“Gabriella infinita” by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez

Open "Gabriella infinita" by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez
Open “Gabriella infinita” by Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez

Gabriella infinita (1999–) is a hypermedia narrative by Colombian author Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez. The narrative is presented via a rich array of lexia, images, and audio files, and we are not provided with established markers such a contents list or page numbers which would normally guide the reader through the conventional print novel. Instead, links to the various lexia and sound files are hidden in the visuals, and it is only through exploring the interface and testing out possible entry routes that the reader/user pieces together the narrative.

A Lecturer at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Rodríguez is well-known for his theorisations on digital narrative and hypertext (see his bibliography). He is also arguably the leading hypertext author in Colombia and his Gabriella infinita, as well as his later Golpe de gracia (2006), have won him a series of awards and nominations, and put him at the forefront of e-lit in Colombia.

"Gabriella infinita" opening image
“Gabriella infinita” opening image

The plot of Gabriella infinita is clearly set in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, with references to immediately identifiable places within the city in several of the lexia. Similarly, the opening image which the reader sees before entering the narrative displays the landmarks of the Monserrate hill, and the Cerro de Guadalupe with its famous statue of La Virgen de Guadalupe appear behind the sky-scrapers of the Centro Internacional. Yet this is a futuristic and dystopian Bogotá, in which the cityscape is in a state of devastation and destruction.

Set in this identifiably Bogotano backdrop is the story of Gabriella, who searches for the missing Federico, and we follow her through the various lexia, images, and audio files as she attempts to piece together clues as to his disappearance.

Yet, more than just her story, what Rodríguez weaves for us is the story of our own encounter with hypermedia narrative. Gabriella’s sensations and experience, as she searches for Federico and tries to make sense of the scraps of evidence that she finds, stand for the experience of the reader of hypertext narratives. For instance, Gabriella’s perusal of Federico’s bookshelves as she attempts to make an order out of the apparent disorder in which the books are arranged is a clear metaphor for the work of the reader of hypertext narrative, constructing an order from the dispersed lexia. Or her examining of the loose sheets of newspaper strewn on the floor of Federico’s apartment, and finding that “al ordenarlas, le han revelado relaciones insospechadas” [‘when she put them together, they revealed unexpected connections to her’] is, again, an image of the reader of hypertext fiction creating his/her own order from the dispersed links, with the primacy on the reader, not the writer, to establish these ‘unexpected connections’.

But does Gabriella ever succeed in her quest? And do we, as reader-users of hypertext fiction, ever gain full control of the narrative we are navigating?

Radikal Karaoke by Belén Gache

 

Open 'Radikal Karaoke' by Belén Gache
Open ‘Radikal Karaoke‘ by Belén Gache

Radikal Karaoke, by Argentine author Belén Gache, is an online piece combining text, still and moving images, sound files and user-activated effects. In this work, the reader-user is invited to read out loud poems composed of fragments of political discourses, at the same time as activating a series of videos and special effects. Gache describes Radikal Karaoke as a ‘conjunto de poesías que se apropian de la retórica de la propaganda política’ [‘collection of poems that appropriate the rhetoric of political propaganda’], but the notion here of ‘poetry collection’ is not in the conventional sense of a printed text that brings together several individual poems under into one volume. Instead, the ‘conjunto’ refers to the very creative process of the poetry itself, since the poems are composed of the re-mixing and re-combinations of found texts.

Belén Gache is one of the leading authors of experimental fiction in the Hispanic world, and has published to date a variety of literary works, both print and electronic, that engage in experimental practice. Her oeuvre is frequently characterized by an intertextual play with pre-existing literary genres, authors and texts, set in a creative dynamic with digital technologies, and Radikal Karaoke is no exception.

Radikal Karaoke opens on an interactive interface that displays, in the main part of the screen, a video in black and white which shows rows of spectators, applauding, set on a continuous loop and speeded up. Beneath the video lies the control panel of the work, consisting of firstly a row of buttons each identified with letters, and, beneath these, the lines of text we are invited to read.

In this work the user has to take on an active role in the execution of the poetry, both through our reading of the text out loud (as in karaoke), and through the activation of the visual poetry of this work. The visual poetry is created by the reader-user as s/he presses the various keys of the control panel, some of which produce modifications in the video in the main screen, changing its colour or speed, and others change the video file completely, and replace it with a new moving image.

Gache’s insistence on the ‘retórica de la propaganda política’ clearly indicates that her poetic endeavour has an ideological stance, and she encourages us to deconstruct the empty discourses of political rhetoric by means of parody, and through the shock contrast of sound, image and text. The videos function as a sort of meta-poetic commentary that makes us question the text that we read out, and interrogate political rhetoric, the powers of large corporations, and the indiscriminate consumption of social media.

