April 26, 2004

Dead Poets Society

"Being a published poet is more dangerous than being a deep-sea diver," said James W. Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and an expert on the topic. "But it's possible that if they weren't doing poetry they may have killed themselves off earlier."
from the NY Times Article: Going Early Into That Good Night

Glad I'm not too into poetry. I like life. :)

Article via Jenn

Posted by Julie Young at 11:12 PM | Comments (4)

April 25, 2004

Aesthetics of Blogging

Back in the beginning of Media Aesthetics class, we were given a small definition of aesthetics, roughly summarized as this, according to my notes: "Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that examines beauty via form, technique, media, etc." Janet Murray then went on to describe the aesthetic of electronic narrative as immersion, agency and transformation. But, where does this leave the aesthetics of weblogging?

Weblogs can be designed beautifully as a piece of art if you have that skill, but that wouldn't answer the question of the aesthetics of keeping a weblog. However, one could examine the "beauty" of the weblog if they looked at its form, the technique that the writer used, and the media it is in.

Weblog Form and Technique
The form of the weblog is a frequently updated website with date and timestamps, recorded in reverse chronological order. The weblog has three basic varients: a record of links, a journal or both. Often, weblogs have themes or a topic for discussion. Some blogging tools cost next to nothing, so it's a quick and easy way for anyone to post anything to the Internet. Because weblogs are rather user-friendly, it's a good way to share information.

The Weblogging Medium
Since any reader can comment on anyone else's weblog, via actual comments or on their own blog, a community can form. This community of readers and commenters can discuss events, argue about something, or simply react to posts. By forming a group of people to critique the "art" of weblogging, weblogs can grow according to the audience and the writer.

Aesthetic of Electronic Narrative
Murray outlines immersion, agency and transformation as the aesthetic of electronic narrative. This can also be applied to weblogs. Weblogs can be an immersive media, for both the reader and the writer. I used to post every day because I liked keeping my weblog that much. Even though I don't post as often now, I still think that in an ideal world that I would. When you write on your weblog a lot, you also read other people's weblogs just as much, whether you use an RSS feed or your blogroll to keep track of your subscriptions. Thus, it's entirely possible to get immersed in blogging, just as it is to get hooked on a video game.

Agency is also a little different than what Murray described, so I'll rewrite it to fit keeping a weblog. Most of the time, the author has agency over what is on the weblog (unless, of course, you're trying to get rid of the banner ad on Blogger). She can write whatever she wants, and delete whatever comment personally annoys her. She can create a theme for the weblog, and then change it. Readers of the blog also have agency, as they can comment, and if the blog you comment on deletes you, you can post it to your own blog. Because you've formed a little community with your weblog, you help change the community in subtle ways.

A weblog is also transformative. The blogger could have a pseudonym, and so can the commenters. It's a place where personas can be cultivated. The weblog is also a product in transformation. A few years ago, they didn't exist. People had personal websites where they might tell stories, journal, or have a link page. This evolved into the weblog, which is in a constant state of evolution. Comments only became widespread a little over a year ago, and I wonder what new feature will be next.

The aesthetics of keeping a weblog often change, but overall, weblogs have an aesthetic of being able to transform the common website into a place where communities can form and people can spread their news, no matter how important or how trivial it is.

Posted by Julie Young at 09:16 PM | Comments (2)

A little immersion goes a long way

As Janet Murray of Hamlet on the Holodeck fame discussed her dream that Star Trek's holodeck will be realized, she claimed that an immersive environment would be, to paraphrase, a pretty neat thing.

I think not.

I've already discussed my general lack of interest in a holodeck-type game, but overall, I don't understand quite why great extents of immersion are necessary for computer games, or any kind of entertainment, for that matter. Aren't current levels of immersion enough?

For example, I like it when I am immersed in a book. When a book is a "page-turner," you stay up all night to finish it, and maybe even make up your own stories about the characters, or at the very least, tell someone you know that you read a great book.

TV can also be immersive. I think soap operas and serialized primetime dramas are a great example of this. Websites have cropped up all over with spoilers and discussion threads about characters. This, my friends, is weird. It's okay to read spoilers if you're missing entire blocks of shows or want to know the ending to a cliffhanger, but getting too involved in a story makes you absolutely creepy.

For example, on one soap website, it appears that people too immersed in the show get a little wacky on message boards. Here's the disclaimer from one of them (I chose a funny one for your enjoyment).

I used to have a long disclaimer here for the confused and manners-challenged people who don't know the difference between a "rumor" or "gossip" and an actual spoiler, but screw it. Angry, bitter, small minded people will always talk their trash to compensate for their own 1st chakra frustrations and inadequacies.

