April 2010 Archives

“I am convinced that the Internet will transform the world of learning.  The transformation has already begun.  Our task, I think, is to take charge of it so that we maintain the highest standards from the past while developing new ones for the future.”

-From page 64 of “Lost and Found in Cyberspace”, chapter four of Robert Darnton’s The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future

Although Darnton composed this portion of his book in 1999, I think that this chapter applies directly to what is happening today with the popularization of e-books.  We are feeling this directly here at Seton Hill with the arrival of iPads on campus, which will become a common sight in the fall.  However, as Darnton discusses in chapters two and three of this book, other developments, including Google Books, the Library of Congress’ digital collections, and private institutions’ digital collections, as well as those that he does not discuss (Project Guttenberg, the Kindle, and the nook) are actively pushing themselves into our lives.  Because of this one has to ask, “How is this going to affect me?”

For Darnton, it was the opportunity to create a book using all of his research information on Enlightenment age letters and literature via the creation of his own e-book (59-63).  For me, it is my future career as a teacher.  As someone who was not so long ago opposed to the popularization of technologies such as these, I can see how they may benefit classrooms in the (not so distant?) future. 

For one thing, textbooks are so expensive.  We as college students understand this perfectly, so imagine buying three hundred of your Biology or Math textbooks for one grade at a small high school.  That is a ton of money.  Plus, unlike us, students are never allowed to write in these books, to highlight important passages, or even to fold down the corner of the pager because these books will have to be used by thousands of students over the next ten or so years.  They lose what I have come to recognize as important interaction with the texts when they cannot do this, especially tactile learners like me. 

Also, think of the money that is spent in supplying private, public, and school libraries with books.  Darnton discusses how private, state, and federal money is being taken away from these institutions, while they are still expected to provide their patrons and students with accurate and current information via online databases that can charge exorbitant fees (6-15, 43-58).  When they do not have the money, they must selectively choose what to include and what not to include, not based on the needs of the patrons and students, but based on the budget. 

Because of these reasons, as well as others, I can see the benefits of e-books in the classroom.  As many schools give laptops to students today, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine them giving e-book readers to students and teachers for classroom use.  I think this could benefit schools and students.  Yes, the equipment, training, and upkeep will be expensive.  More expensive than using the usual textbooks, current technologies, like Smart Boards and Promethean Boards, or older technologies, like books on tape?  I am not sure.  The proposal writers and school boards will have to do the research and math right now as far as that is concerned.  However, I do know that if the development of e-books and e-book readers continues in the positive directions that they seem to be, at least in some areas, I think they could ensure student-to-text interaction, which could positively influence comprehension skills, they could ensure protection of these texts (if not of the readers themselves) for future use, they could appeal to today’s students who are more familiar with technological and Internet access than we were, and they could possibly save the schools and libraries money.  They could even provide adaptations, such as text-to-speech capabilities, to accomodate students' individual needs.   

Of course, as I mentioned above, all of this is contingent upon development in “positive directions.”  This means that I feel that some qualities of various e-books and e-book readers are better than others.  For instance, in the little research I have done, I feel that I like the nook the best based on experience and description, and feel that it offers a lot of possibilities for the future development of these products.  For instance, the newest forms of the nook are allowing readers to “share” books.  Although I’m not sure exactly how they are accomplishing this, I think this ability is the key to use in libraries and schools.  Afterall, we share books now with no copyright problems.  Of course, pirating may be a problem, but these problems can and will be addressed.  Also, the nook allows people to read for free while they are in the Barnes and Noble book stores.  This is a type of technology that could be applied to libraries and schools as well.  Although I would not say I am computer savvy, I am sure that someone could also devise a way for libraries to “loan” copies of the e-books for only a select amount of time.  Also, the nook, as well as other e-book readers offer Wi-Fi, color screens, and the iPad is basically a tablet computer.  All of these features recommend themselves to use in classrooms and libraries. 

The only question is, will classrooms and libraries ever get to experience these technologies in these ways, or, as Darnton suggests at times, will they be too expensive because of monopolies or a focus on big business rather than on the needs of the public?

