Twine and Mystory


Aegis Wing by Anna Anthropy

Conversations with my Mother by Merritt Kopas


Howling Dogs

All I Want Is for All My Friends to Become Insanely Powerful


Interview with Porp in The New Inquiry

HORSEMASTER the Game of Horse Mastery by Tom McHenry

Slavoj Zizek Makes a Twine Game by Cameron Kunzelman

My stuff

Tower of the Blood Lord

my father’s long, long legs

Twine download


Leon Arnott’s stuff

Story in Academia


Ulmer approaches story under a very different definition than what many people–even academics–would ascribe to the word. That said, his discussion of story made me think of how story in its colloquial sense(s) might appear across academic disciplines. If “[t]he love story is the tribute the lover must pay to the world in order to be reconciled with it” (Barthes qtd in Ulmer 147)–or if experience is understood by the uninitiated only through story–what role does story play in our studies?

A belated review of Wysocki

A few memorable moments and intriguing topics in Anne Frances Wysocki’s chapter in Writing New Media, entitled Opening New Media to Writing: Openings & Justifications.

In playful metaphor, Wysocki describes the state of today’s writing teacher as that of one who’s had the rug pulled out from under him.  This rug, in which “you could lose yourself in contemplation of its well-ordered and contained patterns,” has been rudely yanked away by the influence of digital media on a comfortable, print-centric niche of academia.  Even if the physical book, complete with tangible pages, continues its existence in the wake of the e-revolution, the changes in society’s expectations change the way the book is approached, received, redesigned.  Wysocki argues that, while all this is true, writing has always changed and must continue to change as we become aware of its function and existence in the current “social, cultural, political, educational, religious, economic, familial, ecological […] artistic, affective, and technological webs.”  She doesn’t offer a new, complete rug on which to stand; rather, she hopes her contribution will offer “the equivalent of carpet scraps,” useful bits and pieces to be arranged as necessary or as one finds useful.

The teaching of writing is, necessarily, changing as the creation of and response to the written word shifts.  Wysocki offers as a tool (not a remedy) in this state of instability the idea of materiality.  In a long quote from Bruce Horner, we find that materiality can be as simple as the technologies used to produce a piece of writing but can extend to incorporate the conditional surroundings of the text’s production (the writing classroom dynamics) or consumption (the power dynamics of the culture in which it is distributed), its subjectivity to consciousness, its interpersonal relationships that shape its reception (race, gender, sexuality, etc.)… in other words, nearly anything that has the power to alter the text’s creation, distribution, or consumption.  I am delighted to say Wysocki does not ask us to consider each of these dynamics when analyzing or producing a piece of written work.  The awareness of this “materiality,” though, should prepare the writing teacher to approach a piece or an assignment with understanding of the how and why of writing in situation.  Being equipped to address materiality, Wysocki posits, may help eliminate the feeling of disconnect many students experience in writing classrooms (they feel they are “writing by themselves,” or writing simply for writing’s sake).

In this, Wysocki proposes five “openings” for writing teachers in a world of “new media.”  First, “the need, in writing about new media in general, for the material thinking of people who teach writing”: in other words, not only can new media inform the writing classroom, but writing instructors can perhaps inform the study of new media by their understanding of how “situated people” communicate.  Second, “a need to focus on the specific materiality of the texts we give each other”: the widening of possible presentation through new media ought to encourage experimentation with more colorful, more visible, more hypermediate choices both in the way we create (even in typing versus handwriting) and in how we present our ideas (are we really making our information most accessible by confining it to an 8 1/2 x 11″ page?).  Third, “a need to define ‘new media texts’ in terms of their materialities”: new media to Wysocki are defined not as much by recent technological development as by “composers who are aware of the range of materialities of texts and who highlight the materiality,” highlighting the agency of the human creators, especially those who attempt scholarly application of visuality and interactivity.  Fourth, “a need for production of new media texts in writing classrooms”: the work of writing allows the writer to position himself in his world, and in a world of new media, writers will most effectively position themselves if they engage in and create with those new media.  Fifth and finally, “a need for strategies of generous reading”: the use of alternative media, especially in the writing classroom, irritates the orthodoxy of those accustomed to the old “rug,” so asking for explanation and intentionality from creators and a generous (not traditionally critical) approach from readers encourages the responsible production of texts that “can look and function differently” than most writing classroom assignments to date.

To finish her chapter, Wysocki offers several writing classroom exercises ranging from mentally challenging (creating a visual argument) to downright oddball (turn in an assignment written in crayon).  These activities reinforce her argument for familiarization with new media production as a viable and necessary development in the writing classroom.

