Calling Transliterate Readers! Two new #elit works by @crissxross

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Rememori

Rememori is a degenerative memory game and playable poem that grapples with the effects of dementia on an intimate circle of characters.

Play-read or read-play, however you approach it and whoever you identify with, you’ll become entangled in a struggle for accurate recall, attention and the search for meaning. Inevitably, it’s a contrary game – there can be no winners.

OOT_thumbnailOut of Touch

In our world of perpetual connectivity, touching interfaces that keep us out of reach, we form attachments whilst remaining detached, by turns kindling and dampening emotions. Out of Touch is a short multimedia e-poem created in Flash, with sound.

Conceived as the first in a series of musings on the paradoxical and often poignant nature of human relationships amid networked life, this episode was commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for the Third Hand Plays series curated by Brian Stefans, published at SFMOMA's Open Space in August 2011.

Transliterate Effects

In their very different ways, both works encourage the reader to consider transliterate effects and reflect upon how they cope with such effects as individuals and in their relationships with others. Read more about the background to these works in these crissxross blog posts: Rememori – a new work and Third Hand Plays: Out Of Touch.

Modified image of brain: source thanks to Wellcome Library, London.
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The electronic writer as trans[per]former

What’s the ideal skill set for a transliterate creative practitioner? I’m not sure. All I know is it’s very broad, encompassing a wide range of creative, multimedia, storytelling, problem-solving and technical skills – at least it is for an electronic writer/artist like myself, who tends to work alone. Here I’m thinking mainly about the skills and creative abilities you need to develop and create a work of digital storytelling or electronic literature. But what about once the work of e-lit is finished? How can you help it reach an audience? How do you promote it? That’s when another set of skills comes into play.

We’re used to seeing print writers give readings on the literary festival circuit. Electronic writers need to do this kind of thing too. Self-publishing and submitting work for online publications and exhibitions is fine, but you can’t just rely on an audience finding your work on the web – like musicians and print writers, it helps to go out on the promotional trail, make a live appearance, give a performance.

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Uploaded with Skitch!

Later this month my transliterate abilities as an e-lit performer are going to be tested – at Ilkley Literature Fringe Festival, with a great group of poets and fiction writers, and at Inspace in Edinburgh, with a fabulous line-up of digital writers and artists, as part of the International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS 2010).

In Ilkley, I’m performing with a group of creative print writers who came out of the Yorkshire Art Circus writer development programme some years ago. It’s a kind of reunion and to give ourselves an angle, we’re staging it as The Writers’ Group Exposed!!! We’ll be simulating a typical meeting – well, maybe not so typical because there will be an electronic writer in the group. It’ll be interesting to see how my e-lit (Fitting the Pattern) is received in this context.

For any writer, it’s seldom as simple as giving a reading, as the Ilkley gig demonstrates, but for the electronic writer, inevitably, there’s even more to consider. You’ve got to sort out the tech (computer software/hardware, digital displays/projection, sound, etc.) and more than likely you’ve got to be able to operate your tech and read/perform at the same time. Those are the practicalities, but there are also aesthetic and dramaturgical considerations too. How will your live self, your bodily presence, affect or interact with the virtual presence/s, visually, sonically and kinetically? Should work designed for the web be repurposed for live performance?

Canadian electronic writer Jim Andrews has an interesting take on this. Here’s his plan for a work he intends to perform at e-Poetry 2011:

Basically, the idea of the project is to scream my fool head off while playing Jig-Sound and dbCinema as instruments.

You’ve seen musicians play an instrument while they sing. Well, this is similar. Only I’ll be telling a story between (or perhaps during) screaming bouts. And the instruments I’ll be playing are Jig-Sound, which is sonic, and dbCinema, which is visual.

If live gigs are part of the process of reaching an audience, then should one build that potential into the design of the work from the outset (or at least somewhere along the way during the process of creation)? Should one consider it an opportunity for transmedia storytelling rather than promotion and networking?

In Edinburgh I’m performing Underbelly – playing it like an instrument – in an evening dedicated to Language in Digital Performance and, as such, the occasion will give me scope to explore these potentialities. For the most part, Underbelly presents a diegetic story-world that explores a psychic landscape where the predominance of spoken word exploits the intimate relationship between voice and the body, voice and interiority. I designed the piece as a work of playable media but not particularly for live performance so I’ll be adapting it for the Inspace show, mixing my live voice with the multiple voices on the digital soundtrack.