 

Take a look at how others have made connections using Darnton’s book.

I Really Don't Get What the Big Deal Is

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“Vannevar Bush’s famous paper “As We May Think” (1945) described an imaginary information retrieval machine, the Memex.”

--From “Emanuel Goldberg, Electronic Document Retrieval, And Vannevar Bush's Memex” by Michael K. Buckland

 

For me, this is the most important sentence in the entire article because it sums up the entire thing: this invention was never invented.  How can something that was never made be “viewed…in relation to subsequent developments using digital computers.”  Bush may have had the plans for the machine, but because it was never actually made, no one knows if it could have worked.  In fact, the article basically says it would not have worked, at least not with the technology of the time period, because it was based on a classification system of “ ‘Associative trails’ “ rather than “subject-based indexing.”  The article suggests that these “associative trails” mimic human thought processes and individualized relationships that the brain creates between words, sounds, smells, ideas, etc.   This type of technology would probably not even be able to be developed today.  Furthermore, no one has ever tried to create this system.  People have recreated some of Da Vinci’s inventions and even catapults and other weapons from the Middle Ages, but they have never attempted to recreate this invention?  I find this highly suspicious.  So why is there all of the hype about this imaginary machine that wouldn’t have worked even if it Bush, or people today, attempted to build it?

However, Goldberg’s machine that did have working prototypes seems much more important to the development to me, whether or not Bush based his idea on one of these.   Goldberg’s ideas were much more realistic, actually affected real companies such as IBM and Kodak, and seemed to stream directly from a history of development, rather than Bush’s seemingly sudden creation (except that it was never created).  Although Bush had great ideas, they were not feasible then or now.  Ideas are wonderful, but only if they are applied in the real world in a positive way.  Buckland suggests that the only way that Bush’s ideas applied to the real world were by “open[ing] people’s eyes and purses” to a more technologically driven future.  This is important, but to consumerism rather than to technological development.

 

This opinion isn't the only good one, so read some others' opinions.

Welcome to my second blogging portfolio this semester!  All of these entries deal with a wide variety of communication eras.  I begin with a link to my first portfolio, which details the oral communication era, but most of the blogs below deal with the manuscript, print, and digital eras of communicatation.  Throughout these units, I have been able to make a lot of connections between material from and about different eras.  These connections have allowed me to better understand the development of communication and how this important this development often overlooked by our society that is constantly bombarded with communications.  Although this portfolio is not as extensive as my last portfolio, neither in my own posts nor my comments, I feel that it shows a high level of engagement with the texts we have been discussing, as well as learning opportunities and changes of heart regarding new forms of communication.  I know for next time I will work on commenting more often when I do read others’ blogs.

 

As usual, the blogs below are arranged into seven categories:  Coverage, Depth, Interaction, Discussion, Timeliness, Xenoblogging, and Wildcards.  Enjoy!

 

 

Coverage: All of the blogs in this section show that I have blogged on each of the readings in the course; however, I did miss a few readings this time.  Despite this fact, these blogs show that I am able to discuss the material well.

 

Did Technology Really Develop the Soul?- Although this blog was a day late, I talk about how Havelock discusses the ways that writing helped to develop the soul.  I may not agree with him completely, but the argument is interesting, so take a look.

 

Print: Good and Not So Great- In this blog, I talk about some of the downfalls of print that I thought of based on Eisenstein’s essay. 

 

I’m Agreeing with Darnton-In this blog, I agreed with Darnton that looking at the bibliography may help us to examine older texts, as well as some not so old texts. 

 

Cybertext May Not Be So Bad Afterall- As I read about cybertext in Aarseth’s chapter, I found that it might not be as horrible to study as I thought it would be.  I actually enjoyed some of the points in the chapter, and was even able to make connections to what we had read in print culture.

 

Just Trying to Get Aarseth’s Ideas-Despite the positive comments the week before, I found this chapter to be more difficult.  Take a look. 

 

The Video Was a Helpful Guide- Dr. Jerz and Peter’s video about interactive fiction was helpful in playing the game.  Take a look at the connections I made.

