Course blog

Electronic Literature- A Slave to the A Priority of Grand Narration?


I enjoyed Drucker’s article on the Poetics of Electronic Textuality- it effectively summarized many of the works I was exposed to in a class on Digital Literature. One of the collections of the works we analysed can be found here-

I found it interesting that many of the works illustrates the notions of Speculative Computing and Temporal Modelling.There are also examples of all 3 forms of creating electronic literature- hypertext, dynamic/kinetic manipulation and display, and programmable texts.

Highlighting the “contrast between the supposed linearity of print forms and the multi-linear hyper-textual forms of digital materials”, Drucker also restates McGann’s point that works of imagination “are not information structures”, “yet, to make them functional within digital formats, they are often treated as if they were”. However, this rhetoric seems trapped within the same structure of a priori knowledge it seeks to refute. Instead, we might find comfort in understanding that a digital production is not one that needs to fit into a grand narrative, but could be a standalone, autonomous reference, even extension of the work of art itself. As with any work that is adapted, translated, or simply a denomination of the “original” work, it is inspired by a precedent. Yet, the necessity of preserving or reproducing its original should be removed- it won’t be the same, but that’s also because it has a different purpose to serve; an alternative space to fit in and a new way of relating to others.


To illustrate my point, take the work “Ah” for example. Ah deconstructs the notion of run-on lines- the words scroll from right to left on the screen, much like updates about the stock markets on the bottom of television screens airing broadcast news. It appears to focus on an internal reconstruction, or a manipulation within the discipline of word and writing itself. In doing so, it comes to embody movement and sound to create story space. Words and letters run over/ fall over/ overlap one another in what seems like an uncontrollable stream of consciousness or thought- consistent only in its unpredictability. Even letters composing an individual word seem to break off and diffuse itself into other words, making for a very literally intratextual experience.

Further, shape and form appears to be completely abandoned as we can no longer rely on natural language structure to determine meaning. The slow, steady velocity of word movement literally mimic a constant stream of water, while the overlaps result in a stream of consciousness like inconstancy that does not permit anticipation or revisiting. In this way, the structure of the work reinforces the very images of sound and water that it refers to. Yet, it ironically is incapable of communicating meaning as it forgoes grammatical coherence to appeal to these physical entities. This central paradox highlights the very way in which we engage with the world- our attempts to understand and psychologically translate your phenomenological experience. We find sense drawn out from one part of a sentence, and we use understanding of structure from the previous moment to build understanding on the sentence arrangement of the next present moment. Ah in itself is therefore a constant experiment in building our own mental language with which to confront the world.

Rather than be upset at the work for bastardizing the meaning of run on lines, or neglecting  represent the essence of any precedent well, we must take into account what the work itself achieves and its “untapped potential for critical and creative investigation”. Removed from what Oscar Wilde would call the “shackles of verisimilitude”, we can then enjoy these works and interpret them without the sanction of Derrida’s critical distance or the counter-productive circularity of a priori knowledge that grand narratives seeks to perpetuate.

Using visual simulations to tie the past and the future

In 1997 the UCLA CVRLab launched a 6-year project on Visualizing Statues in the Late Antique Roman Forum to digitally recreate the Roman forums from the year 400A.D. and to study the spatial information of Rome at the time and the kinetic physical motions of the Romans who considered walking through the city an important activity. The digital model included over 20 features such as buildings and monuments of the Roman Forum, an important center of ancient Rome. When the project was finished their project was shared on their website not only so that anyone can easily view the digital Rome but more importantly to provide the resources and guidance for the future digital studies in archaeology and antiquities.


Upon entering their website the users can view an interactive timemap where they can select each building or monuments, by just viewing the building plan, an aerial photo with the timeline, or just the digital model itself, as the construction changes with the timeline cursor moves horizontally on the top of the image. The lab also provides geospatial data in x, y, z values to find the grid per each construction, as well as resources per building to specifically provide evidences and sources of their project.

Such effort of the CVR Lab has provided a strong foundation for the current and future studies of digital modeling of archaeology, antiquities and beyond, practicing every resources and technology there is for digital humanities research, ranging from the data and resource aggregation based on timeline and secondary research materials to geospatial technology.



