Flight Paths

For my second blog entry, I decided to check out the Electronic Literature Collection (Volume 2).  For my first blog entry, I picked Inanimate Alice from Volume 1.  I figured that it would be a change of pace to find one from a separate volume.  Just browsing through the thumbnails, my eyes paused on Flight Paths.  I believe because all of the planes were coming together and the title intrigued me, that’s why I chose this piece instead of all of the others.  Maybe next time I will try to find my own piece of Electronic Literature elsewhere.  The link to flight paths can be found here.

Flight Paths tells the story of an immigrant trying to escape Pakistan, first as a migrant laborer in Dubai and eventually as an airplane stowaway in route to London. With echoes of the magical realism of Salman Rushdie in the fifth episode, Flight Paths imagines an encounter between the dead stowaway and the woman onto whose car he has fallen. Much more than a restaging of ‘East meets West,’ Flight Paths gestures toward a true openness to the Other, to the stranger.”

The story progresses when the user clicks on the  icon, which means ‘go’ or ‘forward’ in Urdu.

Flight paths is a slide-show type interaction.  As noted in the introduction, we are following the life of an immigrant who is trying to escape from Pakistan.  There are five sections that the “story” is broken up into.

Each of these sections contains a different part of the story.  The first section, “Yacub in Dubai” tells about how the narrator lands in Dubai.  I’m assuming it’s a he based on the type of job that is being sought after.  The narrator is going to travel to Dubai to get a job to make some money.  It only takes a few minutes to read through the narrative, but the slide-show type interaction provides for a more novelesque style of interaction.  I enjoy this style because, while I am still interacting with the piece, I feel that the literature aspect is more prominent.  With Inanimate Alice, my previous blog entry, there was a lot going on and it was, at times, easy to get lost in the visual representation of the piece.  With Flight Paths, I am able to stay connect with the narrator and follow the story much more smoothly.

The second section, “Yacub at the Airport” is a lot more dark.  The narrator speaks of emotions and feelings in the opening, talking about almost crying.  Unfortunately, there is no back button so if you want to see a previous section, you have to start over at the beginning of that section.  The background of this section is very dark.  Black and grey are the prominent colors, while yellow was the prominent color of section 1.  Color is used to convey emotion in this section very well.  We, as interactive readers, are about to feel the scared feeling that Yacub feels.  I’m assuming that Yacub is the narrator’s name!  For example, This is a screenshot from section 2.  As noted, the dark colors clearly reflects the emotion that the narrator is feeling.

Section 3 opens with a video type slide-show instead of the still images that were found in the last two sections.  This is definitely a change.  The mood has also changed as well.  We are shown the streets of wherever the narrator is.  The narrator here is a wife and mom that is out going to get food for her family.  This section is a bit more confusing because it doesn’t seem to pick up where the last section left off.  Maybe by the end of the piece, the two “stories” will somehow come together. As of the end of section 3, I’m not really sure who each person is!

Okay, section 4 picks back up with the narrator from section 2.  The narrator is trying to find a way onto the plane without being caught so he can get to his destination.  An interesting twist!  After clicking next on the first image, the screen breaks into two and is now telling two stories.


Section 4 definitely provides a blending of the two stories.  The story splits horizontally instead of vertically and then blends together as the two texts are presented at the same time.  Obviously, the two stories are meant to be together, but I don’t think we are supposed to know why by the end of this section.  Maybe the last section will provide some sort of answer.  Indicated by the title, “Paths Crossing” suggests that the two stories that we have been following will somehow be connected.

Okay, apparently something must have fallen from the sky, maybe the narrator from the first two sections, into the car of the woman from the alternate sections and killed them both?  At the end section 5, I’m not really sure what happened and why.  Obviously this confusing aspect is on purpose because I clicked through the story again and felt the same way.  It seems like the boy may have fallen out of the plane that he was trying to hold onto and then collided into the car of the woman that was also speaking.  This story ends very abruptly with the two of them trying to get a taxi so they can go home and eat something.

This is definitely a very dark story and doesn’t seem to have any resolution that is satisfying enough to walk away from the story with any sort of accomplishment.

Judging by the note found here: it seems that the story has been a collaborative effort.

From the actual blog, “These stories take characters that have been named and discussed on the blog and in the ‘Flight Paths’ netvibes universe, Harriet and Yacub, and depict a series of five moments from their lives, up until the point that they meet.”  I still have a bit of confusion after reading this because I’m not sure if what I read was meant to be more metaphorical or literal.

As far as Electronic Literature is concerned, this definitely fits the bill.  The reader actually moves through the story and, without purpose, causes the fates of the two people.  There are no “choose your own adventure” styles to this piece, but by the end, you definitely feel like you have contributed in some way to the destruction (I believe that it is destruction) of the two characters involved.  This piece definitely provides something that Inanimate Alice didn’t provide.  In my opinion, that would be emotion.  I could get a sense of what the characters were feelings based on the music, the colors of the background, the font of their text, and the tone in the words.  The reader definitely gets a worried sense from Yacub and a confused feeling from Harriet.  This piece should be interacted with by others based on the emotion that is provided throughout.

I believe that describing this piece in such specific detail is crucial to understand the piece as a whole because of how much emotion is conveyed in the actual work.  Between the colors and the font and the way that the people are presented, providing as much detail as I have regarding the piece is a necessity in understand the piece.  Without such in-depth analysis, there is no way to fully understand what the piece is and why it is so important.  When speaking about emotion, detail is definitely required.  You cannot convey emotion correctly through another point of view without breaking down everything that makes the piece emotional.  For that reason alone, that is why I have expressed myself so fully in this blog.  I hope that I have exhausted all of the possibilities that are available and that I have explained myself well enough to provide justice to the piece.

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