Individual Work
Infinite Worries Bash

Electronic Literature is something that cannot be replicated on print, and Caitlin Foley and Misha Rabinovich’s ‘Infinite Worry Bash’ is an authentic experience that cannot be matched in a print format. The synopsis of their piece of E-Lit is a sculpture, similar to a piñata, that when ‘bashed’ or hit, reveals an audio of a stranger’s prerecorded 'worry' in their current life. A cathartic experience occurs as the piñata explodes after several hits, releasing the concern and regenerating to continue the experience. Each worry has been transcribed to litter the backdrop to convey an overwhelming and overlapping wall of anxiety that grows with each hit to the sculpture.
This project was originally started as a direct result of ‘worry searches’ peaking during the election involving Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016 . Foley and Rabinovich began collecting recordings shortly after. It is interesting that people were typing in that they were ‘worried’ into a search engine, seeking some sense of comfort. In 2020, ‘Infinite Worry Bash’ provides an effective and therapeutic tool for others struggling throughout the Covid-19 pandemic as comfort is not always accessible. Concerns range from “I am worried I will lose my job” to “I am worried my parents will have a bad vacation” to “I am worried I won’t ever be enough,” conveying that any and all anxieties are welcome and encouraged as part of the project. In 2020, mental wellness is a problem many are facing as restrictions and isolation have affected overall qualities of life. This participatory experience allows individuals to voice their thoughts, feel heard, and listen to others in similar situations to construct a sense of unity and liberation. Those who visit ‘Infinite Worry Bash’ are invited to ‘record a worry’ as to continuously add and take part in this project.
This example of Electronic Literature is one that is ‘ergodic’ as the interactive experience of smacking the piñata triggers an audio and visual response. Espen Aarseth's Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature discusses ergodic literature as inputting “nontrivial effort [...] to allow the reader to traverse the text", proving that ‘Infinite Worry Bash’ is a prime example of an ergodic piece of E-Lit (Aarseth 1997). Although, ‘Infinite Worry Bash’ is within the lower range of an ergodic interactive experience as the program does not necessarily require an added function beyond clicking the piñata nor does it take the user to another page or an external site that is related to the piñata-hitting action. However, Foley and Rabinovich artistically expressive piece of electronic literature also qualifies as a hyper-text example as the ‘record a worry’ feature provides users with another program, allowing them the opportunity to take part in the experience. The ‘Caitlin and Misha’ hyperlink takes users to an external site that follows the other various installations by the creators of ‘Infinite Worry Bash.’ The program does not qualify as an example of digital poetics as the authors did not include any type of text, while those who share input donate their personal confessions, rather than a literary poem.
A piñata is often associated with Mexico and times of celebration, often appearing at young children’s birthday parties. It is quite juxtaposed in ‘Infinite Worry Bash’ as the confessional narratives take on a somber tone, unlike a celebration. The form of the piñata itself is very abstract, taking on a bright pink, organ-shaped figure that has no relation to ‘worry’. Worries such as “I am worried my son has autistic related problems” or “I am worried the Police Department will never make me feel safe” do not have any evident connection to the floating, 3-Dimensional shape that is the piñata. Therefore, this creates an underlying interpretive experience as well as users project this destructive action towards an object that possesses no evident significance. Those who engage in the activity constructed by Caitlin Foley and Misha Rabinovich may personify the piñata into any image or form that allows them to cope with their inner anxieties, or they may perceive the piñata as a virtual way to be destructive. The ‘Infinite Worry Bash’ can take on whatever form the user finds most effective to cope with their fears, insecurities and concerns.
The ‘record a worry’ is a speak to text feature that, after recording, will appear behind the piñata, incorporating a speech-recognition program into the overall experience. However, several confessionals are often misheard and misinterpret words, taking away from the experience. This happens quite frequently with those who do not enunciate their words clearly, or they have accents that make detecting English words more difficult. The unmatching audio to the words appearing unfortunately diminishes the efficacy and profound nature of the project. Alternatively, the soothing background of calm waters reflecting blue skies adds comfort and ease to those experiencing stress or anxiety.
‘Infinite Worry Bash’ is an electronic literature piece that can be replicated in multiple different ways, depending on the desired effect. It can be used as an outlet and release for those who desire a therapeutic result of liberating themselves from their anxieties. The tool can also be altered and implemented into classrooms during an era of online learning as students need to analyze or interpret a specific text. The possibilities are seemingly endless with this virtual piñata that is an innovative and creative way to express one’s self in a vulnerable, yet safe, format.