Thursday, 5 January 75. E-Book Revolution 1:45–3:00 p.m., Franklin 5, Philadelphia Marriott
Program arranged by the forum TC Popular Culture
Presiding: Ellen McCracken, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
1. "Code and the Codex: E-books as Applications," Patrick Smyth, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York
2. "Designing the E-book Reading Experience," Elizabeth Shayne, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
3. "(E-)Reading Unbound: The Silent History and Dispersed Reading," Sarah Whitcomb Lozier, Univ. of California, Riverside
4. "Transmedial Paths through Joyce and Eliot," Ellen McCracken
Code and the Codex: E-books as Applications, Patrick Smyth
What, precisely, is a book? For long periods of history, books have been associated with discrete forms, such as the scroll and the codex. Over the past two decades, the popular conception of the book has been expanded to include a succession of specialized file formats, including .lit, .mobi, and .epub. While these "standard" e-book formats allowed for new affordances and reading modalities, e-books of this kind were still fundamentally recognizable as books. More recently, however, a variety of authorship and publishing approaches have emerged that blur the boundaries among applications, platforms, and books. These developments suggest a future in which books—and the experience of reading—will be more varied and less recognizable, and suggest new modes of interaction among readers, authors, and publishers.
in this paper i look beyond standard and "enhanced" e-book formats to a new and expanding category of e-book-application hybrids. These include interactive applications such as The Silent History and Device6, crowdsourced book projects, and authoring platforms that allow for nonlinear reading experiences, such as Inform and Twine. I also touch on the use of ebook-app hybrids in scholarly publishing, such as Scalar, the nonlinear authoring platform, and GitBooks, a version control powered writing collaboration tool. Finally, in exploring these emerging approaches to the book as a form, I draw on paratextual theory and the writings of Gérard Genette to sound out contemporary differences in the reception and consumption of books, using e-book/app hybrids as a point of reference to indicate how social conceptions of the book have both changed and remained the same.
Designing the Ebook Reading Experience, Elizabeth Shayne
In Anne Mangen’s 2013 study of reading comprehension, she found that students reading the printed version of a text scored better than those reading the digital version. She suggests that the lack of tactile and physical feedback providing information about the length of the text, the location of events on the page, the sense of turning as a method of progression all interfere with the reader’s ability to remember the text. The ebook cannot use the same methods as the print interface to aid in memory formation; it must instead draw on the resources of the screen’s interface to do so. In this paper, I focus on these methods of reading design employed by books that are not merely digitized, but adapted as application for computers and tablets. I examine several different texts, ranging from the Bible to 19th century classics to born-digital works, all of which have different approaches to making themselves memorable. Using the tools of human computer interface studies to analyze how these digital books work within the protocols of design, I discuss how they draw the reader’s attention in a way that attempts to mimic the book, but often does not succeed. The book is an incredibly successful invisible interface that effaces itself while providing unconscious cues that aid in information retention. The digital book is often trapped between two extremes, either effacing itself so much as to provide no unconscious cues or relying too heavily on interface elements that are memorable, but distracting. The most successful digital books are those that move furthest away from what the print book does so successfully and attempt to create a new digital experience. It is these digital books that will help us create new protocols for digital reading that make memorable reading experiences possible.
(E-)Reading Unbound: The Silent History and Dispersed Reading, Sarah Whitcomb Lozier
This paper examines the geo-locative narrative The Silent History (Horowitz, Moffett, Derby, Quinn, 2012), focusing on the ways it provokes a spatio-temporally dispersed reading practice that is both reflective of and analogous to production processes of electronic textuality. As N. Katherine Hayles has described, electronic textuality is distinct from that of print in the following ways: where the print text is unitary, the electronic text is dispersed; where the print text is bound and object-like, the electronic text is an unbound performance or event; where the print text is made up of durably inscribed signs, the electronic text is made up flickering signifiers; and, where the print text consistently reproduces itself as a stable entity, the electronic text is always differing from itself. Through its geo-locationality that requires the reader to disperse herself in space and time, thereby producing an unstable, differential, “flickering” reading practice, The Silent History creates a reading practice that is fundamentally and materially tied to the performative, processual, machinic “writing” practice of electronic textuality.
