Here’s My Storymap!
During my work on the Virtual Reality project, I have really come to enjoy working in Unity. For starters, it is fun and exciting to create a virtual world. Additionally, I enjoyed the process of creating a world – which, in our group included coding a collider and animating some objects (no spoilers)! The other day, after most of the group had gone, I was finishing saving the files when I had the urge to run through the VR world by myself. I wanted to see how my perception of it would change with no one around. I found that when I entered our virtual forest area, there was a lot to explore. Even though our project is meant to end at the culmination of the transition between scenes, I found myself virtually walking through the forest, jumping around cliffs and exploring. It felt a little bit like traversing the forests and hills of Fortnite, except with no other players.
What I didn’t expect to happen was how heavily immersed I would become. With no one else in the lab, I felt comfortable continuing my exploration – all the way to the end of the map. At the end of the forest the world drops off into a limitless ruddy abyss. Earlier in our project after we accidentally deleted a few floors, we virtually fell into the abyss, and this created a very strange sensation of falling while watching the world disappear thousands of feet above. Oddly enough, when I had fallen before with my group around, I never felt scared. But suddenly as I explore on my own, I felt more afraid of the cliff. It almost felt…real. I wasn’t completely stoked about this either and I quickly pulled the headset off to experience my reality. Or is it?
Anti-Gone figures film as a prominent theme in the book. From our discussions, film can be seen as a medium for virtual reality. Since the characters in Anti-Gone are on a journey into a series of films, they should be viewed as entering the virtual throughout their journey, even though their journey is mainly in the real. Film becomes a mode for the virtual. One of the issues in the book is how the different designer drugs influence the reality of the film. Watching a film not under the influence is a different experience than watching one under the influence of designer drugs. I wonder if Spyda and Lynxa experience this difference too.
Additionally, I found the ideas of the perspectives intriguing too, especially with the little man in the hat. While he looks comical, he also has an almost nefarious side. Something about him being comical makes me feel more worried about what his character wants, and his minimalist drawing is heavily juxtaposed to the more descriptively drawn Spyda and Lynxa.
As I first started reading Contact High, I was not sure if there would be aspects of the virtual. Though the comic was futuristic, I did not know what to expect, as futuristic does not equate to virtual. In the world of Contact High, everyone has stopped exposing any visible skin, and all wear skinsuits. The term the guards and scientists use for people that want to touch is dermentia – and the connection to the actual disease of dementia is apparent as dementia connotes memory loss, while dermentia creates an illness where people have forgotten what touch feels like.
One aspect I really found intriguing was the idea of “skin,” and what it means to be in one’s skin and have experiences that are differentiated from others experiences. This can be considered virtual, as virtual reality has broad implication and overarching understanding of what it as a term means. I found the ending of the comic especially telling with regards to virtual reality, as the massive splash page makes it seem that when skin to skin contact happens, another reality is created.
So far in The Handmaid’s Tale, the plot has definitely profited from the mystic of the past. While Atwood’s introduction sheds some light onto what happened in the book’s past to create a theocracy known as the Republic of Gilead in what was once the USA, Offred doesn’t have a lot of information regarding the past. I am interested in seeing if Offred will have any data for us, as the backstory seems to be significant in this seismic change.
Another aspect of the book that intrigues me is the aspect of time. Offred switches back and forth between her time with Luke and with other women, while also describing her duties as a Handmaid with women who now have the “of” prefix added to the patronymic names. It almost seems as if she lives in both worlds at the same time. This is very intriguing given the context of our class, as we explore issues of reality and time. What does it mean for Offred to exist in these different worlds, even if they are in her own head? I wonder if we should consider these constructions by Offred as distinct realities, or maybe they are just her longing for a time gone by, without the oppressive nature of Gilead. So much of the political story exists outside of Offred’s understanding; she hears about how the war is going well, and how many rebels have been defeated – but doesn’t know who they are, or how Ofglen came to know the information (19).
L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz left me a lot more questions than answers at the conclusion to his masterpiece. For starters, did the film really do it justice? Or was the film so important and larger than life simply because it employed technicolor for the first time? I’m not certain that this negates anything that happened in Baum’s world – rather it encapsulates the exact cutthroat American ethos that Baum sought to push back against in his work. I am not totally sure that Baum achieves his goal – which is completely okay. I would contend that Dorothy, in some respects, hinders the story through her incessant need to get back to Kansas. I forget who mentioned this in class, but the point that Dorothy is so keen to leave the world, despite her large group of friends, felt astonishing and odd. Alice, on the other hand, seems to enjoy hanging with characters that are less than pleasant, but never complains. Perhaps this was Baum’s response to Alice – playing into the American fantasy of the small hometown.
