3,5,18,22,44,49

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Those are not the winning numbers, at least not in Eric LeMay’s hybrid essay/ lottery system, Losing-Lottery. Before encountering the actually essay, you’ll be directed to pick 6 numbers. These are the numbers on your lottery ticket. After selecting them, you’ll see his essay on the left, and a program basically simulating a lottery being played over and over again with the numbers you chose.  The essay is composed of 49 sections, which is the highest number you can choose for the Ohio Classic Lotto, the main focus of LeMay’s essay. Reading is pretty straight forward; you’ll simply click arrows to move forward or backwards through the essay.

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While LeMay’s essay is a bit different from the other works we’ve encountered, I think it’s undoubtedly a work of electronic literature because it wouldn’t function the same way if read in any other way. When I say “different” I mainly mean that it’s a work of nonfiction. The different sections of the essay address different facets of the lottery, from how much Ohio spends and profits from it, to what certain winners have experience after winning, and personal anecdotes of LeMay’s family and their interactions with the lottery. At first, I was taking note of the numbers of the different sections, so I could reference them in this post. For instance, there is a section that talks about the etymology of the word “lottery,” and for me it was section 36. But in a different section, section 42, LeMay reveals that all of the sections (except the first) are random. You might have seen that coming, but I did not. I think that not only does the random order of the essay sections allude to the random number picking of the winning tickets, it also disrupts the reader’s sense of order. The numbered sections suggest that some sort of order is in place, when there actually isn’t. In the essay, LeMay writes about how the lottery makes it easier for people to deal with the large disparity between the rich and the poor. It gives people hope that their status can change. LeMay also notes that poorer neighborhoods spend more on the lottery than richer ones, and that the ancient Greeks believed hope was actually a great evil as it prolonged one’s torment. So since the lottery gives people hope, it also prolongs their torment by keeping them in their poverty.

Overall his essay provides really interesting insight into how the lottery affects people. He writes about people who lie about winning, people who make art with lottery tickets, people who collect used and unused tickets. And while you’re reading the essay, your six numbers that you selected in the beginning keep being tested to see if they’ve won. By the time I finished reading, I had spent over $80,000 on tickets, and only won around $11,000. There was a brief time where my winnings equaled fifty percent of my spending, but it didn’t last long. Seeing the numbers change while I was reading also had a unique effect. I could feel myself experience hope that I would match 6 numbers, frustration at much money I’ve spent, and sadness that I had not won much at all. Simultaneously experiencing a virtual lottery and reading about different people and their experiences with the lottery made me feel more invested and the reading feel more relevant.

 

  3 comments for “3,5,18,22,44,49

  1. Bekka
    April 7, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    I think one of my favorite passages in this piece was the comparison to Pandora’s box and the evil of hope – that the lottery fosters hope and this only prolongs the torment of not winning. The randomization of the passages mimicks the randomization of lottery numbers, and obvious but still interesting comparison. As I read this piece I kept checking my running tally, getting excited when I saw my winnings only to be upset when I noticed that my losses far outnumbered them. The integration of the lottery program to this piece makes it unique, I liked it a lot. By the end I had only won $1,252 compared to losing $16,259. Thanks for making me aware of this piece

  2. bmytelka
    April 10, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve seen plenty of lottery simulators, even things like crate and pack simulators for the games Team Fortress 2 and Hearthstone. I never do too well in them in the end, but ultimately it’s just an interesting thought experiment. By adding the writing throughout the work, it becomes an educational piece which weighs the positives of the lottery on a community with the harsh reality of how often you will end up losing. Just like the balls you pick at the start, the piece doesn’t take a black or white stance on the issue; it goes for shades of grey. It has an agenda, but it does so through nothing but facts and education.

    I noticed the random order on my own (sorry, I like to try before I read the post!), and I agree that it had an uncomfortable effect. I love randomly generated literature, but only when the random aspect is apparent (think anything fully bot-generated). When you have the facts in random order, it irks me as a student since I’m used to facts and lectures flowing from one comment to another. The random cluster of quotes I got the first time felt nowhere near as satisfying as when they were spread evenly throughout the second time, and I never got the positive facts (lotteries help fund education!) to be a bit more separated from the negative (rabies > lottery!).

    I accidentally refreshed the page. Originally I won around $9000 out of $14000 which is pretty good all things considered. Upon refreshing, I have about 10% of what I’ve spent.

  3. Cameron Hodge
    April 14, 2014 at 8:14 am

    This is one of those pieces that raises the question whether the text is the output or the algorithm. Is the point of the work for the reader to lose patience with the output when they finally realize they’re losing money and they won’t be hitting the jackpot, or is it the statistics behind the proverbial curtain driving the output? After all, there is a chance (a very, very, very low chance) that a reader could actually hit that jackpot, which would negate the message being conveyed to everyone else. If we’re talking purely about probabilities, there is still a chance that–on a single run–the probabilities won’t be accurately represented. Contrariwise, if the probability is the point, then the text itself would be the variables of the simulation and not necessarily what is displayed on the screen.

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