Geniwate’s web-based hypertextual anthology Rice takes readers on a virtual trip to post-colonial Vietnam. The digital creation offers interactivity in the sense where one can click on images to enter various “rooms” of media, and choose where to begin and what order to continue in. Although the usage of the available media and electronic usage is fairly simple, in part due to the time the work was produced, Geniwate offers very complex wording in her poetry and deep themes including poverty, sexism, exploitation, and colonialism.
When you enter Geniwate’s work, a black screen holds sixteen considerably random photographs tightly compacted together in collage-form. At first glance the images seem to be unspecific and unrelated with a blend of Vietnamese and English language and artifacts. Examples of images include an american gum wrapper, business cards, a pink flower, logos of brands, postcards, letters, stamps, a photo of a serious and slightly androgynous Vietnamese women, and then a fun and playful postcard image of a Vietnamese women smiling, thin, and wearing a bathing suit, or performing for the western eye. Each image is hyperlinked to a separate “room” consisting of either poetry, photographs, audio samples, or a blend of all three. There is no direction in which order of images to read through, but readers may be prompted to read right-to-left, top-to-bottom. However, the sequence of images doesn't tell a story per se but rather touches on multiple topics under the umbrella of Vietnam and tourism culture.
Every room that branches off from each photograph is visually stimulating. If there is white text, the background makes up for it in either color, texture, or repeated coloring text phrases spread across the page, such as “Vietnam Is Working For You”. There is a great deal of red text usage, but also instances where purple, pink, yellow, text is used to emphasize a change in tone or topic. As some rooms only include one page or layer of poetry and images, some rooms allow you to repeatedly click the original photograph to view additional layers or pages within the room. Eventually, the layers will run out and the repeated clicking will lead you back to the home page. Although clicking on images only lets you move forwards, clicking back on your personal desktop or browser allows you to go backwards in layers, or back to rooms you were once in.
This piece of work would classify as a series of poems, as it is not linear enough to offer a comprehensive and polished story. Geniwate’s purpose of publishing these poems through hypertext may be to create parallels between her tourist self and the reader. Due to the unusual and fork-in-the-road nature of Rice, the reader may feel how Geniwate felt as she explored and tried to navigate through Vietnam during her trip. The different layers each photograph offers represents how in foreign countries there exists more history and behind the scenes work than what meets the eye. Exploring poverty, sexism, and colonialism in depth allows readers to “click through” a brief introduction of some of the cultural exploitation that can exist within tourism, as Geniwate notes: “The going rate for [Vietnamese] smiles is two American dollars”.
This entry was produced as part of a Digital Literature course taught by Melinda White at the University of New Hampshire, United States, during the Spring term of 2023.