When you read those vicious people on the message boards, just shake your head and remember they aren't getting any play, so they're grumpy. Pity them, then dismiss them.

Now, imagine crazy soap fans on the holodeck. Yikes.

Immersion exists in tons of different forms, healthy and unhealthy. I don't see any reason why we need a VR immersion tank to confuse matters worse. Sure, no one will probably forget that real life exists outside of the holodeck, but do you really want an interactive soap opera? What will the message board disclaimers look like then?

Posted by Julie Young at 04:15 PM | Comments (1)

April 23, 2004

Enough of the Holodeck, already...

After reading Janet Murray's landmark book, Hamlet on the Holodeck, I've determined that I wouldn't really care to try out a holodeck. A holodeck, according to Star Trek, would be a virtual reality space (using holograms?) where humans can become a character in a story and interact with realistic looking 3-D characters. The problem with the holodeck, according to the show, is how one could be so immersed that one loses touch with reality.

Posted by Julie Young at 12:58 AM | Comments (3)

April 22, 2004

Creating templates

"I am not suggesting a writer let it bleed so much as I am sugesting that he understand his motivation."
- from The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner (or, as I call her, Janet)

The rules for this strangeness, found on Karissa's blog, via Jerz's.
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

Posted by Julie Young at 01:20 PM | Comments (4)

April 21, 2004

Know what Tuesdays are?

I'm happily listening to my new Patty Griffin CD (which for you DMB crazies, is produced by Dave's independent label). I dragged Vandye to Barnes and Noble tonight to get it....and it is particularly awesome. Why B&N, you ask, when I prefer to purchase CDs at Best Buy? Well, it appears that Best Buy knows that they have four copies........somewhere.

One would expect their inventory system would be better, especially in these high-tech days of RFID.

Anyway, the CD is lovely (it just came out on Tuesday), and I didn't get completely gouged at B&N either! Hot dog! I even got a free Patty bookmark. Perks like that you don't find at Best Buy.

I was so happy to have the CD that when the man from Gallup Polls with a massive survey called, I answered all of his questions about my Wal*Mart shopping habits. :)

Posted by Julie Young at 11:36 PM | Comments (1)

Speaking of research...

Research is a very tricky thing. In Brenda Laurel's pamphlet, Utopian Entrepreneur, she mentions how research (both academic and business) is flawed because no one researches just for the sake of research. Instead, they want to prove something or find an answer to a problem. Although these are valid reasons to research, what happens when you don't find what you are looking for? Laurel writes:

To be an honest researcher, you must resist the temptation to interpret as you go in terms of your own experience and values. Research ethics require that you approach your subject with an open mind and a question that does not contain its own answer.
I've found this to be especially true when writing research papers. Every professor wants a topic, a thesis or something to guide your research. So, you write something up and turn it in. Then, you work on putting your research together and you realize that what you found isn't supporting your argument. What are you supposed to do? One would hope that you change your thesis accordingly or write about the conflicting evidence in your paper. However, it's sometimes just easier to write your paper with what proves it, turn it in and say goodbye to it forever. [I hope this isn't how people do "real" research for studies and such.]

This takes me way back to freshman seminar, when I learned how to do a research paper. It started with coming up with a general idea, like "I want to find out more about mother-daughter relationships in Chinese-America to expand my reading of The Joy Luck Club. From there, you go to the library and do a little bit of preliminary research (I think we called it "reading around") to see what was interesting. Then you wrote your thesis. (Even the highly regarded Purdue OWL recommends this course of action.)

However, this doesn't always work. Recently I worked on my thesis with preliminary works cited for a paper on IF and Galatea. Even though I had to find a review a few sources for the paper, when the time came to take notes and put together my argument, the thesis didn't work. I supposed I could've forced it, but it really was better that I tweaked the thesis because the information that I wanted just wasn't accessable to me in the time frame that I had.

Even though this isn't the type of research that Laurel had in mind when writing her pamphlet, the same rules do apply. When she was doing the Purple Moon project, they wanted to create an ideal game/site for girls. After doing research, they realized that exlusion and secrets are part of social promotion. They knew that wouldn't make a flock of feminists happy, but because their purpose was to produce games for girls, they had to use their research to create a game that girls would identify with. So they did. They didn't hide from their research and see only what they wanted to see.

Posted by Julie Young at 11:49 AM | Comments (3)

April 19, 2004

Galatea as Feminine Electronic Narrative

Thesis: Electronic narrative, such as interactive fiction and hypertext, is still an emerging art form. However, unlike other literature, IF and hypertext starts out nonlinear or multilinear, a more feminine narrative. This application of a feminine narrative, especially in Emily Short’s Galatea, deconstructs the male gaze, giving electronic narrative the possibility of transforming literature into an art with a more gender-neutral aesthetic.

