Hi everyone, my name’s Evan. I’m a senior
English and French double-major at Amherst College. This project started out as an earlier
iteration of it which I actually submitted at the end of March… was my senior thesis
in English. “All of it is a code anyway” is actually a quote from I believe page 43 of
Almanac of the Dead, and it really speaks I think to the idea of the Almanac that I’ll
get more into in the presentation. I’m going to use reading notes because I have them,
but I’ll look up. So first I’ll start with the principal objective
of Almanac, my project, which I’ll refer to as Augmenting a Literary Web. The principal
objective of this hybrid, augmented reality project is to invite readers into an interactive
engagement of Leslie Marmon Silko’s 1991 novel Almanac of the Dead. Augmenting a Literary
Web for Almanac of the Dead strives to enable readers to more clearly locate themselves
within the physical and virtual storyscapes of Almanac through the conceptualization of
knotting—that’s with a “k”—as a narrative, structural, and conceptual framing of reality
in the novel. In specific in my project, the idea of hybrid augmented reality is that,
different from the rest of the team at Five College DH, my project actually is housed
on paper. So AR technology—augmented reality—is… overlays… you have digital, virtual technology
that’s overlayed on a print technology. So the equivalent of, like, a QR code; that’s
augmented reality technology. In my case, I do it more with videos embedded—kind of
cached—in images on the page for the sake of including interviews and voices and stuff
like that. I also include color bars on the side of the page. So I have five main thematic
threads that I follow throughout my project, and each color represents a different thing,
whether it’s quantum knotting or entanglement, hyperlinking and spacetime compression, — these
all have to do with the themes in the Almanac of the Dead — navigational literacy and
text as a space, ideas of the multiverse and multiversality, and encoding information and
embedded knowledge. A bit of a background on Almanac of the Dead.
This is… when you open the book, before you read any of the chapters, Leslie Marmon
Silko includes what she refers to as a “Five Hundred Year Map” of the Americas that I think
is really cool for the way that it has both space and time kind of in one section. And
by coincidence, Silko’s novel Almanac of the Dead was first published on Day of the Dead,
on November 2nd, 1991. At seven-hundred-sixty-three pages in length, the thematic scope of Almanac
is extensive. all the stories it contains connect in one way or another to the spatio-temporal
“Five Hundred Year Map” at the front of the book. The map references the—oh, heres this
by the way… that’s the cover—the map references the five-hundred years that had elapsed in
the Americas since the arrival of the Europeans in 1492. The significance of Almanac of the
Dead is qualified through a passage of text on the top left of the map:
“Through the decipherment of ancient tribal texts of the Americas the Almanac of the Dead
foretells the future of all the Americas. The future is encoded in arcane symbols and
old narratives.” So a common theme in all of Silko’s books
is the idea of time as spiraling rather than being linear. And in fact when I was beginning
this project, I actually had the idea originally to house it in a nonlinear storytelling format
online such as Twine. But over time I realized that it felt really important to kind of respect
and honor the stories in Almanac of the Dead to have something that was more tactile that
I would have to carry with me, and that readers would have to carry with them, but that still
had that continuum of technology. Almanac of the Dead describes itself as an
“almanac,” that is, an instructive guidebook. In order to engage Silko’s novel further,
I felt it would benefit me and others to have access to a project that could aid in the
reading of Almanac. So this project is more of a method to read rather than a close-reading,
although it does contain some close-reading as well—it’s a hybrid-form project.
The process of creating Augmenting a Literary Web made clear how augmented reality technology—as
I said, AR—can be used as a tool for reading Almanac of the Dead. A lot of this project
is therefore a consideration of how an interpretive tool can be constructed by a primary text.
As the name “augmented reality technology” suggests, AR has the potential to augment—intensify
and complement—readers’ own imaginations, although it cannot replace your imagination.
