first impressions


“Electronic Literature” is clearly an inclusive term. It even sounds like the kind of thing that is going to be an umbrella for myriad stuff, much of it new and completely foreign. Even with Katherine Hayles’ enumeration of the many known incarnations of E-Lit, I cannot say I knew what to expect from “Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1.” Growing up with the internet, I’ve seen a lot of weird things. Things that were funny, disturbing, confusing; sometimes all at once. That said I guess I should have been better prepared for the experience, but I have to say, I found “The Possession of Christian Shaw” genuinely disturbing. There was something mildly pleasurable about finding the right things to click to open a new part of the story, if you can call it that, but if it had been later in the night, and my roommates had been asleep, and the sound had been louder, I don’t know if I would have kept “playing” as long as I did without getting spooked. “The Dreamlife of Letters” was pretty, at first, but the novelty wore off before the “poem” got as far as the letter C. If I could have made a screensaver in 2000 that looks like your electronic lit in 2014, I don’t think you’re doing a good job. Speaking about the year, if most internet users are young adults and that is the intended audience of your piece, I feel it is important to know that in order to be successful you have to catch our attention and hold it in about 30 seconds. The internet is full of 6-second videos of explosions and supermodels and singing animals, and they’re all stiff competition. Your time to win the audience is limited.  “Carving in Possibilities” was a cool idea, but when I found out that I didn’t have to mouse over David in any discernible pattern to free him from the marble block, and in fact that I could just wiggle my finger over the trackpad until the masterpiece was revealed, I was a little disappointed. All in all I found the visual elements of these pieces intriguing and inspirational for my own work. The interactive element on the other hand, such as it was in the pieces I experienced, I felt were either lacking or frustrating or both. I might be jaded from countless hours of video games, and I might be underestimating the complexity of these pieces and this medium, but I hope to incorporate the knowledge of what I feel did and did not work here into my own projects in the future, hopefully to their benefit.


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