Understanding

I decided to look at a hypertext called “Tailspin,” by Christine Wilks (you can check it out by clicking here).  I was really impressed with this form of hypertext.  It starts out with a grayish background and the pattern grows as it sets up the spirals that are used to bring up each short part of the poem.  Moving the cursor over the spirals, makes black spirals turn to gray and brings up a new set of words but there is also sound that goes along with each spiral.  Sometimes, there is even a animation that pops up too.  When the readers has put the cursor over each spiral on the page, then a royal blue one appears in the middle of the page.  Clicking on this spiral leads the reader to a new page with new spirals on it.  There are seven pages of spirals, until the reader reaches the end.

So far, I have explained a fairly simple form of hypertext.  However, as I have mentioned before, this hypertext has sound.  To fully understand the sound, the story that Wilks is telling has to be explained.  The story is about a woman and her father, who have a tense relationship because her father has a hearing disability called Tinnitus.  According to Wikipedia, it’s a ringing sound in the ear.  It can range for obsolete to acute.  If it’s bad enough, it can cause hearing loss because the ear can’t filter the sounds that are coming in.  The fact that this disability makes some sounds abnormally loud, it tends to muffle other sounds, like speech.  An example of this is even shown in Wilk’s story.  The woman’s father has a hard time hearing the conversation at the dinner table because the sound of everyone’s forks and knives on their plates makes it hard for him to hear what is going on.  This leads to depression and irritability, which are most of the interactions we see in this work with the father and his daughter or his grandchildren.  So, the father is stuck in a world of harsh and irritating sounds.  He often yells at his grandchildren because they play hand-held games that make noise that disturbs him.  He is emotionally distant from his daughter because he was snappy and harsh to her as a child because of his ailment.

As we see in the anatomy of the ear itself, there are three layers:  the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.  There are three layers to this story as well:  the present day, with the grandchildren, the woman’s childhood with her father, and the father’s story of being a pilot.  In each one there are sounds that correspond.  If there is text with the grandchildren, there is an unusually annoying sound of several games thrown together.  With the woman, there is usually a high pitched sound that resembles what the ringing sound might sound like.  With the father, there is either a soothing sound of the sky (birds chirping or a gentle humming) or the sound of a fire truck.  However, there is a constant ringing going on during the entire piece.  I read a few things on Tinnitus and found that the sound bites that the author put in were not far off from what it would sound like for the father.  I even tried reading some of the material with the high pitched sound repeating in the background.  I had so much trouble focusing on what I was reading.

I think that this piece is an inspiring one.  Not only did it make me feel something for all of the characters through the writing, but it made me understand what it must have been like to have this awful ailment.  The use of sound really made this piece.  I listened to it once without sound (because I always want to get an idea of what it is without).  The words that Wilks writes are touching and heartfelt.  I pitied her and her daughters so much.  Then, I listened to the sounds along with it and my pity immediately switched.  By the use of sound, Wilks created a story from two points of view simultaneously:  the words being the woman’s side of the story and the sounds being her father’s.  By this, Wilks portrays an accurate human condition.  She brings out both sides of the tension and makes it impossible to decide who has more of an argument, the woman or her father.  I think this work by Wilks is one of the best I have seen so far.

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