Session 3

Melinda White: Glitch Lit: beauty and meaning in imperfect media

From Joyce to Dada to Postmodernism, authors and artists have been utilizing the affordances of media to create meaning and metaphor. Early electronic literature, with Flash pre-loaders and wait times due to dial-up internet, introduced technical frustrations into the mix, and authors learned to use these navigational or code issues to their advantage, often leaving a reader wondering if the frustration was purposeful or not. Aesthetic glitches in glitch art and degraded media have become stylistic, even trendy. In our high-tech, fast-paced digital society, we seem to long for something broken or imperfect—the nostalgia of the fuzzy crackle of a vinyl record, the distortion of a film reel, television snow, the fuzz of a VHS tape, the high-pitched whir/hum of dial-up internet. In digital art, like Nam June Paik’s, glitch and distortion of the media is the message. In digital narratives, the computer, as well as the author, and sometimes the reader, have introduced navigation frustrations or a learning curve, where readers must drive or catch or earn the text. Hayles states: “materiality is a selective focus on certain physical aspects of an instantiated text that are foregrounded by a work’s construction, operation, and content. These properties cannot be determined in advance of the work by the critic or even the writer. Rather, they emerge from the interplay between the apparatus, the work, the writer, and the reader/user” (9). Dear e.e., an early Flash poem, besides having a great pre-loader, had glitchy-style visual and audio. A reader had to catch flying elements to read, as deconstructed as any e.e. cummings poem. Alternatively, Lexia to Perplexia, an early html e-lit, initially allowed the reader to feel in control, with the eventual jarring realization that the computer was actually the one in charge. Other e-lit has combined frustrating navigation, for instance, ii— in the white darkness, or makes the reader work for meaning, like Fitting the Pattern. One thing these works have in common is that the materiality works to further the meaning, and metaphor, of the narrative. Now we have AR and VR worlds where, as the technology is still being refined, glitches are common, old-school aesthetics like text games and pixelated images have come back into play. Often touching or grabbing objects, as in Circle or Queerskins, holding screens steady, or trying to control your movement as you’re swimming by lines of a poem, can create a glitchy effect. We are in on the holodeck, but the walls are still visible, we are immersed, but still aware of the medium. Murray brings up concerns of immersion and awareness of the medium in participatory narrative and suggests we have to define borders (103). The glitches in “the matrix” give us not only that awareness, but also another layer of meaning. So, where are we headed next if we don’t want narrative and virtual worlds that feel “too real”? It seems we want to keep advancing our technology but long for the feel of that vinyl, dial-up hum of a past.

Liberty Kohn: Why the Sierra Club Sucks: Climate Change, The Psychology of Persuasion, and Environmental Digital Messaging

In an age of environmental crisis, non-dialogic social media rants, and digital overwhelm, changing someone’s mind may seem an impossibility. This presentation will evaluate a number of homepages (and relevant webpages) of the most prominent environmental group in the U.S., the Sierra Club, according to psychological research into behavior change and belief change on environmental topics. This presentation will suggest that the Sierra Club’s messaging and rhetorical frameworks typically do not use empirically-proven strategies to promote a change in viewpoint among those indifferent or doubtful of climate change. Moreover, the Sierra Club’s messaging typically uses messaging strategies that empirical studies would suggest to be ineffective in changing attitudes toward climate change or environmental issues. This presentation will frame its analysis through empirically-proven strategies that suggest behavior change or belief change on climate issues is most likely when issues are framed as local problems, as human problems, and as present day problems or immediate risks (Leiserowitz). The analysis will also borrow from complementary Risk Communication research showing that people are more likely to change behaviors and beliefs when they see themselves at risk, are given specific strategies to achieve change, feel the change is achievable, and feel the cost of the change outweighs the risk of doing nothing (Moser). Together, these criteria form a powerful lens to evaluate public messaging on climate crisis or eco-system threats. Ultimately, the presentation will suggest that the Sierra Club’s public messages and warnings are often ineffective, and that the Sierra Club is, through its rhetorical strategies, likely “preaching to the converted.”

Davin Heckman: Gastropoetics, Cooking with Code

This paper will explore Memmott and Rettberg’s Gastropoetics as a humanistic challenge to the grammar of language, platform, and text generation. The impulse is to situate such works within the tradition of dada and futurist performance, where obvious antecedents can be found. However, in the age of platform dominance, the meaning of experiments in absurdity and embodiment take on new meaning, as platform spaces do the work of aestheticizing the absurd conditions produced by the Taylorization of social life. Where industrial processes once disturbed the lifeworld of human craft and technique in the process of industrialization, the cultural world at the most minute level is subject to the proletarianizing process, and its reassembly into an economic model is now the work of the platform spaces. In other words, Platforms do the ideological work of normalizing social collapse as progress towards the rationalized reorganization of body politic into “taste communities” and other post-digital demographies. While Gastropoetics is a marginal practice, these culinary experiments explore the relational dynamics of cooking, hospitality, and eating as persistent humanistic practices, even as such practices are increasingly mediated by emergent practices like “food selfies” and other performative taste practices. Key to understanding the appeal of gastropoetics is the ad hoc nature of human production and consumption (see de Certeau’s “everyday life”) performed under the constraints of the generated menu, of the platform, and of the mnemotechnical system itself.