So far in my Digital Humanities course I have looked at a number of different pieces of electronic literature. All of them have been interesting or insightful, but one stuck out the most and really made an impression on me. It is called Public Secrets. For those unfamiliar with this piece, it follows author Sharon Daniel as she interviews incarcerated women in Central California Women’s Facility, providing audio responses from a number of different inmates as well as a written transcript to follow along with. Its not just a linear story, statements are broken up into different categories that must be clicked on. I highly reccommend that my followers read and listen to what these women have to say. It really reminded me of the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, but obviously the stories the women are telling in this piece are real, not scripted.
Electronic literature has certain advantages over regular print and I think Public Secrets is a good example of that. Public Secrets could have been published and sold as a book. However, I’m really happy it wasn’t. The most important part of this piece is the audio of the women explaining where they came from, why they’re now in prison, for how long, the conditions of the prison, what life is like for them now, etc. Their voices show raw emotion. With a voice, you can picture in your mind the person that voice belongs to. In some of the recordings you can faintly hear background noises of other inmates talking amongst themselves, the interviewees shifting in their seat, and the metal clang of the tables and chairs around them. You can picture the facility or yards that the inmates are living in. Without those noises and voices, I don’t think the piece is as influential.
Public Secrets is also significantly connected to human interaction. The title implies that the terms and conditions of incarceration are kept secret, even though individuals know that these facilities exist in our public communities. But with this piece, what goes on inside of the many prisons the U.S. has comes to light. This piece allows humans to realize what our tax dollars are going to. It allows humans to understand how incarcerated humans are being treated, and how they are not so unlike ourselves. They’re not crazy monsters who deserve their basic rights to be taken away from them. Public Secrets allows people to learn about the secret world inside of correctional facilities and change their established perceptions about incarceration.