What I have read, written, seen and heard in the last 24 hours

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List of everything I’ve read or written or seen or heard in the last 24 hours

First of all yesterday was Sunday and so I had a lot of time on my hands! Read two chapters from Roald Dahl’s Matilda and one from Don Delillo’s White Noise as e-books, several pages from ceramics handbooks, instructions online on how to transplant a shrub, leaflet from a newly bought face cream, printed instructions on how to set up a new Apple watch, read a script on a wall along the beach, translating into ‘You are the beginning of the life that I would like to have … I love you Chri’ (photo above)

Read Hazel Smith’s essay on Creative Writing (printed), wrote a post on my learning blog

Read Il Corriere and La Repubblica newspapers in their online versions on my Ipad and various news websites, seen ABC streaming on the Race to the White House on TV, after that seen an episode from House of Cards on DVD

Looked at online videos about storms in southern Italy, consulted weather forecasts, had a look at Facebook and Pinterest feeds, read/wrote several text and Whatsup messages, looked fashion online shops

Listened to classical/pop music on the radio while looking up recipes on a cooking app

Heard  friends speak about their difficulties with aging parents during a dinner out

How many stories are contained within your list?

Plenty I believe. First of all the story of a normal day like mine, spent between home and the beach, in which things were read, heard, seen, written. And then the graffiti on the wall can open up a story – there is already a character there, Chri, who maybe is the lover and maybe is the loved one. Many other stories are suggested by news bits and papers. The Race to the White House can give ideas for many plots, as the script of House of Cards shows. Also the social media can be the starting point of a lot of stories, with their crowds of people communicating thoughts and life facts and various information. The dinner with friends worrying about their parents can contain the start of another story. Basically everything can ignite a story!

How many from your list would you consider to be ‘art’?

I found art in its written form in Roald Dahl’s Matilda and in Don Delillo’s White Noise, in the episode of House of Cards and in the music I listened on the radio, basically I found art where there was somebody’s intention to produce it. I see art in writing where a plot works well, and/or characters are convincing and rich, and/or the language and style used are deliberately chosen. To me, personally, in a creative and artistic piece of writing I value most good characterization and quality of language, atmosphere and theme, perhaps I am less interested in plot. As a rule I am able to appreciate an intriguing plot only if the other elements are there.

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Research point: ‘Creative Writing and New Media’ by Hazel Smith

The reading of this essay has been a real surprise because it made me discover the realm of electronic literature of which I was totally unaware. To me electronic literature had meant so far simply e-books, that is real printed books digitally converted for ease and comfort of use, while I absolutely ignored the existence of a mixed media literature that uses software to be created and ‘read’ or explored. I shall now try lo learn more first of all by accessing the website http://collection.eliterature.org which collects in three Volumes several texts mentioned in this article by Hazel Smith.

From the essay I’m beginning to understand how the border between creative writing and the visual arts in general has become blurred, how the different media – words, images, photos, sounds, videos, interaction with the public – can forcefully be combined to produce new works of art that it is difficult to categorize according to traditional criteria.

Smith’s article includes a wealth of inspiring hints and information. I’m taking note of the parts of the text that I find most stimulating.

The screen replaces the page. In such environments we can make words kinetic, pursue new forms of interactivity and link disparate web pages. We can also interweave text, sound and image, and create environments in which readers/viewers transform texts through their bodily movements … New media writing … stretches from animated poetry and interactive fiction to computer-generated text and computer-interactive installations.

Howewer, new media writing … shows the influence of twentieth-century experimental writing from the modernists to the postmodernists. It incorporated techniques drawn from modernist collage, and visual and sound poetry … It can project alternative storylines like those we find in postmodern fiction.

Most fundamentally, new media writing is a development of approaches to writing which are algorithmic: that is they apply a set of rules to a particular writing task. … Historically, many genres of writing have been algorithmic – when pre-twentieth-century poets adopted a rhyme scheme, for example, they were writing in relation to certain rules or algorithms.

There are also many non-literary influences upon new media writing, and its links with sonic and visual art are particularly strong … and new media writing sometimes appears in the context of art galleries or musical performances. Another major influence is games: some interactive fictions are designed in game-playing terms so that a problem has to be solved to further a story or to progress to the next level of the text … New media writing also interfaces with popular activities such as social networking sites, blogs and texting … These … are making the concept of the author more fluid and ubiquitous.

