Happy New Year: Everyday Language in Vidzilla’s Resolution

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I went back to Vidzilla’s Resolution because something was bugging me about this text now that we’ve encountered other interactive texts. I think that something is that it feels almost too “easy” to understand. Not easy to interpret, but rather that Resolution’s language is so familiar to us that it’s quite easy to miss what the text is doing. Through Resolution’s 25 “pages,” we can piece together an unfolding apocalypse without much difficulty because everything is already laid out (Stuart Moulthrop should take notes) in language we gloss over every day—tweets from the CDC, news headlines on apps related to the Z3 disease, people on Craigslist trying to find love before the end, etc. Using Wardrip-Fruin’s definition, Resolution feels like it gives too much context; we’re uncomfortably close to the language it utilizes for me to initially acknowledge it in the same light as something like The Jew’s Daughter or Anchorhead. It probably doesn’t help that Resolution, as a project, doesn’t seem too original at first either. We’ve already seen fake headlines utilized in Infinite Jest (and in the Onion) and know that Twitter and other social platforms have given way to creative projects (look at Teju Cole). I guess I only saw the markers of electronic literature (data in the form of images, sound clips, and videos; non-trivial, effortless processes in the form of a Reddit thread; the surface literally putting out the Internet-ness of the Internet on display through this group of pages) without knowing whether the text itself knew that it was electronic literature. While a text’s self-awareness hasn’t been stated as a requirement of interactive literature, it seemed so apparent in the other works we’ve explored that I wasn’t sure how Resolution held up against them.

But then I got to the last page of Resolution (“January 1st, 2015: Day 1097”) and realized that I was dead wrong. Like, embarrassingly wrong. Resolution is incredibly informed of its own medium and uses familiar language to draw attention to our way of transmitting and storing information. Its use of this outbreak and apocalypse in the physical world and how it’s recorded within the digital world hearken back to much of what Kittler brought our attention to; that “once the technological differentiation of optics, acoustics, and writing exploded…the fabrication of so-called Man became possible. His essence escapes into apparatuses…so-called Man is split up into physiology and information technology” (Gramaphone, Film, Typewriter 16).

“Day 1097” is composed of two images: a series of texts sent to the character Jeremy, who also appears in the first page of Resolution, and a picture of a sunrise on a snowy mountain peak with icepicks and shovels, taken by an iPhone. The texts from Jeremy’s friend read:

“Ah, you’re back! Gotta love solar chargers. Oh, and Happy New Year! I miss you all so much. I know you’re gone. That only your names remain in my phone. But I promise to remember you. I’m doing better. I’m stronger, braver. They’re still out there. Too many to count. But I’ve been given this life to remember you. All of you. I’ve made a New Year’s resolution! I will make a record. I want to find where it started. We may never know how or why. Screenshots. Messages. Anything I can find. This is going to be a long winter. But the future looks bright.”

While Jeremy’s friend is texting to Jeremy’s phone, addressing it with “you’re back,” the friend isn’t really talking to Jeremy. The friend is conveying a larger message on remembering Jeremy, as well as everyone else who has been lost to Z3. From here, Jeremy’s friend boldly claims that she was “given this life to remember you,” and “will make a record.” There’s obviously a metafictional element to this text, as the friend’s record is all 25 pages of Resolution. But what’s more interesting is that this record, as the friend states, is made up of “screenshots,” “messages,” “anything [this friend] can find.” Jeremy’s friend isn’t trying to find the source of the outbreak through Indiana Jones-style exploring, but from research conducted through information systems. To understand the source and reason of the outbreak, Vidzilla seems to imply, is to investigate the outbreak through technological means. And why not, when “only your names remain in [her] phone.” If all that’s left of us isn’t even our material selves but our digital ones, navigating through this post-apocalypse and remembering ourselves in it is to remember these digital selves we’ve created.

So why texting? If it can be assumed that Jeremy’s friend has Internet access because she can collect these images, why are we given this overarching project description of sorts as a series of text messages instead of a blog post? Vidzilla is turning our attention towards the function of direct communication with specific people we know (in this case, Jeremy). The informality and directness of texting, the digital equivalent of talking to someone, is emphasized here. It’s not a call to action or a mission statement as we would see in a blog, but a simple sharing of a New Year’s resolution between Jeremy’s friend and someone she knew. A very blunt way of forming an identity through a one-sided conversation rather than a speech written out to the unknown masses (if there are any left).

And then the image of the mountaintop with the associated climbing tools is a metaphor about carving out and exploring the different possibilities open to Jeremy’s friend and the sun shows that the future is bright in terms of discovering what caused Z3 after a cold, hard season of snow and death. Yeah.

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I was originally going to make a post that close-read some of the other aspects of Resolution, namely its audio clips and their YouTube comments showing an uncanny crowd mentality in its interaction (“countdown” was a password for one of the pages), but I’ll just leave it at my high recommendation of returning to this text.

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2 Responses to Happy New Year: Everyday Language in Vidzilla’s Resolution

  1. mer95 says:

    I too was initially drawn to Resolution because of its “easiness”. It definitely follows a more traditional narrative structure than the other texts that we have looked at in class, and I think that part of its ease comes from the fact that it is also far more visual than any other work of electronic literature we have looked at. Just from a perusal on google I’m having trouble finding a lot of this deeper meaning that you say makes it so worthwhile to return to the text. From discussions I have seen people had on online forums, most talk about it seems to have been that people thought it was viral marketing for World War Z. Which is something I can definitely understand. While it’s definitely telling a story in a new and exciting way, there’s still something a bit hokey about it, like I’m expecting a punchline or being told when I can see the movie in theaters. Would you be able to tell me, just out of curiosity, exactly what makes it so special to you, and of more merit than a viral marketing campaign?

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    • endorphinique says:

      Perhaps a more productive question here is what you took from close-reading Resolution.

      I assign no “special merit” in Resolution to myself personally; I’m merely pointing to how it draws our attention to distributed networks in order to achieve one of its arguments. Resolution’s utilization of these networks is far from being subjective to my personal experience–the text is right in front of us showing us all images of online news headlines, tweets, and more. My attachment to these technologies within the text is not stronger or weaker than anyone else’s.

      It also appears that your close-reading of Resolution sees this text as “definitely telling a story in a new and exciting way,” which debates my claim in this post of how Resolution’s presentation is not particularly original. When we have already seen Twitter handles that tell stories and fake news stories for humor, what about this text makes it fresh to you?

      I would also like to know what value you take in looking at Resolution as World War Z promotional material, considering that this movie is not referenced within the text. I was not invested in finding external readings of the text because there is already much to look at within the text itself, though you seem to have found something significant in reading others’ analyses. Where in the text do you see this film? What is important about your reading of the text this way?

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