Promiscuous Design, or Crazy Young Whippersnappers?

I was very interested in the reading in Reading Moving Letters because the question in the introduction, “What do we need to read, to interpret, when we read digital literature?” is exactly the question I was asking myself as I reviewed the digital literature assigned for this week.  I opened the web sites and felt lost and old.  Lost because I often literally couldn’t figure out how to navigate the literature, and old because I felt that if I were 20 instead of 35, I would have been born know how to navigate it.

To me some electronic literature feels like experimentation instead of expression.  For example, in “Promiscuous Design, the seemingly unrelated pictures and meaningless phrases don’t make sense at first.  I say “at first” because I assume that there is sense to be made if you have the diligence to work e everything through to its natural conclusion.  I didn’t have that diligence.  Instead I felt frustrated, like I was reading the poetry of an angsty 15-year-old malcontent. 

Wardrip-Fruin’s distinction between the writer and the computer scientist strikes a chord with me, because some electronic literature screams “because I could!”  In other words, I get the feeling that the piece exists as a way to showcase the author’s talent with digital media instead of as the best way to express a distinct idea creatively.  But Wardrip-Fruin claims that I have to read both process AND data.  I have to see the whizzy underbelly of the project along with the solid, meaningful content.  The meaning of the piece lies somewhere in-between. 

Wardrip-Fruin goes on to advise that readers of digital literature should increase our awareness of the experience brought on by its interactivity options.  This awareness is what has always stumped me, though.  My awareness of the options makes it seem contrived and aggressive.  The later discussion of the computation aspect of digital literature as context is something I am better able to understand.  I’m not ready yet to say how the context is defined by the computation, but from now on when I try to interpret these pieces of electronic literature, I will have that it mind.