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Uploaded with Skitch!

The ICIDS Language in Digital Performance event is billed as Inspace no one can hear you scream and, since it’s taking place on Halloween, we’ve been invited ‘to engage the spirit of this festival’… so, who knows, I might end up screaming too.

Augmented e-poetry at ELO_AI

Strange things happen to the reader when printed matter unlocks digital delights!

ELOai_030610_0078 In early June an international collection of e-lit was installed in a gallery setting in downtown Providence (Rhode Island, USA) for the Arts Program of the Electronic Literature Organization 2010 Conference (ELO_AI), including my own piece, Underbelly. There were many wonderful works presented but I’d like to pick out a few that made me think about transliteracy in particular: Requiem, Ethereal Landscapes and Between Page And Screen.

The creators of these works augment their digital art and e-poetry with print, employing a delightful topsy-turvy kind of transliteracy, whereby the printed matter becomes a device for reading the digital, rather than the usual way remediation goes when texts originated for print are digitized. Reading these works, you wonder, where is the poem, where is the story? The poem, the art is powerfully and clearly present, but you’re aware that it doesn’t exist in the computer and it doesn’t exist on the page – it’s between these realms, slipping and sliding along the virtuality continuum – or perhaps it’s the reader who is transliterately sliding around in mixed reality?

It’s an experience that simultaneously displaces and enchants the human reader. It slides you into a magical zone where somehow your corporeal reading equipment – eyes (and reading glasses) – have been substituted by a black & white graphic and a webcam or barcode reader. It’s only when, and if, you allow yourself to be transformed like this that the poetry appears for you.

Have a look at the works, see where they take you…

Requiem by Charles Fisher and Caitlin Fisher

“Requiem is an augmented reality poem in which digital imagery and sound is superimposed on a physical object — in this case the card with the black and white marker. Simply hold the marker up to the webcam to begin experiencing the piece.”

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Requiem, which incorporates a poem written by her father, is part of a larger, more fragmented work by Caitlin Fisher “about collections, hoarding and the things we save when people die” called Cardamom of the Dead. Download and print out a marker.


Ethereal
Landscapes
by by Alexander Mouton and Christian Faur

Ethereal Landscapes is an interactive electronic installation that immerses a viewer into a photographic artists’ book and generative video and audio data-base which a viewer can interact with in real-time through scanning the bar codes on the pages of an accompanying book….

“The concept comes from our love of the immersive quality of books (which can be held), of sound (which surrounds you), and of video (which engages your sense of temporality through its movement).”

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Between
Page And Screen
written by Amaranth Borsuk and programmed by Brad Bouse

“…is an augmented-reality chapbook. Like a digital pop-up book, you hold the words in your hands…

“The poems—a series of cryptic letters between two lovers, P and S—do not exist on either page or screen, but in an augmented reality only accessible to the reader who has both the physical object and the device necessary to read it.”

Watch the video or print out the preview marker and try it for yourself (you’ll need a webcam).

Electronic Literature Directory launches

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The Electronic Literature Directory is a resource for readers and writers of born-digital literature. Created by the Electronic Literature Organization, it provides an extensive database listing electronic works, their authors, and their publishers. The descriptive entries are drafted by a community of e-lit authors who also tag each work and identify the techniques used in its creation. Discussions of entries are ongoing and offer a networked, peer-to-peer model for literary review.

The new version of the Directory promises to be a great resource of e-literature, and already contains a substantial amount of work, but it's just the beginning, there is much more to add! Creating, reading and critiquing electronic literature is a transliterate practice – let's contribute! Anyone with an account can submit entries to the Directory (but authors may not write about their own works) and entries must be about e-literature (defined below) although e-lit antecedents, such as Raymond Queneau's 100,000,000,000,000 Poems, are included.

Electronic Literature refers to works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.

See also the lively debate here: Electronic Literature Directory Gets a Redesign, in response to the question posed, "What do you think about electronic literature? Has it lived up to the hype?"

My Transliterate Toolbox

Here is a screencast talk about my transliterate methods of creating works of
electronic literature:

My Transliterate Toolbox from Christine Wilks on Vimeo.

Links to the works and sites featured in the talk:

Software mentioned in the talk: