Queerskins

This might be my favorite piece of e-lit so far. This might be the most intriguing piece of e-lit I’ve seen so far. At the ‘work website’-webpage I barely glanced over the work “transmedia”. I know I’d read / heard it before, but couldn’t quite place its meaning at that moment — but, oh boy, did I get a nice reminder of its definition.

Going through Queerskins: a novel, I was introduced to a means of presentation which I hadn’t considered as an option so far in our classes. Each division of chapters hold their own number of medias used to present the story. These options are either, short snippets of videos, excerpts of written diary entries, or — sometimes even — a few still photography. These different medias are all combined in to a single piece in an effort to instill atmosphere and presenting a story through the reader placing themselves in the character’s place — instead of simply presenting it as one would in a strictly written piece of media. And as far as I’m concerned, it worked. It seems to me that video clips is the most frequently used form of presentation in this piece, but the choice to make them short and narrated gives the illusion that they’re just as much diary entries as the physically written parts of the piece. This is sort of ingenious, because the author is basically feeding the reader the same story with two different medias which is made so similar and intertwined between each other that the reader is offered various choices that still are very similar to one another. The diary entries are a nice break from the more frequently used video clips while people usually think of video as a welcomed break from reading, only here it’s reversed.

The content of Queerskins, at its face value, seemed to me to be limited in its nature — but once I got past the Missouri chapter I started to realize how big the picture actually was. I was drawn to the story of Sebastian and the way in which it was presented. It got my brain going and I was able to pour some of the inspiration I gathered from this piece into my own project for the class. Although I didn’t finish Queerskins, I did bookmark it so that I could come back to it at a later time, after all, I think I could learn a few thinks from the execution of the presentation in this piece. There’s certainly a great deal of things I would like to add to my “wish list” regarding my own project.

My own project:

Mia proposed that I consider a hypertext tool named “Inklewriter” to see whether or not that’s a media that I can use for me project. Although I’m not entirely satisfied with its “somewhat” limited functions, I’m thinking it’s at least a safe choice for me to be able to use to flesh out the content. I’ll more than likely feel like the visual and atmosphere aspect of the piece would be lost — unless I did some severe changes to the setting altogether.

The way I look at it now is I have to focus on the complicated design of the pathing system to the piece. There’s a red line through the content that the reader is supposed to follow, and then there’s the multiple diverging paths that lead to extra information and extra choices. I need to find a way to make all of that intricate content flow naturally while it’s also manageable for someone like me who’s never tried to work with either Inklewriter or Twine before. I’ve done some research into Twine and I’m starting to think that Twine might be the right option for me, but I need to play around with it more before I can tell.

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On ‘Being Spencer Pratt’

It’s probably fair to say that most people have watched some reality shows — and I’ve watched my fair share myself — but I’ve never watched a single episode of the Hills, nor did I have any idea who Spencer Pratt was until Sophie’s presentation on “Being Spencer Pratt”. I was delighted to find that he is, by my estimation, a real prankster. The idea of taking control of a celebrity’s twitter account and posting as a fabricated British poet, posting, playing, and pranking the unaware celebrity seems like an idea that we would see more often by now. Or do we? The idea of placing a piece of internet-based improvisation with the intention of having people deemed either authentic or fake is fascinating. The world wide web must be the easiest platform out there to convey an opinion of statement and just watch people duke it out at each other over its authenticity. As some old and wise wizard of the web may or may not have said at one point or another; “only a fool would take anything posted here as fact”.

Once an actor step in front of a camera they become a character, and we as the viewers are made aware that he is a character. Well, who’s to say that once a person sits down in front of a computer screen they don’t become a character? Who’s to say that doesn’t happen all the time on the internet? It is common knowledge in the Youtube community that most Youtube “celebrities” who sit down in front of a camera are playing a character. Would that make most Twitter “celebrities” only characters as well then? If there hadn’t been a reveal of the entire project at the end of “Being Spencer Pratt”, we might’ve been bamboozled into thinking that it was all real — except for the part where the fake British poet incorrectly used a few British slangs and people called him out on it — it could’ve been a perfect crime. (And they would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling Brits)

Do you think there exists ghost tweeters? The term “ghost writer” is used for music artist — and maybe most specifically rappers — who can’t come up with lyrics on their own, so they hire ghost writers to either finish up their work or even write the whole thing by themselves. Are we going to live to see the day when the scandal of Donald Trump’s ghost tweeter is revealed? What a time to be alive.

High Muck a Muck

First of all I had to look up the phrase “high much a muck”. I can only recall one other instance of ever hearing this and it is in the song Wonderboy by the band Tenacious D. I even had to look up the lyrics of the song to be able to compare the two different usages. In the song the lyrics go: “High above the mucky-muck, castle in the clouds. There sits Wonderboy, sitting oh so proudly.” The way the phrase is worded is different but I think there’s room for interpretation there.

The definition of the phrase “high muck a muck” goes like this however; “an important, influential, or high-ranking person, especially one who is pompous or conceited.” That’s all fine and dandy, but the issue comes when interpreting the entire piece of electronic literature itself.