Set in 2043, The Silent History recounts the period from 2011-2043, during which the world was struck by a viral pandemic where people lost – or for some, never gained – the ability to process linguistic information. Taking on the guise of a researcher investigating the contents of an archive, the reader accesses this history through a series of first-person testimonials from the pandemic’s witnesses, and field reports that describe elements of the pandemic that are both literally and figuratively tied to specific places. These field reports are geo-locatively locked so that the reader cannot access them unless her device is geo-locatable at the coordinates designated by the field reporter; effectively, then, the reader can only access the field report if she spatio-temporally disperses herself around the globe, to read from within the field itself. Further, though some of these reports are written by The Silent History’s writers (who also wrote the testimonials), many of them are written by readers who, the app developers note, are all invited to contribute to the archive, and expand the narrative. In this way, the practice of reading becomes, both literally and discursively, a practice of writing that is spatially, temporally, and textually unbound, and that, as in the machinic performance of an electronic text, is always differing from itself.
Transmedial Paths through Joyce and Elliot, Ellen McCracken
Enhanced e-book editions of works such as The Dubliners and The Waste Land designed for tablets are new machines of textuality that offer readers multiple paths of transmedial engagement. Extra-textual material, previously understood as epitexts with their own specific generic rules of engagement, now enter the text proper, permeating the structure of the initial authorial sign system. Additionally, a new collective author function, elaborated by the design team, offers readers multiple paths through which they can create their own narrative experiences. One journalist, praising the enhanced edition of the Waste Land, compares readers' engagement with the enhanced book to that of a game: “It’s elegant, you walk your way around it—every room leads unto another room—it’s brilliant.” This paper studies a variety of the paths through which readers semiotically engage with these new textual machines and the resulting transformations of the classic literary works.
Saturday, 7 January 654. Binge Media 5:15–6:30 p.m., 103A, Pennsylvania Convention Center
Program arranged by the forums TC Popular Culture and MS Visual Culture
Presiding: Gwendolyn Pough, Syracuse Univ.
1. "Closing the Gaps: Seriality, Bingeing, and the Logic of Pleasure," Ryan Engley, Univ. of Rhode Island
2. "Bulimic Spectatorship: A Cognitive Approach to the Binge-Watching Metaphor," Karen Guendel, Emerson Coll.
3. "Binge Watching: Affective Economies in the Age of Online Streaming," Daniel Roberts, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
4. "Binge Watching: Beyond the Pleasure Principle," Robert Samuels, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara
“Closing the Gaps: Seriality, Bingeing, and The Logic of Pleasure” Ryan Engley
This essay investigates a particular aspect of hyper-consumption in mass culture: the compression of temporality that comes with bingeing serial narrative media. Working with Catherine Malabou’s and Slavoj Žižek’s reading of habit in Hegel, and Deleuze’s reading of repetition in Freud, I examine narrative media bingeing as an attempt to actually eliminate or evade the gap that constitutes the serial itself. The experience of the serial is punctuated by punctures—breaks, gaps, caesura, delays and agonizing waits for closure. Engaging in a serial text thereby produces its own ways of reading, viewing, and listening. Bingeing seems the ultimate pleasurable retort to such an experience. Yet, as we watch serial television or listen to serial podcasts—rushing to functionally suspend the gaps—we continuously prove to ourselves how traumatic or replete with tension the serial interval is. Seriality, then, is not mere succession; it is not the simple sequence of one installment after another—it instantiates hyper- (and gap-less) consumption of narrative. The logic of Freud’s reality principle is not that it acts as a stumbling block for pleasure but rather allows for pleasure to be extended. What is the logic of pleasure in a consumption that dramatically reduces the interval of pleasure? For example, NPR’s Serial podcast “stays serial” no matter how one enjoys it (as in its episodes have individual arcs that anticipate the breaks and gaps common seriality), but altering the temporality of consumption by refusing the ritual of listening to the narrative unfold over 12 weeks changes the reception of the material. So while it is doubtless that the narrative experience changes if one reads or watches serially as opposed to bingeing or self-directing, what exactly does change? This leads to this essay’s driving questions: If viewers and listeners are so ready to fully commit and immerse themselves in a serial experience only to rapidly reach the end, is bingeing about the binged object at all? Ultimately, is bingeing about bingeing for the sake of bingeing with the object incidental to the experience.
