Denis coovermanI Love You, Beth Cooper was described to me as a John Hughes film as a book. It has the nerdy protagonist. The unreachable cheerleader (slated to be played by the quintessential cheerleader, Hayden Panettiere). The wacky friend and loads of comic violence thanks to Larry Doyle, writer for The Simpsons (and it shows). But it also has an unusual feature. One from the world of video games: a health meter.

At the start of each chapter (or perhaps level), the reader is greeted with a status update, a version of the cover image (by Evan Dorkin) of our anti-hero, Denis Cooverman, revealing the current state of his much maligned body, including (without spoiling):

Status Updates on Dennis Cooverman

  • Bloodied Nose
  • Blackened Eye
  • Mosquito-bitten Flesh
  • Sweat-Spurting Scalp

And the list continues.

Not only does the image reveal his Health, it also shows his state of dress (and undress) as well as his progress toward (or rapidly away from) happiness, via a content smile or (more often) a look of extreme, adolescent panic as he is chased by a psychopath in the company of the reckless girl of his dreams.

The illustration serves as a teaser of what will come, somewhat like the reverse structure of Memento. You see the picture and wonder how the character will get there. More significantly, the illustrations help readers watch Doyle plague this punching bag in very funny stages of teenage torture.

Like a health meter, the reader knows how much body Dennis has remaining at any given time. Reading the book becomes the experience of seeing how far we can make our quarter last, how far we have to go before having to restart the system.

Contrast this with a story like The Quixote, where the Man of La Mancha is pummeled, broken, twisted, beaten, and has his teeth knocked out far beyond the typical number of molars and incisors. Though a health meter hardly promises veritas, it at least guarantees that the character’s suffering will be restricted to the comically exaggerated limits of his illustrated body and that the main character will always be in view.
Continue reading ‘A Novel Protagonist with a Health Meter?’

The Call to Mash
(updated: deadlines 11/18/08)

Next spring, Bunk Magazine will be mashed with Carol Novack & co.’s Mad Hatters’ Review, an online literary magazine based out of New York. Of course, both magazines already feature multimedia context and even pieces that could be considered mashed. However, this is the first time, as far as they know, magazines have been mashed in this context.

The magazines are looking for mashers to volunteer to mash the poems and short fiction submitted for the explicit purpose of being mashed. Such an auspicious collision seemed to warrant some thoughts on mashing…

Continue reading ‘Mashers Wanted: Mad Hatters and Bunk Collide (12/1, 2/1/09)’

[See also Liz Losh’s analysis of these talks at Virtualpolitik]

This past week N. Katherine Hayles (now of Duke) and Lynne Withey of University of California Press met on neutral territory to discuss the future of academic publishing.  Well, maybe not entirely neutral, as they spoke in the “new books” room of a very old-fashioned, telegenic library. Their complementary talks offered visions of digital scholarship and digital humanities publishing (respectively). While there were no direct confrontations, the implications of their talk left some irreconcilable differences in the air.

Continue reading ‘Digital Scholarship and the Future of Academic Publishing’

Recently I’ve caught a bit of widget fever. Widgets are modules of web content usually wrapped in an iframe that can be added to any web page and are often enabled for use on popular content management systems and social networking sites, such as Blogger and Facebook.
Widgets are to multimedia content what RSS feeds are to blog posts.

Widgets are many, varied, and, above all, fun! But like many things on the Internet, their early iterations are directed toward diversion and novelty. On the techrhet listserv for tech-savvy teachers of writing, I’ve chatted with Kathy Fitch about the potential widgets hold for writers. That has lead me more recently to some experiments in widget-based education.

This week, we are releasing the Topoi Pageflake, a page that allows visitors to rip, share, or repurpose any of its content. The “we” includes a team from USC, mainly Writing Program personnel. Fellow instructor Kevin Egan, Senior Associate Director Jack Blum, director Mira Zimet, and I have put together these tools to help students all over the web with this challenging but rich set of heuristics or prewriting tools. I must admit, I’ve been inspired by Dave Parry’s recent move to offer his class for free. I’d like to start by offering some content.

This is free educational content as a collection of widgets. Little modules for ripping, sharing, and re-purposing. Continue reading ‘Widget-Based Education’

(8/17/08 Update: I’ve updated the list with some of the works from the notes and others people have emailed to me separately).

How do you teach Web 2.0? With elit, of course. This post offers an elit work for each tool.
A number of my colleagues (myself included) attempt to teach courses around Web 2.0 technologies. The idea is that if you can just get students to blog, bookmark, twitter, annotate, wiki, wink, and aggregate, they’ll be ready for the bold new world of networked software applications– building on their existing propensity for social networking, facebooking, IMing….

What these skill and tool-based courses miss is an opportunity to enrich this education with some electronic literature. You wouldn’t think of teaching writing without some examples of powerful rhetoric or inspirational works of literary mastery. At the very least, you’d expect students to be aware of some of the poetic, evocative, and creative potential of language. So why teach a course in Web 2.0 tools without some examples that push the boundaries of functional literacy with these tools?

This post offers a companion to your course in social software and multimedia literacy. See it as that set of short stories or classic essays in the back of the writing text book.

Please help me develop this list. It is hardly exclusive, but a useful resource.

Tool Elit Work
RSS Feeds: J.R. Carpenter, Tributaries and Text-Fed Streams
Blogs: Rob Wittig, and Toby Litt, Slice
Jay Bushman, Spoon River Metblog
Jeremy Hight, Nothing at All (Here)
Social Annotation, Social Bookmarking: Diigo: Mark C. Marino, Marginalia in the Library of Babel
Facebook: Kate Armstrong, “Why Some Dolls are Bad
Wiki: multi-authored, Los Wikiless Timespedia, A Million Little Penguins
Twitter: Jay Bushman (with Herman Melville) The Good Captain
Ian Bogost, (with James Joyce) Twittering Rocks
Mez, s[p]erver[se]_: 404 poetry_
Page Aggregator: Netvibes Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph, Flight Paths
Online Maps: Google Maps Charles Cummings, 21 Steps
J.R. Carpenter, in absentia
Flickr Jennifer L. Smith, Don’t Breathe
Web 2.0: Wikipedia,, Facebook,
email, and more….
Serge Bouchardon, The 12 Labors of the Internet User

Continue reading ‘Elit 2.0 (a guide to literary works on social software)’