There also seems to be an isolationist attitude from Baum throughout. The land of Oz is diverse and wide – but not everyone is aware of the vast array of different creatures inhabiting the world. There’s a very localized power structure it seems, once characters get out of the Emerald City. The Wizard has no actual power, and is purely a facade.
As we discussed in class, Baum’s book differs greatly from the movie. A major difference is that in the film Dorothy hits her head before she ends up in Oz and wakes up upon returning to Kansas – whereas the book Dorothy is awake even as the house is spinning around in the cyclone. This brings allows us to question the dream framework. When we think of dreaming, we often think of dreams in deep sleep. I’m not sure if others have experienced this, or read about it – but I couldn’t help but feel a similarity to where Dorothy’s house is spinning in the cyclone and sleep paralysis. Common experiences include the inability to move one’s own body, while the brain is very much awake. Sometimes this manifests itself as something sinister. For Dorothy, she is unable to affect the house’s course, and is basically a spectator as the house spins far away. If we want to consider Dorothy dreaming, it would have to be a different type of dream. Baum purposefully doesn’t have Dorothy fall asleep until long after the cyclone sweeps up the house, that way the reader will have to concoct an alternative to dreaming.
Perhaps the political reading of Baum’s work will give us insight as to why Dorothy isn’t sleeping. Given the context – directly after a tough depression in the 1890’s – Baum wanted to further his politics by creating an alternative reality where contemporary American politics were played out in a successful accomplishment of what Baum may have wanted. For Baum, Dorothy needed to be awake to have this experience work out. In the film, the political message is dampened by Dorothy being in a dream.
I have always been afraid of being stuck in enclosed spaces – that’s called claustrophobia. I’ve never been able to pinpoint why – there was no dramatic event I can think of. When reading Axolotl I instantly felt a visceral sensation of fear and fright when considering A. becoming another small creature, and B. being stuck behind a glass. I wonder if this is because as humans we want to have a monopoly on what is an oddity. We visit the zoo with our kids and point at the animals. Though zoos certainly fall somewhere on the humane/inhumane spectrum, there is a major power dynamic going on. Cortázar plays with the idea of perspective – the main character is outside of the water, and then inside. They grow as an Axolotl and then become a full fledged one. Perhaps it’s a commentary on how perspective changes with age. I hope we don’t become Axolotls.
Upon reading Jorge Luis Borge’s The Secret Miracle, I couldn’t help but think of the connections to An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. Bierce tells the tale of Peyton Fahrquhar, a Southern farmer – who after being tricked by a Federal scout posing as a Confederate soldier, attempts to blow up a bridge and is consequently hung by Northern troops. Much like Jaromir, Fahrquhar experiences a long drawn out sequence of events in the aftermath of his “death.” The rope breaks, and he escapes and even runs home. In a similar vein as Borges, the piece ends with “Peyton Fahrquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek Bridge.”
Though both short stories end in similar fashion, The Secret Miracle functions within a more nuanced dream-framework. The final part of the piece occurs in an in between area – somewhere between awake and sleeping. This is not altogether surprising, for Jaromir lives his life in an unfinished way. For starters, his play is unfinished. Borges writes eloquently about the play Jaromir has almost finished, full of complex dialogue, intrigue, and the reappearance of characters thought to be killed off. Jaromir believes the piece is in the real. There are clues within Jaromir’s piece that suggest what is to come. In the play’s third act “Someone notes that the time of day has not advanced: the clock strikes seven, the western sun reverberates in the high window panes, impassioned Hungarian music is carried on the air.” Time moving in ways outside of “normal” reality represents a major theme in Borges work. Stemming from the title, Jaromir is about to have his miracle by finishing his play – although his death comes a mere two minutes later.
These pieces engage in the dialogue of what happens after death – or in the fleeting seconds. Could it be a second? Or could someone conceivably have an entire dream, rife with beauty and creation, only to find that their death comes too quickly? Perhaps we could conceive of dreams as a constructed reality, one without restraints of regular life. I guess we’ll never know what happens in the passing moments before death – maybe science will tell us someday. Or maybe we never want to know?