New Digital Writing Spaces

In Trope we can see how a digital space can become a new signifying element in artistic works and also a new space for the creation of artistic works. This collaborative work is an island in the world of “Second Life.” It is because of this that it is such a creative work. In “Second Life” the player must create an avatar that represent her or himself in the game world. The player digitally represented inside the world. The work in Trope embraces this idea and use it to add significance to alot of the works.

A section of Trope resembles a cafe and has lounge chairs with floating books in front of them. These books hold the text of all the works in Trope. Reading these texts and then reading them in their creative setting makes the user very aware of the signifying strategies these authors are using. This can be seen in maze floating above the island. One might read the lounge book version and get the text but that is nothing like experiencig the text as a maze that envelops and guides the reader out. Trope shows the potential of a new digita writerly environment because after experiencing these works it is evdent that in this platform writers have a new range of signifing strategies and ways to control how the user interacts with the work.

Adding meaning through movement

David Knoebel’s poetry embraces some interesting signifying strategies seen in other e-works. In his poems, similar to visual poetry, words aren’t simply anlyzed by their denotation or even their connotation but one must also apply the knowledge of these two terms to the movement of the words. The words in his work are unintellible at certain angles so the reader must try and discover why and how to read them. The poems movement involves because the reader must move with it. Not only is movement something that must be appreciated but also all that movement entails. The words don’t simply move up and down or left to right as on a 2d plane. The words are 3d models that are programmed to move through a 3d space meaning that distance can become a more prominent signifying element.

"Walkdont" is one of Knoebel’s 3d poems that empahsizes movement on a 3d plane. Some words are always legible because the word never gives its back to the user, like "walk" and "don’t walk." other words freeze at point while some change their movement behavior; such as "who knew?" which moves around the central helix during "don’t walk" yet remains flipping in the same spot "during walk. Because these words are in a 3d space the concept of walkin can be more clearly imagined because the words spin around a helix. The poem develops as a game of "red light green light" where the user can tell the words what to do by passing the mouse over a black circle. The helix can be read as "you turning toward moment this" yet makes more sense if read from the bottom to the top which  reads "this moment turning toward you." If the moment is directed at the user then the user is empowered because the work has centered its focus on the user.

Yet the user doesn’t have absolute control over all the words. When the user changes the word “don’t walk” from red to the green word “walk” the only phrase “walking around” is the “who knew?” This is the most interesting point of the work and points at all the potential that e-poetry has. The words behave and have character because they have been brought to life in this electronic environment. “Who knew” that words could so blatantly disobey us? Knoebel brings up interesting questions about language and the written word. Just how much control do we have over our words?

Myst’s Gravitational Pull

I was personally astounded by the simplicity of Myst. The player starts the game without some lengthy tutorial or text box ruining immersion. The visual diegesis that Myst achieves is due to this focus on the visual. The player’s hand is never held and must thus explore the island of Myst through the absorption and interpretation of visual data. There is no telling how long a player will stay on the island without progressing beyond it into other ages. By blocking players progression with complex puzzles the developer forces to player to sit and drink in all the information given, be it through the journals, the video books, or the machinery and flora of the island.

The player’s exploration of the island and the developer’s choice to make the player explore leads to a sense that the digital world in which the player acts is a complete one. The player is allowed to become fully immersed with the absence of some cluttered HUD and simple controls. The simple HUD, which is only really there when a player grabs a red or blue (or white) page, allows a more direct and realistic connection to the ages of Myst. The simple controls quickly become second nature so the player can simply interact with the world and forget about the mechanics of “how.”

By allowing the player to explore these worlds through simple visual information the narrative is made even more powerful. The player feels a real presence in these worlds, there aren’t simply stages but mysterious planes that have a past present and future. The idea of reading a book by picking it up instead of placing it in some infinite inventory and reading it in a text book also affects greatly. The player reads handwriting which is more personal and shows the author had experience with these ages.