But it is, perhaps, the very last button of Gache’s control panel –button V7 – which turns out to be the most shocking and disturbing for the reader-user. For, after having passed through a series of videos showing slaves, aliens, and cybernetic entities in thrall to the neoliberal system, the final button shows us… well, try it out for yourself, and see how you are implicated in this video.

 

“Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta” by Marina Zerbarini

Open "Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta" by Marina Zerbarini
Open “Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta” by Marina Zerbarini

Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta [Eveline, Fragments of a Reply] (2004) is a hypertext narrative by Argentine author Marina Zerbarini. It takes its inspiration from two short stories by James Joyce – ‘Eveline’, and ‘A Painful Case’ (1914) – which Zerbarini uses as a springboard for creating a multimedia narrative that brings together photographic images, videos, animations and sound files. Marina Zerbarini, is a leading digital artist from Argentina who has worked across several media, including photography, painting, objects and installation art for some decades, and whose electronic works include some that fall into the e-lit category, whilst others are more properly net art. She created this work in Macromedia Flash, using the ActionScript programming language. Each time we open Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta different interfaces are loaded, these ranging from bleached-out images of sheets, to extreme close-up photographs of part of a human face or hand, with the image pixelated such that the individual pixels are visible. The cursor takes the form of a butterfly, and, by clicking on buttons that appear across the various interfaces, we activate different content files, including images, excerpts of text, and sound files (these latter containing excerpts mostly of electronic or orchestral music).

Butterfly cursor over pixelated close-up in Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta
Butterfly cursor over pixelated close-up in Eveline, fragmentos de una respuesta

The chronological order of the files is not pre-set, and instead, the reader has to piece together the story from multiple stimuli, as s/he reads disparate blocks of lexia, views images, watches videos, and listens to sounds. The two source texts which are the inspiration for this work provide clues as to its possible interpretation. In Joyce’s original short stories, endings are unexpected, and questions left unanswered; in Zerbarini’s narrative, this sense of uncertainty, and of searching for meaning, is re-enacted procedurally, as the reader has to undertake a journey through these multiple sources to piece together the narrative. But more than just a re-telling of Joyce, Zerbarini’s narrative invites us to explore the nature of hypertext narrative and our embodied relationship to it as reader. The foregrounding of the human body through the extreme close-ups means that we have to think through our own affective relationship to the work as we navigate it. And yet… through the overt pixelation, Zerbarini makes us question our own status as human. Is it perhaps our possible transformation into cyborgs as we engage with electronic literature that Zerbarini is encouraging us to reflect upon here?

“Tierra de Extracción” by Doménico Chiappe

Open "Tierra de Extracción" by Doménico Chiappe
Open “Tierra de Extracción” by Doménico Chiappe

In Tierra de Extracción (1996-2007) (ELC2), Doménico Chiappe’s first hypermedial novel, the extraction of meaning is generated via interaction and manipulation. Poetry is hidden in the fissures of the earth that slip in order to create motion in the different multimedia layers of the work. The novel is composed of 63 hypermedial chapters, each of them represented by an interactive [key] word. Similar to Hotel Minotauro (2013-2014), Tierra de Extracción is an example of interactive narrative. For instance, in one of the chapters (Mangal/Mango Tree), the reader is invited to learn how to roll a dice interactively in order to unfold the stories that lie behind each of its faces. The interaction with the dice produces an empty mise-en- scène to be fulfilled by aesthetic chance. Rolling the dice becomes the space where chance meets creation.

Read more“Tierra de Extracción” by Doménico Chiappe

@godtributes by @deathmtn

Open "@godtributes" by @deathmtn
Open “@godtributes” by @deathmtn

Poetry is traditionally conceived as a refined, patterned and stylised language produced by skilled writers and orators. Not so for twentieth-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger. His highly influential and counter-intuitive philosophy, encapsulated in the dictum “language speaks man”, suggests that poets do not make poetry, but poetry poets. It is not a question of self-expression, but of “listening” for language’s “call”. According to Heidegger, this “call” takes us beyond the “mortal” towards the “heavenly”, “the Unknown One”, “god”. I wonder, then, what he would make of @godtributes, a charming little Twitter bot that “listens” to your tweet and “calls” it out back to you, transformed into an (ir)reverent tribute to an incidental, aleatoric deity.