It takes imagination in no short supply to read between the lines of Almanac. Its episodic
format spans thousands of miles over five hundred years of history. With a hybrid AR
format that uses print paper, colored inks, and AR experiences—the images I mentioned
earlier—, Augmenting a Literary Web integrates multimedia sources into one accessible framework,
allowing for interactive ad engaged readings. And here are some definitions of “augmented
reality.” For the sake of time, I won’t read them aloud. The hybrid format of this project
directly emerges from my experience reading ​Almanac of the Dead​. Not only is it
possible to shape the textual portion of this project’s writing to reflect the various
conceptions of Indigenous American writers and artists that this project cites, but the
hybrid AR format means that this project’s physical structure also engages these concepts.
Moreover, the ability to embed AR experiences means that the writers and artists cited have
more agency in speaking for themselves. Their voices are augmented and extend beyond the
two-dimensional limits of the page. This potential to foreground the writers and artists themselves,
to include visual and auditory media of them, is critical in a project such as this. The
argument this project makes occurs on both analytical and structural levels, as the inclusion
of color-coded textual pathways and AR experiences may perhaps intensify the reader’s engagement
with ​Almanac​, and prompt them to be more intentional in thinking about how voices
that are not their own are orchestrated in their critical writing. This project is nonlinear
in nature, as is the Almanac of the Dead. Its dynamic qualities of folding and spiraling
can be partially situated into various interrelational strands of insight that readers may choose
to follow. And so by way of “hyperlinked” text, these interrelational strands of writing
endeavor to return agency to readers. They require readers at the same time to implicate
themselves in the text, navigating the language and deciding which pathways to follow. So as I mentioned, rhizomatic reading is…
the idea of the rhizome refers to a network of roots that, instead of having a vertical
component to it, branches out laterally. And so in a way of thinking of a decentralized
method of study, it’s also really important because it’s nonlinear, there’s no central
focus. And especially in Indigenous studies, it’s—and decolonial studies—it’s an idea
that is pretty powerful. And I’ll get… I’ll explain more on that later. Augmented reality paper is— this is a…
these are two examples of pages from my project. So I actually printed the project on one page
of cardstock and actually used a paper cutter to cut down the middle, which is what that
dotted—dashed—line represents. On the top left is an example of an image that—if
you hold a phone with the app LifePrint actually open, which you can do after during the reception,
you can actually see the videos “come to life.” And those are the color bars on the side.
Augmented Reality paper is the medium of choice for​ Augmenting a Literary Web because of
its potential to contain, as I mentioned, “live multimedia examples” within a print
format. These… this also necessitates physical engagement on the part of the reader in order
to be read. In a critical reflection of ​Almanac,​ it seems important to the project to employ
a medium which permits a tactile experience, as I mentioned, alongside the concepts of
folding. For example, the folding of spacetime in nonlinear readings. In a print medium that is augmented… pardon
me… readers hold a device’s camera through LiefPrint over “dormant” media examples,
as if peering through a reading lens or “seeing instrument,” and watch as these dormant images
on the physical page become animated by the augmented reality application on the device.
The print format is augmented by the digital output of images and sound. And in blurring
the edges of medium distinction between print and digital, augmented reality paper exists
along a continuation—a continuum—of adaptive translation, much like the re-generation and
re-adaptation of the ancient Yaqui almanac that features centrally in ​Almanac of the
Dead​ the novel. Back to Branching Pathways. So on “branching
pathways” some more. Augmenting a Literary Web​ incorporates the analogue concept of
rhizomatic reading into its hybrid augmented reality form, using the rhizome to conceptualize
branching pathways of color bars into the written analysis.
When I discuss the rhizome, some ideas of critical theory might come up, including the
work of Deleuze and Guattari, as well as Édouard Glissant. And while referencing them, I choose
to focus more on Indigenous channels of knowing that also use natural imagery. In both cases,
though, I think it’s important to recall the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the
term “rhizomatic,” both adjective and noun. The OED refers to “rhizomatic” as, quote:
“an interconnected, subterranean network of roots. Hence: non-hierarchical, interconnected.”
