Friday, January 19, 2007

I give you...Hovercraft!

It is sort of difficult to choose just one ELO story to say I admire. There are so many stunningly original and creative pieces up that it makes me pity my own creative powers a little. So, although I am desperately in love with so many of the stories, I will pick one to say I admire. I was very fond of The Bottomless Pit. It was eerie and chilling, and it gave me this involuntary emotional response. A visceral reaction like that is relatively rare, and it really made me appreciate the way the artist used the medium to elicit that response. I also liked 10:01, which described in detail the backgrounds and thoughts of several people sitting together in a movie theater. It did a remarkable job of taking a more traditional form of storytelling and somehow perfectly suiting it to new media. I could keep going for several pages, but that would be sort of lame. So.

One of the ones that I wasn't particularly keen on was Soliloquy, which was a written transcription of everything its creator said during a week's course. I liked the media portion of it, in which any sentence your mouse hovered over became visible, but it was just not interesting. This guy was not that funny or witty; the things he said in his daily life simply weren't interesting enough to keep me reading. I think it isn't that hard to take everyday events and make them compelling - that's sort of what blogging is all about - and he pretty much failed on that front.

Which brings me to my creative piece. I felt Soliloquy could be improved upon, so I used a similar format, where hovering over things makes them visible. The hovering made me decide to name it Hovercraft. Coz, you know, you hover the mouse. Plus hovercrafts are cool. Who wouldn't want a hovercraft, right? Anyway, I was originally planning to present mundane life in a compelling way and succeed where Soliloquy failed. But then I kind of got out of hand and things got a little more abstract. Also, there are various links hidden here and there in the text. The links are to pages and images that I chose at random, but I think that if you click on them, your brain will find a way to connect them to the text in which they are contained. I feel that this says something about the human brain, the nature of hypertext, and why hypertext and new media can be a very appealing form of writing for us.

Moving on to the next part of the assignment, I rather enjoyed the Wired article about the Long Tail. (My favorite part was when it name-dropped Walnut Creek, California as an example of a place comprised of "mall shoppers" who wouldn't be inclined to buy unpopular things; I grew up in Walnut Creek and its bordering city Lafayette, and that is extraordinarily true.) Although I'm still not convinced that "conquistador" is the least used word in the English language, the concept of the long tail very much appeals to me, since I'm one of those annoying pretentious people who tends to scoff at popular things just because they are popular.

A website that I like that is fairly popular is Homestar Runner. It's a site with really hilarious animations...but you probably already know that. It may not be in the elite super-spike on the utmost left-hand edge of the long tail, but it's definitely in that meaty upswoop before the tail gets all spindly.

A website that is more of a "hidden gem" is Strip Generator. As you may have already discovered, I am fanatical about webcomics. I found Strip Generator somehow one day, probably from a link on a webcomic site somewhere. It is a cute little site where you can make your own comic strips with pre-drawn characters. Obviously it's not hugely creative (as I said, the characters are pre-drawn), but there is still a fair amount of room for originality and I thought it fit pretty well with new media writing. Also, it's very fun to play around with and very well set-up for a website that is probably pretty small in the scheme of the intar webs.