Bulimic Spectatorship: A Cognitive Approach to the Binge-Watching Metaphor , Karen Guendel
Since 2013, when Netflix declared that “binge-watching is the new normal,” usage of the phrase has skyrocketed on social media and around office watercoolers nationwide. As critics have begun to discover, the binge-watching metaphor carries a complex network of connotations ranging from guilty pleasure and moral panic (Matrix 124) to an astute appreciation of narrative complexity (Graves 228). But critics have yet to recognize how these meanings intersect with the distinctly bulimic connotations of bingeing. Based on the cognitive-linguistic theories of Conceptual Metaphor and Conceptual Blending, I will identify binge-watching as a subset of a much larger family of metaphors through which speakers of English routinely conceive of the mind as a digesting body, as when we devour novels, savor music, or become nauseated by melodrama. As these examples demonstrate, expressions of the digesting mind can convey a wide range of attitudes toward media consumption. When we binge on the latest Netflix series, I will argue, we pathologize consumption, revealing various fantasies and anxieties, not only about the quality and quantity of the digital-age content buffet, but also about our self-image as media consumers. As Hunter Hargraves argues, binge-watching constitutes a rejection of the older model of “addictive spectatorship,” which effeminizes viewers of low-quality televisual content as passive, tasteless couch potatoes, in favor of a masculinist connoisseurship that puts viewers in command of an endless stream of premium content. By analyzing expressions of the binge- watching metaphor in the popular press and on social media sites, I will demonstrate that in replacing metaphors of addiction with those of binge eating, we echo the discourse of online “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” communities, which promote behaviors associated with eating disorders. In effect, the binge-watching metaphor is deeply problematic because it appropriates pro-bulimic discourse in order to discipline the mind-as-digesting-body. And although binge- watching typically elides the purgation stage of bulimic consumption, I will argue, it nonetheless functions to repress those fears of the potentially adverse effects of media consumption which have retained currency since the advent of television.
Binge-Watching: Affective Economies in the Age of Online-Streaming, Daniel Roberts
This project takes up the questions of pleasure and power at the site of Netflix and other web-based television streaming sites. The popular phenomenon referred to as binge-watching, or the act of watching a series of episodes in rapid succession is of particular interest to questions of queer intimacy and the biopolitical proliferation of normative life. Netflix is an incorporated, micro-prosthetic technology that often acts as necessary form of what Lauren Berlant calls lateral agency or “a sense of well-being that spreads out for a moment, not a projection toward a future.” If Netflix and other Internet TV streaming sites are in some ways about the intimacy of surfaces that grate against each other, lateral agency, pleasure, and self-medication (understood in social over medical terms)--they are also about regulating and disciplining bodies that are narrated as “at rest.” In some ways, binge-watching is a response to the exhaustion of the here and now, characterized not only by the overwhelming mandates for production of neoliberal capitalism, but also by the micro-prosthetics that are more and more extending so-called “human” bodies. Smartphones and their apps bring people into constant connection with friends, acquaintances, and the workplace. This hyperconnectivity brings with it a new and historically specific mode of exhaustion, but it also hones specific reading practices. This project has high stakes for conversations around queer inhumanisms and disability studies, for theorizations of “nonproductivity,” and those bodies that must bear the weight of stasis, irresponsibility, and/or being “out-of-control” (even if there is always affective co-constitution, and “things happening” in these pauses or impasses). Binge-watching provides a useful site of analysis for thinking through the way bodies that are narrated “at rest” are disciplined and regulated through incorporated, pharmaco-pornographic soft technologies aimed at (re)producing specific forms of subjectivity.
Binge Watching Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Robert Samuels
This paper offers a psychoanalytic understanding of what binge watching tells us about neoliberal culture and subjectivity. Using Freud’s and Lacan’s notion of the the drive, I argue that consumer capitalism socializes people to submit themselves to a headless, heedless drive. This theory of the drive can be called an a-diction because it shows how enjoyment is often in opposition to speech and analysis. Moreover, the Freudian notion of the death drive reveals how a desire for mastery through symbolic repetition always fails to attain a real, and this missed encounter produces a desire that calls for more repetition.
As our society becomes increasingly saturated by symbolic media and capitalistic calculations, we seek to turn to media to capture the im-mediate. New cable shows cash in on this structure by building complex symbolic networks around resistant objects of interpretation. Through the use of cliffhangers and instant availability, these shows produce an addictive structure that mimics the foundation of consumer capitalism. Moreover, through the use of high-definition digital media and explicit scenes of sex and violence, new media tries to produce a real as its own transgressive outside. This structure is key to the way neoliberal ideology seeks to seduce subjects into thinking that the media can give us access to the real.
These mla sessions have been arranged by the Forum on Popular Culture. "Binge Media" is also co-sponsored by MS Visual Culture
BOOKS ON SCREENS
I am currently writing a book about the new textuality of literature on portable electronic devices such as the Kindle and the iPad. In this key historical moment of the transition from print to screen how are reading and literary texts fundamentally changed on digital screens? How do literary and cultural theory need to be adapted to adequately analyze this rapidly growing phenomenon of books on screens?