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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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Granulating E-Lit: "Reconstructing Mayakovsky"

I chose to granulate Illya Szilak's Reconstructing Mayakovsky, a multimedia novel from the Electronic Literatures Collection vol. 2, for its boasts of Modernism and Futurist avant-garde pretensions. The novel's tagline, "a Novel of the Future," hints at both the multimedia component, the novel's genre-hopping style, flipping from detective, science fiction, and historical fiction, and its setting in post-apocalyptic America and Revolutionary Russia. Fundamental to the novel's thesis is the artistic manifestos of the Russian Futurist poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky, who saw poetry as a mode to disrupt a "fixed narrative (the utopian end of history propounded by the Soviet State)." The novel, in a proper postmodern gesture, looks to confuse the logic of the 19th century novel, search engine algorithms, and the "panoptic logic of the database." To accomplish this, Reconstructing Mayakovksy breaks the narrative into different "mechanisms": text, audio podcasts, video, and a live Google image search based on intangible keywords such as "Truth" and "Utopia."

Each of these media are accessed in innovative ways. The text of the novel is accessed through a cloud of keywords that do not correspond to any particular chapter. Reading linearly in "Mechanism B" is near impossible as the novel becomes curated through a backwards search engine logic. Only Szilak's manifesto is "fixed," accessed through a locatable hyperlink and available to download. The novel is also broken up into podcast chapters, navigated again in a cloud, with "found sound artifacts" that blare as the cursor rolls over the floating chapter numbers.

To help with the disorienting navigation, Szilak provided an instructional video that provisionally explains the methodology.

Author: Michael Stevens
Word Count: 264
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