Poetry often resembles free association. Traditionally, poets have achieved this presentation by juxtaposing words that signify related concepts. More recently, this process gave way to allow the sounds of certain words to link to the sounds of other words, or even to link to sounds with no articulated ideas. Bill Marsh's site, Tools Built by Anonymous Ancestors, illustrates the capacity of the internet to facilitate a similar kind of free-form thinking, one that is undertaken by a computer, rather than the human mind, that makes connections simply by sharing words.

The site has a relatively clear beginning that shows images of the objects that accompany the text on the various branch-off pages. Each page features one image, accompanying text, links to the other pages, a volume control for the ambient sounds that each page plays and an option labeled “open source," which accomplishes various goals on the different page, but generally, opens new possibilities for viewing each page. In the lower corner of each page is a link titled “Source," which reveals that the text, images, and sounds were all collected from web search results with variations on the phrase “tools built by anonymous ancestors".

Marsh's collection of the words and works of others, presented anonymously, resembles the kind of craftsmanship that the images reflect. He connects each tool to a use or goal: progress, sacrifice, fire, credit, and weapon. His craftsmanship comes from his ability to arrange text and images to create an homage for the fulfillment, both physical and spiritual, that these simple objects once brought. When the opening sentence of the “progress" page declares, “Technology's exponential progress estranges the fact in recovered artifacts," Marsh questions the capability of technology to provide well-being simply by existing. However, the fact that he presents this view by using a collection of text, images and sounds taken from the internet, shows an appreciation for the medium and a desire to use it to open up new venues of expression. Marsh's site questions the use of current use of technology by presenting a new form of creativity that only the web affords.


Where kind of creativity is Marsh presenting? Does his creative force come from his ability to assemble? Or is it in his appreciation for these works?

To what extent is Marsh's site closed off from the rest of the internet? It originally appears that the text accompanying the images was written by the author, but this is disproved once the viewer clicks on the “source" link. What is the effect of creating an illusion of “originality," as it is traditionally defined by creating one's own work from scratch, and then shattering this image?

Must authors in e-space acknowledge the connectivity of their work with other works online? Will it be possibly to present one's self as distinct from the other information contained on the web, and still come off as authentic? How?

How is he using the “open source" option? The function seems to open new ways of viewing the pages, giving the reader more control, but it also makes it more difficult, sometimes impossible, to view the text as it originally appeared. What kinds of possibilities would be opened up for viewing if a page like this were in fact open-source?

Cyberspace Web Overview Creative Nonfiction related courses

Last modified 4 February 2008