At first, I didn't know in what order I should approach the pieces in Volume One so I just started clicking. Pretty soon I was bored and annoyed that nothing seemed to hold my interest long enough to compel me to dig through its often-poorly-conceived formatting or less-than-gripping story line or mediocre graphics. So I quickly stopped watching and revised my approach to ask:
1. what am I really looking for?
2. under what rhetoric would I actually deem something worthy of long perusal?
My conclusions are (naturally) incomplete and fallible, but they try to address our favorite problem of Access vs. Relevance. Far too much of the former and far too little of the latter. The internet seems to make everyone think he's the next poet laureate or the next dada painter.
I guess what I'm looking for when I explore these sites is the perfect combination of visual landscape, audio accompaniment and literary relevance that will move me. I think I (perhaps naïvely) want to feel some sort of satisfaction after I see or read a piece of "New Media Fiction" that seems to interlock its various components such that I feel compelled to see it again. Without sounding smarmy, this is the way I felt when I saw Group 3's series of parentheticals when we did the Spreeder exercise. I wanted to watch them flash on the screen again. I wanted to think about why they were so satisfying. But, truthfully, I'm hardly ever "moved" by the Internet. I don't go on the Internet to be "moved". That's why I read books. So that's the balance I'm trying to find with this new media stuff, but I'm not even sure if that's a noble or worthwhile pursuit. I did constantly think, though, in my quest for this beautiful movement of sorts, that as much as cool Flash graphics and interesting backbeats can pulse through some narrative, a bad poem or story is still a bad; a bad poem or story thinly veiled with complicated visuals and silly music is worse. And I know that it's not about whether I agree with what they're doing but what they're trying to do, but I think in many instances, the "trying" doesn't match what is feasibly absorbable by an Internet audience. Maybe it's too many things coming at once. Maybe it's not enough. It differs for each piece.
On that cynical note (and given my rhetoric I'm probably setting myself up to be brutally shot down because my choices are still purely subjective and someone could easily say: "But that's not good at ALL! That's the DUMBEST ONE!!" Ah well.), I would say my favorite was Urbanalities. I thought it was a unique and clever random-generation of words with well-done, simple visuals and a wonderful soundtrack that kept me interested even though I knew it was going to be 10 minutes from the get-go. (Usually I'm like: 10 MINUTES?? Are you out of you mind?? I don't have that kind of time to spend on the INTERNET!!) The beginning grabbed my attention right away with pulsing strings and comic-style randomly-generated words under a river and city scape. I was especially drawn to the part with the gunscope and the various "Possibly the Adjective Noun: Pronoun Verb Modifier" s. Then, after it finished, I clicked on Escha, which directed me to a site with some great music from the piece. Then I went back and clicked on Babel, which inadvertently directed me to Kate Pullinger's Inanimate Alice stuff, which I immediately liked and later found to be in ELO too.
All in all, I do applaud these pieces because they are at least attempting to bring more literature to a venue that seems otherwise poised to eradicate it (or, if not eradicate it, compress it to its most efficient form). However, I do not think an overwhelming majority of these pieces do it well. Yet. Hopefully they will.
Finally, and as we talked about, there's something to be said for having a niche. And there's something to be said about having a niche that works for you. But, even still, I didn't think Jim Andrews' Nio offered me much more than an idea of what "evocative synesthesia" could be and perhaps a cool new screensaver.
*Although I sound quite judgmental,there were quite a few other ones I did like including (but not limited to): Stir-Fry Texts, Strings, Oulipoems, The Jew's Daughter, and the Spatterlight ones (gawd, those can really suck you in for hours, eh?).