The immersion and free form exploration also enhances the narrative in that the player feels like she or he has a real choice. Why do you explore? To find a way of the island or out of the age. The puzzles are solved for a practical reason, not just for a desire to understand what is going on in the ages of Myst. This desire leads the player to follow up on the mystery of the video books and choice becomes a more and more predominant factor of the game. ***spoiler if you care*** Some of the endings even leave the player trapped in an age or a book and the player can wait there for as long as they want, hoping maybe salvation will arrive; although it never does. These endings have a powerful impact because the game is structured on this visual diegesis so the player feels to be really in the worlds of Myst; imagine how the immersion would have been destroyed if credits would simply roll instead.

Mystery and mystical are words that may best describe Myst. All because it pulls the player into its worlds that seem to have weight and mass, live and death, past and future. It’s no wonder it is so easy to get caught in the gravitational pull of Myst.


Cursive Code

Dan Waber’s “Strings” poems play with the idea of handwriting in the digital environment.What really interested me about “Strings” and “Strings Mark II” is that it really does evoke the idiosyncrasies that can be seen in handwriting; like the way some people may never close their lower case “d” while others do. In a sense these works made me appreciate the expression that can be seen in one’s handwriting yet almost entirely absent in typing; just take a few seconds to imagine how many documents are written in Times New Roman. Waber brings handwriting into the digital environment and brings it to life by crafting words from a constantly moving black string or group of strings.

We can never truly generate the same written word more than once; no matter how hard we try one detail will be different. This is where we can see the difference between the written word and the coded word. The written word sits idly once created yet it is different from other apparently identical words. The digital or coded word can be brought to life and can be perfectly reproduced countless times. The string that we see in Waber’s works appears to be generating countless different versions of words like “no” with a slighte longer “o” than it had two seconds earlier. The paradox is that there isn’t an infinite amount of possibilities with the string like there is with the written word. The string is programmed and thus does the same thing over and over again. This knack for reproduction is a characteristic of digital media that handwriting can’t ever truly replicate.

"Slippingglimpse" and "Game game game and again game"

Both “Slippinggimpse” and “Game game game and again game” both use the medium of the computer to startling effect; clearing neither could be experienced in another medium without losing a substantial amount of information. “Game game game and again game” uses the videogame, which is a native genre to the electronic environment. Slippingglimpse uses many techniques like words that shimmer and bend while passing over images of moving water. Although this effect could be simulated in a film, the iteractivity with the text and image wouldn’t be. In “Game…” one could analyze the signifying technique of using a game with badly drawn sprites and text that appears as the player explores the small stages. With "Slippinggimpse" one could analyze the importance of the interactivity and randomness of the words movements, which couldn’t be replicated by making each picture a clip instead of an interactive space.

"meaningful association" in the "Stir Fry Texts"

Jim Andrews’s discussion on the importance of “meaningful association” in digital cut-ups which appears in one of the essays attached to the “Stir Fry Texts” intrigued me as much as the poems themselves. The essay is an excellent complimentary reading for the poems because  the poems put the theory in practice. This can be seen in “correspondence” which is a “Stir Fry Text” that uses text taken from emails between Andrews and two other e-poets. It begins as a text on the significance of the technique of the cut-up and the nature of language. As the user mouse over this text, it begins to shift between the possible versions of the lines. The poem shifts between the different possibilities while still maintaining shapes. The controlled randomization and the structure of the poem shows how the text isn’t just random, it is planned and shows intention.

Strips of Reason. A look into “Cent Mille Milliards de Poémes”

Queneau’s poem, or better yet poems, allows the reader to change lines of a sonnet to certain variants while still making grammatical sense. The initial sonnet, that appears on page one of the physical version of the poem, makes sense but as the reader changes more and more lines it begins to become more and more incoherent until it becomes completely irrational. Part of the surrealistic experience and message of this creative piece is lost in the digital version of the text.

