Tuesday, February 28, 2017

please welcome to the stage... THE LADY REE POSING!

It's nice to be able to have a moment of fresh air, where we step out of the lab, away from all the potion fumes and mountains of spellbooks, so that we can enjoy a metaphorical cigarette break.

We get to reflect on our journey so far in our alchemical pursuits for Networked Narratives, and I think it's been a rather interesting adventure. I don't think I, or anyone in the class, for that matter, was really expecting anything that we did encounter in our time so far; however, it's been a treat being able to explore and discuss different corners of what the Internet has to offer, from fanfiction to netprov to twitterbots and galore! They are little treasures, hidden pieces of art and identities, that have been stashed away in more obscure areas of the Internet, so I'm glad that our studio visits, weekly activities, and discussions have shared and uncovered them.

One of the neat things that we explored and I wanted to look back on was twitterbots! I never got around to mentioning, but I had a sudden urge to create one a few weeks ago, so I did. I didn't get to share it in a blog post, so I thought that now would be a better time than ever to.

Since twitterbots are great generative machines, I wanted to put it to use as a name generator; however, it's not just any name generator - it's a drag queen one! In the drag community, there's been a running meme of saying, "Please welcome to the stage...," followed by a great name inspired by some cheeky / sexual / clever (or all three) play on words. But! It's a bit hard to generate puns. The next best thing was to take common first names and last names found in the drag community and putting them all in the vocabulary pool. I am a huge RuPaul's Drag Race fan, so I took a lot of the first and last names of the Hauses of famous queens to come across the show - but I wanted to add an element of humor as well, so I added a line for middle names, which are just inside jokes and memes within the RPDR community itself (so if you catch yourself wondering what the hell anything means, don't worry about it). 

I'm proud with how the twitterbot came out. I need to do some advertising for it on reddit or get it to interact more with RPDR fans (as well as add more names and jokes to its database), but overall I enjoy it, and I do believe any person who likes drag queens would enjoy it too! The parody twitter account has received some recognition, though, from one of the queens to appear on RPDR, as she favorited a tweet of mine, and I was a bit starstruck! It was pretty cool, and I wouldn't have ever found myself interested in building a twitterbot if it wasn't for us stopping to explore them on our journey through the class, so thank you!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

the realm of fanfiction

This week we had the lovely opportunity to chat with Flourish Klink and Elizabeth Minkel about fanfiction for our Studio Visit! Here's a link to the SoundCloud version of the webinar, and if you're interested, I tried to highlight some of the important parts of our wonderful discussion in the comments section below!

To start with, I was particularly excited about this session because I've been interested in fanfiction since I was in 5th grade... so about over 10 yrs now, eh? Wow (and/or yikes)! Prior to our discussion today, I revisited my old fanfiction.net account to remind myself of my adolescent literary self... I had a lot of mixed feelings! Some of the earliest stuff (dating back to 2006) was especially cringey, and I can't even bring myself to open those stories... however, I am able to stomach some of my latter works that I posted back in 2010-11. While they are definitely not the best pieces of literary work I have ever produced, they reminded me of different points in my youth. Like any form of art, they are pieces of myself that I have made vulnerable by sharing with the world, for better or for worse.

I think one of the things I wanted to reflect on with fanfiction is what it means for both the author and the community. In the Studio Visit, we touched on the reciprocity aspect / the "gift economy" when contributing to a fandom, which is the more consumerist answer toward the meaning of fanfiction. However, later, when we were discussing fanfiction as a means of fueling ideas for the civic imagination, Flourish explored the social justice significance readers can find in fanfiction. Along those lines in the comment section, Kelli also raised how fanfiction can be an important form of representation, too. And, as Elizabeth said, fanfiction becomes a more femininized and queer space, while heteronormativity is pushed more to the side; thus, it adds for more representation, exploration, and normalization for sexual identity among its readers, which is great. The downside though, as she also pointed out, is the severely lacking stories with POC, especially queer POC. So, while fanfiction has its flaws, it still serves a great political, social, and personal purpose for all of the lurkers and artists themselves.

I know fanfiction served a similar personal purpose for me. While I was nervous about publishing my stuff at first (for fear of the characters not acting "canonical" enough), it paid off. Personally, it was a form of artistic expression - even though I liked writing in general, writing fanfiction was always so much more fun! I got to explore the psyche of my favorite characters, as well as build alternate timelines and universes for them to exist and interact in. It also worked as a way of escapism, like any form of art. I would get lost thinking of ideas and stories, especially original ones that I hadn't seen published or explored in the fandom. Additionally, it helped build my confidence as a writer. Some of the reviews I got on some of my stories I felt added to my growing identity as a writer - I received a lot of constructive criticism from my peers that helped me develop my skills, sometimes in ways that not even my highschool teachers could touch on. I trusted what they were saying a lot more, because it was important to listen to your audience - they had no reason to lie to you, they just wanted you to be the best author you could be, since you might be the only one writing one of their favorites ships!