 

A Big Surprise from Interactive Fiction- Although I thought I would dislike these types of games, I found that they were challenging, yet fun, and opened my eyes to the benefits of not judging so much before I actually engage with it. 

 

 

Depth: In these blogs, I have gone beyond the simple coverage of the text to include other examples, connections,  or links to other sources to further relate and explain the texts.

 

Text Does Speak, but It Has Many Voices-I brought personal experiences to this blog by relating what Elbow has to say about teaching writing to a writing program that I created and taught at a public library over the summer.

 

Why Are We Not Speaking About What We Are Writing?- In this blog, I connected to material read earlier when we were discussing oral communication.  Plato talks about one downfall of writing being that work is not spread, and I realize that this happens a lot with undergraduate work (not here though!). 

 

This Is a Really Strange Book- I used my previous experience with literary criticism to highlight some of the type of lit. crit. that would apply to Calvino’s novel that would maybe benefit my classmates. 

 

I Don’t Know If I Like It Yet- Here, I talk about Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, and my uncertain opinion of the text.  I also connect it to what Havelock said about text speaking. 

 

Originals Are Great to Have, but We Need to Be Realistic Too-I discussed Darnton’s views of making space in libraries by putting more books and periodicals on microfilm from the stance of someone who worked in a library.  I also help with meaning by defining “paean,” which is featured in his title.

 

Translation or Preservation-Books Will Still Have to Be Forgotten- I talk about the ways translation is presented in Calvino’s novel, as well as ways that such translations can be forgotten, causing a book to not be read in the future.  I also link to ideas that Darnton discusses. 

 

ELO Collection- Although I did not especially enjoy this experience, I did relate it to a story in the field of education.  So if you like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, you should read this. 

 

I Think I Am Understanding Aarseth- I made lots of connections in this blog, to print culture and to my own experiences with interactive fiction

 

 

Interaction/Xenoblogging: These are links to peers’ blogs on which I commented.  Take a look at these because they are always really interesting!

 

Linear vs Non-linear-This is one of Tiffany’s blogs that I commented on.  We agreed, but the discussion was furthered.

 

 

Discussion: These blogs show comments or new ideas that were discussed on my own blogs, either by me or my peers that I referenced or who commented on my blog.

 

Text Does Speak, but It Has Many Voices- In this blog, I referenced two of my classmates, so take a look at what we all have to say.

 

I Don’t Know If I Like It Yet- Maddie brought new insight to my opinions of Calvino’s book, so take a look.

 

This Is a Really Strange Book- When discussing Calvino’s novel, I had a response from Chelsea that led to better understanding for me, and a discussion between the two of us.  Dr. Jerz also pointed out some types of criticism that applied to the text which I had left out in my analysis.

 

ELO Collection- Although no one commented on this blog, I did comment on what others said about their experiences with the collection.  Take a look.

 

 

Timeliness: As I mentioned in my last portfolio, this is still an area that needs much improvement, perhaps even more than was needed before.  It seems that with more difficult readings (and more work as the semester progressed), we neglected the blogs in favor of carefully reading through and understanding a reading-at least in my case.  However, here are the ones I submitted early or on time. 

 

Text Does Speak, but It Has Many Voices

 

Why Are We Not Speaking About What We Are Writing?

 

Originals Are Great to Have, but We Need to Be Realistic Too

 

Translation or Preservation-Books Will Still Have to Be Forgotten

 

I’m Agreeing with Darnton

 

Just Trying to Get Aarseth’s Ideas

 

ELO Collection

 

 

Wildcards: As I mentioned in my last portfolio, my Senior Seminar class is blogging as part of our service project.  Take a look at what we have done, because I think we have had an ambitious project that has been successful so far.