This week’s study is a little foreign to me since I don’t have much experience with 3D modeling or anything of the like, but when reading Diane Favro’s essay that walks us through ancient Rome via various digital exhibitions and other projects, I noticed that the idea behind 3D might not be as foreign as I originally imagined. Of course, I believe, as well as most people, experiencing something holds much more value than merely reading about someone else’s experience. Although text gives life in a specific and exact way that has the possibility of appealing to many, I would argue, even as an English major, experience not only has more available appeal, meaning that often the level of understanding might be lower than text, but also, some experiences are not easily transcribed to text. A text describing the Grand Canyon cannot grasp the beauty of the sublime view that overlooks the grand carving in the earth’s surface. A picture can also capture much more of the view than words, although words have a unique power to enhance the experience.

Recently, my mom sent me a link that offers a visual tour of Niagra Falls with multiple perspectives created from panaromic pictures taken from a helicopter above the falls. Although it is not necessarily 3D, the experience it creates for the user is quite remarkable and I was reminded of it while reading Favro’s essay. Physically being there to really experience the sublime view and power of nature outweighs the visual tour and makes it appear somewhat trivial, but I definitely would say this offers a great peak into what it would be like, which words could not quite possibly offer.

Reading Favro’s essay, I was also reminded by something my brother did when we moved out of the house that we grew up in. Unfortunately, I was unable to see the house one last time before my family moved out because I was away at school, although my brother recorded a little less than one second of video in each of the rooms of the house, compiling them altogether so he would not forget what the house looked like. Not only am I reminded of the appearance of the house by watching my brother’s “walk-through” video, but I also remember all the memories that were made while living there.  I could be reminded by these memories simply by talking with my brother, but seeing the rooms really does place me right there, which words have a harder time doing.

The video:

What a Trip: Virtual Reality

In a virtual setting, fabricated renditions of what was, what is, or could be strikes me as odd.  How could one render a true experience, the time, the era, the social understandings of the culture and space of an area in the 21st century?  For the purposes of research and understanding the past, virtual realities seem to understand the complexities of its own creation.  A simulation could never capture the authenticity, live, in-the-moment experience; however, it does not deserve to be discounted. How could we truly know what it was like to walk in ancient Rome?  The scents, the energy–scientific or not–all of the feelings you experience in the moment do not truly translate.

Take a moment, as I have, to sit, think, imagine yourself in front of your computer—as we usually are—recreating ancient Greece and experiencing it from your screen; that is mind-boggling.  B.C. was an oral era.  What we know  from it stems from  surviving texts, images, artefacts that narrate the story of its past.  As I write this I freak myself out more and more so I will put it to stop that.  What a trip.

The research and articles published here at UCLA from Lisa M. Synder and Diane Favro illustrate beautifully the “challenges encountered harnessing digital technologies to investigate kinetic issues” (Favro).  I appreciated the articles more for the transparency and language employed.  The purpose of recreating a digital space in a different time, and environment, is extremely challenging, almost impossible.  Thanks to our advanced technology, passionate, intelligent scholars and  the ever changing and growing discipline, we are able to explore and inform spaces from the past to other generations.  They state the challenges and they “walk” us through their processes.  I found it compelling to hear their humility for the discipline and really respect the textual research already founded, which they build off of.  The article reminded me of our very own final project: documenting the process from beginning to end, evaluating data, tools, methodologies, our own limitations and expertise, scope, time, etc.  It was interesting to see how complex the founding of Digital Humanities was here at UCLA: “Two decades” (Favro).  Additionally, the evolution and how the discipline is tapping into new fields such as, 3D modeling, and incorporating multidisciplinary perspectives, more so than before.  The digital era we are a part of is quite unmatched.  It feels as if it is the best of times by really having access to ALL times.  Wow, that is weird.  What will be next?

3D modeling is completely foreign to me; I do not understand it, which is why these articles were challenging for me to really grasp.  I expect to learn a lot more at today’s walkthrough the virtual portal on campus.