All in all, as someone who has had quite a relationship with fanfiction for the entirety of her adolescence, I enjoyed looking at it through a critical and scholarly lens through our discussion. It's great that we could dissect the importance of fanfiction, and see how this specific type of writing affects people in both a personal and public way. I'm excited to reflect more on the conversation in our next class!

also happy valentine's day!
Prepare for an ALCHEMY MEDIA DUMP, my b.


I also wanted to play around with the assignment for #altbookcover ! I chose Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, because the title itself is a misleading precursor to the rest of the whacked out novel. Thus, I wanted to make the cover even more misleading by consequently making it sexier and genre-oriented... which is, quite frankly, the exact opposite of whatever the hell is going on in Naked Lunch. I still wanted it to have that 1950s feel to it, so I chose a diner theme for the cover, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I think the unsaturated colors paint it as a romance-noir story, which is how I'd want to misdirect people before they opened up the book. Whoever picks up this title is in for a real meal (pun 100% intended).


Earlier I tweeted out my #4iconstory for people to guess... did you get it right? If not, spoiler ahead!

On the Road by Jack Kerouac... get it? Lifted cars, jazz, booze, all penned down by our famous Beat writer!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

generative magic

It's a personal philosophy of mine that art, especially poetry, can be found in everything around us - as long as we have the right lenses on, an imaginative, rose-colored pair, I think there is literary value in even the most natural, unintentional things.

With that being said, the Five Card Flickr activity speaks to that idea, I think. We were allowed to choose five random images and create a poetic connection between all of them. The process of thinking carefully about the images and building a story is special, and requires a thoughtful imagination and also a touch of magic. What started as a bunch of disjointed images with no relationship is soon transformed into an interconnected narrative - a story full of magic from randomly generated pictures.

We look for and find the poetry in just about anything. I enjoyed creating my Five Card Flickr story, because while the images had no real connection at first, I could choose an aesthetic - I was collecting my materials that I needed to create my storytelling magic. I enjoyed it, since it presented itself like a puzzle, which required me to give a lot of consideration to weaving these stories together.

However, when it came to making a story out of someone else's narrative elements, the puzzle got more difficult. I wanted to create my own connection between the images without being influenced by the original author's - additionally, I didn't find that a lot of the already made stories fit immediately into my head as a certain "aesthetic." It definitely took a lot more time and consideration to try to make and someone else's story work.

Generating literary magic out of random pictures might've been easier to see as "art," though, compared to the concept of twitterbots. I personally love bots - especially shitpost generators, which supposed generate nonsense and consequently make some pretty scary, prophetic social statements in doing so. I decided to explore the activist twitterbots, because while I love poetry, I think these specific bots unconsciously make pretty powerful statements.

I found the bots @lady_products and @man_products pretty hilarious, but also pretty poignant. There was a certain formulaic art to their tweets that fit a purposeful aesthetic for both accounts. @lady_products generated tweets with lowercase, calmer words that had more feminine, poetic language, like "fragrant" "blush," "perfume," "eyeliner," and of course, "vodka." Meanwhile, @man_products did the exact opposite - the bot was loud, capitalized, and advertised in an extremely macho way. It chose language such as "MEAT," "ODOR," "TESTOSTERONE," "PROTEIN," and "___ FOR MEN." While both accounts made statements of how advertisements have a specific formula to cater toward each gender, I think there was something poetic in both, more notably the @lady_products bot. While these accounts were created to generate specific, gendered language, each tweet becomes an artistic statement, which makes it a pretty amazing piece of generative magic.

And of course, the big concept of the week - netprov - is also another example of generative magic. However, it is a less randomized form than the other two; instead, after learning more from Mark Marino and Rob Wittig during their webinar, it's clear that it has an obviously improvisational nature to it. A group of people come together under guises to create stories off the top of their heads, in alternate universes and narratives that are straight from the participant's imagination. There is no script, there is no storyline that the players have to follow. Everything is in the moment, and the players go with the natural flow of the progressing storyline, or can even decide to shift it however way they want. They are responsible for generating the next shift, the next word, the next emotional rollercoaster that the netprov will experience and explore, and everyone is in on the magical ride.

The magic of storytelling is generated everywhere. From images juxtaposed to twitterbots, there is a literary narrative waiting. We just have to search the crevices of our imagination to find and manifest that magic and share it with the world.