 

Seniors Helping Seniors-Helping Hands Make Happy Hearts

 

Also, here is one of my comments on Greta’s blog:

 

First Home Visit: Traveling into the Unknown for a Pleasant Surprise

A Big Suprise from Interactive Fiction

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Much to my surprise after looking at the ELO collection, I really enjoyed the experience of playing Deadline.  I actually tried to play it twice.  The first time, I was not very enthused by it because it kept telling me that should know certain information, and this was not how a case should be conducted by an inspector like me.  I also had some trouble with the commands.  I kept typing “look around” and other phrases that the game did not understand.  I also found it difficult to move around the spaces without actually looking at them.  Still, I explored the house, talked to people, and generally enjoyed the game. 

However, I decided that this time, I would not let my initial reactions get to me.  I watched the video of Dr. Jerz and his son again, but this time focused much more on the ways that Peter was figuring out what commands to use, what objects to look at, and how to move around the rooms.  Then, I started Deadline again.  I enjoyed it so much more this time.  I know that I was still terrible at it, but I was learning how to move throughout the text word.  I realized how it appealed more to my mental faculties than my sensory ones, which was difficult because I am mainly a bodily-kinesthetic learner rather than a linguistic or spatial one, but the challenge was rewarding each time I discovered something new.  I did not get very far (I didn’t want to “cheat” by looking up suggestions online), but it was still fun for me. 

I did look up the storyline after I finished for the day, though.  I saw suggestions, such as to use the word “accuse,” and I had never even thought of anything like this, which shows how different our games today are.  In fact, most games that I have played, role-playing games that are similar to this game, have been much less free.  They seemed to direct me along a straighter path towards the end of the story.  In fact, I looked around a bit, but could not find out how Deadline does end.  Is the same person always guilty?  Were any of you able to beat the game?  I think that the fact that I want to know the answers to these questions but could care less what happens at the end of Final Fantasy or Call of Duty shows that Deadline was a well made game.

Read about my classmates’ experiences with Deadline.

I Think I Am Understanding Aarseth

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“But there is a difference, and for a very simple reason: the bewildered reader of a narrative can safely assume that the events that are already encountered, however mystifying, will make sense in the end (if the plot is to make sense at all); whereas the player of an adventure game (Deadline is a good example) is not guaranteed that the events thus far are at all relevant to the solution of the game.  Hence it could be argued that the reader is (or at least produces) the story.”

--From page 112 of Espen J. Aarseth’s Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature

 

This reminded me of a discussion in Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler.  At one point, Calvino’s narrator suggests that it is safe to be involved in a book because when a person reads, there is no effect for that person based on the story, even if there is for the characters.  This was something that I thought applied to most text-based works.  Even though Calvino invoked emotion in me, the reader, making me feel uncomfortable at times, there was never any real danger to me because I was an outsider.  At the start of the book, I thought I was the “reader,” but I soon realized I was not, and this was actually a character in the story.  The story would be there or not if I read, and would approach the same end even if I stopped.  This is how I thought all stories were.

However, after reading this chapter in Aarseth’s book, and after experiencing interactive fiction on my own, I can see that adventure games do not follow this pattern.  As Aarseth suggests, the reader is the story, produces it, or allows it to happen by being involved in it.  Without the reader, there would be no story.  Also, if a different reader were to fill in, it is highly unlikely that the same stories would unfold because of all of the possibilities that adventure games allow for.  This means that it is not “safe” for the reader.  Of course, the reader will not be physically harmed if he or she stops playing; however, the character that the reader participates as in the text, often the protagonist, will be harmed, either by never reaching an end, or by failure.

For instance, I was frustrated at one point as I was playing Deadline.  I remembered that I had tried to leave the Robner estate at one point, and the game had told me I would lose my job if I did that.  I wanted to know the ending, and didn’t really care about having a fictional job or not, so I tried to leave again.  Of course, the game would not allow me to do this, but I realized from this just how important my character was to the story.  Without me, the story would not exist. 

See what my classmates have to say about Aarseth’s chapter five.

This Video Was a Helpful Guide

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I thought this introduction was helpful because I know I would have done many of the same things that Peter did when I began playing Deadline.  For instance, I would have tended to use more complex commands instead of a simple “look” or “drop.”  I also would have neglected objects throughout the room, or the specific descriptions around the room.  However, now I see that every detail is so important because this is the only way that you can “see” your environment.