For the most part, I enjoyed and agreed with Wysocki’s assertions.  And while some of her practical suggestions seemed a little off-the-wall (and perhaps a little irrelevant to the point of a writing course), she structures a convincing case for new media engagement as a responsibility of the writing teacher.  Obviously the first writing course I teach will have to be a little more structured, a little more conventional, and lot more outside my creative control than the class she imagines, but I hope the exposure to this argument and to the media theory and practices we’ve discussed so far will prepare me to influence my students in a somewhat Wysockian direction come next fall.

Ulmer, Heuretics and the fetishization of the 1%


Does the emphasis on invention get at the proper object of digital humanities? Does it simply expand the notion of the text while retaining the structural centrality of the text? Does this make any kind of sense? I’m trying to think through how Ulmer’s work has (or hasn’t) kept up with the expanding field and formats of digital media.

Collamati & Agential Realism

Sorry for the delay! This is my post which discusses a part of the individual readings presented last Tuesday. I’ve tried to provide a brief review, plus something we didn’t get to in class.

Anthony Collamati is the first of our authors to name agential realism as a theoretical framework for his work. This post briefly discusses the relationship between Karen Barad’s agential realism and Collamati’s photonic rhetorics.

Agential Realism & The Rhetorics of Light

For Collamati, techne (the use and practice of technology) is not equivalent to the image text it produces. Collamati regrets the loss of techne in the humanities and seeks to re-introduce it to the field of rhetoric and composition. He wants his students to be able to understand how to use technology so they can then test its representational limits. Collamati doesn’t necessarily think mastery is required for knowledge-making, but he wants his students to have a know-how that at least allows for informed improvisation (34).

Turner’s “Light and Colour” via Wikimedia Commons

Collamati uses J.M.W. Turner’s painting Light & Colour (Goethe’s Theory): Morning After the Deluge as an illustrative text. Using Jonathan Crary’s model of Turner as “artist-observer,” Collamati contends that the painter does not simply “contest the regulatory drive of empirical vision,” but, like the scientist, sees “through the apparatus onto other materialities” (37). In the case of Light & Colour, the light constitutes more than one subject but simultaneously exists “outside of a subject-object relationship” (38). It is at once “sun and eye, people and pupil,” but also the thing which also creates division and sameness—shadows and washes of light. “Light,” contends Collamati, “reveals and conceals the boundaries of surface” (28).

In this way, light (and, importantly, light as it exists outside of the control of human manipulation) produces meaning and objects—but only in terms of its relationship to other objects (human and non-human). In a sense, Collamati presents light as a maker in its own terms. Taking his cue from Barad, he writes, “Each agent, including the apparatus, is brought into being through the other” (40).

Understanding these different discourses of light, officially “phototonic rhetorics,” is imperative to understanding how light mediates our world and the meaning we produce from it.

Photonic Rhetorics

Collamati’s photonic rhetorics are borrowed from Richard Kelley’s “three types of light effect: ‘focal glow,’ ‘ambient luminescence,’ and the ‘play of brilliance’” (54).

Focal Glow: “light as division” (55) – object’s difference and/or importance demonstrated by its relationship to the light source
Ambient Luminescence: “light as sameness” (69) – results in equalizing and/or neutralizing effects
Play of Brilliance: light in its moment of unknowability / unnamability – “the sparkle” (128)

Extracted from Collamati's Camera Creatures; Photograph via Basetrack: One-Eight, May 30 2011

Example of “The Play of Brilliance” from Collamati’s Camera Creatures; Photograph via Basetrack: One-Eight, May 30 2011

Collamati explains these rhetorics using the examples of Hipstamatic war photography that we looked at in class. Though he argues that the technology is always distinct from its operator—in contrast to Donna Haraway, for example, who talks about the human-technology relationship in terms of hybridity (26)—Collamati presents the Hipstamatic app as a perhaps quintessential example of the process in which light acts independently of its technology and the human user, while at the same time existing and creating meaning because of them.

Parting Questions

  1. In Camera Creatures, the image (as the “text” of the techne) comes to approximate the written word. I’m wondering if there is there a parallel to light in the rhetorics of language? (I don’t think Collamati would say that light is analogous to words–though maybe in terms of written poetry? Or do visual compositions ultimately function fundamentally differently than written texts?)
  2. Collamati makes a pedagogical intervention in the last chapter and advocates proficiency in various visual techne. Is this argument ultimately a political one? (That is, if we know we are subject to the manipulation and mediation of light in its various production, we might as well understand how we are being manipulated? There seems to be some link here to Barad’s agential realism (yes, I am shamefully linking to the Wikipedia entry) that I haven’t quite figured out–perhaps re-situation / re-organization of relationships as a re-situation / re-organization of agency. There appears to be some Marxian element to this as well, but I’ll leave it there for now!)

