art and the end of passion most notably. By the last chapter readers are able to see the world for what it truly is; a humanized bee hive. Life in this “Brave New World” is a doped up, mind-numbing, emotionless crawl from birth to death, to the extent that humanity is in all but the most basic sense dehumanized. Although people have been spared the possibility of anything unpleasant in their lives, they too have been spared any of the intrinsic joy in life.
A brief question, which most, would likely answer just as briefly. One could expect answers along the lines of: why not; I enjoy it; to learn about any number of things; because I have to. If we expand on the thought behind the question slightly, it becomes a more profound philosophical question. Once expanded, the question could include aspects such as the relevance, importance and consequences of reading.
The first and likely most common reason to read is purely for pleasure. Presumably most will derive some enjoyment from their reading, regardless of other potential reasons. In this respect, reading provides an enjoyable opportunity for mental exercise, likely more so than most other ways of passing idle time.
Arguably the most important reason to read is to improve one self. Although it is possible to learn without reading, it has many advantages over other mediums. Through reading we have access to more information than with any other form of media. Reading in comparison to learning from other forms of recorded thought, such as television or radio, is by far the longest lived alternative. The possible exception to this would be open discourse, though this is problematic as human beings have a nasty habit of dying. Although this can be dealt with through the passing of information by word of mouth, it is likely to digress into a form of the telephone game. Reading allows us to experience the views of countless people through out the ages. We can have the most complex thoughts explained by the masters, be told the most entertaining fairy-tales from modern to ancient times or study the art of the most gifted individuals (never mind the infinite quantity of crap that has been spewed out over the eons.) Through reading we are able to experience all these things without needing to be in the presence of the authors.
The ability to read and write is one of the most important developments in human evolution. It offers a timeless window through which we can examine our history. It is possible that human communication may be able to surpass its dependence on written language, but at this point in time, it is unforeseeably indispensible. Is it not human nature to advance and improve? What better way can we hope to accomplish this than by building upon the millennia of recorded knowledge information and creating an endless supply of inspiration for the advancement of future generations.