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Teaching and Learning Multimodal Communications

Alyssa Arbuckle, Alison Hedley, Shaun Macpherson, Alyssa McLeod, Jana Millar Usiskin, Daniel Powell, Jentery Sayers, Emily Smith, Michael Stevens, Authors

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3. Granulation

During our fifth meeting, we'll be talking about distant reading, maps, Moretti, and abstract models for literary criticism. But before then, you'll have this opportunity to speak to the granularity—or the material and technical particularity—of digital objects. Get out your microscopes.

With a hypermedia novel like Uncle Buddy's Phantom Funhouse, materiality practically asserts itself. In hand we have a black box, cassette tapes, floppy disks, photocopied letters, instruction manuals, and so on. But when our attention turns to the flat screen, how do we talk meaningfully about stuff—about how, for instance, "this becomes that"? (See Matthew Fuller.)

Learning Outcomes

For you to:
  • Survey the field of electronic literature,
  • Develop a nuanced sense of materiality in digital environments,
  • Write about the specificity of media as well as their relationships (or ecology), and
  • Account for both the persistence and the ephemerality of new media.
What You Should Include in Your Response (Option A: 500 - 1000 words + screenshots, or Option B: 1 - 2 minutes of video w/ a vocal or text track) 

First, give Volumes 1 and 2 of the Electronic Literature Collection a gander. If you are new to e-lit, then I recommend perusing the index of keywords (for Volumes 1 and 2). From all of those choices, pick the e-lit that most interests you, watch/read/listen to it, and take notes as you do.

In your response to the e-lit, please:
  • Do your best to identify all of the media types and formats (e.g., image/jpg, video/mov, audio/mp3, text/html, map/gif, and text/JavaScript) involved,
  • Select two of these media types and exhibit (via screenshot or screencast) specific examples of their appearance in the e-lit's public-facing expression or page source,
  • Speak to the formal and/or forensic materiality of each medium (e.g., what it affords, where is it stored, its ostensible effects on the agency of audiences, or how (if at all) it can be interpreted computationally),
  • Speak to the relationships (including resonance and dissonance) between these two media (including their distinct materialities) in your selected e-lit (e.g., shifting perceptions of the "literary," the kinds of subjectivity enabled, the aesthetics of transmedia, or the politics of multimodal expression), and
  • If and where applicable, gesture toward our discussions of Chun (e.g., the enduring ephemeral), Kirschenbaum (e.g., preserving complete environments), Goodman (e.g., allograph and autograph), and Hayles (e.g., genres of e-lit).
When you inscribe your response in our Scalar book, please tag it with your name (thus including it in your "user profile" at the top of the book) and—if you can—also add it to the granulation path. (The first person to submit will need to "make this page a path.") No need to create any additional paths, and feel free, too, to tag your response with names (explicitly mentioned or not) relevant to it.

Remember: your response need not be one "page" in Scalar. Recall Turkel's claims for writing in small chunks of text. For instance, when does a paragraph—or even a sentence—warrant its own URL? How would distributing your paragraphs or arguments across unique addresses change how folks (me included) discover and comment on them? How would it alter the ways in which Scalar visualizes our contributions as a network of many-to-many relationships?

Get in touch with questions.

Author: Jentery Sayers
Word Count: 471
Original Prompt: "Granulation"

Example student responses follow in this path.
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