Friedberg and Moulthrop

[repost – sorry if it shows doubles]

I was the lucky person who took on both Moulthrop and Friedberg, and I’m primarily going to address the latter here because Friedberg’s piece includes a companion website. Originally, Friedberg’s website was located at, but my first attempt to access it there was pretty 😦

virt window


I wasn’t really in the mood to buy windows, so this was a disappointing result. I began to ponder the ephemerality of Friedberg’s digital companion site, a project meant “to capture the matrix of things lost in the activity of book writing and book production” (oh! the irony that it, too, was now lost!). Before I pondered myself too deep, however, I played internet detective and found the site preserved via the Wayback Machine and hosted live on Vectors (click “View Project”). Ephemerality crisis averted.

Friedberg created the website alongside artist Erik Loyer. In addition to creating a lot of really impressive digital and online art, Loyer serves as the Creative Director for Vectors, an experimental online journal focused on digital humanities. Their collaboration resulted in redundancy for the website, a lucky feature in retrospect.

I strongly recommend playing with The Virtual Window site for a few minutes. The book was published in early 2006, and while I can’t speak for its contents, the companion website seems to have help up pretty well over more than seven years of digital change. While HTML5 would have enabled a very different experience, the HTML4 design of the site is quick, clean, and entertaining, though at times the experience is repetitive and the visual aspects overwhelm the textual. A greater variety of ways to interact with the site would have gone a long way, but the design does seem to compliment Friedberg’s argument about the mediating effect of screens themselves.”We know the world by what we see: through a window, in a frame, on a screen,” she writes. “As we spend more of our time staring into the frames of movies, television, computers, hand-held displays–‘windows’ full of moving images, text, icons, and 3-D graphics–how the world is framed may be as important as what is contained in that frame.”

Friedberg, unfortunately, passed away in 2009, so we can only imagine what she might have thought of Google Glasses, smartphone takeover, or the recursive power of computers within computers.

Moulthrop works directly within the academic sphere, playing off the ideas of gaming theorist James Paul Gee, who writes that “the theory of learning in good video games fits better with the modern, high-tech, global world today’s children and teenagers live in than do the theories (and practices) of learning that they see in school….” Traditional modes of teaching, by asserting themselves as timeless and universal, have failed to adapt along with their audience. “Is it a wonder, then,” Gee ponders, “that by high school, very often both good students and bad ones, rich ones and poor ones, don’t like school?” Moulthrop takes Gee’s critique and expands it to universities, discussing everything from the possibility of the end of tenure to the new forms of literacy games offer. Moulthrop terms the contemporary and approaching learning environment “the age of serious play,” where games have become relevant as a way of learning, and tenured faculty are becoming irrelevant as experts.

Moulthrop openly admits to struggling with these theoretical ponderings, however, looking instead to develop some practical criteria to support his idea that “We must also play on a higher level, which means that we must build.” In other words, students of media must be able to be creators as well as analysts and teachers. Moulthrop offers four guiding steps (which, he notes, are works in progress):

“To count as an intervention, a project must satisfy four criteria:

1. It should belong somewhere in the domain of cybertext, constituted as an interface to a database and including a feedback structure and generative logic to accommodate
active engagement.

2. It should be a work of production crafted with commonly available media and tools.

3. It should depart discernibly from previous practice and be informed by some overt critical stance, satirical impulse, or polemical commitment, possibly laid out in an argument or manifesto.

4. It should have provocative, pedagogic, or exemplary value, and be freely or widely distributed through some channel that maximizes this value, such as the Creative
Commons or open-source licensing. Ideally, the infrastructure of the work should either be available to the receiver or documented in sufficient detail to permit
productive imitation.”

While Moulthrop and Friedberg are interested in two distinct subjects, they share connections. Both trace a shifting experience in academia, from the time of the expert, where tenured faculty wrote and taught and taught what they wrote, to an age where maybe no one is tenured and not everyone writes. Both are hyper aware of the effects of mediation, but wish to play with the new possibilities it offers. In many ways, Friedberg is the enactment of Moulthrop’s calls for “interventions,” supplementing her traditional, recognizable form of scholarship (the book) with a new and altogether different form of scholarship (the website) meant to communicate the same point in a radically different manner.