Monday, January 22, 2007


Like a lot of other people, I was a bit bewildered by the ELO site. For a good number of the stories, I vacillated between self-castigation for my closed-mindedness (of course there's meaning in all those swirling letters, and you're arrogant enough to think that they might make more sense ordered one-by-one across the page?!) and outright closed-mindedness (what was this guy thinking?) In Les Lettres Dérangés, I am at a complete loss. I read and reread the directions. I can't seem to make any progress at all. If this is abstracted meaning, it's been abstracted one step too far for me. Apparently, the text does take on meaning if the reader exhibits "some luck and a lot of tenacity." I tried, I really tried. For me, this poem/story/whatever was all frustration with no payoff.

But as I read through the pieces, I found a few whose medium clearly contributed to and even enabled the meaning of the story. For me, The Cape is remarkable in the way it is able to evoke a particular mood -- of a cold, empty, disconnected part of the world that retains a gentle, playful absurdity. The piece's medium contributes to its overwhelming irony, as arcane diagrams and courier text dance via javascript on my LCD monitor. The text evokes a sense of distance between childhood Cape Cod and the time and place in which the text is being written, and the interaction between archaic and modern media I think reinforces these moods of otherness and distance. Mutually reinforcing form and meaning is always good, and this story showed me that possibility in new media writing.

Not that the other pieces don't play on the interaction between form and meaning -- on the contrary, I the more I look, the more I see this in other pieces. Maybe I like The Cape because there's it's so balanced -- the connections aren't laid out to me explicitly like in Faith, so I don't feel like I'm being preached to, and they're not altogether denied to me, like in Les Lettres. I guess it raises a pretty old question in a pretty new way -- how much work do readers have to do, and how much do they like to have done for them?

For the webspaces, here's one I found on Wikipedia: asciiconvert. The site lets you upload images and converts them to their most basic ASCII representation. ASCII art is from an era when computers didn't have enough memory to create game graphics in the modern sense, but it's still pretty cool today. It makes you acutely aware of the electronic nature of the medium -- it's as close as you'll get to exposing the raw bits that make up a computerized image.

On the other side of the Long Tail, I have to bring up Wikipedia because I hope we talk about it in class as much as possible. I won't write much about it here because I'm sure everyone's familiar with it, but I'm interested if anyone has any strong opinions in of the good for the world/bad for the world variety.

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