Stopping to smell the penguins

On April 23rd we held an IOCT research seminar in which the findings for the "A Million Penguins" research project were presented. Jess has blogged about it and the PDF of the report is now up on the IOCT research project site
The crux of the presentation was an analysis of "A Million Penguins" as a carnival in the Bakhtinian sense. Rather than thinking about the site as a "failed" novel, I think it makes far more sense to look at how the various users (and those who set it up) tried, not always successfully, to transliterate notions of authoring, wiki behaviour, editing and publishing within the setting. In this respect, the wiki novel is more like something out of the folk tradition. Instead of stories shifting and changing as they are transmitted over generations, in "A Million Penguins," plots, motifs and characters shift and change over hours as you track them through the edit history of the wiki.
As Simon Perril noted in a question, the texts and performances in a carnival are often quite conservative and formulaic and this reliance on formula allied to attempts at transliteracy probably help explain the types of text we see there.
For a fuller explanation, please check out the report or leave a comment. We also intend to publish papers that go into detail about some of the subjects arising from the project and will point them out on this blog as they happen so watch this space.


2 thoughts on “Stopping to smell the penguins

  1. “A Million Penguins,” plots, motifs and characters shift and change over hours as you track them through the edit history of the wiki.”
    This quote puts an emphasis upon time in regard to sequel authorship.
    This emphasis on immediacy privileges quantity (time) over quality (narrative value)… the novel can follow oral morphological changes in character and narrative (perhaps) but does it necessarily
    represent a qualitative privilege in the said immediacy or a problem with
    mediated immediacy? The novel can still fail as a narrative and perform a technologically mediated
    form of immediacy. At the same time is this immediacy about the poetry (narrative), or is does it prove immediacy as an affect of the mediated network? The pro[blem|mise]s of the network in terms of narrative production still seems at issue.

  2. Interesting comments Talan. I suppose to a certain extent this asks the question of “A Million Penguins” – what is the novel? If we read just the final versions of each page then is that the novel or should we read all the pages in their different versions? The latter is not really feasible but I think if we regard Penguins as a cultural text then we read all the pages in all their versions because they form part of it.
    In that respect there is no narrative to Penguins but one can extract various narratives from it. Then again, as someone who is a social scientist and not a literary critics, I’m close to the edge of what I know now.

Comments are closed.