So Joanna Hearne, here, is a digital scholar, and in her article “Native to the Device:
Thoughts on Digital Indigenous Studies,” she “[considers] the specificity of Indigenous
digital studies in light of an array of land-based metaphors for digital media—the web, the
rhizome, and the river.” Leslie Marmon Silko’s manners of storytelling share many similarities
with Hearne’s description of “the rhizome,” despite the fact that the majority of her
writing is not primarily situated within digital tools, or else is typically read in print
formats. This has changed more recently with the example of a short story of hers—a novella,
Oceanstory—which she actually published in e-book with Amazon. But generally she likes
to cut things by hand and actually self-prints. Again with color-coded text. My project draws
the idea of color-coded text from a number of sources, the two predominant ones being,
first, William Faulkner’s 1929 novel,​The Sound and the Fury. Initially when Faulkner
was envisioning the novel, he wanted to include color-coded texts. So the text itself would
actually have multiple colors to it that would indicate different temporalities throughout.
But due to technical and financial reasons, that idea was scrapped. Again, it was 1929,
it’s cheaper now than it was then to print in color, even though it’s still not super
cheap. The second one was again Twine. So the idea
of “color tags” actually came from Twine. What you can do in an individual box in Twine
is actually tag them, and that lets them speak to each other. In this project, the human
reader is actually the hyperlink. So that takes the place of the linking in a digital
project. So next I want to talk about “shuffling.”
As I mentioned earlier, my project is nonlinear, so there will be pages on the back of cards,
but on the front of cards there’s no indication of a page number. So the main way in which
you can read it is like a linear essay—there’s a linear flow to it. But you also have the
option—thanks to the color tabs on the side—to jump between cards and move more rhizomatically.
In the act of shuffling cards, the agent who is shuffling—in the case of ​Augmenting
a Literary Web,​ the reader—inputs a randomness factor into future readings. The act of shuffling
cards opens up multiple potential futures as to how the project may potentially be read.
These multiplicitous readings have the potential to evoke certain connections and insights
that might go unseen in a traditionally linear reading. Essentially hyperlinks, these connections
are present in a virtual state of potentiality before the possibility of a reader recognizing
them—or decoding them—even might occur. Deciding to structure ​Augmenting a Literary
Web with a nonlinear, shuffling component to it came directly from the narrative of
​Almanac itself.​ Not only does ​Silko’s novel exist as what could be considered a
quote, unquote “shuffled” narrative in its episodic and nonlinear narrative form,
but key moments in the novel—such as when the character Seese shuffling baby pictures
of her lost son Monte in the hopes of bringing back memories, or at least gaining access
to them again—these… such an action actually evokes concepts of hyperlinking, space-time
entanglement, and quantum knotting. And here’s a quote from the same passage that the title
[of my project] is from where Seese is actually trying to shuffle the cards, and as she’s
shuffling, she does so out of an urgency to be virtually and mentally transported across
spacetime to a world—or a “moment“—where her baby son Monte is by her side, alive and
well. Every shuffle of the photographs that Seese makes is a gamble. There isn’t always…
there is always the chance that a hyperlinked portal between physical presence and the virtual
past won’t succeed, that a portal between the two—the hyperlink—will be kind of
like an “error message”will be read. So there wouldn’t be an actual connection that would
be made. Yet there still is the potential for encoded knowledge to be accessed through
the nonlinear reading. Next I want to talk about “navigational literacy”
and the spatial aspect of my project, as well as of how that relates to readings of Almanac
of the Dead. This project avoids imposing a linear structure of beginning, middle, and
end upon its dialectical engagement of Silko’s novel.​ For this reason, there are multiple
ways for the reader to navigate the project. The concept of navigation also furthers the
project’s spatial function as a textual landscape, hearkening back to the Kich’é
Maya understanding of the ​Popol Vuh​ as “‘a place to see.'” So the Popol Vuh
is a… emergence—or creation—story in what’s now central… the Chiapas region of
Mexico and northern Guatemala. I read it with my… one of my thesis advisors, Lisa Brooks,
[during the] Fall 2017. And I also had the opportunity in January, thanks to Five College
DH, to see some pottery from around 600 A.D. that had the same text on it. So the text
that we read in Professor Brooks’ class dated from about 1550, and so some anonymous K’iché
scribes actually were adapting writing to their purposes in order to—instead of writing
Catholic religious texts, they were preserving and adapting their creation story, using the
Roman alphabet which I think is really really cool. [There are] a lot of parallels too between
Silko’s “almanac” in her story and examples like the Popol Vuh.
