Clark, David. __“88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (To Be Played with Left Hand).”__ __Electronic Literature Collections. Volume Two__, February 2011. College Park, Maryland: Electronic Literature Organization. ISSN: 1932-2011

“88 Constellations for Wittgenstein (To be Played with Left Hand)” is a collection of vignettes that utilize animation, audio, music, text, and interactive features to form a loose collage centered on the life and work of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Organized as a constellation map with linked stars, both the structure and the vignettes themselves speak to associative, nonlinear thinking and the issues of representation, language, and thought that characterized Wittgenstein’s philosophy.

Textual Features
  • The narration largely takes the place of text, which in turn is used as more of a design feature.
  • The tone of this narration varies from informative (as in 87, “$”), to more abstractly poetic (as in 9, “Paul Wittgenstein”).
  • The repeated graphics and symbols almost become a secondary kind of text that have accreted the associations Clark has used to connect them.
  • The mutability/ambiguity of the text itself is directly commented upon. (In 18, “Cassiopeia,” the same symbol may be a W for Wittgenstein, an M for Malcolm, a chair, a crown, a vain woman, or a coincidental grouping of stars.)

Media Features
  • Clear and extensive navigational tools: constellation map, stars in constellation, sitemap, instructions, etc.
  • Interaction with keys on the left-and side changes elements in certain vignettes (15, "Rabbit/Duck")
  • Narration, music, and sound effects are featured in most mini-films
  • Some ‘stars’ within constellations have there own internal links (87, "$")
  • Images are primarily in grayscale, though some color is strategically used
  • Original photos and vintage-style graphics are combined with a modern aesthetic

Reading Experience
Readers can choose any mixture of the three possible paths or strategies of navigation Clark gives to them: the larger star map, individual constellation maps, or the numbered sitemap. Each path provides a slightly different experience—using the star map has more of a feeling of random discovery; the constellation maps provide a grouping of associations and connections; and the sitemap gives way to a more linear reading experience. Regardless of the navigation method, however, as the reader progresses repetitions of themes, text, images, and ideas creates a sense of multilayered collage.

This piece stands as an elegant, well designed example of the content matching the form. Wittgenstein was concerned with language, representation, and the meanings we impose on language and the world around us; though his early work stressed logic and linearity, he later recanted in favor of the position that meaning is created and associative. While in “From Game-Story to Cyberdrama” Janet Murray enlists Louis Borges’ notion of a pullulating moment to specifically describe the replay aspect (where a player can essentially re-do a moment in time) of some games, it may apply equally well to pieces such as “88 Constellations” in which a sprouting of connections and associations reveals a multiplicity of realities for a single moment—a universe of constellations of connections within a single idea or subject (7). Clark has organized this piece in such a way that meanings layer on top of each other, and as the reader works his or her way through the vignettes the familiarity of something as common as dollar sign becomes complicated with associations as varied as slave stakes, the pillars of Hercules, the twin towers, “Shave and a Haircut,” the mambo, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Latin American ‘yo-mama’ insults.