The Electronic Literature Collection

The ELC, a library of hypertext literature, contains examples on how literature can be adapted to the internet. Here are my thoughts on some samples from the collection:

Faith by Robert Kendall

Faith is a poem presented in a visually innovative way. This text doesn’t require much interaction from the reader as some other hypertext does, and could even be presented on paper and still have a similar effect. However, in its electronic form, it uses flash animation to weave together the poem, reusing words and letters by shifting them into new places as the lines progress. The placement of the words and their actions, such as falling and bouncing off each other, helps illustrate some of the points of the poem. For instance, when the word Logic falls down and bounces off of the word Faith, an implicit point is being made and the animation is not just a technical necessity.

Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw by Donna Leishman

I had trouble with this work, trying to analyze it is a piece of literature.  It really seemed like more of a puzzle-solving game, or an interactive cartoon.  I didn’t encounter any text, however it might be buried somewhere that I just couldn’t find.  This primarily involves floating your mouse around the screen, looking for places to click that will change the landscape or move the action to another scene.  The story is about a girl that is possessed; as indicated by the title, and the scene in which some demon like creatures are touching her.  There is also a priest sitting at a desk with a clock, who could be waiting for her.  While this work demonstrates some really nice animation and web design, I had trouble following it as a narrative.  Grasping a beginning, middle, and end is difficult.

Strings by Dan Waber

This is an interesting piece. The title refers to the words on screen that appear as strings being shaped into letters. The formation of handwritten text is combined with typical movements that are associated with emotions or conversations. For example, in the section titled “argument”, the reader watches as the handwriting morphs between the words Yes and No in a tugging and pulling motion. The anxious movement of the text is easily associated with the feelings of being in an argument. This work kind of redefines the phrase “bringing the text to life”. In the section called “flirt”, the text slowly passes on the screen while morphing from No to Maybe. In “flirt (cntd)” the word Yes playfully skirts the screen before moving into the middle and rotating. In “haha” the action of laughing is illustrated by starting with a single Ha, and then in waves from side to side, adding more Ha’s until a full belly laugh, HaHaHaHa is achieved. I like the way this work changes the expectation of how words can create imagery – their moving actions add to their constructed meaning.

Galatea by Emily Short  

(This is taken from a larger review I did, available here.The story takes place at an art exhibition, where a critic finds himself having a conversation with a sculpture.  It just so happens, that critic is also the reader of the story.  As the reader, you are entitled to ask the statue whatever questions her vocabulary can handle, and listen to her thoughts on a number of subjects.  The length of the conversation can be brief or long, depending on the topics discussed.  Galatea is a great introduction to the genre of interactive fiction, because of its relatively short playing time and fascinating subject.  The medium of interactive fiction is highly receptive to Galatea’s theme of human interaction with art.

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