Rebooting Electronic Literature: Documenting Pre-Web Born Digital Media

Traversal of J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing"

This live stream Traversal of J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing" took place on Friday, October 27, 2017 at in the Electronic Literature Lab. It was performed by Philippe Brand, Lewis & Clark College. The Traversal documentation includes three video clips of the performance itself along with introductory comments and the question and answer session with the audience that followed the performance. For the performance we used the Apple PowerPC Performa 5215CD and a copy of the work from Grigar's collection. Handling the technical setup on YouTube was Greg Philbrook, the Creative Media & Digital Culture program's technical and instructional assistant. All four research assistants––Vanessa Rhodes, Mariah Gwin, Veronica Whitney, and Katie Bowen––oversaw the social media engagement and photographed the event.

Traversal of J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing," Introduction
This video captures the approximately 20 minute long pre-show that took place in the Electronic Literature Lab prior to Philippe Brand's live stream Traversal of Jane Yellowlees Douglas's work, "I Have Said Nothing."  People can be seen filing in and interacting with one another. The sound playing in the background is a sound art piece produced by Dr. John Barber. The video ends by playing the official trailer for the Pathfinders project.

Traversal of J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing," Part 1
This video clip starts off with Dene Grigar giving introductory comments prior to the live stream Traversal of Douglas's "I Have Said Nothing." Grigar thanks the several members of the online audience - including Douglas herself - and the those present within the room. Grigar describes the Pathfinders methodology, the Traversal process, and the upcoming book, Rebooting Electronic Literature. She also thanks and introduces the workers in the Electronic Literature Lab. She then introduces the Electronic Literature Lab affiliate and "I Have Said Nothing" Traversal performer, Philippe Brand. She closes by encouraging the audience to get involved with the Traversal on social media by using the hashtag #ELitPathfinders. Brand begins his Traversal by describing the physical copy of "I Have Said Nothing," noting that it is also packaged with Mary-Kim Arnold's work, "Lust." He inserts the floppy disk into the Macintosh Performa and loads the piece. He begins reading "I Have Said Nothing," which instantly introduces the two main characters, Sherry and Luke, noting that sex and violence are already prominent themes within the hypertext piece. He reads on and later notes that the themes of the story connect to the digital structure of the piece itself - particularly, fragmentation.

Traversal of J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing," Part 2
In this video clip, Brand continues to read and analyze the work of Douglas's "I Have Said Nothing." In the story, a violent car crash is described and one of the story's character is whisked away in an ambulance, presumed dead by the paramedics. Brand is taken to a node containing a single sentence and after clicking on multiple words in attempts to move onto a new part of the story realizes he has reached the end of a story path and must start over. He begins a new reading, choosing the latter option that he did not pick prior. The opening scene notes another character's death, which happens to be "yet another" one of the narrator's brother's girlfriends. Brand points out the intrigue behind the quote "How we spend our days mistaking patterns for order," which is mentioned in a phone call between the story's narrator and her brother. Brand notes the chaos and confusion of events within Douglas's piece and relates it to the story's structure of text containing lexias with various intertwined paths. This clip ends with Brand, again, noting the story's recurring theme of death.

Traversal of J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing," Part 3
In this video clip, Brand acknowledges and reads a portion of a physical document penned by Stuart Moulthrop packaged with the "I Have Said Nothing" folio. In his essay, Moulthrop analyzes the recurring theme of car crashes within various electronic literature works. Upon observing the array of fragmented, intertwined nodes of text, Brand wonders if the work's author had envisioned one ideal, linear story line among the others. After continuing on with the story he had started in the previous clip, he eventually comes to the end of the path and, for the third time, starts "I Have Said Nothing" from the beginning. He notes how interesting it is to follow the story's characters through their processes of dealing with trauma and pain within their fragmented lives. The video concludes with the end of the Traversal.

Traversal of J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing," Q & A, Part 1
This video clip marks the beginning of the Q & A session with "I Have Said Nothing" performer, Philippe Brand. An onsite audience member, Katie Bowen, asks J. Yellowlees Douglas - who is present in the YouTube chat - about the computer she wrote the story with. Douglas' response is read aloud by Grigar.  "A Mac Portable," she answers. Another onsite audience member Will Luers asks Brand how difficult it was to use the visual map of lexias. Brand says that it was, and Douglas notes that it was indeed difficult because you can't zoom out and see them all at once. Brand attempts to do this on the Macintosh Performa and is unable to do so. An online audience, Bailey Anderson, comments that being unable to zoom out makes it impossible to read the work in its entirety - which Dr. Grigar notes is incredibly difficult to do in the first place. Upon discussing the particularity of the story's structure, Brand himself asks Douglas if "I Have Said Nothing's" structure plays with both space and time, to which she responds "Yes." Another audience member, Henry Brooks, asks how many paths the story has. Dr. Grigar responds that she has counted 206 links and 96 spaces, so she assumes about 200+ paths. Dr. Grigar notes that "I Have Said Nothing" was based on Douglas's own life and relates the events within the story to real life events. They discuss the use of the work's title within the context of the story. 

Traversal of J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing," Q & A, Part 2
This video clip continues the discussion about the prominence of car crashes in early electronic literature pieces. Grigar notes how the visual structure of the lexias itself looks like a car crash. She then moves on to note all of Douglas' accomplishments, including teaching in an English department, a medical school, and working with start-ups. Douglas responds that her interest with psycholinguistics is what inspired her. Brand asks if Douglas has written any other hypertext pieces. Dr. Grigar says "No," but notes that she produced an important print book that was published around 1995. Associate Director of ELL, Nicholas Schiller, tracks down a sought-after St. Augustine quote that Douglas alludes to in the work's title. There is a brief moment where the online audiences notes that the audio for the live Q & A is lost, but it quickly returns. Brand asks Douglas how she decided to structure her story and wonders how it came to be the way it was. Douglas answers that she had been writing the work for a long time prior (started in 1987, published in 1992) so once the structure had been decided, she filled in the nodes. They then go on to discuss the use of empty - or "Jane" - spaces within the work.

Traversal of J. Yellowlees Douglas' "I Have Said Nothing," Q & A, Part 3
This video clip documents the third and final part of the Q & A session for Philippe Brand's Traversal of Douglas's I Have Said Nothing. Bowen asks Douglas whether or not she wrote the piece as a whole or if it was already segmented into different nodes. Douglas responds that she wrote it in separate pieces and relates it to her history of working in advertising. Grigar goes on to note the differences and difficulties of transferring the act of writing from paper to a computer interface. Audience member, Nathan Wills, expresses his appreciation for the emotional depth of the story - particularly about the car crash. Schiller asks if Douglas was inspired by William Burrough's splicing and pasting technique when writing the story. "No," she answers, "I was exploring how we project meaning into gaps." Brand explains the human desire to make sense of the tragic, practically incoherent events within our own lives. Grigar agrees and notes how the repeating themes of death in "I Have Said Nothing" is, indeed, impactful. Luers asks Douglas about her understanding of how frames and gaps in cinema relate to those in hypertext. Douglas remarks that she wrote about this concept. With that remark, the Q & A concludes.

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