Week 9: VR in a Classroom Setting

I found that reading Cecire’s article before diving into “Virtual Reality for Humanities Scholarship” by Lisa Snyder gave me a different perspective in assessing the challenges that VR technology faces in the near future. Having taken Snyder’s 150 class in 3D modeling, I particularly enjoyed exploring the variety of mediums that this new digital technology allows both scholars and students to research and interact with humanities subjects. For example, our class was able to take a virtual field trip in Second Life that was led by Professor Gill from ASU who spoke to us through the program and talked about the historical facts and decision-making in rebuilding the environment of the heritage site. She gave us ample time to ask her questions and do some of our own exploring as some bits and pieces of information were also embedded into the plantation models themselves. However, I feel that for a good half of the tour, many of the students were getting sidetracked either by the novelty of the virtual trip, having difficulties navigating, or getting distracted by many of the in-game mechanics that Second Life provides.

Although this was a great example of a concrete way in getting students to learn about a piece of history and space, I couldn’t help but reference Cecire’s point about “formulating a theory out of lived experience” and “how to communicate tacit knowledge.” This experience was probably a better example of more doing than saying as the act of partaking on this trip overshadowed much of the content, which was the point in the context of our digital humanities class. Yet, if the professor who led this project were to have set a guideline of evaluating and answering questions through the exploration of the site, students may be able to learn much more about the historical context of the model.

I also found Scheinfeldt’s post about “niceness” in digital humanities very revealing about the nature concerning method and theory. The debate between which tool to use when conducting an academic project using virtual technology is much easier to solve as opposed to the controversial research concerning the project’s topic. Moreover, Snyder mentions a “5:1 ratio for time spent on research versus computer modeling.” However, I believe that many of these projects end up becoming under appreciated by students depending on the backgrounds they come from and their interests in the topic of investigation. Cecire’s article raises an issue that perhaps someone from a background of unlimited childhood computer access would take away or even focus on a different portion of a project than someone of a lower socio-economic status who may get easily lost in the methodology that the theory is presented in. These limitations should be further explored while embracing the inherent difference in the act of saying and doing.


Natalia Cecire’s “Introduction: Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities”

Lisa Snyder’s “Virtual Reality for Humanities Scholarship”

ASU’s virtual campus:

Week 9: Wordsmithing and Gendered Language

Wordsmithing and the implicit framing of the digital humanities as masculine.

As someone who is excited by the delicate art of “word-smithing” and pondering word choice for hours on end, Natalia Cecire’s “Introduction: Theory and the Virtues of Digital Humanities” was most fascinating to me this week because it contextualized digital humanities in a frame that I am most familiar with. Arguing the Digital Humanities as an arm of the humanities that strangely embraces “doingness”, Cecire points out words like “ “hands-on,” “getting your hands dirty,” “digging,” “mining,” “building”—these terms offer quite a specific vision of what constitutes doing, conjuring up economic productivity (stimulus packages and infrastructure initiatives loom into view)”. The kind of activeness carefully implied by the digital humanities in its work based on the words it uses to describe its work are familiar – we as a class use these terms all the time when we discuss “data mining” or “web building”. And, as Cecire explains, these terms are very comfortable within the realm of digital humanities when other arms of the humanities are more so interested in a more general, intangible approach to negotiating the borders of their quandaries. This difference is made even more stark when Cecire points out that the terms used to describe the digital humanities “doing-ness” is obliquely male. Framed as a masculine form of productivity, rather than female, this difference seems to imply a feminization of the other arms of humanities studies when in reality “it is just as it is the subdiscipline of the humanities most closely implicated in the postindustrial “feminization of labor””.

This kind of gendered word-smithing used to describe the digital humanities that is explained and discussed in Natalia Cecire’s piece reminded me of a Gendered Language class I took in the Applied Linguistics department a few quarters ago. I never knew that language could be considered in this way and was surprised how much language was affected by gendered thinking. As someone who thought words just “meant” things, thinking about gendered language gave me an entirely new perspective on how to choose words and frame my own writing. A broad example of this can be observed in the Chinese characters “女“, generally meaning “girl”, and ”子“,generally meaning “boy”. By themselves, they simply gesture to the gender each refers to. However, when used together, they form the character “好“, generally meaning “good”. Implicit in the construction of this word is a cultural mindset in Chinese culture that in order for a family to be “good”, it must figuratively strive for the balance and order as represented in the character for good in its inclusion of both the feminine and the masculine, as well as literally have both female and male children for the health of their lineage. These kinds of distinctions and observations can also be observed in other languages like Spanish and Russian and indicate greater attention to gendered language is not only fascinating but incredibly telling, as seen in Cecire’s initial observation in her piece.

