Category: thesis

Silicon Speech Shape

November 27th, 2011 — 10:22 pm

By modelling the geometric resonance of speech, visually expressive letterforms emerge.

The advantages of light emitting screens rather than reflective paper are obvious:

all the features of the letterform can modulate as sounded.

Diaphragm, trachea, larynx, tongue, palette, lips:

tubes that resonate to create resonance.

Language landscapes labyrinth lingual.

New letterforms grown from formulas.

Coral reefs, language, compilers, modular organs in bodies, brownian surfaces, broccoli, human brains.

“… virtually all complex systems, regardless of whether they are composed of molecules, neurons, or people, can be meaningfully described as networks.” (Olaf Sporns, Networks of the Brain. pg.29)

Saussure famously described the arbitrariness of the sign: a gap between sign, signified and referent.

That gap is reduced by digital typography.

Occasionally, the gap is erased by digital poetry.

Occasionally, language hits a singularity & dies.

Some celebrate. Some grieve.

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A few net resources for Elit

August 9th, 2011 — 10:09 pm

EPC, Electronic Poetry Center.
ELO, Electronic Literature Organization.

ELMCIP, Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice.
NT2, laboratoire de recherches sur les arts et littératures hypermédiatiques.
OBX, typographic animation software lab initiated by Jason Lewis.

Electronic Book Review, a peer-reviewed journal of critical writing on electronic literarature.
NetArtery, group blog initiated by Jim Andrews.
NetPoetic, group blog initiated by Jason Nelson.

Third Hand Plays, group exhibit curated by Brian Kim Stefans on the SFMOMA Open Space blog, July-August 2011

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What is Digital Poetry?

July 23rd, 2011 — 07:00 pm
  • a compression utility (it converts paragraphs into tiny enigmatic phrases)
  • a Memory Resource Unit (inducing long-term potentiation from the cruft and spam of experience)
  • GPU accelerated lyricism (lamentations & celebrations with some multimedia)
  • a translation algorithm (converting the cultural heritage of bards into interactive & generative formats)

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Living Language

June 7th, 2011 — 11:59 pm

Richard Rorty identified philosophy as a series of turns.
Like the head of a small bird, the head of philosophy pivots around to find new concerns each generation.

In the early twentieth century, Wittgenstein’s linguistic turn precipitated a concentration on language as fundamental metaphor. In 1994, the pictorial turn (of W.T.J. Mitchell) proposed a visual generation, ocularcentric and inundated in photons. The pictorial turn is living in parallel competition (and partial completion) with many other concurrent turns: the genomic turn, the media turn, the hybrid turn, the non-linear turn, the interactive-tangible turn, the agency turn, the augmented turn and the singularity network turn.

When tavits become indiscernible from reality, where language and the pictorial meet new-media 3D-representations, there will be a re-turn toward aesthetic animism, animism without precedent: a digital animism that includes language as a proto-animal.

This will be the turn toward living language.

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TAVIT: Text Audio-Visual Interactivity

May 29th, 2011 — 12:40 pm

Digital poetry is a multimedia hybrid-art-form, a subset of visual language fusing with digital technology, increasingly mediated by networks. Contemporary poems are animated interfaces; and they often utilize dynamic interactive typography superimposed over video, generative or 3D environments. A brief list of the disciplines involved: visual art, sound composition, literature, media studies, computer programming.

Multimedia-hybrid digital poetry means that the term ‘text’ is insufficient.
Future theorists will require terminology specific to the domain, I suggest:

  • TAV (text-audio-visual)
  • TAVT (a tav in a 3D territory)
  • TAVIT (an interactive tavt)

I have no illusions or expectations that these terms will achieve widespread adoption, but am certain that some terms like these will of necessity emerge to concisely and accurately convey the difference between text, tav, tavt and tavit.

Suggested use: “That was an amazing tavit!”, “The intertavituality of these works is self-evident”

This post is the first in a series that explore ideas contained in my thesis drafts.
I recently returned from presenting this material at E-Poetry 2011. (Download presentation: pdf / ppt ).
Subsequent posts will unravel more details.

Feedback is welcomed.

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2009 : David Clark’s 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein

April 15th, 2011 — 05:34 pm

As a meta-monument, a monolith, to the confluence of philosophy and poetry, and an extended meditation on the convergence of thought in multimedia, David Clark’s 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein is a rapturous virtuosic sprawling labyrinth that confounds, nourishes and provokes. It is (in my view) a consummate example of hybrid interactivity, future cinema, net-art and scholarship. It is in effect a poem. Written, directed and animated by Clark with a team of collaborative assistance, 88 Constellations establishes learning as an aesthetic act, philosophy as path-based, and trivia as profound.

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Each of the 88 constellation lines is a micro film woven around ricochet facts. Parts of a possible path : Wittgenstein didn’t talk until he was 4 years old, gave away a fortune, went into exile, read pulp novels, published one thin book. Thus simple things become thick with synchronicity.

