“How To Rob A Bank” by Alan Bigelow is a site specific piece of electronic literature, which I found on Webyarns. It is open access, and available to anybody through all different types of devices, including computers and cellphones. Overall, this piece of electronic literature is quite accessible, and can be simply found through a quick Google search of both the title and author, even without searching through a website.
“How To Rob A Bank” is a more modern take on Electronic Literature, as it was created in 2016, and is a love story told exclusively through the phones of the two main characters, Ted and Elizabeth. This story is quite simplistic in nature, as it does not force the reader to make any of their own choices, or leave any room for guessing what to do next, but the straightforward use of clicking either the space bar, or arrow keys (or touch screen, dependent on the type of device being used) helps the reader to stay present and active while the story unfolds in front of them. Showing searches both characters make, applications that they each download, the phone games that they are playing in their free time, as well as texts between the two and more, there is plenty of information given, even without much actual dialogue happening throughout. This way of telling a story is very interesting, as it helps the reader really show what is happening in the minds of the characters, and develops a very modern approach to storytelling. As the story progresses, it becomes not just about bank robberies, but also about the love that begins between Ted and Elizabeth. Although it does not explain the entire backstory of their love, Elizabeth is quickly intrigued by Ted and his robberies. She sets out to meet with him, while he is on the run and quickly becomes an accomplice to his crimes. As their love story is fleshed out, they become closer, and even end up having a baby girl together. Near the end, although they had sworn to give up these robberies, they go back to them. It gets worse, as they begin to have their baby take part in these crimes. Overall, there is so much to learn from these characters, and from the secrets and important information provided just simply from the reader spying on their phones.
Media is something that is heavily focused on and relevant to this piece of electronic literature. As the entire story plays out on the characters' phones, there is no moment where media is not a central part of the story. Using applications such as Instagram to show locations of where Ted and Elizabeth have been, as well as online maps, and directions searched on google, it helps the reader to understand where they are, what they are doing, and how these robberies are happening, all while only showing this through the media that the phone provides. With this piece being so media heavy, it helps to show the modernity that is what makes this piece of literature so unique and interesting. “How To Rob A Bank” uses this focus on media, and specifically cell phones, in order to make the situation more true to current society. Cell phones are an integral part of many peoples lives, and telling a story through one is a great way to get into the head of the characters. Bigelow did not even have to provide much in the way of words, or dialogue, and only used instrumentals in the background to go along with each part of the story.
This electronic literature story is highly praised and enjoyed by many who come across it. As noted on this online journal the author states that the story "is an engaging text, not only by virtue of its plot but by the immersive experience generated through the hands-on experience" (Johnson, 2020). As well, on the website for Washington State University another author states that "This piece has actually been [their] favorite piece of interactive fiction so far" (Martin, 2019). With the simplicity of it, and the interesting story that it provides, there is not much to dislike about "How To Rob A Bank"!
Overall, I really enjoyed this piece of electronic literature, especially because it is one of the first examples that I have read. I did not know much about this sort of literature before reading this piece, and being introduced in a way that was extremely easy to navigate, while still holding my attention, helped a lot. There are so many emotions shown, whether it is love, or anxiety, or anger, and they come together well. Since in order for the story to progress, the reader must click to go to each next part, there is a constant flow of interacting with the work, which helps to keep the reader focused, and also helps for the reader to go at their own pace, rather than being forced to go too fast, or too slow. There was a lot to read, look at, and take in. Sometimes, a lot was happening, where Ted would be searching directions, and then listening to police radio broadcasts, and then stopping to play a game on his phone, and it just goes to show how easily distracted we, as a society, can be, when it comes to social media and cell phones. I think that this piece of electronic literature felt so real to life, because in the digital age that we are in, phones are our lives, so making them the only way to read through this story was really relevant, and did not feel out of date.
This entry was composed as part of Dani Spinosa's ENGL4309 - Digital Adventures in English course, at Trent University in February of 2022.
Bigelow, Alan. “How To Rob A Bank .” Webyarns, 2016, https://www.webyarns.com/howto/howto.html.
Johnson, Rebecca. “Digital Literature Reviews – How to Rob a Bank.” Reflective Journal, 3 Sept. 2020, https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/rjohnson/2020/09/03/digital-literature-rev....
Martin, Jake. “Cityfish & How to Rob a Bank.” Cityfish & How To Rob a Bank – Electronic Literature, 1 Mar. 2019, http://dtc-wsuv.org/wp/dtc338-elit/2019/03/01/cityfish-how-to-rob-a-bank/.