Creative writing in new media means working with computer code as well as language, and creates a triumvirate between the writer, language and programming. … an important trend has been text generation, that is, the use of computer programs to compose text. … A complete refutation of the romantic idea of art as the expression of creative genius, it heightens ’emergence’, that is the autonomous evolution of the text. … In text generation a person undertakes the programming and can be selective about the output, but the process does considerably loosen authorial intention and control.

Will it be possible for people with very little literary education to create work? Will writing be identified with a range of writing environments (the screen, the gallery, the virtual reality cave) rather than just the page? Will multimedia artists supplant writers?

This scenario opens up really exciting explorations for artistic creation. It seems to me that new media writing could give new life to certain features of ancient oral storytelling with which paradoxically it has several elements in common: the idea of storytelling as a community performance combining different media, the direct participation of the public, the anti-literary character, the opening up of the reading experience to new groups of people who might not be interested in or have access to traditional literature, the loosening of the author control. In this respect the ancient village and the global village of Marshall McLuhan do seem to have a lot to share.

What I am more skeptical about is the use of computer programming for generating text. It looks like an interesting experiment but it could also become an end to itself. In any case my knowledge of the field is non-existent and this is certainly an area that I shall investigate further to mature an informed opinion.

The first textual revolution: the printing press (Exercise 1)

What happens to a story when you take it from its source, make it permanent in print, and disseminate it to a wide audience?

Write a list of implications arising from the printing press. For example, think about who has control/authority over the text, the meaning of the text, and the relationship between the source of the text and its recipient.

I think that in this process – from the supposedly oral recounting of a story to the same story fixed in a printed book – some important aspects are gained and others are lost. I try now to imagine ancient small crowds of people, perhaps seafarers or travellers, listening let’s say to the adventures of Odysseus, possibly with the accompaniment of chants, songs, representation by actors, interruptions of all sorts, and it is not difficult to think that the text changed and evolved from place to place and from time to time. Maybe the audience could also contribute to these performances with local additions and characters and gradually modify the story, this being like a great river that in its flow gathers and drops materials and sediments along the way. It was perhaps a sort of collective story in constant development.

At a certain point somebody (the fabled Homer) assembled all the bits and pieces of that story or multiple stories and gave life to the beautiful epic poems that came down to us through the centuries for a very long time as uncertain unstable manuscripts, still subject to changes in the process of recopying and passing from hand to hand, and since the invention of the printing press as books, relatively unmodifiable and permanent.

In this evolution the author became sure and fixed forever and the participating small groups of listeners became individual and silent readers who could enjoy the poems in several versions and translations. The dissemination of the text to people living in different times and cultures and speaking all sorts of languages is the wonderful result made possible by the printing press.

If the advantages of the circulation of texts and generally of information are obvious, to the point that the development of modern and contemporary societies would be unthinkable without it,  on the negative side there was I think the loss of a direct participation to the performance on the part of crowds who for centuries did not have the cultural tools to read a story on their own.

In this passage from oral to printed also the meaning of texts like the Iliad or the Odyssey changed from popular stories shared by many to literature for selected literate groups of people and thinking back at what I have studied in Part 1, Contemporary art, I now see that the passage from oral to printed was equivalent to a change of medium against the backdrop of the creative arts at large, with all the considerable adjustments and evolutions that a change of medium can have.

Sign and creative writing: mapping the ground ahead

Before embarking on Project 1 of the second part of the course I feel the need to investigate the ground ahead starting from the introductory pages on the concept of sign in my handbook (Creative Arts Today, p. 65-67).

The arbitrariness of the sign sub chapter encouraged me to have a look at some philosophy books I have at home and try to fix the basic ideas in the vast field of semiotics. I created a mind map with them, according to my understanding at the moment, provided that I can revise and/or integrate it at a later time and that I have no wish to get lost in technicalities at this initial stage

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The coursebook arises many stimulating questions to think about while working on this part. Very briefly:

  • provided that language is an arbitrary system does creative writing reflect the world and our experience of it or does it do something else?
  • implications of the arbitrariness of sign for creative writing: is it a freedom or a restriction?
  • the existence of different sign systems in society and are they also arbitrary? (Part Three)
  • can we express ourselves and communicate in a changing language system and how?