If the reader has the book in hand, he or she can change each line consciously and read the resulting poem. This experience of peeling away layers of reason by turning each line creates the unique experience of consciously leaving the realm of rational thought. The digital version of the text does offer this same experience because the algorithm is followed at the click of a button and a new sonnet appears. The user’s distance from the action of actually choosing which lines to change doesn’t allow him or her to enjoy the same experience offered through the hyper-mediation of the original format.

"You can’t form your question into words"

My time spent with the electronic work “Galatea” mesmerized me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Galatea had so much more to tell me every time I asked or said something to her. The statement that the compiler kept showing me “You can’t form your question into words” was truer than I expected it could be.

While asking questions I kept on running out of topics to bring up. I resorted to Greece and Greek mythology. I found it funny how it all seemed to bore he; if one were to imagine being in her position, were she real, then those kind of topics must be boring because everyone would ask them. The plot thickened as I decided to tell her about “myself.” This lead to discoveries as to who my character was. The revelation that my character is an art inspector shed some light as to why he or she would be talking to Galatea in the first place. The work amazed me in how it leads the user into authentically feeling and exploring Galatea, specifically when my character said he/she inspects art and she strikes a pose mockingly.

When more time passed I get on reentering the “recap” command to see if there was anything more interesting to discuss than what I had in mind. I preferred spontaneously inputting topics rather than constantly checking the list but at times I drew up blank. While I spent more time asking questions to Galatea I realized I had a ton of things I wanted to ask and discuss and when I reached of a point of constantly asking questions and having them answered, the exhibit closed.

This work forced me to realize how powerful it is when it kicked me out. I actually felt guilty that I never goodbye. I couldn’t get over the fact that I didn’t apologize when I felt I struck a nerve.I started again and tried to hug and apologize to Galatea yet the compiler casually reminded me that she is a program and if I need to apologize then I can just restart and avoid what caused the problem.

I was and am stupefied by this work because it so effectively creates a character that can be interacted with. The choice of using Galatea as the inspiration for this work is perfect because I really felt that it made some dead strings of code spring to life. Some dead strings of code made me feel.

My chat with Eliza

I just wanted to post my… conversation with Eliza the chatbot because I found it fairly interesting to play around with. The binary I wrote was converted from text using this site ( I found the discussion interesting because through a few experiments one can reveal which strings show the programs “understanding” of the statements. My favorite way to test that was through the use of multiple ellipses.

» Hello.
How do you do.  Please state your problem.
» I got alot of work to do
You say you got alot of work to do  ?
» yep, exactly what I said
Why do you ask ?
» No; why do you ask?
Are you saying no just to be negative?
» I don’t know how to answer to that
Don’t you really know what to answer to that  ?
» How about telling me something insead of asking me.
Does that question interest you ?
» sigh yes it does
You seem to be quite positive.
» Does that interest you?
We were discussing you — not me.
» Does that interest Eliza?
I’m not sure I understand you fully.
» I didn’t think you would.
Oh, I would  ?
» What?
What is it you really wanted to know ?
» I wanted to know whether or not that question interested you?
Perhaps in your fantasies we wanted to know whether or not that question interested each other.
» 01010111011010000110000101110100001000000110000101110010011001010010000001111001011011110111010100100000011101000110100001101001011011100110101101101001011011100110011100111111
Please go on.
» I said 01010111011010000110000101110100001000000110000101110010011001010010000001111001011011110111010100100000011101000110100001101001011011100110101101101001011011100110011100111111
Can you elaborate on that ?
» 01110111011010000111100100100000011000110110010101110010011101000110000101101001011011100110110001111001
What does that suggest to you ?
» you can’t read binary can you
You’re not really talking about me — are you ?
» I believe I most certainly am
Do you say you believe you most yes are  for some special reason ?
» What does that suggest to you?
Are such questions much on your mind ?
» We were discussing you — not me.
Why do you think I not you ?
» …
Do you feel strongly about discussing such things ?
» …
I’m not sure I understand you fully.
» …
Please go on.
» …
What does that suggest to you ?