“[con]artist” by Randy Adams

"[con] artist" by Randy Adams
Open “[con]artist” by Randy Adams
This hypertext multimedia work by the late master remixer Randy Adams is an homage to the World Wide Web. Adams describes his impetus “to create a hypertext[url] Web art work that pays homage to the World Wide Web and, on the other hand, pokes some fun at it” and “to utilize and interpret, exclusively, text and images found on the web.” To achieve this he embarked upon a constraint-based writing described in detail within the project, but best read after experiencing the work.

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“What Would I Say?” by Pawel, Vicky, Ugne, Daniel, Harvey, Edward, Alex, and Baxter

Sample output generated from my Facebook feed.
Sample output generated from my Facebook feed.

This app uses your Facebook feed as a data set to perform a Markov Chain analysis and generate new status updates from it. In other words, it uses your status updates as a lexicon to assemble a few sentences that echo your style, interests, concerns, and topics. Written in HTML and JavaScript, this little app was created during HackPrinceton 2013, a hackathon that attracted about 500 students this past weekend (November 8-10) to create “real-world projects.” The result is this uninvasive little bot that runs on the user’s browser (client-side scripting), connects to your account with an app via the Facebook API, and posts– with your permission– the status updates it generates. The beauty of this approach is that your privacy is protected because your Facebook data and authentication information aren’t stored anywhere but in your browser and Facebook account. You can also enter a friend’s Facebook username or a celebrity’s page name and it will also generate mock status updates. Here are some examples published in the site:

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“…and by islands I mean paragraphs” by J. R. Carpenter

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“…and by islands I mean paragraphs” by J. R. Carpenter

“…and by islands I mean paragraphs” is a delightful combination of computer generated poetry, mapping and the reworking of texts.  The text is displayed as an interactive map that allows the reader to explore each island and the texts that they generate and regenerate.  It alludes to an earlier piece, “Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl” (also reviewed in this site), which also employs a map to structure the text.

In “…and by islands I mean paragraphs” the space is larger than the computer window, vast like an unknown sea, goes beyond the horizon we can distinguish. The reader is forced to explore this vastness in which text recreates itself or is altered by the reader’s own interaction with the islands. It is impossible not to wonder whether it likely that one might find the same island twice. However, a reader that submerges herself in this world ends up too involved in the mutability and the textual permutations and the search for possible repetition becomes less pressing.

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In her introductory text to “…and by islands I mean paragraphs,” Carpenter states:

Their fluid compositions draw upon variable strings containing fragments of text harvested from a larger literary corpus – Deluze’s Desert Islands, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Bishop’s Crusoe in England, Coetzee’s Foe, Ballard’s Concrete Island, Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries, and lesser-known sources including an out-of-date guidebook to the Scottish Isles and an amalgam of accounts of the classical and possibly fictional island of Thule. Individually, each of these textual islands is a topic – from the Greek topos, meaning place. Collectively they constitute a topographical map of a sustained practice of reading and re-reading and writing and re-writing islands.

Although Carpenter names many of her texts, others are left to be discovered by the reader: Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle or Joan Blaeu’s Nova Descriptio Shetlandiae Descriptio Insvlarum Circa Scotiam (this last one, not mentioned in the bibliography). Some of the islands have names or are named in their accompanying paragraphs. Others are mysterious and their texts reorganise themselves without apparent direction by the reader. Some of the islands rely on a javascript file that controls the behaviour of the text. The rest is HTML. All in all, the code is elegant in its simplicity.

The texts themselves, the islands, have different characters: they can be lyric, factual or a combination of both; but, independently of their own character they succeed in transporting the reader.

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“…and by islands I mean paragraphs” is a truly magical piece of electronic literature: evocative and ethereal, without completely giving up the concrete (for which it used the grounding aspect of the map). It allows the reader to explore a world and to discover its wonders and surprises. If you have never encountered eliterature before, this is a wonderful piece to discover a whole new world.

“Here and There” by Katharine Norman

Screen capture from "Here and There" by Katharine Norman. A clock-shaped interface displaying Roman numerals over a black-and-white computer script. Text: "(three lines too small to read)"
Open “Here and There” by Katharine Norman

The image of the clock in Here and There invites the reader to read the texts in order, perhaps starting at 12 o’clock; while at the same time it presents the challenge of breaking the structure and jumping randomly from one number to the other. In doing this, the reader might discover the echo in lines that evoke others or feel the weight of brief pieces that could stand as a single, definitive image. But what looks like a clock is really a chart much larger its scope. The lack of sound in this poem (which contrasts other works by Norman, like “Window“), underlines the vastness of the universe contained in the chart and which is also suggested by the images and the allusions to celestial bodies.