The reader’s engagement of the project’s landscape is also their navigation of it.
The reader may plan a route or course through the project—for instance, by tracing certain
color-pathways throughout the project—and emerge with different understandings of the
text than if they had chosen to follow another series of color paths. On a certain level, the reader may navigate
the project in a linear manner from the lowest numbered page to the highest numbered page,
as one might read a traditional print text. If the reader should choose to do so however,
it may also be read nonlinearly. This different reading is based more on thematic and conceptual
resonances through the project than it is in a linear argument, as I mentioned earlier.
For example, in following one page with a green tab to another, the reader will be provided
not with a linear argument, but rather will engage in the active process of hypertextualization. So more on “hypertextualization” here. This
term refers to the linking of two textual spaces across spacetime. The term relates
to that of entanglement—the coinciding or alignment of two interrelated sites along
a virtual path. This path becomes known as a hyperlink, and it is the reader’s synthetic
imagination that links the textual sites together. In their existence as hyperlinked sites, these
interrelated locales of text exist in virtual space. Thus, a reading of hypertext inherently
has a spatio-temporal aspect to it. This of course relates… sorry, I am dyslexic so
it’s… I’ll keep reading. This of course relates the concept of hypertext with the
framing of the virtual as this project conceptualizes it. Both hypertext and the virtual are spatial,
both are temporal. Each is grounded in Silko’s writing on “interior landscapes” in her…
pardon me. Each is grounded in her writing on “interior landscapes”and in spatial understandings
of the human imaginary. To reiterate again, both “virtuality”
and “the digital,” web-based experience, name spaces in which spacetime and hyperlinks
potentially compress two sites across a continuum of space and time. In hyperlinking, the sites
become entangled—as Joanna Hearne writes, of “reimagining the digital as a site of
possibility.” So the idea of “virtual” also having similarities to ideas of “potentiality.”
Digital and virtual spaces become potential spaces for decolonization and reterritorialization.
So similar to ideas of “occupying space” in a queer sense, in Indigenous studies and decolonial
studies there’s the idea of “reterritorializing space,” and one of the main central things
in Almanac of the Dead is the idea of an Indigenous reprisal of the Americas in their entirety.
Occurrences in the digital and virtual are ongoing adaptations, regenerations, and reflections
of other—namely physical—spaces. The term simultaneously reflects a prior history of
colonization and stolen Indigenous lands while envisioning future Indigenous reprisals of
these lands, as I mentioned. So back to navigation. The structure of ​Almanac​
in its nonlinear format requires the reader to actively work to “chart dialogues,” using
Greg Sarris’ term, with the “intermingling voices” of the text. On a narrative level,
the novel’s narrative shifts between characters across the frequent third-person embedded
perspectives that has the repeated effect of requiring an active reader in order to
be interpreted. And for the sake of time, I do write about “knotting” in terms of time,
but I’ve mentioned it prior. So if you’re interested during the reception, please do
ask me about it bec ause I really like talking about it. I’m going to skip to the conclusion
just for the sake of time. The critical examination of the interconnectedness
of things does not cause those elements being examined to suddenly cease relations with
each other. Different practices of intellectual engagement result in different impacts on
the exact nature of the connections they examine. Although the details of those connections
are dynamic and constantly adapting, responding to influences, they never stop existing. The
method of analysis in this project has grounded its focus in the practice of augmentation.