Why 88? Here’s a morsel of the voice-over: “Constellations and piano keys, two upright infinities, two fat ladies, 1, 8, 8, 9, Chaplin Hitler and Wittgenstein,  star-crossed sons of fate, born to love and born to hate, one would last to 88, ….” Chaplin, Wittgenstein, Hitler were all born around the same day in 1889. Somehow these lives become vectors that hurtle through modernist architecture into the Twin  Towers.

From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Sept. 11th 2001, science fiction pervades pop culture until the antagonism between high and low thought itself pops and there in the rubble is genuine revelation. Stockhausen refers to the twin towers’ collapse as the greatest act of art. Repetition and intentionality colliding with the sturdy architecture of our beliefs even as it constructs lies and legends. Art for ark’s sake. Form follows functionlessness.

In my view, Clark is constructing epic poems. Just as the ancient oral poets regurgitated the news of their time in convulsive memorable writhing heaps of meaning, Clark investigates coincidences until we “connect the dots”. Probing the paradox of superstition’s roots in fact, parables growing out of perturbed patterns. Each viewer becomes witness to Wittgenstein’s profound yet often incomprehensible speaking to himself. For Clark thought occurs inside and outside us in conversations with culture. King Kong’s 1976 finale on the Twin Towers sits side by side with an elliptical morsel on the Petronia Towers: “Two tall twins side by side, 88 lights, a ghost in the sky, 88 floors, 88 floors, 88 floors in Kuala Lumpur, the world’s tallest building has 88 floors, 2 Islamic stars, 8 sides a door.” The Tribute of Light created on the site of the Twin Towers is created by 88 lights; it all echoes Albert Speer’s cathedral of light for Hitler’s Nuremberg rally. Homosexuals, gypsies and jews all gassed. In Clark’s words, these lights look outside ourselves to look in, in an act of reverse astronomy. Culture becomes a catastrophe, a mutating shape we impose meanings upon.

As virtuosic as it is sinuous, in 88 Constellations enigmas sprout from collisions and connections erupt from hidden symmetries. “Infinity is the number 8 lying down”. Goddard making a film about cities and woman. To get laid; to lie; to lie down. Language too lies down, and lies and gives up at its limit which is love. As lovers discuss Wittgenstein and Derrida in a cafe, concepts become corporal and eventually confound, we become the cream in their coffee, harvesting the crushed whirling suctional effervescent force of spoons.

Wittgenstein wrote: “Our words will only express facts.” Wittgenstein also said “Nothing is hidden.” Yet here in the 88 Constellations everything through surplus seems obscure, making less sense as it makes more. Loos: “Design purged of ornamentation” in the style of the Tractatus, effortless computation.

Moving sideways through such a ripe evanescent turmoil of excess facticity, Clark repeats certain themes like fugue motifs (repetition, logic, 88, repressions, twins), weaving toward an idiosyncratic reservoir where innate ideas absorb and integrate their opposites. Similarly the sound-scape (designed by Clark) operates contrapuntally, as a generative modular entity: sparse, elegant and effective. Appropriate for an architecture of “more is less.” Closure refused; the question remains a quest: “Who is Ludwig Wittgenstein?”

And the question for us is: “What is David Clark?” A poet? Animator? Musician? Scholar? Philosopher? Culture junkie? Provocateur? Pulp mediast?

Wittgenstein loved mystery novels. I love 88 Constellations for Wittgenstein.

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An Image-Essay on Image-Texts

March 31st, 2011 — 12:44 pm


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The Future: Augmented Walkabouts

March 9th, 2011 — 09:19 pm

“Playable text had earlier been achieved by interactive video installation – Tom White and David Small’s Stream of Consciousness (1998) and Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv’s Text Rain (1999) – but in the Cave environment, raining, or swarming, text becomes truly volumetric.”
Rita Raley, Writing 3D. Special Issue of Iowa Review. Sept. 2006

CAVEs are expensive items and it is unlikely they will achieve market penetration. On the other hand, cell-phones are cheap and rapidly becoming ubiquitous. And if the screen-size trend (identified as far as I know by Bill Buxton) toward wall screens (big) and handhelds (small) continues, it is reasonable to assume that some (that is to say: lots of) digital writing will become mobile, geo-locative and ultimately augmented. Narratives will superimpose themselves over normative reality. There are numerous examples of geo-locative narratives done with audio (Janet Cardiff, Murmur, Teri Rueb, etc…) and the artist BLUESCREEN did a piece where fictions could only be read at specific locations, but what I want to discuss here briefly is a foreseeable form of mobile literary immersion where the reader moves freely around finding phrases that can be both seen (superimposed as if extant) and heard; literature that can be played and plays out (like Blast Theory but with augmented reality on a cellphone) as if it were real.