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“I Heart E-Poetry” by Nick Montfort

Screen capture from "I Heart E-Poetry" by Nick Montfort. Short phrases comprised of two nouns and a symbol in between that functions as a transitive verb, in the same fashion as the work's title. Text: "Words (crescent moon symbol) O Conceptualism / We (checkmark) #Poetry / Eyes (copyright symbol) iSymbolism / We (crescent moon symbol) 'Erasure / Y'all (heart) #Punctuation / we (copyright symbol) iVerse / Eyes (heart) E-Erasure / Traditionalists (ampersand) iFashion / Eyes (copyright symbol) O Erasure / Words (club symbol) iConceptualism"
Open “I Heart E-Poetry” by Nick Montfort

This occasional poem celebrates the presentation of “I ♥ E-Poetry: 500 Entries Later” at E-Poetry 2013 on June 19, 2013. Based on Montfort’s own “Taroko Gorge” source code, this stripped down version generates lines inspired by the title of this blog (“I ♥ E-Poetry”) using four variables: a subject, a symbol, a prefix, and an artform. Part of the pleasure of this piece lies in reading it aloud, especially its symbols, which represent words compressed into single characters. Montfort understands the computational aspect of these characters, encoded into alphabetic systems such as (Ascii and Unicode) and decoded by both machines and humans. These symbols carry great amounts of cultural information, referencing card suits and avant garde artistic and literary movements, such as the ‘Pataphysical apostrophe.

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Leonardo Flores Loves “A(l)one” by Annie Abrahams

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“A(l)one” by Annie Abrahams

Note: you’ll need to allow pop-up windows to read this poem.

This minimalist e-poem  influenced me greatly in my development into an e-lit scholar. When I first encountered this poem in 1999, I was impressed by its use of colorful pop up windows in different sizes and positions to illustrate how one can be alone, even when surrounded by others. The distinctive features of each window yield to a common look and feel as the all become the same in color and message, as seen below.

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The yellow words that take over all the windows is a background image– an animated GIF alternating the word/phrase “alone” and “all one.” This repetitive sequence resonates with E. E. Cumming’s spatial juxtaposition in “[l(a]” because both poems provide compelling images of loneliness. Whether you are a leaf falling from a tree, detached (in death) from the company of other leaves, or a window surrounded by 15 other windows for a little while only to be left alone, in the end you are bound to feel “one.”

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“Working Memory” by Ian Hatcher

Open: “Working Memory” by Ian Hatcher

This minimalist scheduled poem engages our ability to hold language in memory in order to act upon it. The text is displayed on two spaces simultaneously, though the header stream begins first before the second one in the box begins to compete for our attention. Each text is displayed one word at a time at a rapid rate, faster than we have grown used to with works by Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries or William Poundstone’s “Project for Tachitoscope.” In those cases the texts are synchronized to music, and potentially accompanied by other graphical elements, but Hatcher’s poem strips away all distractions from the text, which allows attentive readers to focus most of their consciousness on one of two textual streams, since it is virtually impossible to actually read both and make sense of them. You have to choose a track or risk having your train of thought derailed, so to speak, because of the speed at which they are displayed— 170 miliseconds per word (over 5 words per second).

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“Alphabet of Stars” by Whitney Anne Trettien

Screen capture from "Alphabet of Stars" by Whitney Anne Trettien. Gray background with a bunch of mashed up letters in white and black and two words at the bottom. Text: Write. Read.
Open “Alphabet of Stars” by Whitney Anne Trettien

This responsive visual poem is a study of writing technologies and the word, whether it’s “ink sunk into fibrous paper” or “light through liquid crystals.” Inspired by Stephane Mallarmé’s poetic and theoretical writing as studied by Kittler, Trettien’s JavaScript (& JQuery) work explores the range of shades between the white page and the black sky as backgrounds against which writing can occur with light or ink.

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“Cannibal Dreams” by Lacy Cunningham and Justin Talbott

“Cannibal Dreams” by Lacy Cunningham and Justin Talbott

This elegant hypertext poem consists of 28 links arranged on an excerpt from a book on bone biology. The links are barely distinguishable from the rest of the text, yet lead to poetic language that forms a distinctive contrast to the scientific text in the paragraph. The relation between the two texts isn’t simply tonal counterpoints: they are deeply interconnected, metaphorically and especially thematically. One key to understanding these relations is in the first link, which leads to the image below:

This diagram maps a relationship, showing alternatives paths a couple can take when faced with the kind of situation described in the scientific text. See where the paths lead and you’ll note recurring elements, most of which are not positive for the health of the relationship.

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“In a World Without Electricity” by Alan Bigelow

Share the ♥.