Alan Bigelow’s Brainstrips

Bigelow’s Brainstrips uses a three-part experience to poke fun at philosophy, science, and math. It takes the form of old-school comics seen in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The reader must click their way through each part, often covering interesting trivia before receiving a seemingly unrelated quiz (which they then fail).

“Deep Philosophical Questions” uses a question-and-answer system of prompting the reader to explore the way that philosophical riddles of existence may be interesting to think about, that their answers don’t substantively impact the real world (that is, they don’t *matter*)

“Science for Idiots” allows the reader to browse a multitude of scientific topics, offering tidbits of information about those topics in the context of nihilistic or otherwise depressing anecdotes and thought exercises. He seems to imply that even if we understand the way the universe works, we are still ultimately far too small within that universe to matter.

“Higher Math” is similar to “Science for Idiots,” but instead explores math. This section offers anecdotes loosely related to mathematical concepts but in a ridiculous way, suggesting that the utility of math may be overrated (that is, it doesn’t help us understand more personal issues – like relationships – but is instead used to justify questionable agents, like the TSA)

Textual Elements / Digital Specifics
    • sequences of animated images and text (kinetic prose/poetry)
      • a choice dictated by the subject matter
      • deliberate juxtaposition of a ‘static’ art form with flash animation
      • new way of creating and reading comic strips (Bigelow “A Note on Process”)
    • Multiple vignettes the reader can navigate in any sequence
    • Asking the question “is your computer sound on?”
      • The significance to this element to the ‘experience’ of literature
    • resisting simple categorization
      • challenges terms such as genre, form, and medium,
    • The development in style and complexity of digital elements throughout the three pieces.

  • Bigelow’s sardonic tone jives well with the flashy and stimulating style of the piece.
  • The narrative sequences or questions and answers designed to explain scientific topics provide ironic reflections on the topic
    • The debate of the place of the human and the ethical in science/math
  • As an example of multimodal literature - which draws upon pre-existing works

  • Derridian influence
    • the search for ultimate knowledge/Truth is useless in a context where concrete answers do not exist.
  1. What are Bigelow’s doubts about Philosophy? About Science? About Math?
  2. How does knowing that the reader’s role is scripted as part of its signifying strategies, does the meaning making process in digital literature differ from print?