  1. Cicere:

Week 9: Exploring Virtual Reality Through Childhood Memories

disneyScreen Shot 2014-12-01 at 1.10.14 PM

I have always had a fascination with constructing my own realities; from building my own version of Polly Pocket World as a young girl, to later developing a more advanced virtual theme park from Zoo Tycoon as a preteen. It has always been a passion (and obsession of mine) to control and manipulate architecture. The ability to build your own, personal theme park gave me a sense of power and authority and ultimately led to my strong sense of leadership and decisiveness later on down the road.

As I took a trip down memory lane exploring the ropes of Zoo & RollerCoaster Tycoon again, I wondered if one of the most famous and successful theme parks in the world used the same technologies to develop their own infrastructure and park mapping plans. Disneyland, as I discovered, has an online site dedicated to the virtual representation of it’s sister park, Disneyland Paris Resort in 3D. Through Google Earth, users are able to tour Disneyland Paris at their own leisure and explore the park’s sites from every angle imaginable. The perspectives provided in this virtual reality are incredible; you can view the park through the eyes of a tourist on the ground level, or even as a passenger on any of the rides! I appreciate the immense respect to detail and the incredible precision that the engineers of this program created. Every color pigment, umbrella, drinking fountain, and tree are represented to an exact replica of the original park. I think it would be very valuable and to speak with the creators of this program to see how they constructed all the elements so accurately, what tools they used to create such a realistic experience, and to discover how long it took to construct the site from start to finish.

The presence of virtual realities online are a useful tool in exploring not only current, physical locations, but also, the future development of a theme park, office building, or other architectural site. It gives viewers are accurate portrayal of the dimensions of the land site, and offers a new and exciting way to see and imagine reality. In the near future, I can see these virtual maps taking over traditional paper maps in theme parks to help park-goers have a more realistic view of the park. This new technology has the potential to incorporate live satellite views to show other attendees a live representation of lines and waiting time. Using virtual reality technology can help to construct a better theme park experience…and this is just the beginning of all the possibilities.


Week 9 – “Stellarscope” Interactive Music Video Game

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, an interactive 3D simulation is worth tens of thousands,” says Diane Favro, UCLA professor and director of the Experiential Technologies Center. Favro explains in her essay, “Meaning in Motion” the development of digital modeling and reconstruction of historical environments here in the Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning back in the late 1990s. The initiative for this research on digital technologies was definitely new and unknown territory for scholars and researchers like Favro which coincided with a generally undefined and unregulated environment to work within. The Cultural Virtual Reality Lab, established by Favro and Professor Frischer, attempted to establish guidelines with their five principles for creating these high-performance computing, historical simulations. Their five principles definitely adheres to the same principles and attributes of digital humanities, echoing key words like metadata, knowledge representations, and generally combining scientific methods with studies in humanities.  Today, especially with the launch of Google Earth, web-based geographic computing systems are readily accessible and increasingly user friendly. The standard for historical representations are only getting higher and higher and a polysensorial experience for users are not only immersive, but also becoming expected.

A colleague of mine, Nikita Arefkia worked on this project, “Stellarscope” alongside her bandmate, Lionel Williams. The creative duo collaborated to incorporate an interactive music video/game to pair as a visual for their band’s track, “Stellarscope”. Designed as a generative process, players are invited to essentially explore the interactive environment and create their own visuals while listening to the song. Sounds are incorporated into the environment that can only be accessed through close proximity. The represented environment takes inspiration from historic temples and outer space, but is virtually imagined from the duo’s minds. The simulations of Favro’s historic environments immediately reminded me of “Stellarscope” despite the obvious differences. For one, “Stellarscope” is made for purely artistic value while Favro focuses her work on academic and scholarly progression. However, I appreciated that Favro emphasizes the importance of forming a relationship between motion and meaning. Acknowledging the Roman importance of combining physical movement and mental thought, Favro strives to create the ultimate kinetic experience that stimulates a user’s multiple senses.

With “Stellarscope”, the interactive environment incorporates this same crucial concept, by allowing users to essentially form their own personal memories and experiences each time they explore the game. Although the game was made with no scholarly objective nor did it face the challenge of documenting historic data, it does act as an example of interactive reconstructions that aims to give a polysensorial experience for the user.

