Vniverse: The 2014 iPad App

When reading Vniverse, I had a rather different experience than the rest of the class because I chose to spend most of my time reading the text on the 2014 iPad app rather than the 2002 flash website. I think it is an amazing credit to Stephanie Strickland as a digital author that she is choosing to make sure her text is evolving even now, 13 years after its initial publication. Vniverse the iPad app was released in 2014. The app goes beyond what was the website was able to do by the integration of the iPad’s touch screen, which adds another level of interactivity that cannot be achieved by pointing and clicking with a mouse, which itself is just so far beyond reading words on a page. I’m incredibly interested in the fact that Strickland has chosen to come back to the text and rework it for newer forms of technology, which is something that (so far) we haven’t really seen in class: digital authors choosing to update their electronic work to stay relevant.

From what I can tell regarding the textual differences between the website and the iPad app, the app seems to have significantly simplified the text down to the point that each star in the constellation represents one word, as opposed to a work with a number and a phrase from Waveson.nets below it. When reading Stephanie Strickland’s Waveson.nets, I mostly only focused on the lyricism of the words rather than delving deeply into the allusions and references, and the app seems to be celebrating that method of approach. The app’s focus seems to be the user creating their own poetry just with the words given to them by Strickland, rather than arranging whole phrases written by Strickland.

The app seems to put a lot more responsibility and trust in the reader than the original website, which I think shows a huge evolution in interactivity that properly corresponds with the evolution of technology over the past 13 years. Our lives are now so innovated with interactive technology that a reader no longer needs to be guided through the piece by the author to get a full understanding. To the modern reader, websites are now as common in everyday life and as easily understood as books, and when comparing the Vniverse website to a website made within the last two years, Vniverse seems rather outdated and almost boring. The app, in my opinion, was a very necessary and important transition in the life of the text, because it seems almost all electronic literature pieces have a shelf life before their software/technology becomes completely irrelevant due to new technology.

The most interesting new aspect of Vniverse in the 2014 update to me is the “Oracle” function. By clicking the “Oracle” button at the top of the screen, you are given a selection of question to ask the constellation:

Whose body?

How to know?

Why care?

What do I love?

Where to build a bridge?

When did you say?

Which one?

After selecting a question, the app responds with selecting random stars from the constellation that appear and quickly disappear before the reader. For example, when I clicked “What do I love?” the stars “cradle”, “chalice”, “virginity”, “Archaic”, and “end” were illuminated momentarily. I’m not really sure what exactly to do with this new aspect to the text, but I do think it is super cool and adds a whole new level of interactivity between the reader and the piece of literature. Perhaps someone else would want to comment some ideas as to why they think this new feature was added and how they think it has helped to evolve the text?

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1 Response to Vniverse: The 2014 iPad App

  1. 1ady1azarus says:

    The “oracle” function sounds really intriguing. I wish that I had an iPad so I could explore that in depth.

    You say, “The app goes beyond what the website was able to do by the integration of the iPad’s touch screen, which adds another level of interactivity that cannot be achieved by pointing and clicking with a mouse…” — this is what I’m really interested in when it comes to comparing the flash website with the updated app. What exactly does the removal of the computer mouse do to the reading experience, I wonder? Does the heightened kinesthetic activity — actually touching the stars and words — add something specific? I think Strickland would insist that it does.

    I’m thinking of a passage from “Quantum Poetics” in which she’s actually addressing her aims for V: “A reader who continues to swing her hand across the screen, as she reads, brings forward at her own pace, moving as she moves, the time of overlying keywords, the almost auditory time of the spelling-out tercet, and her own hand’s rhythm” (34-35). I checked and I’m pretty sure this essay was written in 2007, so before this app and when the experience of V still necessitated using a mouse. It struck me here that Strickland doesn’t mention the mouse or the cursor, bypassing them entirely and only talking about the reader’s hand, as if she wished the mouse wasn’t there at all. I’m thinking that the touch-based interface of this app was incredibly important to Strickland’s achievement of her goal with this work, hence her insistence on updating it. Somehow, touching facilitates that stenographic paradigm we were discussing, that notion of “moving through me as I move.”


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