Posts Tagged ‘digital poetry’

Digital Poetry in Digital Literacy

Poetry has been associated with the teaching of literacy for a long time. Because poetry in some ways, is the cherry on the top of literacy. In poetry we see something approaching our full humanity expressed in the technology of writing. Writing is a complex, subtle, highly expressive technology. Poetry is typically considered the highest form of writing because that’s where we learn how to feel with language. Language in poetry carries human feeling, emotion, attitude, the tone of the inner voice, as well as thought.

Computing environments have changed our typical reading and writing environments a great deal. We now typically read and write not only language but also images, sound, video, and code/programming. Also, the texts we read are often now interactive. Programming responds to what we write. All this changes what it means to be literate in the contemporary world. Just as poetry, for hundreds of years, has been the apogee of literacy, so too with digital poetry in the matter of digital literacy.

My first experiences with using technology artistically go back to my radio days in the 80s. I’d like to write about the dawn, for me, of understanding something about using technology artistically. Because it’s relevant now to our digital experience and to digital poetry/literature.

I produced a literary radio show in the 80’s each week for six years. At first, what I did was tape poets and fiction writers reading, and aired that. Sometimes I would do a bit of production on the material.

But then I heard a life-changing tape from Tellus. It was their #11 issue, The Sound of Radio, and it featured work by Gregory Whitehead, Susan Stone, Jay Allison, Helen Thorington and others. This stuff blew me away. It was miles beyond what I was producing. It was interesting radio art. I was just putting work for print onto tape/radio. The Tellus tape was audio writing. This was art in its own right. Especially in the case of Whitehead and Stone, it was poetry not first written for the page, but created in almost a new language of poetry, with recorded sound and radio in mind from beginning to end.

It wasn’t simply that it was impressive technically, as produced audio. That was beside the point. The point is that, as interesting poetry to listen to, as recorded sound or as radio, this was far more interesting than listening to poets read their print poems. Some of them described themselves as audio writers. Whitehead did a tape called Writing On Air. ; another was called Disorder Speech. These writers took radio and recorded sound seriously as artistic, writerly, poetic media. It was literary inscription in sound, on tape, in radio. And it opened up great vistas to me in the realm of poetry and language.

I started corresponding with and reading essays by Whitehead about radio art and the art of sound. Not only was Whitehead producing fantastic audio–he was writing about the poetics of radio art brilliantly!

I was starting to realize that creating exciting art for a particular medium was not the same as simply making art developed for one medium available in a different medium. Why is that?

Art that understands and uses the special properties of its medium is not a weak echo of some other medium. The radio I’d been producing was not the art itself. It was providing an inferior experience of the books that the authors were flogging. The books were the art itself.

If you’re not channeling the energy that flows through the special properties of the medium, those channels will work against you because energy flows through them whether you channel it or not. If you’re not channeling it, the attention it gets—just by virtue of the nature of the medium—is noise distracting the audience from whatever channels you are using.

For instance, reading text on a monitor is harder than reading text in a book because the medium is refreshing the image 60 times per second. And if there’s stuff that’s moving, that competes for attention.

This topic about the value of dialing in the special properties of the medium is sometimes called media specificity; it’s associated with the writings of the USAmerican art critic Clement Greenberg, primarily, but the way I think of it predates my knowledge of Greenberg and is more associated with Gregory Whitehead and Marshall McLuhan.

So if we ask what the relevance of digital poetry is, say—and by that, I don’t simply mean digitized poetry but poetry where the computer is crucial both for the production and appreciation of the work—we can say that it’s important to digital literacy, to being fully literate in the digital.

Digital literacy is not only in knowing how to google the information you want, and how to check to see if it’s accurate information—though that’s important to being digitally literate—as opposed to being an easy mark for misinformation and scams.

