Wilks, Christine. "Tailspin." Electronic Literature Collections. Volume Two, February 2011. College Park, Maryland: Electronic Literature Organization. ISSN: 1932-2011.

Christine Wilks' “Tail Spin” is a narrative about a family who has difficulties communicating with one another. The grandfather suffers from Tinnitus, which leaves him irritable and disengaged from his family. His partial deafness not only affects his ability to connect with the people around him, but it also affects the way the others interact with one another. Through the narrative we learn that his present is very much influenced by his past and keeps him from progressing into the future. He is unable to interact with his grandchildren because of their excessive use of noisy video games and their loud interactions at the dinner table. “Tail Spin” uses the ideas of listening, hearing, noise, silence, deafness, and avoidance to help demonstrate how important the use of sounds can be in a person’s life. The last segment has a quote that reads, “hang onto deafness for dear life.”

Textual Features:
-The piece is presented in 7 different segments with about 8 pieces of text on each segment.
-The text is situated into small parts that are in narrative form.
-The pieces of narrative are spoken by different people in the family, each from their own perspective.
-The narrative in each of the seven segments can be read in the order in which the user desires.

Media Features:
-The most important aspect of the piece are the sounds:
  • A heartbeat which is recurrent throughout the pieces
  • Airplanes
  • A ringing noise
  • Children playing
  • Dishes clinking
-7 pages (or segments) with 8 pieces of text on each, except for the next to the last page which has 7. The same format is used for each page but there are black and white sketches that coincide with the narrative that sometimes differ from page to page.

Reading Experience:
Readers of this piece will notice the lack of choosing ability, much like the pieces “Inanimate Alice” and “The Dreamlife of Letters.” Each page has circular indicators that propel the reader to hover over and read a part of the narrative. The indicators can be read in any order, but each indicator must be triggered before the link to progress the narrative will appear. After doing so, a new page just like the one that appeared previously replaces the prior segment and the reading begins again. The reader is finished after filing through seven screens, the last screen displaying the moral of the story which happens to be “hang onto deafness for dear life.”


“Tail Spin” is another one of Christine Wilks' creative designs that evoke emotion through familial ties by creating a narrative that the reader becomes engulfed within. She counteracts her relatively simple design with sounds that alert the senses and startle the audience. The piece indicates how sound can be a damaging force in a person’s life due to miscommunication or failure to listen.

The only aspect of the piece which seems to aggravate the audience is the lack of user agency. Although this may be true, it should also be noted that we learned this week that most forms of digital literature lack user agency. In Adalaide Morris’s Essay “New Media Poetics: As We May Think/How to Write,” she acknowledges the idea that digital forms of writing actually lack user agency. Morris writes, “Because clickable options are, by definition, preprogrammed, the reader’s claim to compositional agency is, in Perloff’s judgment, a “sham” (13). One of the perks of Digital Literature is the idea that the user has a sort of free will and is able to read in a less corrugated sequence, expelling former conceptions of linearity or even using the term “reading outside of the box.” According to Morris and other scholars alike, this is unable to happen because the author pre-programs the content of the piece and the reader is merely the viewer of the literature. For example, the piece we looked at this week titled “The Dreamlife of Letters,” created by Brian Stefans is an eleven minute piece that requires no physical interaction from the viewer besides simply watching the action taking place on the screen.

Works Cited:

Morris, Adalaide Kirby, and Thomas Swiss. New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories. Cambridge, MA:
MIT, 2006. Print.