LIT 400: Reading Cyberliterature

Cut-up, Random Comments on Digital Poetics




When the artistic work is forced away from fixed form, one must look deeper for a sense of meaning. This means looking to the concept, mechanism, or operation that underlies the work, querying the core stability underlying the work, that which remains constant beneath its litigious, shifting illusion of the surface. One must find what is solid beneath the transitory -- much like meditation!


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This also means literally looking deeper -- to the code. A work of programmed literature, and here I would emphasize works that are hand coded as opposed to interface assembled, present a complex of writing, that is, textuality superimposed on textuality. In this environment, one move can affect elements on other planes of activity. As in 3-D chess, one must think on several levels before making a mark!


Loss Pequeño Glassier, “The Poetics of Dynamic Texts”


How does one ORIENT oneself to the textual mechanisms of Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries?  



Exploiting the PC's facility with animation, the SoftPoem presents its text in a graphical choreography that coordinates meaning and movement. The words themselves, as they move and change on screen, become like actors in a theater piece. This gives the SoftPoem much of the dynamism of spoken or sung poetry--a dynamism missing from the printed page. Yet the poem "performed" by the PC sacrifices none of the subtleties of spelling, punctuation, or layout that come through only in the written word, since the written word is still right there on the screen.  
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SoftPoetry builds on the 2,000-year-old tradition of visual (or concrete) poetry, in which the meaning of the poem is enhanced by its visual appearance through unusual typography and layout. Color graphics, animation, and transition effects now augment the visual poet's repertory. SoftPoetry is also a video extension of the traditions of the book as art object--the traditions of calligraphy, illuminated manuscripts, and illustrated books.  
A final benefit that the PC brings to poetry is in making it more immediately accessible and tangible. The graphical elements of The Clue clarify and enliven the text, as well as heightening its emotion[al] impact. Poetry loses the forbidding quality it has for many people, becoming less abstract, more direct, and just plain fun. 
Robert Kendall, “About Softpoetry,” from the README.txt for “The Clue: A MiniMystery in the Form of a Softpoem.”
How fun is Kendall’s “Faith”?
And photographers will tell you that often their best shots are accidents . . . writers will tell you the same.  The best writing seems to be done almost by accident but writers until the cut-up method was made explicit—all writing is in fact cut ups.
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A collage of words read heard overheard.  What else?  Use of scissors renders the process explicit and subject to extension and variation.  Clear classical prose can be composed entirely of rearranged cut-ups.  Cutting and rearranging a page of written words introduces a new dimension into writing enabling the writer to turn images in cinematic variation.
William S. Burroughs, “The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin
Relax, sit back and watch Brian Kim StefansDreamlife of Letters”
Q. Does this website make use of meaningless coincidence?
A. Yes.
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elit is fundamentally a medium of artifice—of symbols that are perceived as symbols.
William Poundstone, “Three Proposals for Bottle Imps”
Aside from the basic definition—a machine that contains within itself the power of motion—there are contradictory possibilities for what an automaton can mean.  It is either “a figure which simulates the actions of a living being,” or, conversely, “a human being acting mechanically in a monotonous routine.”  . . .  When Karel Capek coined the term “robot” from the Czech for “to work,” he was showing how the line between man and machine was blurred once again: instead  of machines being made to look like men, men became more like machines.
Gaby Wood, Edison’s Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life, xviii-xix
View Poundstone’s “Three Proposals” (and don’t forget those FAQs!)
The clinamen is the deviation, the error in the system.  In interactive systems, in new media, the most important clinamen can be that which is introduced from outside the system, by the reader in the company of the reader’s personal and cultural experiences.
Montfort and Wardrip-Fruin, Introduction to The Oulipo
Literature is a combinatorial game that pursues the possibilities implicit in its own material, independent of the personality of the poet, but it is a game that at a certain point is invested with an unexpected meaning, a meaning that is not patent on the linguistic plane on which we were working but has slipped in from another level, activating something that on that second level is of great concern to the author or his society.
Calvino, “Cybernetics and Ghosts” (as cited in NMR 89)
Insert here experience with Deena Larsen’s “Firefly”