Augmented reality is a subset of what I call assimilation of text by image. Imagine, for instance, I place GPS-triggered text over every road sign in my neighbourhood; readers who point their cellphone cameras at these signs will see this new text, superimposed as if it were there. There is an augmented app for mobile devices that already background subtracts, compensates for light, adjusts for viewing angle (emulating perspective), and incorporates the text directly over the actual objects: Word Lens. As of this writing, Word Lens simply translates between Spanish and English; future versions and spin-offs will obviously become writing tools that enable authoring onto the city, writing onto the surface of reality. Imagine (faster processors, better cameras and)Word Lens functionality wed to Layar, an augmented reality app that allows authors to create gps-specific overlays of cities accessible through cell-phones.  It echoes the vision of billboard-poet and QR-code visionary Giselle Beiguelman, who in Issue 1 of Emerging Language Practices ( April 2010), re-expresses what she has written about before: “Mobile Tagging is a phenomenon directly related to the popularization of mobile telephony and the popularization of QR-Codes. It is a kind of writing practice for the reading to be held in transit, based on a bimedimensional bar code – QR-Code (Quick Response Code). In other words, it is nomadic writing for expanded reading”.

Not only will this expanded reading alter the accessibility of reading, it will certainly accelerate subtle shifts in perception about text, destabilizing notions of where it is, who wrote it, and how it can be shared. It seems safe to assume that it will become increasingly difficult in upcoming eras to differentiate between inscription traces that originate in matter and others that emerge from remote display processes. Writing will detach from the womb of matter even as it paradoxically becomes more location and viewer specific.

Postscript Update: Two contemporary AR practitioners of note, the poetic short-story writer and future cinema researcher Caitlin Fisher has her AR piece Requim online — I saw Requim at DAC in 2009 and was charmed by its warped nostalgia and mutant pop-up book appeal — and the other practitioner of note: poet and MIT post-doc Amaranth Borsuk whose Between Page and Screen AR work (also online) exhibited at 2010 ELO conference was both technically superb and evocative.

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2012: Against Against

February 18th, 2011 — 09:25 pm

Lev Manovich inverts the conventional way of looking at how photography forced a change on painting: “Thus, rather than thinking of modern art as a liberation (from representation and documentation), we can see it as a kind of psychosis – an intense, often torturous examination of the contents of its psyche, the memories of its glamorous past lives, and the very possibilities of speaking. At first this psychosis produced brilliant insights and inspired visions but eventually, as the mental illness progressed, it degenerated into endless repetitions. ” (pg 282. 2008 draft of Software Takes Command)

A parallel observation also holds true for contemporary poetry. With the rise of the printing press, it lost its base as the deliverer of news. As novels and stories and journalism arrived direct, poetry sought new terrain in which to establish continued relevance. In the same way that painting turned to the subject of painting, poetry turned to the subject of its substrate: language. Contemporary poems are about language. This truism is stated often: poetry is about language..

Character, story, and observations of nature are already comprehensively covered by many other media. The poetic avant garde along with philosophy is now in the business of investigating the tropes and turns of language: it investigates how things are said; and it investigates these issues sonically, culturally and procedurally with an eye to destabilize how we receive what is said. Unfortunately, where this focus, at the birth of several movements such as Dada or LANGUAGE, led to superlative works which activated levels of unprecedented discourse; now, perhaps there is the sense (I have it) that poetry has reached a strange impasse.

Burroughs and Gysin spawned a revolution. OULIPO cemented its cerebral appeal. In response to the commodification of creativity and the stable narrative voice (i.e. the repressed voice), poetry adopted a cut and paste collage methodology of hallucinatory deflections. Subsequently, appropriation became a key methodology of the conceptual elite. I agree with Kenneth Goldsmith only partially when he says (in the intro to Against Expression a new ubuweb anthology of conceptual lit) : “With the rise of the Web, writing has met its photography. By that, I mean that writing has encountered a situation similar to that of painting upon the invention of photography, a technology so much better at doing  what the art form had been trying to do that, to survive, the field had to alter its course radically. If photography was striving for sharp focus, painting was forced to go soft, hence impressionism. Faced with an unprecedented amount of available digital text, writing needs to redefine itself to adapt to the new environment of textual abundance.” (pg. xvii, Against Expression.)

As I said, I partially agree, here’s why: The printing press and typewriter were already poetry’s photography. The web is yet another animal entirely.

Isn’t the dilemma now that we are all inundated in a massive onslaught of word spew every day? Do we need to construct more of it?  Is the only space left for poetry a narrow ledge of irony, and a ctrl+c ctrl+v heartbeat? Conceptual approaches of writing will continue on their own path, finding solutions to their own lines of inquiry.

In the next few posts, I will be exploring other paths, challenges and difficult potentialities digital literature has before it. These are basic changes occurring in the operating system of how we write at the root level. Specifically, the development of a living language, assimilated into motion graphics and code embodied. Word as spime. What I will be proposing here is very specific to those so inclined to this approach. To paraphrase Sol LeWitt: “I do not advocate a digital form of poetry for all poets. I have found that it has worked well for me while other ways have not. It is one way of making poetry; other ways suit other poets. Nor do I think all digital poetry merits the viewers attention. Digital poetry is only good when both programming and poetry are good”

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