Class Thread on Augmented Reality Books (Week 10)

This week’s prompt is provided by Abbie:

We’ve had trouble classifying some of the works we’ve read and augmented books may be harder to classify than anything else we’ve read thus far. They sit in a space between a physical book we can hold in our hands and a virtual reality. Something we are experiencing here exists in a space we can’t even begin to classify. Timothy Orme attempts to classify Between Page and Screen as this, “It’s a mirrored reading experience that places the reader in an interpolated, virtual space between the surface of the page and the surface of the screen, a space that places both text and reader as a kind of shadow, a space that enables the reader to see themselves where they are absent.” Just the title “Between Page and Screen” suggests that there is this separate place where this experience exists. When comparing Between Page and Screen and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (taking into account we haven’t fully experienced them) how does this use of augmented space work effectively or ineffectively as a component of e-literature and how close do you perceive augmented books to be to ‘true e-literature?’ (as in how well does it take advantage of technology while still being literature)

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  1. The thought that occurred to me while I was looking through the selections for this week that, in fact, what we see in augmented books is a kind of distribution method for all the other forms of e-lit we’ve seen so far.

    Between Page and Screen, for example, is in many ways a kind of kinetic poetry, with some poetry-generation happening in some of the pages, as well as a kind of fragmentary narrative not entirely unlike hypertext fiction. The book itself simply because a mode of accessing those forms, a mode more nuanced than simply loading a program on a web browser, but functionally very similar. The very nature of the book’s tension between page and screen comes from the fact that the book and the screen are both just frames within which content is delivered or distributed.

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde rooted those various techniques in the more linear narrative of the story, but retained elements of illustration and animation that we had seen in other forms of e-literature.

    And the comments made by Berry at Sprint Beyond the Book all focused on the book and the e-book, and even the augmented book, as forms through which information may be conveyed. That seems an obvious point, but the consequence is that the questions of book design and augmentation are questions not specifically of one mode of content, but rather, of overall communicative technique.

    All that sets augmented books significantly apart from the rest of e-literature. The various forms of e-literature that we’ve encountered thus far have all been distributed digitally, albeit some by proxy or translation, and have varied in the components of their content. The augmented book is a way of packaging any and all forms of digital components in a new way, a new means of access. Perhaps the better way to think of the augmented book not as a part of or supplement to the corpus of e-lit but, rather, as a part of or supplement to the computer through which we can view e-lit.

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  2. I was actually really thrilled to be reading augmented books this week as I see them as kind of a nexus in between E-lit and the literature we are more familiar with.

    As Geoffrey pointed out in the beginning of his comment, there is a certain physicality to these augmented texts that we haven’t seen before. The actual codex is required to experience the text, while there are still electronic requirements, such as a monitor with a webcam. These requirements are seen nicely in Between Page and Screen and I have very little qualms classifying that text as E-lit. In other words, Between P and S seems to function only as a marriage between E-lit and the “normal” lit.

    However, I hesitate to classify Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as such because much of the actual text in its physical codex can be experienced without the use of technology. The augmentations seem only to heighten the dramatic experience of the text (e.g. the shadows in the very beginning). Calling this literature would almost be the same as calling the movie adaptation of Mr. J and Mr. H literature.

    So, once again, I probably take the easy way out and say that classifying augmented texts as E-literature seems to depend largely on each piece and I feel like we cannot make a generalized statement. I am excited about these texts because I really do feel as if they can be the bridge between the familiar and the other pieces we’ve experienced so far in the class.

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  3. As has been mentioned already, augmented text finds itself in a unique position where the entire experience is contingent on aspects of a physical codex as well as digital supplement. In fact, I think calling it a supplement detracts from the significance of the actual augmentations. The purpose of augmented literature is that is experienced in a space created between codex and technology. There is not a literary and digitized part of the work, but rather the holistic experience is augmented literature.

    I think Tori (vlchin is Tori right…? >~<) makes an interesting point that Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde augmented literature is the same as calling a movie adaptation literature. Perhaps this is an unfair assessment since there is still a codex coupled with the digital aspect. Each part is significant in the whole experience. I think augmented literature can be best described by Gestalt philosophy: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Augmented literature creates an experience that cannot be had purely from a physical codex nor from digital text such as other examples of E-Literature. That being said, this genre of E-Literature does use "literature" – there's an actual codex – and "technology" – the experience includes the digitized presentations of the codex. Each part is necessary for the whole, and thus "Augmented Literature" is greater than both the codex and the technology.

