jaime_alejandro_rrAt the recent Electronic Literature Organization event, “The Future of Electronic Literature,” I asked the audience if they had heard of a talented artist of electronic literature from Colombia named Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez Ruiz. Previously, WRT featured his Golpe de Gracia as well as Gabriella Infinita. Author of El Relato Digital, Rodríguez Ruiz teaches at the University of Javeriana in Bogotá, Now we can hear from the man himself in his own words.

WRT: On your website for Gabriella Infinita, you tell the story of how you were first introduced to electronic literature after you had drafted the novel. Can you elaborate on the story of the moment when you realized this would be an appropriate form for Gabriella Infinita?

JARR: From the canonical literary point of view, Gabriella Infinita (GI), the novel, is a fragmented story without explicit articulation, with an uncomfortable discursive heterogeneity, and with an excessive demand on the reader to participate. GI might not be a book, but it is a novel and the narrative solution was to put the store in the hipertextual format. Hypertext is a system of electronic writing that organizes information in non-linear manner based in a “net” structure. These structures are constituted by nodes and connections. The hypertextual format and their narrative structure are the best form to narrate multidirectional stories. In fact, the problem of the multiple narrative perspectives and/or of the multiplicity of the characters can be solved with hypertext.

WRT: What did the adaptation of the novel to various modes (hypertext, hypermedia) teach you about electronic literature?

JARR: Hypertext demands logic and an aesthetic that goes beyond multinarrative facilities. It demands and promotes interactivity (the reader participates through the medium). But furthermore, the digital medium facilitates multiple morphologies. Not only are words or the narrative structures digitalized, there are also other materials digitized, such as images, sound, and animation. So the decision to format a story in hypertext leads, in fact, to a very different technical and aesthetic vision from an aesthetically literary technique: digital aesthetics. Some authors prefer to call “hypermedia” the support or digital mediums that include resources different from the word. At its base, hypermedia is defined by three components: they work on hypertext (nonlinear writing and reading of speech), they integrate multimedia (they use, besides text, different communication morphologies such as animation, audio, video, etc.), and they require interactivity (the users’ capacity to execute the system through their actions). We could even add connectivity, the possibility to act and communicate online, and have a powerful form of narrating.

WRT: Can you describe your move from Gabriella Infinita to Golpe de Gracia? How had your view of electronic literature changed? How had your goals changed?

JARR: Golpe de Gracia improves and surpasses some characteristics of the first work (Gabriella Infinita). Although Gabriella allowed the discovery of one way to convert one text in one hypermedia, this experience was excessively dependent on the specific form of the literature narration. For this reason the project, Golpe de Gracia, was guided with the purpose of designing the narration under the parameters of the digital narrative instead of a simple adaptation of one text. We observed four weaknesses in Gabriella: insufficient interactivity, not enough development of the multimediality (especially the music), narration exceedingly associated to the reading and what some authors call “interface pragmatic”: the invitation to the user to “click” as the only interaction. In Golpe de Gracia, we tried to go beyond these inconveniences. In Golpe de Gracia the user, beside clicking and navigating the surface multimedia facilities, must pay attention to the texts, which offer pertinent information in order to recover the contents and the sense of the narration; also, the user has to read, comment, interpret, discuss, write and collaborate in the collective construction of texts. All these actions prevent Golpe de Gracia from becoming a “superficial” multimedia and convert it in a powerful learning object.

WRT: Can you describe the production of Golpe de Gracia?

JARR: Golpe de Gracia has a literary source. It was an attempt at a novel, but upon completion, the story line required the hipermedial format. So the design process began. A first script was written with the fundamental structure: three narrative worlds, four rooms; the interactive logic was established and a brief description of the events was written.

During the second stage we made decisions about the types of required materials: texts, literary resources, animations, characters, scenarios, games, sound, and voices.

In the third stage, four design teams were selected, one for each world and one for the rooms. These teams were formed of illustrators, interface designers, games designers, Flash programmers, speakers, pdf designers, databases programmers. Besides a general director of the project, a design coordinator and a music composer were designated to oversee general functions and of articulation.

The fourth stage was that of development. In this stage, the teams developed their particular assignments and presented their advance products during meetings. Finally usability tests were made and the hipermedia was published. The whole process lasted year and half.

WRT: You speak a lot about hypertext and literature, Where does game studies fit into your work?

JARR: I believe that the digital narrative can learn much of the game-like dramatic structure and narrative, but I also believe that the game (especially games theory) is the key for the formation and consolidation of collective works.

WRT: What surprises you most about the reception to Golpe de Gracia among readers or people you present the piece to?

JARR: One of the interactive forms that we developed was the game, in particular, the videogame; and we found that this strategy promotes not only the interaction of the users but their desire to recover information. In other words: we discovered that through playing, the user can better recognize the story and dynamics of the narrations, and also the user can learn about the subjects the hypemedia communicates.

WRT: For you, what does the technology (the Job-like hospital scene, the Flash game, the searching game) offer readers of Golpe that a print adaptation or dramatic (stage or screen) adaptation of the story could not? Could there be a text-only version, as there is with Gabriella?

