“Uncontrollable Semantics (2012 edition)” by Jason Nelson

Screen capture from “Uncontrollable Semantics (2012 edition)” by Jason Nelson. Black background with various images in the foreground that overlap each other. There is a text box on one of the images with various lines of text written on it. Text: "planes crack up" "Never repeat again. Again."
Open “Uncontrollable Semantics (2012 edition)” by Jason Nelson

This hypertext responsive poem is built upon the framework developed for the original “Uncontrollable Semantics” but with two major differences. The first is that it is used to create a clearly more textual experience than the more abstract art original. The second is that it is published in HTML5 by converting the original Flash file with the Google Swiffy service. This means that, while it is an open source work, the code is generated by Google and its data set, texts, and other data are practically unreadable.

The subtitle for the 13-node (plus a secret link) hypertext poem is “mysterious basement/ machines of the prairie” a theme that gestures towards Nelson’s fascination with the American Midwest of his youth, presented through a characteristic kitsch aesthetic. Each node is protected by a cartoonishly menacing videogame creature, and once one enters, there are usually four hotspots with pop-up windows containing lines of commanding poetry, a text ticker, some text that belongs to the image, and a swirl of language or other digital objects generally appearing around the pointer, wherever you might move it.

As you explore the hypertext, note Nelson’s use of narrative and imperative mode in many of the lines and consider how the responsive animation and design are a kind of smokescreen to cover up very personal stories told around these mysterious machines.

Featured in Avenues of Access

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