Week 9- Google + The Cardboard Project

google VR viewer


Technology has evolved at such a fast pace, but it’s given us incredible opportunities to learn about the world we live in like never before. I am a huge fan of 3D modeling, which I became relatively familiar with this past year at UCLA. I learned about all the really cool things students and professors are doing,

I was thinking about the other day how privileged we are as UCLA students to be surrounded by this leading work in the world of 3D academia. But how can other people experience this cutting edge technology in virtual realities? Besides video games, is it becoming more accessible?

Then, I thought about The Cardboard Project by Google. The purpose of this project is to bring the experience of virtual reality to the public. Making it easy and accessible, was their goal. This is made possible by creating a cardboard VR (virtual reality) viewer. Only drawback? You need an Android smartphone. But let’s face it, smartphones are more common for our generation. And it’s much easier to see someone our age have one. But that’s besides the point, the Cardboard Project is really cool because the viewer only costs less than $10. The Cardboard Project website also gives a how-to create your own cardboard VR viewer.

With your smartphone, you can load various 3D virtual reality visualizations. From experiencing a virtual roller coaster to collecting coins in a 3D game, virtual reality comes to life and in your own hands, and simply from a smartphone. I have to admit that’s pretty incredible in our world today.

This is really great for people who can’t afford video games or have access to expensive 3D modeling softwares. The experience may not be exactly the same, but it’s still something that helps bridge the technological gap some people experience everyday.

Like Favro mentioned in her article, virtual reality technology is really important in the world of humanities. The humanities search for ways to better understand our surroundings. And I honestly believe that with 3D modeling, it takes that understanding to a whole new level. I think 3D modeling should be more used in all aspects of academia. From studying ancient Roman ruins to creating objects with 3D printers, there is so much we have yet to explore. And like the Cardboard Project, I think we need to create new ways bring this cutting edge technology to the public.

W9 – 3D Modeling and Interactive Environments

As technology around us continues to progress at lightning speed, new media allows us to recreate the world around us (and others) with incredible accuracy. 3D modeling is one of these new media that is changing how we understand our world.

Interactive environments filled with buildings, characters, and other objects modeled in 3D can act as virtual extensions of our reality. Some 3D video games leverage this kind of experience in their promotions. Hyper-realistic graphics and first-person views contribute to high levels of user immersion in AAA video games like Crysis, Battlefield 3, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Grand Theft Auto IV. For many players, realistically rendered game worlds allow for an escape from reality into a virtual reality. Whether it is old-world fantasy quests, modern day escapades, or visions of a space-age future, the power of 3D models lie in their authentic spatial dimensionality.

3D modeling’s potential is not limited to entertainment and gaming. Digital Humanities scholars can use virtual environments to their advantage. In “Virtual Reality for Humanities Scholarship,” Lisa M. Snyder writes, “within virtual environments created to academically rigorous standards, it is now possible to explore reconstructed buildings and urban spaces, re-create the experience of citizens of other eras, challenge long-held reconstruction theories, and gain insights into the material culture of past civilizations in ways never before possible.” Snyder is part of UCLA’s Institute for Digital Research and Education, a cooperative of faculty and technologists working to advance the existing body of computing knowledge and expertise at UCLA. Snyder and colleagues saw the potential for virtual reality and 3D modeling to not only create new worlds, but also recreate old ones. These kind of virtual realities are promising for scholars who have been without 3D visualization tools for so long. Why look at 2D archeology site plans when you can walk around the rendered campsite? The challenge this technique presents is that these environments are only as useful as their models are accurate. Therefore, the level of detail achieved in video game worlds is not feasible.

Last Winter quarter I took AUD 10A with Diane Favro. For one of our projects, we described a historically accurate narrative that took place in the Roman Forum. The tool we used in class was VSim, a IDRE Research Technology Group Project led by Snyder and others. The software visualization tool came preloaded with the Roman Forum models and a timeline slider that allowed the environment to be viewed at different time periods. Although the environment was very plain, the ability to wander across an architectural landscape thousands of years in the past was incredible. The experience was similar to a video game, but instead of creating a new story, I was reliving a past one. I used VSim to recreate a funeral procession across the Roman Forum in 211 and it was my favorite project from Favro’s class.