“No Choice About the Terminology” by Jason Edward Lewis, Christian Gratton, Elie Zananiri and Bruno Nadeau.

Screen capture of “No Choice About the Terminology” by Jason Edward Lewis, Christian Gratton, Elie Zananiri and Bruno Nadeau. Photograph of a tablet displaying  a text in black font on a red background. It also shows someone's fingers touching the screen.
Open “No Choice About the Terminology” by Jason Edward Lewis, Christian Gratton, Elie Zananiri and Bruno Nadeau.

This new entry in the PoEMM series was recently published as a free iOS app, following closely a redesigned website and a booklet documenting the series. Designed for touchscreen devices, this poem fills the screen with its lines scrolling from one side to another at different speeds and in different directions. Readers encountering this wall of text may find it a bit overwhelming— too much language at the same time to apprehend.

The desire to stabilize the text, to gain some control over it leads to touch the text, to see if one can control it, slow down its motion, maybe make it change direction. And it works… sort of. One can do some of these things, but the control is limited to a gesture— I’m being deliberately vague to leave room for discovery. To seek too much control over the text leads to a typographical explosion, of sorts that leads to obscured portions of the text, as seen below.

As the words expand beyond readability, the letter you initially touched remains transparent, becoming a color lens by which we can read the rest of the text. Motion does not cease, however, and while readability is achievable, the app is designed to resist the comfort of a static text (unless via screen capture). It also invites playful exploration, rewarding multiple touchscreen interactions with different effects.

As you read and manipulate the poem, pay attention to the thematic connection between the poem’s text and its meaningful behaviors: the words’ movement and response to your touch. You’ll see how this enacts a visual deconstruction of a terminology that exposes issues of power and control over language.

Featured in ELO 2013: Chercher le Texte Virtual Gallery

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