Re: [-empyre-] on electronic poetry

On 06.05.03 00:28, "Jim Andrews" <> wrote:

>> Can difference betven e-poetry on a web page and in exe program be relevant?
> Relevant to what? The questions of whether it is or or
> something else?
> Yeah, who cares?
Might I jump in here?

I think the point of Jaka's question is to do with the distinction between
computable (executable) computer based works and those that are not
executable (eg: html, digital video, etc).

To me there is a huge difference between these two ways of working. I would
argue they are effectively different media with different forms of
engagement. I wrote about this as part of "on Navigation and Interactivity".

To quote myself (horrible, I admit):

"The term navigation is commonly used in multimedia to refer to the means by
which the reader or user of a work interacts with and moves about within a
multimedia work, whether it be text, image, 3-D or moving image based.

Both the term "navigation", and the sense in which it used, represents a
narrowing of the possibilities for interactive media. The idea of navigation
is primarily founded on a very traditional notion of what an artwork might
be. Fundamentally, the use of this word implies work which is more or less
fixed in its content, and through which the reader can "navigate" in a
non-linear fashion. This allows the emergent illusion that the reader is
experiencing a dynamic and interactive work.

Such work however is not interactive.

What in fact the reader is experiencing is an advanced form of
channel-hopping. The author has allowed the reader to read in a non-linear
fashion and to follow their interest in the work along a number of
lines...although all these reading-lines are pre-defined by the author.

An interactive work is significantly different."

End of quote...

What I am trying to establish here is the difference between media that is
responsive, that can change itself fundamentally in relation to how a
"reader" is reading it, and media that is navigable (hyper-media). The WWW,
as originally conceived by Berners-Lee, is an example of hyper-media. It is
effectively a static database (people might update or change it, but the
database does not change itself) with a front end that allows access to data
via what can be a very complex web of portals but where the relationship
between access and data is a passive one...the access does not alter the
data in any significant manner nor the data reconfigure the access.

With computable media the relationship between data and access is far more
intimate and much so that the concept of access has to be
replaced with that of process, for when interacting with data in a
computable context the "reader" is effectively actively processing, and thus
altering, it. Conversely, data can also act upon process. In an "object
oriented" computable environment the relationship between data and process
becomes even more intimate as the processes (programs and their components)
themselves become data (programs are held in variables, which then might be
stored in structures which are then again instantiated as variables) whilst
at the same time the encapsulated programs also can contain instance
variables which also can be programs. This approach to programming is
conceptually infinitely scaleable, both macro and micro.

The point here is that computable media is distinct from hyper-media but
this is often overlooked. I think we can all agree there is a huge
difference between a text authored employing a word processor and a text
authored by a program that was itself authored by somebody. However, it is
often the case that works from both forms of practice will be thrown into
the same art or e-poetry or whatever. These things are clearly
very different though.

Sometimes they can get mixed up productively - here I am thinking of Mez for
although she writes her texts herself, so they could be seen as just normal
texts written with a word processor or whatever, they are structured in such
a fashion that they have the be actively read, parsed, into signification
and in this respect they become computable in the pure sense represented by
the Turing machine concept. That is, the language itself is the program and
reading it is effectively a form of computation.

However, work such as Mez's remains the exception and I would like to say
here, out loud, that I think we should all be a lot more careful in how we
look at work that is digitally realised or mediated and in the use of our
language around it so as to ensure that we are talking about the same
things. The current laxity in our terminologies, whilst sometimes resulting
in serendipitous moments, mostly just leads to confusion and



Simon Biggs

Research Professor
Art and Design Research Centre
Sheffield Hallam University, UK

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