Electronic narrative: Narrative changes when it encounters technology. According to Brenda Laurel, stories are content and storytelling is relationship. Janet Murray calls for a new interactive narrative that will transcend the formula and limitations of past experiments, while Marie-Laure Ryan suggest that people have been promoting computers as storytellers, making them a metaphor for pen and paper, or subjecting them to myths like the Holodeck. Essentially, no suitable technological narrative exists, and everyone is waiting around for something to happen with hypertext or interactive fiction that will transform the genre.

Interactive fiction and hypertext: Hypertext appears to be a type of interactive fiction, but generally interactive fiction refers to story games, either digital or text based. Both fictions can either be linear, nonlinear, or multilinear. Hypertext seems to be more nonlinear than multilinear, as it has branches of stories. Text-based interactive fiction are traditionally linear puzzle games, but players often have to take a nonlinear route to follow the “linear” story. Other IF attempts to be multilinear, like Galatea.

Multilinearity and the feminine narrative: Hypertext author, Shelley Jackson suggests that the circular narrative that is so easily adaptable to computers can produce better feminine writing than print publication (feminine, as in a style, not a gender assumption). Jackson describes feminine narrative as “amorphous, indirect, impure, diffuse, multiple, evasive.” The same could be said for interactive fiction, and frankly, Short’s character of Galatea.

Aesthetic of the male gaze: Within the feminine narrative of Short’s Galatea comes the implicit suggestion of the male gaze. Pygmailion authored Galatea, and created her as art. All forms of art, be it advertising, movies or digital media have been part of a system dominated by males, who have been looking at art with masculine eyes, causing women to look at the world with the same aesthetic. Galatea’s interactions with visitors, and even the gender that the player-character assumes suggests that she is also victim of the male gaze.

Posted by Julie Young at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

Video Games and the Male Gaze

Yes, I finally figured out what it was that got me about Rachel's presentation, aptly titled "They Have Breasts, So What!?" Not only do I think that it's unacceptable for people, especially women, to say "oh well, you'll have this" to gender stereotyping, but I also had a slight problem with the idea that volleyball players wear skimpy bathing suits like in the video games. Here's a tidbit from Rachel's presentation:

Feminists not only have a problem with action/fighting games but also sport games. Beach Volley Ball has girls in bikinis, so what? That's what you see human female players wearing. Most professional female volleyball players wear two pieces. (Two pieces allow more mobility than one pieces.) Should we protest them? Some have large breast and tiny waist. This game is an image of the actual sport. Beach Volleyball is played on a beach, so you're not going to wear sweats, but a bathing suit that YOU feel comfortable in and allows to play.
Dare I be the one to say it, but beach volleyball players usually wear athletic swimming suits with a little more support, even if they are two pieces. For substantiation, I asked one of my friends, a volleyball player who witnessed a huge beach volleyball tournament in Florida....she made this comment: most volleyball players aren't exactly....well endowed. In other words, the cantaloupe sized breasts featured in Xtreme Beach Volleyball wouldn't be wearing suits like that in real life.

But, back to my point about the representation of women in meat games like the volleyball one. The reason why the players look like that is because of the "male gaze." Dare I bust this one out from past classes, but it seems to me that those volleyball players are what men "want" to see, thus they have made it so, no matter how unrealistic it is. Second of all, players like Rachel are okay with seeing it, because she even said (loosely quoted) "don't we all want bodies like that?" (Okay, I don't, that's too top-heavy. But whatever.) That is because women have adopted this "male gaze" and turned it on themselves, so they can shape their identities to fit it. Worse yet, they aren't disturbed by it, because "so what, they're just breasts."

In real life, it matters. Not just because this is what kids are seeing, but because this is what women and men are seeing, and worse yet, expecting.....hence, shows like Extreme Makeover. Anyway, it's late, and I didn't do this blog entry justice. I was thinking of an all-out fisk of Rachel's entry, but I didn't want to appear overly aggressive. Dare I be rabid. ;)

And, in honor of all good things, the extended entry has a feminist goody for you.


Dar Williams
Singer, songwriter
"And now I'm in a clothing store, and the sign says less is more/More that's tight means more to see, more for them, not more for me"

Posted by Julie Young at 12:12 AM | Comments (7)

April 18, 2004

Protesting jaywalking...

Today I had the good fortune of dropping my sister off at the Westin for a shindig. Clearly, I needed to drop her off, as there would be no parking downtown due to the huge NRA04 convention.

Of course, it was the night of Cheney's speech...and all the roads around the convention center and the Westin were blocked by police and barricades.