It’s also important to get a feel for how emotion and affect can be involved in interactivity. And how video and text can work together. And how sound and text and visuals can work together intellectually and emotionally. An important part of our contemporary computing experience is multimedia, the experience of several media at once. Multimedia poetry is intermedial, it relates the media, it makes them work together as one integrated experience. That is part of digital literacy too.

Poetry is where/how we learn to feel with language. Digital poetry is where/how we learn to feel with our expanded/changed language we experience in computing environments, our intermedial language, our interarts language, our new media language that is a confluence of language, image, sound, and interactivity.

While the digital can give us print and video and sound, etc—they’re all just coded in zeros and ones—digital art is more than a bunch of old media tacked together. It’s a new art form in itself. It isn’t simply that it’s uniquely multimedial or even intermedial, though that’s an important part of it. And it isn’t simply that it’s interactive, though that’s important too. And it isn’t simply that it’s programmable. In his book A Philosophy of Computer Art, Dominic Lopes proposes—as many others have—that computer art is, in fact, a brand new form of art. And if that’s true, then simply digitizing other forms of art does not suffice to experience computer art—which is art in which the computer is crucial for both the production and appreciation of the art. It’s art in which the computer is crucial as the medium.

Marshall McLuhan said that technologies are extensions of our senses. The telescope and microscope let us see things we can’t see with the naked eye. Telescopes and microscopes extend our sight into the large and small. Telephones extend our hearing and voice over great distances. Technologies extend senses, our bodies, our capabilities. Computers extend our memory and our cognitive abilities. We can know things with a google that otherwise would take us considerable research.

Computers extends our senses, bodies, and abilities/capabilities, but it’s digital poetry and other digital art (computer art) that extends our humanity throughout our new dimensions. Without computer art, the extensions of us we acquire via the digital are as claws without feeling. Digital art gets the blood flowing through our new abilities, gets the feelings going. Then we understand how interactivity involves our feelings, whether we knew it or not. We begin to be able to think and feel at once with computers, through intermedial, interactive, interestingly programmed computer art.

Digital art also gets our digital shit detectors working. We can sense better the truly human, the fully human, the true. As opposed to accepting ads and such as expressions of truth.

New Work by Ted Warnell

Ted Warnell, as many of you know, is a Canadian net artist originally from Vancouver, long since living in Alberta, who has been producing net art as programmed visual poetry at warnell.com since the 90’s. Which is about how long we’ve been in correspondence with one another. Ted was very active on Webartery for some time, an email list in the 90’s that many of the writerly net artists were involved in. We’ve stayed in touch over the years, though we’ve never met in the same room. We have, however, met ‘face-to-face’ via video chat.

warnell2016He’s still creating interesting net art. In the nineties and oughts, his materials were largely bitmaps, HTML, CSS, and a little JavaScript. Most of his works were stills, or series thereof. Since about 2013, he’s been creating net works using the HTML5 canvas tag that consist entirely of JavaScript. The canvas tag lets us program animations and stills on HTML pages without needing any plugins such as Flash or Unity. Ted has never liked plugins, so the canvas tag works well for him for a variety of reasons. Ted has created a lot of very interesting canvas-based, programmed animations and stills at warnell.com/mona .

I’m always happy to get a note from Ted showing me new work he’s done. Since we both are using the canvas, we talk about the programming issues it involves and also the sorts of art we’re making. Below is an email Ted sent me recently after I asked him how he would describe the ‘look’ or ‘looks’ he’s been creating with his canvas work. If you have a good look at warnell.com/mona , you see that his work does indeed exhibit looks you will remember and identify as Warnellian.