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  4. I didn’t expect to love these works as much as I did. The concept seemed gimmicky to me, especially after reading the first article, which spoke of the literary equivalent of special features being added to a DVD as coming out.
    Don’t get me wrong, I wish all my books came with author interviews, but I wouldn’t consider THAT an essential addition in a literary sense.
    However, I was surprised by the impact the liminal space between page and screen (in both the work of that title and in Messrs J&H) being suddenly filled. I did the demo of P&S (in the library, I might add, where I felt a little silly waving a piece of paper at my computer) and was so engaged in the process of creating text with my own motion. I felt like a vital part of text creation in a physical way that usually only happens when I’m writing or performing text. In that way, I think this type of work can use tech masterfully. J&H started out cheesy to me- the shadows seemed like silliness. But I really marveled at the movable sections…being able to put into place those pieces and then see then become faces, or to distort a character’s face on his head- I think these may be in their germination stage now, and may not be as sophisticated as they could be, but I think the potential for literary value in this kind of interactivity is huge.
    As far as the question of whether they’re true e-lit, I would say yes. They do require a codex, but all the work we’ve done requires some physical input- a mouse, a screen, a keyboard. It’s not like we get digital work streamed into our head directly. The difference the codex added seemed to me just to be an aspect of the tech, albeit a delightfully familiar part.
    Also, the discussion of BP&S in the second reading perfectly (if confusingly) describes much E lit to
    me: “It’s a beautiful attempt to enact the serious playfulness of language, reading, otherness, the otherness of reading, and of language and reading interacting with the 21st century inhibitions of text via the ambitions of the text, a polymorphous projection that requires a body, an object, and a machine to birth the words of the character and the medium, and that also validates both page and screen, the text and the reader’s interaction with that text.” Maybe I’ll say THAT next time a random classmate asks me what this class is about.

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  5. I’m still not sure what exactly to define “e-literature” as anymore, or even “literature” for that matter. I’ve definitely struggled with a new definition for literature as many of the pieces that we have looked at so far have pushed my previous idea of what literature is. I would definitely say that the pieces we looked at are examples of e-literature as they do incorporate some kind of digital aspect. They all involve a computer and some amount of interaction with it. However, I truly struggled with whether I would also classify the pieces under literature.

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which I wrote my VBIR on, was interesting because of how the images moved across the screen. I’m kind of on the opposite spectrum as Grace because I originally liked the images but grappled with how I felt about them the more I looked at it. I began to question how essential the images were and exactly how much they added to the piece itself. Maybe it was because I don’t speak German and couldn’t understand any of the words that would appear on the computer screen, but the images seemed to detract from the piece.

    I’m kind of on the same page as Tory in that, like many other pieces we have looked at so far, we cannot simply say that a subgenre fits into a bigger genre such as electronic literature because each piece is unique and even the subgenre itself can be extremely broad.

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  6. Augmented books as e-literature exist as objects requiring computers in order to be experienced fully. However, unlike most of what we’ve talked about, there is a very physical, corporeal aspect. While this is very nice for those who are not used to non-codex reading, the (here’s that word again) liminal experience often is not used properly. The aug-book becomes a glorified pop-up book in the wrong hands. ‘Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde’ does not fall into this trap, using the augmentations to flesh out the literary aspects of the text (mood, characterization, exposition, etc.). ‘Agrippa’ takes this one step further and exists in symbiosis with technology, absolutely requiring its presence in order to be ‘experienced’ more-so than ‘read’. There’s a reason it shows up on a Cyberpunk literature website (aside from the fact that William Gibson himself wrote it) — its use of involved code-level engineering that makes it dependent on computers for a performance and reliant on highly skilled programmers to renew for further reading makes it a ‘cybernetic book’, a physical replica of a book in appearance and intent but more technical and electronic than any normal book. I’d posit that it is moving beyond ‘bookness’ and into another (oh my goodness this word) liminal realm that still requires definition beyond ‘poem that you slide into the computer to read once and is also in a book’.

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