Read more@godtributes by @deathmtn

“Hotel Minotauro” by Doménico Chiappe

Open “Hotel Minotauro” by Doménico Chiappe – Version: Spanish | English

Doménico Chiappe, a Peruvian-Venezuelan writer and a journalist currently living in Madrid, has written and produced two delightful works of electronic literature: Tierra de extracción (1996-2007) and Hotel Minotauro (2013-2014). His works depict a critical and pleasant voyage to diverse Latin-American landscapes where poetry within prose, and prose within poetry, submerge the reader into hypermedial embedded narratives.

Read more“Hotel Minotauro” by Doménico Chiappe

“Endless Reader” by Originator

screenshot
Open the “Endless Reader” page.

“Endless Reader” is a children’s mobile application created by Originator, which has developed other recognized apps such as “Endless Numbers” and “Endless Alphabet.” This application is the follow-up to “Endless Alphabet,” integrating sight words with an interactive digital environment with the purpose of allowing children to hear words broken down to their simplest phonetic segments.

Read more“Endless Reader” by Originator

“Blue Hyacinth” by Pauline Masurel and Jim Andrews

Screen capture of Blue Hyacinth:  M M M M  Blue Hyacinth Pauline Masurel Jim Andrews  V I S P O Stir Frys Tabitha flexes against the collar . I try to sound as though I know what I'm talking about. in the alleyway. I just like the look of the grey mare; the bookie can tell, it was probably obvious from the moment I walked in. the hyacinth itself or secreted  When it happens the noise insists before,  ...it goes on for months  another in the corner is smoking. She's watching the race . Rather, it's a subtle matter of class, . when she can't gain entry, Across the road clubbers spill out on to the pavements - he comes. he goes. she waits  for weeks.  after all.  she picks her way back across the landing  - Do you want this,  I could report it  slowly, sadly who would care? and begins to stroke it through the sticky tangle of her hair.
Open “Blue Hyacinth” by Pauline Masurel and Jim Andrews

Slightly modifying the “cut-up” technique of Dadaist and Modernist writers in her digital work, “Blue Hyacinth,” Pauline Masurel encourages her readers not to destroy the original four poems, but rather jumble them together, stir them up, and weave them in a way that shares in the creative process of generating an individualized text. By presenting “Blue Hyacinth” as a stir-fry work (using Jim Andrews’ “Stir Fry Texts” framework) that allows readers to reflect on the original poems, Masurel is changing the author-reader relationship. Masurel ensures that readers become extensions of herself by encouraging readers to manipulate her writings and fashion a text that becomes less a traditional example of poetry and more a collaborative piece shared between individual reader and writer. With “Blue Hyacinth,” Masurel crafts a space where traditional print culture roles fade and are replaced by their mutable digital counterparts. Never once just a reader or an author, those that encounter “Blue Hyacinth” are able to exercise a semblance of autonomy that is novel to texts within the digital medium.

Read more“Blue Hyacinth” by Pauline Masurel and Jim Andrews

“Save the Humanities (@SaveHumanities)” by Mark Sample

 Save the Humanities @SaveHumanities  Daily tips on how to stop the crisis in the humanities. Real solutions! (Machine Generated by @samplereality)
Open “Save the Humanities (@SaveHumanities)” by Mark Sample

At face value this bot seeks solutions to what many call “the crisis of the Humanities” by offering “tips on how to stop the crisis in the humanities. Real solutions!” Its operation is conceptually straightforward: it completes a sentence template that begins with “To save the humanities, we need to” and then completes the sentence, I imagine with the results of a search in Twitter for tweets that contain “we need to” or “we must.” This creates grammatically correct sentences that offer solutions that vary in their fit or appropriateness. For example:

Read more“Save the Humanities (@SaveHumanities)” by Mark Sample

“#FalseFlag Bot (@FalseFlagBot_)” by Ben Abraham

 #FalseFlag Bot Tweets Following Followers 25.9K 4 546 #FalseFlag Bot @FalseFlagBot_  Replacement for @FalseFlagBot R.I.P. #nWo #illuminati #falseflag  right behind you!
Open “#FalseFlag Bot (@FalseFlagBot_)” by Ben Abraham

This deceptively simple bot searches Twitter for the #FalseFlag hashtag and retweets the results. Here’s an example of its output:

The concept of the false flag is born from mistrust of the government and lends itself to elaborate conspiracy theories about covert operations on its own soil which are then blamed on terrorists. During the Bot Summit, Ben Abraham discussed this concept and explained some of his interest in redoing the original @FalseFlagBot, as seen in this video. Some of the conspiracy theory hashtags he mentions and a few others were conveniently listed (and retweeted by the original @FalseFlagBot) in this tweet.

Read more“#FalseFlag Bot (@FalseFlagBot_)” by Ben Abraham

Share the ♥.