hey jim,

further to earlier thoughts about your query re “looks” in my work (and assuming that you’re still interested by this subject), here is something that has been bubbling up over the past week or so

any look in my work comes mainly from the processes used in creation of the work – so, it’s not a deliberate or even a conscious thing, the look, but rather, it just is – mainly, but not entirely, of course – subject, too, is at least partly responsible for the way these things look

warnell2016-2have been thinking this past week that what is deliberate and conscious is my interest in the tension between and balance of order and chaos, by which i mean mathematics (especially geometry, visual math) and chance (random, unpredictable) – i’m exploring these things and that tension/balance in almost all of my works – you, too, explore and incorporate these things into many of your works including most strikingly in aleph null, and also in globebop and others

so here are some thoughts about order/chaos and balance/tension in no particular order:

works using these things function best when the balance is right – then the tension is strong – and then the work also is “right” and strong

it is not a requirement that both of these things are apparent (visible or immediately evident) in a work – there are some notable examples of works that seem to be all one or the other, though that may be more illusion than reality – works of jackson pollock seem to be all chaos but still balance with a behind-the-scenes intelligence, order – works by andrew wyeth on the other hand seem to be all about order and control, but look closely at the brushstrokes that make all of that detail and you’ll see that many of these are pure chance – brilliant stuff, really

warnell2016-3an artist whose work intrigues me much of late is quebecer claude tousignant – i’m sure you know of him – he is perhaps best known for his many “target” paintings of concentric rings – tousignant himself referred to these as “monochromatic transformers” and “gongs” – you can find lots of his works at google images

the reason tousignant is so interesting to me (again) at this time is because while i can see that his paintings “work”, i cannot for the life of me see where he is doing anything even remotely relating to order/chaos or the balance/tension of same – his works seem to me to be truly all order/order with no opposite i would consider necessary for balance and/or to make (required) tension – his works defy me and i’d love to understand how he’s doing it 🙂

warnell2016-4anyway, serious respect, more power, and many more years to the wonderful monsieur tousignant

Look Again – warnell.com/mona/look.htm

is a new (this week) autointeractive work created with claude tousignant and his target paintings in mind

in this work are three broad rings, perfectly ordered geometric circles, each in the same randomly selected single PbN primary color – the space between and surrounding these rings is filled with a randomly generated (60/sec), randomly spun alphanumeric text in black and white, and also gray thanks to xor compositing – alinear chaos – as the work progresses, the three rings are gradually overcome by those relentless spinning texts – the outermost ring is all but obliterated while the middle ring is chipped away bit by bit until only a very thin inner crust of the ring remains – the third innermost ring, tho, is entirely unaffected

as the work continues to evolve, ghostlike apparitions of the missing outer and middle ring become more and more pronounced… because… within the chaos, new rings in ever-sharper black and white are beginning to emerge – this has the effect of clearly defining (in gray and tinted gray) the shape of the original color rings – even as order is continually attacked and destroyed by chaos, chaos is simultaneously rebuilding the order – so nothing is actually gained or lost… the work is simply transformed – a functioning “monochromatic transformer”, as tousignant might see it

that’s the tension and balance i’m talking about – the look you were asking about likely has something to do with autointeraction, alinearity, and most likely by my attempt to render visible order/chaos and balance/tension in every work i do

your attempt in aleph null (it now seems to me) might be in the form of progressive linearity on an alinear path – and well done

ted

PS, “Look Again” is a rework of my earlier work, “Poem by Numbers 77” from march 2015 – warnell.com/mona/pbnum77.htm

which work is a progression of “Poem by Numbers 52” from april 2013 – warnell.com/mona/pbnum52.htm

which work was about learning canvas coding for circular motion

Poem by Numbers works usually (not always) are about coding research and development – moreso than concept development, which comes in later works like “Look Again”

other artists have “Untitled XX” works – i have “Poem by Numbers XX”

Joe Keenan’s MOMENT

Joe Keenan's MOMENT in Internet Explorer

I put together a twenty minute video talking about a fantastic piece of digital poetry by Joe Keenan from the late nineties called MOMENT. Check it out: http://vispo.com/keenan/4. MOMENT, written in JavaScript for browsers, is a work of visual interactive code poetry. It’s one of the great unacknowledged works for the net.