JARR: As we said above, Gabriella Infinita is no more than the adaptation of a text to the hypermedia format, thus making the meaning and sense of the narrative only possible by actually reading (at least partially) the text (the novel). Even if Gabriella Infinita obviously goes beyond the simple condition of an illustrated hypertext, it still depends too much on the text itself in order to develop the narrative. In Golpe de Gracia, the narrative is digital in a stricter way: it depends on the digital morphologies (animations, videogames, interfaces) and on the hypertextual layout of the piece. Of course the novel also exists (El infierno de Amaury, in the reading room), but the latter occupies a different space and function, besides being autonomous vis-à-vis the digital narrative, even if it still plays a complementary double role: that of complementing the digital narrative and being complemented by the latter.

WRT: Both Gabriella and Golpe ask the readers to search through a room of one of the characters. Why does this scene recur in your electronic works?

JARR: It has not been something foreseen, the rooms have simply been presented as scenarios of the narration in the two cases. Maybe it is better that the readers are the ones who interpret this curious situation.

WRT: What exposure to electronic literature will students find in the courses at your University?

JARR: We have only one academic setting to present electronic literature: the narrative workshop in the literature postgraduate program. I’m the director of that workshop, and I attempt to sensitize my students in the topic, but it is a very isolated and perhaps not very effective activity. However, Golpe de Gracia is beginning to be used in the university like a learning object. Golpe de Gracia accrues two main characteristics which make it a likely virtual object to be used in the process of learning: its narrative dimension, at multimedia (worlds) and literary (novel) levels, plus its ‘deepening’ exercises (rooms). The first dimension plays an important sensitizing role vis-à-vis many different topics and most particularly in what concerns cyberculture in general. The exercises which invite in depth searching suggest the possibility of creating academic type activities such as careful reading, commentary of essays, and group or collaborative writing. Still, it has to be said that Golpe de Gracia’s teaching-learning potential can only blossom in as far as the hypermedia is placed in the midst of a proper educational environment, that is, with the necessary navigation pointers, in depth search workshops, and periodical assessments among others. This learning environment does not necessarily have to be virtual in nature, but it does need to supply the necessary elements to guarantee the educational use of hypermedia.

What we have in mind is to offer Golpe de Gracia, in experimental mode, as a learning tool in several and different educational university (subject courses) scenarios, measuring, assessing, and controlling variables such as: friendly accessibility, navigational and comprehension difficulties, good (or bad) use of available resources, bearing on understanding, etc.

WRT: What sorts of projects are your students working on?

At the moment I offer in the literature postgraduate program of the Universidad Javeriana the class “Literature and Contemporary Writings” that seeks to develop observation, reflection, and practice around the phenomena related with digital writing in different technological scenarios. We can find two types of results from the students: the theoretical and critical projects, which consist of “readings” and comments about the different observed works in the class, and the practical ones, which consist of the different writings that develop the students like part of their final work.

WRT: What are you working on now? (If you can, discuss the new system).

JARR:I’m working in a new project: Narratopedia: the study, design, and development of a virtual platform for the collective digital narration under the line that promotes participation through interactivity.

I believe that the most significant and important of the revolutions of the digital culture is the creative collective, favored today like never for the calls of technologies of cooperation or social software. Indeed, the center of the culture has stopped to be the author, the artist, to pass the spectator. The cultural works of the digital culture are no longer built in form singular, but in a collective way. Therefore, the artist stops to be creator in the strict sense to become a producer. The artist develops a tool that then will be for the public, the one that uses, develops, and diffuses it according to his interests that have neither to coincide nor to be influenced by the artist’s original will. The artist’s work is literally a medium: he must offer a structure, a tool, a means in which the spectator is the one that is expressed. Narratopedia wants to be that: a platform, a space multidimensional of dynamic and interactive representations.

Paraphrasing Piérre Lévy: Vis-a-vis the fixed image of the text, characteristic of the encyclopedia, Narratopedia will oppose a great number of means of expression: fixed image, lively image, sound, interactive simulations, interactive maps, expert systems, virtual realities, artificial lives, etc.. Ultimately, the narratopedia will contain as many semiotics and types of representations as there can be in the same world.

WRT: Besides yours, what are 3-4 of the most important Spanish-language hypertext pieces?

JARR: I know these authors and works:

WRT: Besides you, who are the leading Spanish-language critics of electronic literature?


    Here some names:

  • Rocío Rueda (Universidad Central de Colombia)
  • Henry Gonzalez (Universidad Pedagógica Nacional - Colombia)
  • Laura Borrás y Joan Elías Adell (Universidad Abierta de Cataluña)
  • Teresa Vilariño (Universidad Santiago de Compostela)
  • Rui Torres (Universidad Fernando Pessoa)
  • Raúl Urbina (Universidad de Burgos)
  • Perla Sassón-Henry (United States Naval Academy)
  • Carmen Morán Rodríguez (Universidad de Vallalodid)
  • Patricia Fernández y Santiago Pérez (Universidad de Deusto)
  • Francisco Chico Rico (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)
  • Juan B Gutiérrez (Florida State University)

WRT: What works of electronic literature (in any language) have influenced you the most?


WRT: Jaime Alejandro’s list has been incorporated in the ongoing wiki of international (particularly non-English) electronic literature.

1 Response to “Interview with Jaime Alejandro Rodríguez Ruiz”

  1. 1 L’autokteb d’Abdel » Blog Archive » Découvrez Golpedegracia, une hyper fiction Colombienne

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