I decided to play “88 Constellations for Wittgenstein; (to be played with the Left Hand)” by David Clark. This was by far the most interesting work on electronic literature I have encountered yet. Everything about this was intriguing to me.
When starting this piece of literature, you are instructed to use your left hand. At first, this meant nothing to me. Once you click ENTER, an introduction is given to you. This introduction tells you over and over again to “join the dots”. Hearing this didn’t make sense until the introduction ended and I was forced to click on a constellation, where the dots were connected. After the introduction was over, a screen of various constellations are shown, allowing you to pick one. The first one I chose was called “Limits of Language”. When clicking on this constellation, I was overwhelmed and impressed by the amount of information thrown at me. To top this off, the music was unique as well. This section of the game shows you, through moving objects and words, a conversation between two people. What struck me about this conversation is that it was all about language limiting the world. Questions such as “Did existence exist before we existed?”, and “Is the ending of language the beginning of existence?” were asked. To go along with these deep and intellectual questions, the narrator talks about the limits of language, and compared that to a cup of coffee. He explained that the limits of language are the limits to the world, just as the size of the coffee cup limits how much can be put inside of it.
After clicking on only one constellation, I wasn’t convinced as to what this piece of literature was trying to get across, so I clicked on another constellation called “Fly Bottle.” This constellation’s purpose was to explain that the purpose of philosophy was to show the fly the way out of the bottle. The narrator explained this way of thinking by describing, (through words being spoken, words on the screen, and pictures), a monkey who is given a box with a banana inside of it, with a hole just big enough for the monkeys hand to fit inside. When the monkey reaches for the banana, it then cannot take it’s hand out of the box while still holding the banana. In this situation, the monkey will not realize that if it were to let go of the banana, it’s hand would be able to fit out of the box. Just like the monkey not being able to grasp this concept, we as humans are not able to ungrasp things either. For example, humans are not able to ungrasp the meaning of words.
After exploring these two constellations, I realized that this work of literature must have been explaining different ways to think about parts of life. Directly after clicking on Fly Bottle, I realized that there was a button, “I”, on the bottom of the screen. After clicking on it, an ‘information screen’ came up and showed me that I could type words on the keyboard and it would effect how the constellations were played out. It also should me that I could click on different stars in the specific constellations I had picked, and more stories would come from that. To me, this added a while new level to the literature because the choices seemed to be endless! After finding out this exciting news, I tried these out. I found out that by using buttons on the keyboard while a constellation was playing, the visual images would respond to my typing by increasing the amount of movement they were doing during the narration.
Once I was done exploring the game, I found http://olponline.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/net-art-by-david-clark-88-constellations-for-wittgenstein-to-be-played-with-the-left-hand/ , where the author David Clark explained what he meant from the game. He wrote this game from the point of view of an Australian philosopher named Wittgenstein. In this game, there are 88 interactive flash animations, which ends up correlating to the 88 constellations in the sky. Hearing his point of view was very interesting, “music and the night sky both seemed to me to stir up the limits of our understanding of existence.” Reading this quote from him proved to me that the point of this literature was to make the reader philosophize about the different abstract aspects of life. My thoughts on why he wanted us to use our left hand when interacting, is because using the left hand is something that without instruction, is not usually done by the common person. By not using the right hand, a slightly different view might be taken. He also allowed me to understand that when he repeatedly said that we needed to ‘connect the dots’ in the beginning, he wanted the reader to connect the dots by using the facts of life that he gave us. There is so much to learn from this piece of literature, and I encourage everyone who gets the chance, to try it out!