Electronic literature has been a bag of mixed feelings, and I’ll try to sort my experience in this post. First of all, electronic literature is not reading a traditional text on a digital screen. The whole idea of literature as a linear text needs to be re-imagined and rearranged before we can understand how to create a story within the electronic literature genres; simply because the rule of thumb is that the story is created in a way that requires digital technology to read. This probably sounds like heresy to die-hard fans of books, but I do not believe that it’s not going to replace traditional texts – nor does it want to. I believe that there are certain stories that can be conveyed in a better way with the help of digital tools; with multi modality.
I’m not experienced enough within electronic literature to write deeply about specific aspects, but I’ll try to reflect on what I know and my initial impressions with a piece later. Just from the definition of the genre, I like the potential of ‘hypertext fiction’, ‘interactive fiction’, and ‘generative fiction’. Hypertext gives you the ability to jump in a timeline and let your own mind connect the dots and form the complete story, and that can be an amazing journey. Using the interactive style is like creating a narrative of cause and effect, you choose how the story progresses based on your choices. That’s why it’s linked to gaming, and why I mentioned electronic literature in my previous post, when I talked about The Talos Principle and how the choices made in the computer terminal changed the story. The game world is also filled with QR codes, created by former “players” in the narrative. You’re not required to read the comments, but they help in creating an imagined world, so they contribute to the story and the meaning behind it; the philosophical reflection on the world.
I tend to lean towards creative works that supply a deeper meaning, and that speaks to me in some ways; I guess that’s the point of art though. So, while I was digging through the Electronic Literature Collection, trying to find something that spoke to me, I found a piece by David Knoebel. Published in 2001 and it called “ThoughtsGo” and is quite simple. It’s an interactive piece where the narrator is talking (audio clip) while animated text flows through the negative space, but only when the viewer clicks and holds a button engaged. This is set up to represent how we hold on to thoughts, and how easy it is for them to slip away. That’s why I love it; the simplicity, the allegory of aspects of the mind.
That is in a way how I prefer to enjoy electronic literature. I need the balance between clean visuals and story content; too much visual clutter will throw me off and not giving me enough threads to sew it together. Lack of great design and visual clutter is why I would not pay much attention to the Electronic Literature Collection in the future, it bothers me too much.
David Knoebel’s Thoughts Go