Rebooting Electronic Literature Volume 3: Documenting Pre-Web Born Digital Media

Supplementary Materials for Megan Heyward

During Megan Heyward's visit to the Electronic Literature Lab to give a Traversal of of day, of night, she also gave a reading of her earlier multimedia novel, I Am a Singer. She also gave the ELL Team to do a screen capture of her mobile narrative, The Secret Language of Desire. They are both included in this section of this chapter. Also included is a conversation she had with ELL Director Dene Grigar about Australian digital arts. These video clips will be described as all other videos in this book.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's I am a singer, Part 1

Dene Grigar introduces Megan Heyward's I am a singer, produced in 1997. The artist herself begins a live traversal of the piece, using a machine from the Electronic Literature Lab to view it. Heyward felt that non-linear storytelling lent itself to themes regarding "memory," which the work explores.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's I am a singer, Part 2

Megan Heyward continues her traversal of I am a singer, noting that the work's non-linearity allows the user to weave together the events on their own by navigating it. She also mentions how she integrated physical artifacts into a digital environment, as she has done with several other works including of day, of night. She notes how the improved hardware on later machines made her animations run faster than originally intended, which was an aspect many digital artists had to grapple with. Additionally, Grigar and Heyward have a conversation about how engagement can be greatly increased through interactivity and rich multimedia.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's I am a singer, Part 3

Megan Heyward continues to traverse I am a singer, reaching the point where the protagonist regains her memory. Heyward observes the amount of content and work that went into creating the piece. 

Traversal of Megan Heyward's I am a singer, Q&A Part 1

Megan Heyward explains that I am a singer was her MFA thesis. Though she was coming from UNSW, a visual arts school, Heyward says she placed more focus on narrative. She exhibited it between the years 1997 and 2000 in France, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, U.S., South America, Japan and Australia. Heyward says that funding from the Australian film commission enabled her to generate her own content for I am a singer, in addition to hiring an actress and musicians. Dene Grigar mentions that Director was not as widely used for interactive narrative in the U.S. as it was in Australia. Heyward had taught herself how to use the program, and was drawn to the idea that she could produce her own work.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's I am a singer, Q&A Part 2

Heyward and Grigar discuss the ease of access and use of various programs between the late 1990s and 2019. Heyward mentions placing I am a singer into a social media environment through Instagram, and Grigar suggests creating a full-color book for physical documentation.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's I am a singer, Q&A Part 3

Heyward and Grigar discuss the difficulties of recreating works as large as I am a singer or of day, of night. Heyward says she has learned since then how to narrow her scope to create more manageable projects. She shares that she prefers working with physical objects over drawing them. Heyward also mentions that creating shorter pieces can help maintain user interest and attention, but Grigar points out how participants are willing to slow down and fully immerse themselves during Traversals that are read aloud.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's The Secret Language of Desire

A playthrough of The Secret Language of Desire by Megan Heyward. The original work was produced in 2015 for tablet devices and is no longer available in the app store. This capture was done using an app called "Go Record: Screen Recorder" on a 2013 iPad Air running iOS 12.4.2. The playthrough progresses through the narrative linearly, interacting with images, sound, and text. The recording took place in the Electronic Literature Lab at Washington State University Vancouver on November 6, 2019.

A Conversation with Megan Heyward, Part 1

Dene Grigar interviews Megan Heyward about her work in the Australian E-Lit community, and how they evolved from the 1990s onward. Megan explains that the term "E-Lit" was not as widely used as "media arts" early on, and that some artists focused on the potentials of digital technology itself while others explored the new narrative forms it enabled. Heyward argues that because many of the resources to digital technologies came from visual arts institutions, the majority of media art produced at the time was visually driven rather than textually.

A Conversation with Megan Heyward, Part 2

Megan Heyward and Dene Grigar discuss the repercussions of vanishing digital work and a lack of funding towards new media research. Heyward describes how media art was funded in Australia in the late 1990s and early 2000s

A Conversation with Megan Heyward, Part 3

Dene Grigar points out how digital artists are constantly learning new software as previous tools become inaccessible. Both note that many artists get discouraged when these tools disappear, and emphasize the values of preservation and Traversal work.

A Conversation with Megan Heyward, Part 4

Dene Grigar and Megan Heyward discuss what the term "E-Lit" broadly encompasses. Grigar also interviews Heyward about her current work and how it contrasts with her past projects.

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