And then, there were large amounts of protesters trouping right across four-lane roads, not heeding walk signals, or even crosswalks. Bully for them. It was amusing, though, to see people cross illegally right in front of a gaggle of cops.

Anyway, I was a good thing I dropped her off, as even the parking in the strip was mostly full.

By the way, the convention must have been giving out yellow yardsticks. I saw a lot of white, middle-aged men ambling around with them.

Posted by Julie Young at 12:20 AM | Comments (2)

April 16, 2004

Hamster in a wheel...

The end of the semester really gets on my nerves. There are always these "big" projects that just take up one line in my planner, but need carried over day after day after day. Ick. I feel like I'm stuck in an endless circle of doing tons of work, but not actually being able to complete a project. Arg!

However, I take solace in completing one internship, my portfolio (later today) and, on April 30, all my college work. :)

By the way, how happy am I that Bill won the Apprentice! It's rare that I actually root for a winner. ;)

Posted by Julie Young at 12:02 AM | Comments (8)

April 13, 2004

Super Fun!

So, my internship portfolio is all ready to go, as I finish the NuRelm hours on Wednesday. :) Yippee! That's one more thing to cross off on the big countdown list!

Meanwhile, I've concocted plans for after graduation. I plan to move home, but I didn't take stuff home yet because I am holding out hope that I'll be able to cook up a real job before then. I doubt that will actually happen, but one must have faith, even if it is tempered with reality. Ergo, my mom and I figured out how we'll move my stuff back to the house and what objects will be in the custody of my sister (refrigerator, chair).

If I get to move to a new location, I learned what furniture is available from the family assests. I'll be the proud owner of some end tables, maybe a kitchen table and a bed if I'm lucky. I don't exactly have anything to put between the end tables, but that'll come with time. My sister is holding a broken microwave for me, which, I guess could sit on an end table, but not really.

Alright, enough of this for now. Back to homework! Or, sleep.

Posted by Julie Young at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2004

100% Quality Fun

I have printed my official homework/activity schedule that takes me up to the end of the semester! It's aptly titled "Countdown to Graduation." Yippee!

In Spice Girls news, there's trouble in Beckham land, even if it is mainly caused by tabloid journalists.

And....I've watched tons of TV this week, and boy is David Letterman funny! And so is that Regis and Kelly show! Or, maybe it's just that I've been eating up to 10 jelly beans at any one time.

Lastly, I've been fake-baking for cancer purposes, and am finally beginning to pick up a little color. Hot dog!

Anyway, laundry calls.

Posted by Julie Young at 11:46 PM | Comments (1)

April 11, 2004

Ah, glorious break...

So, one of my disks won't read in this computer....this would be the very disk containing an idea for a paper that I had hoped to work on. Oh well, I'll just have to reconstruct my idea, righto?

In other news, I have my first second interview ever scheduled. This, my friends, is the reason why you buy two or more suits for your job hunt. I wish more people would call me for first interviews, though.

I have bumps on my tongue from eating too many jelly beans.

I've also discovered that I am passionate about chicken salad, especially when I can poach my own chicken and cut it up myself to ensure maximum quality control. Otherwise, chicken salad is downright scary. Scarier than tuna salad, and even ham salad.

How about this? I only have about two weeks left of homework...........ever! Whoo hoo!!!!!!

Posted by Julie Young at 11:08 PM | Comments (2)

April 04, 2004

Blue Screen of Death

Last night my computer continually gave me the blue screen of death. This behavior began every time I tried to open Word. I'd get those crazy "dangerously low on resources" messages and then bad stuff would happen.

Thus, I updated my virus and spyware catchers and then ran them. Same problem. I deleted temp files. Nothing. I deleted my RSS feed. Nothing. Deleted the music files that I wasn't completely keen on. I emailed all my pertinent files to another location....still no more space.

Today I finally got a bright idea: rename the normal template. I had heard of someone doing this before, and thought I should at least give it a shot. Yup, thirty-second fix....I clearly wasted time doing everything else, but now my computer's running quicker than ever!

Posted by Julie Young at 05:49 PM | Comments (12)

April 01, 2004

Tech writing?

Hmm, technical writing. It's been a thought in the back of my head since, oh, maybe....junior year of high school, so I thought it was about time to talk to a real live tech writer.

Turns out, the extremely helpful woman that I talked to does a lot of editing and less writing than I thought. Her job is more about organization, the flow of papers, and helping them meet their final destination. She also does some editing and a lot of reviewing changes to manuscripts.

Oddly enough, this sounds strangely fun.

I'll keep you, my imaginary audience, posted on more informational interviews to come. I might even do a little shadowing once this portfolio jig is up.

Posted by Julie Young at 11:04 PM | Comments (4)