Rather than exerting energy in an attempt to classify and untangle knots of relationality
when doing so would only cause those knots to tighten further (all of the themes I examine
are very much entangled and interconnected, the reason that it’s nonlinear is for that…
it’s the reason that it’s nonlinear), it’s important instead to study the knots themselves.
The written analysis of this project is itself a series of entangled knots. The writing charts
dialogues between the different conceptual threads, and in so doing recognizes those
interstices as spaces to be examined in their own right, to be read​ into.​ The analysis
of this project connects elements of language into meaningful arrangements in order to communicate
with potential readers. In the semblance of a virtual tapestry composed of numerous individual
knots of connective insight, the writing of this project is most aptly described as entangled.
The nonlinear format of this project opens it up to multiplicitous potential readings.
And each reader’s engagement of the written analysis and augmented reality will result
in different experiences being woven from the text depending on which pathways they
follow, and which hyperlinks they activate. Thank you. [Applause.] Questions, Evan? Divvy. Yeah, so there’s a lot of, I think, freedom
of interpretation sort of central to the form of this project, really giving the reader
a chance to get what they want from this. But one thing that I noticed is really absent
from your conceptualization of this project is you, as sort of the curator of all of the
content that the reader has. Because while the reader does have all of these videos and
all of these different threads, you’re actually providing those threads. And so, you know,
they can tie whatever knot they want, but they’re constrained by the materials that
you’ve provided within this context. So I’m curious of how you conceptualize of yourself
as the author of this, and whether or not you had some sort of intention in how you…
how you would hope people would go about tying those knots. Mhm. That’s a really good question. Thanks
Divvy. I… I think first it’s necessary perhaps to say how I got to the project, because when
I had originally, kind of, devised the idea of the project, it was actually just to write
a close reading of Almanac. But as I was… over the past summer and then in the fall
semester doing a close reading—as I mentioned, it’s 763-plus pages long—my book is pretty
much annotated on every page just because I kind of got obsessed with it to the extent
that I realized that I needed a way to engage it that I had, kind of, constraints on myself
too. So I… I’m also a reader of my own project, so it’s a guide for me as well. And I think
that partly answers your question. Another way is that I don’t… I have a section that,
in the paper, where I talk about not having any explicit answers to, you know, if any
exist at all, to what Almanac of the Dead means. In the… To the extent that Almanac
is a nonlinear text in its episodic… there isn’t just one narrator. In fact, it shifts
points of view pretty regularly, in kind of what I would refer to as a “third-person embedded
perspective,” so it’s kind of like third-person limited, but the reader is kind of like adjacent,
but also in the thoughts of the person whose perspective it is being told by. And so the
reader is also kind of brought along in the story and [in] some ways, almost like a triggering
way. A lot of the scenes are pretty graphic. But there’s no one way to read Almanac, because
you have to read between the fragments. And in a way, I want my readers, and ask them
to read across the pages as well. I had a question from a professor a week ago about
why I hadn’t written explicitly about one of the augmented reality experiences in a
section where I’m talking about fear, and the video itself is Joy Harjo responding…
she’s… it’s a caption of her reciting a part of a poem where she says “I won’t,” you
know, “I won’t let you control me, fear.” And although I don’t mention it explicitly
why I included that, I wanted to give the reader some room to answer that for themselves.
And so there is a sense of, yes, I’m constraining the reader, but it’s because it’s my interpretation
of what, you know… of course I didn’t include every single literary piece, like person or
being, in Silko’s network of relation, but it’s a part of the web that I’m focusing on,
it’s not the entire web. And I also include—I didn’t mention this in the [presentation]—I
do include “resonance cards.” And so those are kind of like, almost like a “bonus deck,”
where they… they’re marked by a little spiderweb icon that I made, and those are kind of like
at the… if I’m focusing on this part of the web, those are kind of at like the…
the outside of the known world of my project, kind of branching beyond but not necessarily…
they’re not focuses of the project at this point. But there is room for me to do more
with this project if I would like. But that’s also a place where the readers could say,
“Oh! I had that thought, and you mentioned it, and I’m interested in knowing more.” But
then there’s space, I think, in implicating the reader, and also trying to invite them
in and give them room to do their own project or own research. Professor Heinrichs? Could you talk about knotting some more? Yes. [Laughter.] Because I am also very interested in how…
the temporality of knots work for you, and how you see that. So this… again, very much…
I’m a literary studies person, right, so the… there’s a lot of different metaphors that
you’re deploying here, so knots, webs, trees—rhizomes—so specifically with rhizomes and knots, I guess.