Before I start off talking about the parts I didn’t get about “High Muck a Muck”, I’d like to point out what I appreciated the most: the presentation. Talk about a visually gorgeous work of e-lit. The combination between water color painting and a map looked stunning, and the combination of an exposed body serving as the landmass across a map looked pretty cool—and not to mention the “hotspots” placed across the map giving the reader different responses depending on their shape and size.

This piece made me think several stories I’ve heard—but admittedly haven’t researched enough on my own—of the rail road work in the United States in the period where the rail road companies worked to connect the west coast with the east coast, and create a “highway” across the mainland. This thought came to me first and foremost because of the combination of the music—which sounds like the combination between a melancholy and tranquil song played on a wooden flute—and the various references to Asian culture and heritage spread across the work. (There’s also a gong placed in the a few times, which immediately directs me to an Asian.)

And then once you click on the option of “Canada” we actually get to see rail roads, people carrying tools, and a sigil that says, “Canadian Pacific Rail Way”. Like I mentioned earlier, I admit to not know much about this, but with the combination everything I’ve seen in this piece I’m thinking the piece is predominantly working around the immigration of people of Asian to the west—in this case Canada, and even more specifically; Nelson, Vancouver, Richmond, and Victoria.

The stories that I’ve heard surrounding the rail road work in the United States were horrendous. We’re talking working conditions that killed people, and companies that would rather see their workers die in the ditches so that they could get out of paying them for their work. Apparently, if memory serves me right, Asian immigrants were exploited because of their willingness to accept awful work for awful pay when others would refuse to work under the same conditions.

Although I haven’t been able to go through the entire piece as much as I’d like to, I’ve found that I enjoyed it so far and I’d like to highlight the aesthetics and atmosphere surrounding the piece the most, and I ended up placing the literature part second to the presentation—for now.

Hunt for the Gay Planet

I’ve choose to write about “Hunt for the Gay Planet. I’ll start off clarifying that everyone and their grandmother have made the comparison between this piece and Quing’s Quest—but I’ll do it one more time just for good measures.

Both pieces have the same—either horrible or comforting depending on how you think of it—design to their format. There’s a dark background, giving the allusion to the vast universe and space travel, and then there’s the colorful text on top of it. Nothing too revolutionary here in that sense, but at the same time it is a nice throwback to how a huge chunk of early internet web-design looked. This was in the time period that we like to call “the wild west” of the internet, for good reasons.

The design is either really off-putting, or nostalgic—in my opinion it is both, but it still comes off as very hard to look at. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing since I’m thinking that the callback is intentional and a part of the overarching theme of the piece. Both pieces use the color pink to in their text, it works better in Quing’s Quest as the text is actually (in my personal opinion) easier on the eyes compared to the white text on black background design choice of Hunt for the Gay Planet.

As far as the content goes however, Quing’s Quest comes out on top against Hunt for the Gay again. A few of us spoke up during the last class presentation on Hunt for the Gay Planet, and for the most part people thought the content was lacking, the writing was off, and the representation was weak. My overall impression of the piece was that it wanted to dive into an issue regarding representation of LGBTQ in video games (Star Wars: The Old Republic to be specific), but in its attempt, it barely even reached far enough to scratch it. Someone said in class that they missed the variety and options that Quing’s Quest offered compared to Hunt for the Gay Planet, and honesty, I didn’t even think about that during our presentation—but I wholeheartedly agree. The “hypertext” format itself is rather limiting when it comes to any kind of extravaganza—so the only real strength of the format, besides the writing and story, is the option to add multiple choices of how to venture through and discover the piece, and Quing’s Quest did this right. Even if some of the choices were limited to options like “change outfit”, or “use the toilet”, or even “take a selfie”—it’s still something, and it’s appreciated.

I remember hearing about the “controversy” of the “gay planet” and thinking that this is A. a cash grab, and B. this is pretty weak bait if they intentionally wanted to start a discussion or outrage for some publicity, which is wholly possible, but a risky move on their part.

We’ve spent some time discussing whether or not some of the pieces we’ve gone through can be categorized as either games, or pieces of literature, or both—and I think both Hunt for the Gay Planet and Quing’s Quest can be viewed as games. Visual novels are interactive games popularized in Japan during the early 90’s and still going strong to this day. The design is rather simplistic as it features a subtitle bar at the bottom for text and interactive options, while most of the screen that’s left is dedicated to presenting a static graphics of characters that interact as slideshows going

It’s not a far cry to suggest that he hypertext format as a whole and both of the pieces I’ve discussed here are rather similar in their representation. The goal is to create a game that is simplistic in design, yet full in content and replayability. Quing’s Quest falls more neatly under this category than Hunt for the Gay Planet, however, but the idea is the same and it is disappointing to see the inherent lackluster content of the latter.

It’s an understatement to say that Hunt for the Gay Planet didn’t hit its mark with the majority of our class, but I think a lot (or all) of the worthwhile discussion surrounding the piece reverts back to how it left the majority wanting more than it delivered.

Alright, that’s all for now. (I feel like this developed into more of a blog on comparing Quing’s Quest and Hunt for the Gay Planet, than purely a blog on the issue of the Hunt for the Gay Planet itself, but oh well)