So I haven’t started my paper yet and the draft is due in two days. I have all my sources read and the quotes I want have been pulled out, but I haven’t outlined my argument in anyway. The skeleton structure we discussed in class makes sense, but I’m more of a bullet point outline kind of girl so I guess I’ll start there. I think planning papers is the hardest part about writing papers. Once the planning is done, the paper writing process tends to go quickly and smoothly. I’m just so ready to be done with school now that the weather is nice so it’s hard to focus on getting this paper done.
I didn’t get a chance to bring this up in class today because other people were so willing to fill the silent space in conversation and the conversation didn’t really lead to my response, but as a creative writing major I naturally thought about how the way I read online may affect the way I write. When I am writing a creative piece I tend to stick to shorter sentences, smaller scenes, and I usually struggle to make page count. I wonder if this is because I am used to reading for the gist of the story rather than for the details present in close reading. I think it would have been interesting if Hayles talked about this affect of digital reading in her article too.
It’s hard not to think about how you are currently reading as you read an article titled “How We Read” about the differences in the way read print versus digital texts. I found that a lot of what the article discussed was true. My attention span is shorter online. I think it’s partly because staring at a screen hurts my eyes more than staring at a page. But the distractions embedded online are certainly the largest reason why reading digital texts are harder than print. Even though the article was a pdf with no links, images, or interactive content, I still found myself getting distracted. I took several breaks to check Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and after each section I allowed myself to watch one YouTube video as a reward for getting through it. Why do I need to reward myself for getting though a section that is only a few pages long? I also found myself reaching for a snack perhaps because my hands weren’t occupied with holding open a book since I was reading on my laptop which can stay open on its own and only needs a short flick of the finger to move to the next page. One thing is for sure, I am definitely a distracted reader online.
I had to completely rework the topic of my paper last night after grudgingly accepting the fact that there just aren’t enough sources (that I could find) to support my argument that books will never die. I planned to argue this by explaining the features of a print book that digital books cannot replicate such as the smell of old ink, the feel of aged paper between fingertips, and the heft of large book. To me these are a comfort and a large part of the reading experience that I never want to give up, but I couldn’t find enough people who wrote about it in scholarly way. I even dove into psychology databases looking for some link between reading from a print book and the production of serotonin or some other happy chemical in the brain, but nothing. Most of the articles on print versus digital are in favor of digital for learning purposes and storage purposes. It seems no one really cares about keeping the book alive. I am determined though so I changed my essays argument. Now I argue that in order for a paper book to survive in our growing digital world it must learn from its digital counterparts to become machine-like and I support my argument by giving examples such as the physical mechanics of pop-up books like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the form mechanics of text on the page like we saw in House of Leaves, and the marriage of print and digital in augmented reality books like Between Page and Screen.
I’m not sure what exactly I want to write my final paper on yet. I know I want to do something with pop-up books and the materiality of books. I might expand my topic to include the sensory books made for kids that will have different textures in them for kids to feel. I don’t know yet what my argument about these types of books would be. I’ve collected a list of seven sources so far so I guess I’ll start reading those to see if anything pops out (pun not intended) for me to further explore and hopefully that will lead me toward more sources so I can complete this 12 item bibliography that’s due Friday.
We had a reading of our computer generated novels yesterday. I loved listening to everyone’s work and learning how everyone approached coding their own novel. Each novel was vastly different from the next, but one thing we all had in common during the reading was knowing where to end. Since these novels were computer generated, they didn’t really have a plot, just a series of random events. Because of that it was hard for everyone to know where would be a good place to end. Some read just a paragraph. Some read a short chapter. Me? I coded a poem so I just ended after the first repeated stanza but even the stanzas were randomly generated so there could be identical stanza right next to each other. I just think it would be interesting to ask everyone why they chose to stop reading where they did. Maybe they just thought they were going on too long and wanted the embarrassment of public reading too end. idk.
I finally finished my novel today! What tedious work! The commas! Below is a sneak peak of my novel. It took hours to complete, but that’s nothing in comparison to those who write novels on their own without computer generated help.
As you can see I appropriated the Dr. Seuss poem “Oh The Places You’ll Go” because most of us, if not all of us, are seniors and so my goal was simply to change the poem to reflect the fears, failures, confusions, and successes that lay before us.
Coding a novel isn’t the scary thing I thought it was. If anything it is just tedious… or at least the way I am going about it is. You see I chose to code a 50,000 word poem rather than a prose piece. Poems require more html formatting which can be tedious. I also decided to pull a well known poem from the internet that rhymes. The rhymes create a struggle because I don’t want to mess with the rhymes in each stanza, but I still want to change the lines enough to make the final poem my own. That requires changing words in the beginning and middle of the lines only, which sometimes there aren’t sufficient words to change. It’s a struggle that I hope pays off in the end.
P.S. commas in coding are a pain in my @$$
Remember our friend Nick Montfort? I don’t. The name sounds familiar but I don’t remember what we have read of him. I looked him up on Wikipedia and I scrolled through his website, but none of his works stand out to me. If you remember why I know this name, please share in the comments below!
Anyway, I found his NaNoGenMo Novel and thought it was the perfect one for this assignment. His novel Hard West Turn is based on recent events of violence in American history. With the march for gun control that took place this past weekend, I thought the topic was perfectly timed so I was set on studying this one.
From what I can tell, Montfort sources a lot of his content from wikipedia.
He also creates a lot of his own content to help create the narrative.
The main character in his novel is an unnamed man who contemplates a lot about the conflict of his love for his country and the issues within it in regards to mass shootings, gender issues, and religious issues.
Montfort also includes code to ensure that letters are capitalized properly when they are sourced from the outside. Most of his code seems easy to understand, but I’m still trying to figure out how he wrote the code so that these sources intermingled…
Parts of this code make sense. For example, “english” orders the computer to draw from wikipedia as stated in the first screenshot of code above. But I’m confused on the order in which it is commanding the sources be drawn on and how Montfort tells the computer when to start a new paragraph. I’m going to keep looking at this source and hopefully I’ll have more figured out by the time we have class on Monday. If so, I’ll add updates to this post.
UPDATE: Shortly after writing this I realized that Nick Montfort was the guy who wrote the book that taught us to code in Applied Digital Studies last semester.
I know I have discussed this in one of my other classes, the whole authorship debate when a book is technically written by a computer through the parameters set by a coder, but it is still a mystery to me. I keep going in circles about who the author of a computer generated book is. Dictionary.com defines “author” as “a writer of a book, article, or report.” According to that definition the computer is the author because the computer is the one who actually writes the book. However, the computer wouldn’t be able to do the writing without the written code by the coder. If that’s the case should novels generated by computers not give credit to authors but to coders instead? I’m simply suggesting a change of terms because giving credit to a computer seems ridiculous when the computer couldn’t create the novel without the guidance of the coder.