I think I also have some of the same frustrations about early interactive fiction.  I am used to the “button mashing” games that Dr. Jerz and Peter talked about, not ones that require text-based movement and responses like Deadline, so having to type every little movement is a bit annoying.  Even the games that I have played that do required a text-based response usually ask you to select from a limited number of possibilities.  I guess that these two types of games are similar in that there is a limited amount of ways to say what you want to say, but you have more choices of what to say in the early interactive fiction games.  Overall, though, I still have to say that I prefer the games with which I am more familiar, especially because I am more picture-oriented than text-oriented.

Take a look at what other's thought about Dr. Jerz and Peter's video.

 

Just Trying to Get Aarseth's Ideas

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When I read the introduction to Epen J. Aarseth’s Cybertext: Perspective on Ergodic Literature, I thought that I would enjoy this era of communication more than expected because it would bring up many new ideas about games and cyber literature that I had been exposed to, but never really explored in depth or academically.  However, Chapters two through four were extremely difficult and I gained only bits of information from them.  I can see why Dr. Jerz read this in graduate school.  Chapter two  was especially difficult for me.  I have somewhat of a grasp on the semiotics that he was discussing; however, I often had difficulty keeping up with his examples.  This may be because I have never actually played these games before and had difficulty following the verbal explanations (the pictures did help a bit, though).  I also understood somewhat the ideas about how cybertext is not “nonlinear” but could not find a place where he actually defined what cybertext is. 

However, I found myself enjoying the ideas invoked in chapter three much more than those in chapter two, especially when Aarseth writes, “So what is a text?  Or, what circumstances allow us to describe a certain object as a text?  This question is both helped and hindered by the fact that no universal definition of text exists” (62).  He goes on to write, “A text, then, is any object with the primary function to relay verbal information.  Two observations follow from this definition: (1) a text cannot operate independently of some material medium, and this influences its behavior, and (2) a text is not equal to the information it transmits” (62).  I thought that all of these questions and ideas were thought provoking.  I am considering exploring this sort of a topic in my final research paper by examining text as art, or art that is textual, so this is helping me to think more about what exactly a text is. 

According to Aarseth’s definition, a speech, verbally given and not written down, cannot be a text, even though it meets both of his observations.  This is so because a verbal speech is not a tangible object.  However, is any online writing an object?  I think the answer has to be no.  The computer is an object, and if the words were printed it would be an object, but no one can touch the actual words.  And if online material is a text, then could not a verbal speech also be a text because it cannot be given without the person, that may fall in place of the object?  To me, object implies tangibility.  It sounds to me like Aarseth is talking about texts as ideas rather than as objects, because I still cannot see how a computer keyboard is really any different from a typewriter keyboard; a pencil and paper; ink, a quill, and parchment; or the human voice.  I understand that there are differences, but these differences do not seem to require all of the new and complicated ideas that Aarseth points out. 

Maybe one of my classmates has some insight about this disconnect between Aarseth’s points and my understanding.

ELO Collection

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My initial reactions to ELO anthology were, quite frankly, not positive ones.  I wondered why I had to do this, mainly because I could not find meaning, or any necessary and important idea (to me), in any of the texts to which I was being exposed.  Maybe it all went over my head, because my classmates so far seem to have enjoyed their experiences with the ELO anthology, but I did not really enjoy anything I explored.  I did not see how many of them were different from reading something from a book.  For instance, in “Girls’ Day Out” by Kerry Lawrynovicz, the poems and author’s note seem like they could be on different pages in a book, as do the pictures.  This is how I felt about many of them, which made me wonder why or how they are so different from print literature.  Another one, called “Storyland” by Nanette Wylde flashed as if its purpose was to give me a seizure.  I could not watch or play it (I don’t even really know if these verbs even describe the action involved here) because of this.   I decided to choose the three that were the least painful to me, both literally and figuratively, and tried to get something out of the experience. 

