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

Traversal of Megan Heyward's "of day, of night"

Megan Heyward gave a Live Steam Traversal via YouTube of her hypertext novel, of day, of night, on Friday, November 8, 2019 in the Electronic Literature Lab at Washington State University Vancouver. She performed on iMac running MacOS X 10.3 using the version of the work published on CD-ROM by Eastgate Systems, Inc. in 2004. 


Traversal of Megan Heyward's of day, of night, Introduction

An introductory trailer for Rebooting Electronic Literature plays in this video, followed by a brief introduction by Grigar about Heyward and her work, of day, of night.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's of day, of night, Part 1

In this video, Heyward provides a brief introduction to the piece. She explains that of day, of night was exhibited in 2001 though it wasn’t published by Eastgate until 2004. She compares it to her first work, I am a Singer, saying that they are both hypertextual interactive narratives. One of the main differences is that I am a Singer explores the concept of “memory”, whereas of day, of night examines “dreams.” Heyward summarizes the latter as a story about a woman who has lost the capacity to dream, who must retrieve objects and write stories about the location she found them in. Heyward created the work in Director, which many Australian artists had been experimenting with at the time. After the brief introduction, she begins navigating of day, of night.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's of day, of night, Part 2

Heyward opens this video segment with a description of the visual design of of day, of night. She has layered still images of physical objects over and around a video playing a narrative scene with actors and a soundtrack. These physical or as Heyward calls them, analog objects, are sometimes clickable, which provide interactivity with sound and video elements that play when the objects are clicked. There is a central navigation screen in the form of a map, and clicking on locations on this map navigate the reader to locations in the narrative. In the beginning, few locations are available, but they can be unlocked with further exploration. Heyward comments on the inclusion of sound design to increase the immersion of the reader into the experience of the work. As the reader advances in the work, the collective experience of collecting objects and experiences provide context that allows the reader to progress in the narrative.

Heyward also discusses the technique and impact of navigating the work’s interface. Moving the mouse pointer over the on-screen image sparks feedback in the form of visual or sound cues, indicating that there is an object that can be clicked on. With a click, the object reveals textual, video, and audio clues about the narrative. As this section comes to a close, Heyward searches for an audio clip that is a particular favorite of hers.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's of day, of night, Part 3

Heyward opens the next video segment with further exploration of the map navigation feature of the work. New spaces have unlocked, and she walks us through some of the new options. She discusses the physical objects that she has caputured and brought into the digital interface using Director. The sections contain gameful interactions with the text. The work’s video contains dream sequences and intersections between the real and the unreal. Heyward concludes her Traversal with an explanation of the help section of the work, which provides context for exploring the work. She leaves the navigation map on screen so the quiet background sequences can run. The audience claps, and Grigar moves the Live Traversal into the question and answer period.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's of day, of night, Part 3

Grigar opens the Q & A section with some comments on the multimedia aspects of the work. Many of the Traversals created to date has focused on textually focused works of hypertext, but of day, of night stands out with its sound, video, and images. Grigar poses a first question to Heyward about the dichotomy of dream state and waking state, specifically, asking if the comma in the title designate a clear separation between the two? Heyward responds that she was getting us to think about how we explore ideas during the day at night are different and to recognize that this contrast is interesting. Grigar’s second question points to the use of modes of communication and how this is different than purely textual works. Heyward acknowledges that of day, of night isn’t as essentially hypertexual, despite the reliance of clicking on links as a Storyspace work. Heyward notes that she used sound cues to provide flow in the work, seeking a less random path through the narrative than clicking links can sometimes provide. A question from an audience member participating on the YouTube Chat asks about differences in modality of interaction, and this question sparks a discussion about layers of intimacy encountered by users using mice and keyboard versus users touching a screen on a tablet or a phone.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's of day, of night, Q&A Part 1

An audience member who attended the event face to face asks about the casting of actors for the filmed sequences of the work. Heyward responded that she cast the actors from her friends. The work had been funded publicly, so she was able to pay actors as well as a composer for the musical score. Heyward did the production work in Director. Grigar discusses similarities to editing video today, both use a timeline interface. Heyward discusses the non-linear nature of navigating the work with the linear experience of editing on a timeline. Another question from the audience in the lab asks about Heyward's motivations in creating the work. Heyward responds by relating her experience with combining music, photography, video, and storytelling in the emerging computer platform. Memory was a theme she felt has a non-linear nature that lended itself well to experimenting with the new affordances that computers were offering in the late 1980s and 1990s. The work ties memory, objects, and dreams together in “this crazy form.” The next question from the audience asks Heyward to consider today’s creative tools and asks which of them she would like to take back to the creation of of day, of night if that were possible. Heyward muses about the speed of rendering current hardware allows, but she also notes that the creative process is wrapped up in what the tools allows one to do. Grigar turns the question around and laments the loss of Director as a creative tool.

Traversal of Megan Heyward's of day, of night, Q&A Part 2

The last video segment of the question and answer period opens with Heyward noting that the move to flat design and its impact. Director’s affordances continue to be lamented, but she also acknowledges that Adobe Media Encoder is a fabulous innovation. The conversation moves next to the style of different creative platforms. Each platform, Grigar posits, has a specific style that it predisposes creators to adopt. Grigar poses one last question, about how we can preserve a work like of day, of night. The process of turning the completed of day, of night into a published work is discussed, as well as the narration of how an Australian work made it into an otherwise exclusively North American series published by Eastgate Systems, Inc.

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