Student Reflection – Mystory/Electracy (2.1)

By Erin Mullikin

Humanity has experienced three distinct movements within the framework of communication and sharing information:  orality, in which the spoken word was how information migrated; literacy, in which the written word and print media aided the distribution of information; and, finally, what rhetorician Gregory Ulmer calls “electracy,” in which digital media is used to disseminate.  Each time the movement of dissemination has changed, the way we are educated and the ways in which we learn have also changed.  After the introduction of literacy, the methodology of hermeneutics (which, as Ulmer defines, “uses theory to interpret existing works”) has been employed in academe (4).  However, we are now operating in a digital culture where the old literate apparatus no longer suffices. To answer this challenge, Gregory Ulmer introduces us to a new apparatus that he calls electracy and heuristics, “the use of theory to invent forms and practices” (4).  Ulmer’s invention process using the methodology of heuretics shows us, as Victor Vitanza states, “how to make the transition from writing for print cultures to ‘writing’ for and ‘thinking’ in electronic cultures” (xi).  Being that we exist in a digitally empowering culture, we must (re)locate our identities among screens.  In his book, Internet Invention, Ulmer proposes that one way to transition the self into the digital culture is through the creation of a mystory.  The mystory is an inventive process in which one can use the power of memory to actively seek one’s identity.  The mystory I have created is a digital media project (in a series of short films) that showcases the uncovering of identity through the project of the mystory using a heuretical approach to learning, and thereby finding identity through invention within the digital realm.  The creation process involved learning how to manipulate film, sound, and text in new ways, as well as prolonged introspection that ultimately enabled me to rediscover certain things about myself that could have potentially been lost without this project.

  1.  Project Timeline

The Mystory
The mystory is a personal project proposed by the rhetorician Gregory Ulmer, and is detailed in his book, Internet Invention.  The Mystory is a project that proposes to aid students in becoming electrate (digitally literate).  Ulmer outlines briefly outlines the basic principles of the Mystory early in his book:

  1. Students map or document their situations or relationship to each of four institutions: Career field or major; Family; Entertainment; Community history. Interlink the four sites in a way that brings out a pattern. The pattern forms at the level of repeating signifiers.
  2. Assignments are stated simply in a sentence or two.
  3. The sources for our theoretical rationale and exemplary or model relays of prior work come not from the Web but from Arts and Letters productions. The work being produced offline is still superior to work originating online.
  4. Mystories are made by students with computer skills ranging from none to expert. (Ulmer 6-7)

The Popcycle

Noted above in Ulmer’s description of the mystory assignment, point #1 maps out the popcycle—”the ensemble of discourses into which members of a society are ‘interpellated'” (Ulmer 24). Below are the four discourses I focused on in the creation of mystory.

  1. Career (Discipline)

I know that I want to attend an MFA program for poetry after I graduate from Clemson.  I have a book due out this coming fall, and have been published in numerous literary journals.  So for my career apparatus of the mystory, it was immediately obvious to me that I had to create something that had to center around poetry (and, well, creation).  As I began to consider my work as a poet, I also thought about the assignment, which was to choose an invention from my career and create something about it.  For my “invention,” I chose Carl Jung’s shadow theory.  While this is not a physical invention, the psychological theory behind it has majorly impacted my writing.  I knew that I wanted to make short films since I had been making poetic films as part of my artistic projects.  However, I had been using iMovie, and now I had to begin using Windows Movie Maker.  (Since I used WMM for all of my short films, I now feel quite adept at using the program.)  The film I made for my career portion of my mystory combines images that are both public and personal.  This, too, reflects my poetry:  some of my works are highly personal, while others are not quite as personal.  The text represents Jung’s shadow theory as well as my interpretation of how we can use shadows to create art.  The music I chose for this film is Tool’s “46 & 2,” a song that directly references Jung.

  1. Family (Personal)

For my familial apparatus, I chose to focus on my younger brothers who are twins.  As they are much younger than me (a 12 year difference), I have always had a maternal way with them.  The text portions of my film demonstrate this maternal instinct.  Because I taught them how to skateboard, I felt that using images of them skateboarding would showcase the responsibility I feel with them.  The music I chose was Tool’s “Right in Two,” a song I felt fit well considering my brothers are twins.  In effect, my brothers are shadows of me.

III.  Entertainment (Pop Culture)

With the entertainment apparatus, I chose the 1985 film Alice in Wonderland.  This was a film that I often used to escape from the reality of living with parents on the verge of divorce.  As the text in my film explains, my parents fought incessantly, and I often retreated to my grandparents’ house for solace.  I often felt like Alice: in a much different world than other children I knew.  The song I chose was Antony and the Johnson’s “Epilepsy is Dancing.”  I felt this song, in all its chaos, aurally symbolized the mood of my entertainment apparatus.  The connections I made with Lewis Carroll’s infamous tale have lasted my entire life.  The shadows of the looking glass have become remnants of my history I use to create art.

  1. History (Community, School)

I had the most difficulty with the history apparatus, and am still unsatisfied with the film I created.  However, even when reconsidering this film, I still cannot escape the history of my family that surrounds my hometown.  My family has lived in Springfield for as long as living memory can recall, and because it is such a small town, it is very nearly all populated by my relatives.  Since my grandmother is the matriarch of my family, she is the keeper of the familial lore, as well as Springfield’s history.  The text in this film attempts to express this.  The images are all from Springfield and around my grandmother’s house.  The song I chose is Robert Johnson’s “Hell Hound on My Trail.”  I chose this because I am haunted by family—they are my shadows.  Place has always been important to me, and I feel that my popcycle illustrates this concept.


My emblem is a shadow, which can be seen on my wide site.  My emblem is expressed through a picture of a window’s shadow because, as my popcycle apparatuses show, I am always either looking in or looking out.

The Widesite

My widesite houses all of my films as well as my emblem.  I created my site in Wix rather than building a site from scratch.  I felt that the templates offered by Wix were much more provocative than anything I could create in a site building program such as Dreamweaver.  The template I chose is a digital replica of an art gallery.  I chose the dark colors (instead of the brighter colors of a typical gallery) to highlight my emblem:  the shadow.  Thus, the colors represent the shadow material I often sift through to create art.  The layout of the site is set up like a portfolio, which I thought was ideal for showcasing my films and my personal pictures that I chose to accentuate the films and the overall mood of my wide site.