 

First, I chose "Strings" by Dan Waber.  This one was very simple and rather clever, which is why I chose it.  It consisted of a moving image of a string that spelled out various words that would be used in relationships between two people.  The string made the words fluid and moving, almost as if they were alive.  The “reader” could choose the type of relationship or interaction that he or she wanted to view.  I went through all of them at least once.  I really liked the last one which read “words are like strings that I pull out of my mouth.”  I thought this was an interesting concept.  It does seem that sentences are like strings that we pull out of our mouths already formed.  I also like this idea because we hear because of sound waves which move in ways similar to his strings.  It is almost as if he is visually representing sound and textually representing action through the strings’ movements, which goes far beyond what is expected of the typical print literature.  Overall, this one was my favorite.

 

I also spent time looking at “The Dreamlife of Letters” by Brian Kim Stefans.  I thought this one was clever too, and close to traditional reading, so I chose to explore it further.  It was very long, but there were some highlights to it.  It explored words and their meanings in a physical way, often making the words perform or show their meanings.  For instance, the word “drip” falls down the screen as if it were a drop of water.  Also, the word borders is shown in a similar way.  The first part of the word appears as /bo/ and the rders breaks the borders of the word.  Also, “xtra” is added on to an e to form extra, height stretches out to be very tall, and so on.  I thought this was a creative way to show the meanings of the words through the words themselves.

 

Finally, I looked at “Birds Singing Other Birds’ Songs” by Maria Mencia.  I liked this one least of the three that I picked because of the weird bird noises that were apparently made by people; however, I did like the fact that the birds were formed out of the letters that spelled the sounds they made.  Like the others, this piece of literature, if that is what it is to be called, focused on the idea of show the meaning of the words, or in this case sounds, through the actual letters that make up the word.  

 

All three of these actually reminded me of the video that accompanies the children’s book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault and illustrated by Lois Ehlert that many of you might be familiar with.  If you have time take a look at this compared to the three I have chosen above.  Especially take a look at the credits at the end.  Archambault’s “Arch” becomes an actual arch, and the Lo in Lois moves down the screen (plus, it has a more catchy tune than those creepy birds).  

 

For the rest of the time, I decided to explore those that my classmates have explored so far.  I decided to do this to see if their more positive experiences were due to the ones that they chose.  I looked at “Girl’s Day Out,”which is one that Shellie looked at and liked, but as mentioned above, I still did not enjoy it.  I also looked at the “RedRidingHood” story that Maddie looked at, was also annoyed (except perhaps more so) at the fact that many of the objects in the story could not be clicked on.  I did not even finish this one because of this frustration.  I also looked to see if any of the others ignited any initial interest. “Self Portrait(s) [as Other(s)]” by Talan Memmot initially appealed to me because of the pictures rather than the words, but it also soon seemed repetitive and like a book.  I found that the three that I picked in the beginning were the most interesting and creative that I could find.  

 

I found that much of what Aarseth was discussing in Chapters 2 through 4 that was beyond my understanding at times seemed to apply to this type of text, but only in some ways.  Aarseth’s discussion of semiotics was most prevalent.  He writes,” J. David Bolter (1991) claims that ‘the theory of semiotics becomes obvious, almost trivially true, in the computer medium’ (196), but this seems to be based on a misreading of the semiotic […] notion of sign” (25).  I am not sure I understand his later arguments, but I agree with Aarseth when he says that Bolter’s comment is incorrect.  I think that semiotics applies well to the cybertext, especially cybertext such as that on the ELO website.  Within semiotics is the idea of semantics that Aarseth does refer to at times, which basically identifies the relationship between the definition, or sign, and the actual thing that the sign represents.  This is most obvious in the “Birds Singing Other Birds’ Songs” text, but is present in all of the texts, including the video of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  This idea of semiotics helps me to better understand this type of literature, but I do not think that this specific type of literature will ever appeal to me, unless it involves more interesting and relevant subjects and more creative animation and music.

 

Take a look at what everyone else has to say about the ELO collection.

