Narrating Bits: Encounters between Humans and Intelligent Machines

"Narrating Bits: Encounters Between Humans and Intelligent Machines" is a project that asks "what happens when criticism becomes a space of possibility, inviting accident, play, and mutability? Can we imagine critical scholarly argument let loose from the tight constraints of linearity, of the watchful eye of a single greedy author intent on shaping meaning? What happens to argument when new media criticism is enacted in new media? [The work] models one answer to these questions, repositioning the work of N. Katherine Hayles along new visual and interactive registers. At one level, the piece preserves the linearity of Hayles' argument, a careful parsing of the relationship of database to narrative and of the principle tenets of narrative theory. Hayles insists that the potentialities of dynamic media demand a decoupling of the narrative/database dyad, urging instead a consideration of narrative via the emergent potentialities of the 'possibility space.' The user-reader of Narrating Bits can follow this argument along a horizontal trajectory, 'clicking' through the text.

Yet, at another level, the piece visualizes text, creating a series of lexia that can be explored via multiple access points and exploring the possibility for juxtaposition, interactivity, and collision. Here, text (or blocks of text) emerge in new relationships to one another, allowing an exploration of Hayles' argument along varied trajectories. Importantly, the piece also builds in a plea for interaction, creating a possibility space of dialogue and conversation as it strains toward a vision of scholarship that models digital media's capacity for (at least the illusion of) connected presence across space and in time.

Evidence takes on many meanings in such a space. Hayles offers up a rigorous scholarly argument, complete with the evidence required to back up her claims. She also opens up the possibility for counter-evidence and for evidence of scholarly dialogue and community. Thus, Narrating Bits invites us to think about different ways we might experience evidence and its relationship to argument, providing evidence of a tantalizing new modes of academic endeavor." – Tara McPherson and Steve Anderson, Vectors Editors



Published in Fall, 2005 by Vectors in Volume 1, Issue 1.

Note: this flash work incorporates a database and preservation work is ongoing to make it function as intended. in the meantime, we have made the work available as a playthrough. This copy was given to the Electronic Literature Lab by Erik Loyer in November of 2021.


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