I used Camtasia 8 to create this video. I’ve used the voice-over capabilities of Camtasia before to create videos that talk about what’s on the screen, but this is the first time I’ve been able to use the webcam with it. Still a few bugs, though, it seems: at times the video is quite asynchronous between voice and video.

Still, you get the idea. I’m a big fan of Joe Keenan’s MOMENT and am glad I finally did a video on it.

Why I am a Net Artist

vispo.com homepage

Vispo.com is pretty much my life’s work, such as it is. Most of what I have created is available for free on the site. No, I haven’t zactly got rich on it. I’ve been publishing vispo.com since 1996. It’s my “book.” In the sense that I haven’t published any books but think of myself primarily as a writer and vispo.com as my main work. It’s been an adventure in creating and publishing interactive, multimedia poetry, among other things. So I thought I’d write about that adventure for The Journal of Electronic Publishing and its issue on digital poetry. Specifically, I thought I’d try to explain why I chose the net as my main artistic medium.

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Unicode by Jörg Piringer

Jörg Piringer is a sound poet and poet-programmer currently living in Vienna/Austria. He really knows what he’s doing with the programming, having a master’s degree in Computer Science. And his sound work, both in live performance and in synthesis with the auditory and visual processing, is quite remarkable. I saw him in Nottingham and Paris, and was very impressed on both occassions.

He’s just released a new piece, a video called Unicode. It’s a 33:17 long, and simply displays Unicode characters. Each character is displayed for about 0.04 seconds. The video displays 49,571 characters.

It’s a video, but it’s a conceptual piece. The characters in this video are all symbols and each makes but the briefest appearance. A cast of thousands; Bar and Yeace.

Wikipedia describes Unicode thus:

Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world’s writing systems. Developed in conjunction with the Universal Character Set standard and published in book form as The Unicode Standard, the latest version of Unicode consists of a repertoire of more than 109,000 characters covering 93 scripts, a set of code charts for visual reference, an encoding methodology and set of standard character encodings, an enumeration of character properties such as upper and lower case, a set of reference data computer files, and a number of related items, such as character properties, rules for normalization, decomposition, collation, rendering, and bidirectional display order (for the correct display of text containing both right-to-left scripts, such as Arabic and Hebrew, and left-to-right scripts).[1] As of 2011, the most recent major revision of Unicode is Unicode 6.0.

Piringer’s Unicode simply shows us symbols but, to me, it illustrates how our notion of language has been expanded to not only the multi-lingual but also to include code. Not only do we see many of the world’s scripts but a good deal of abstract symbols of code.

By the way, his web site at joerg.piringer.net is well worth checking out.

Issue on digital poetry from Journal of Electronic Publishing

Aaron McCollough is guest-editing an issue of The Journal of Electronic Publishing on digital poetry. Below is the email he sent to the Poetics list requesting submissions for that issue.

From: Aaron McCollough
To: Poetics List
Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2010 7:56 AM
Subject: CFP: Journal of Electronic Publishing (Digital Poetics/Poetries)

I’m writing today in my capacity as guest editor for The Journal of Electronic Publishing, which has been a pioneer in responding critically to digital technologies’ impact on “publishing” as both a notion and a semiotic distribution system since 1995 (before there was even a google to google-sculpt with!).

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Typing the Dancing Signifier: Jim Andrews’ (Vis)Poetics

Greetings Netartery,

When Jim invited me to join the group back in May, I had just successfully defended my dissertation. I decided that I didn’t want to jump into the conversation until it was available online, so I could share my research freely. In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed the postings and am thrilled and honored to be a part of this group blog.

My dissertation is titled “Typing the Dancing Signifier: Jim Andrews’ (Vis)Poetics” and is now available for free download at the Digital Repository at the University of Maryland: http://hdl.handle.net/1903/10799. If you’d like to know more about me and my work, here’s a link to my blog: http://blogs.uprm.edu/flores.

What is my dissertation about? The title should be enough of a hint, but here’s the abstract.

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