Cybertext Might Not Be So Bad Afterall

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Reading Espen J. Aarseth’s Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature has really helped to put into perspective exactly what we are going to be discussing in this unit.  I was having trouble thinking about how we could discuss it in ways that were similar to what we already discussed about oral, manuscript, and print culture, but it seems that there is a whole large group of people who focus on this topic in highly academic ways.  I thought that Aarseth’s ideas about cyberculture were also very interesting, especially the fact that he sees the text as more than just the program that used to write the game or the game itself.  He includes all aspects of the technology that is used to create the text.  This idea reminded me of the video we watched about the printing press and how Kristensen views the process as important to the actual text, and possibly even as a part of the text itself. 

 

I was also excited about this reading because I was able to make connections like this that I had a more difficult time making before.  For instance, Aarseth writes, “The reader’s pleasure is the pleasure of the voyeur.  Safe, but impotent.  The cybertext reader, on the other hand, is not safe, and therefore, it can be argued, she is not a reader.  The cybertext puts its would-be reader at risk: the risk of rejection” (4).  I immediately connected this to Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler; however, reading on, I saw that Aarseth was already familiar with this work (7).  Actually, as I began reading Calvino’s book, I felt as if I were experiencing something more similar to a cybertext.  Although I am not very experienced with cybertext, I have three good friends who worked at, or still work at, Gamestop stores and who somehow constantly found the time to play and beat video games.  Because I was a voyeur through their experiences, I could understand what Aarseth was talking about as he discussed his labyrinth ideas.  

 

The more I consider the gaming and cybertext world, the more I can see how it mimics real life experiences much more than only writing can.  Before reading this text and considering what we have so far about the various communication movements, I often talked about how my friends were wasting their time in these fictional worlds.  We clip newspaper articles that we think are funny or interesting and hang them in our dorm.  My favorite article has been one from Reuters that says, “Average video gamer is 35, fat, sad: study,” and I would often make fun of my friends about this.  However, I am starting to see that reading is much more solitary than the cybertext world that instead encourages interaction.  Aarseth has not won me over to the cybertext side because I will always love the tangibility of the book and real interactions; however, I am starting to see and understand some of the things that make it valuable.  

 

See what others have to say about Aarseth's chapter.

Some Research Ideas

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I am considering two ideas for my paper.  First, I considered focusing on the Bible for my final paper.  I decided to do this because it is one text that has been a major part of Western culture throughout all of the communication stages we have discussed, and it seems that it will continue to be so.  So far, this is a very broad topic, but I can see myself going in several directions.

 

For instance, there is a group called the Jesus Seminar that looks at Jesus as a social reformer and the early church as people who were working towards this specific cause, creating their own renditions of Jesus’ sayings and so on.  Of course, there are many who disagree with this.  However, such sources would allow me to look at the ways that communications are altered each time a new form of communication develops.  This specific source would help with the transition from oral to manuscript. 

 

I could also see myself focusing on how the needs of the culture influence communication in conjunction with the Bible, how culture develops communication, not the other way around. 

 

Also, while taking a course about Islam, I was introduced to the fact that Muslims do not use any pictures of Allah ever, but instead focus on poetry and the words.  They often use calligrams, or words that form pictures, to write Allah in the form of animals or other things.  I think this would be really interesting to explore too.  Things like this bring up the questions, What is a text?, What is communication?, What is art and what is communication?, and I think that these would be interesting questions to pursue too.  I could even keep the religious focus, or not for this one.  

 

Research Questions:

 

Idea 1:  How can I further limit this topic?  Should I focus on one part of the Bible? Should I focus on one culture, or touch on all four (or five)?  If I focus on the future, what will I suggest about future communication based on cultural change or what sorts of changes will the Bible undergo in the future?  What does current research say about this, if there is any?

 

Idea 2: What types of calligrams existed, if any, when print was first created?  What types of calligrams are used now?  Why are they used?  Is there any evidence of people describing them as art or as text/communication?  Is art a form of communication that we have somewhat neglected in our study of the English ideas concerning communication?  Is there current research about calligrams or about art as a text?  

 

Check out what my classmates are considering as research topics.