Those are the two metaphors I’m mot interested in, and how you see those connecting and overlapping. So knotting was one that was… I was thinking
more of “entanglement” initially. Parham—Professor Parham, my other thesis advisor—had mentioned
knots and about kind of thinking about the idea of “retro-fitting” technologies, thinking
about the Inca khipu, which is… I think I have an image of it in here that I showed.
Yeah, right there on this page. So that’s an Inca khipu, that’s an example. And what
they are is kind of… it’s alternative literacy, basically. It’s not written word, but these
actually kind of function as like a complex form of binary code. But way more complex
than simple binary code. Every single knot and the direction of the knots, the colors,
all have significances. A lot of them are actually census records and stuff like that
from pre-colonial times as well as post-colonial, post-contact times that are really really
cool. The idea of knotting in relation to spacetime entanglement really came from the
idea of, if you have a string like this, any two parts on those strings may not be touching
in a linear sense of time. But if time is knotted, and you pull them together, they
will overlap and be touching. And then also the idea of knots is that if you have a string
and you knot it, once there’s a knot in it, unless you cut it, you can’t get the knot
out. And so the idea of once things become entangled, they can’t be untangled, in a sense.
And so I think, it relates to… I’m not sure if I’m answering your question exactly. Yes, great. Yeah. I was just… I started
thinking of… I have thoughts. I’ll talk to you later. [Laughter.] Can I follow up on that? Because I, I mean,
first of all I just want to say I think we all appreciate the, the strength of your very
subtle grasp on these very complex issues and appreciate the way that you presented
them to us. And I was struck like Amanda about the metaphors that you’re using. And more
of which, it made me think of, you know, there’s the common perspective revealing analogy of
saying if you’re looking at a line and then suddenly you turn the line, you realize “oh
my gosh it’s actually a circle,” and then it provides a sense of the truth of that.
And I was thinking of that as I was thinking of the rhizome because when we look at it
from the side, we see this, this non hierarchical relationship, but I wonder, since it spreads
out linearly and horizontally, if you get on top of it does it impose a new form of
hierarchy on you. And so I wanted to then use that as a springboard to ask you, did
creating this, did the simple act of working within formats, reimpose forms of hierarchy
and how did you resist them? It did. I had really wanted my essay, if that’s
what you would call it, to be nonlinear, and I think based on my constraints simply from
having grown up writing predominantly linear stuff, I’m most comfortable writing stuff
that has a linear flow to it. And I say flow intentionally because I think that’s an important
term to consider in relation to Almanac in terms of the adaptations of the almanac that
feature in the book as well as translations across formats. So the almanac goes through
multiple kind of regenerations, you know, from oral story to being written on horse
skin to being adapted into a digital word processor. And that, a constraint that was…
I myself am a constraint in that I have my own comforts that I bring to the project,
and acknowledging those is important. I would also say there are other limits including
LifePrint, the augmented reality app, which is that at the current moment it can only play
videos that are fifteen seconds or shorter. And so there were moments when I had an artist
for example, Vicuña, a Chilean artist who I was citing, and she, this, I really wanted
to include the whole video in one shot, but for a number of reasons, both accessibility
reasons that it’s difficult for people to hold a phone up for long amounts of time and
because LifePrint itself can’t do the whole video, I actually had to break her art piece
up. And there’s a violence in that that I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with, but
out of necessity of the technologies available I had to weigh was it more important to include
her voice and her work or leave it out completely and only talk about it in written word.

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