Most electronic texts allow their readers a greater degree of interaction than the eye movement along the lines or the possibility to flip back and forth through the pages of a printed texts. Stephanie Strickland's V, however, emphasizes this general tendency to the utmost possible degree by using some of the specific possibilities of the digital environment as the very premises for the existence of her own literary work. While in a paper book the content remains displayed on the surface of the medium independently of the reader's actions, V's content is virtually absent hidden behind selected stars of the initial cosmos' representation — until the interactive cursor generates it as readable text on the surface of the digital image. Once readers have made the text visible, they can then make various further operations with it depending on the kind of connection-making activity they choose to perform. The groups of three lines can in fact be considered as naturally linked to the other nodes of the same constellation, they can be seen as a part of the forurteen-verse structure of the sonnet, they can be connected through keywords associations and so on. The list of possible (inter)actions available to the reader is provided in a "how-to" explanatory note:

1 Scan the stars to see all the constellations.

2 Click once on a star to "hold" its constellation. . . .

10 If a "next" is present, keep clicking it to proceed to the end of the WaveRun in the same form (Sonnet or Tercet) in which you began.

Strickland's list is anyway not a strictly limited one. The process for example of interweaving sonnets' lines with the verses generated by the nearby stars can produce various degrees of legibility as far as text fragments are concerned. The nearby text can precede or come after the sonnets' stanzas or, more importantly, it can dovetail or literally merge with them. As a result, Strickland seems to reverse the aesthetic operations Jim Rosenberg usually performs in his works (where initial overlapped lines are separated and made eventually legible by the scanning cursor of the reader). In V the readers are for example allowed the playful activity of blurring the various text fragments as much as they want with no clear demarcation between legimate or illegitimate forms of text overlapping.

Questions

1. To be read, Strickland's work needs a specific Shockwave plug-in. One of the characteristic cultural feature of print technology is, instead, the relatively uniform practice involved in the act of reading. Regardless of the content, a standardised way of using a paper book has been established through centuries. What is the effect of providing the reader with specific tools to handle electronic information? How would we feel, in terms of reading pleasure, should we enter in a bookshop that sells specific pliers for any single textual item on sale?

2. The metaphor of the firmament is a powerful one because it explicitly shows how relations and configurations are usually arbitrarily drawn by our minds on sets of data that would be otherwise very difficult to handle as a whole. Is the activity of mapping the text the only way to make sense of the big amount of information contained in an electronic work?

3. Different types of texts co-exist on the screen when we read V. Besides primary text, formal instructions are also visualized on the same interface ("Scan the stars, click once or click twice, click the darkness" or "Enter a number 1-232 and press enter" etc.). Why are such instructions present within the main text interface? What are the effects of external instructions on a supposedly immersive reading condition?


Cyberspace Web Overview Creative Nonfiction related courses

Last modified 4 February 2008