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Scripting Reading Motions

Scripting Reading Motions: The Codex and the Computer as Self-Reflexive Machines

Manuel Portela
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 491
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  • Book Info
    Scripting Reading Motions
    Book Description:

    InScripting Reading Motions, Manuel Portela explores the expressive use of book forms and programmable media in experimental works of both print and electronic literature and finds a self-conscious play with the dynamics of reading and writing. Portela examines a series of print and digital works by Johanna Drucker, Mark Z. Danielewski, Rui Torres, Jim Andrews, and others, for the insights they yield about the semiotic and interpretive actions through which readers produce meaning when interacting with codes. Analyzing these works as embodiments and simulations of the motions of reading, Portela pays particular attention to the ways in which awareness of eye movements and haptic interactions in both print and electronic media feeds back onto the material and semantic layers of the works. These feedbacks, he argues, sustain self-reflexive loops that link the body of the reader to the embodied work. Readers' haptic actions and eye movements coinstantiate the object that they are reading.Portela discusses typographic and graphic marks as choreographic notations for reading movements; examines digital recreations of experimental print literary artifacts; considers reading motions in kinetic and generated texts; analyzes the relationship of bibliographic, linguistic, and narrative coding in Danielewski's novel-poem,Only Revolutions; and describes emergent meanings in interactive textual instruments. The expressive use of print and programmable media, Portela shows, offers a powerful model of the semiotic, interpretive, and affective operations embodied in reading processes.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31735-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. It Reads, It Writes: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Calvino’s narrator seems to suggest that it is the bliss of reading that makes writing write. Like the impersonal writing act that has freed the writing self from the personal self, the reading self becomes an “I” through whose mental circuits writing passes. The fundamental productivity of writing and reading as correlative practices derives from their dependence on the combinatorial enhancement of linguistic codes once they become externalized as a series of abstract differential marks. Writing and reading release the subject from individuality and open up self and universe to the articulation of codes. As a neurophysiological activity, reading implies...

  5. 1 The Codex and the Computer as Self-Reflexive Machines
    (pp. 15-78)

    InInterior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading)(1905–1906), by Henri Matisse, color has been expressively emancipated from drawing and from any straightforward mimetic and perspectival correspondence to the objects depicted (figure 1.1). It is as if colors had been freed even from the grid of lines that sustain the distorted perspective of space. The composition suggests the flickering transience of a living perception of natural light coming into the interior to animate space, objects, and human subject. The changing frequencies of visible light in their interaction with the human eye foreground the subjective experience of perceiving the world....

  6. 2 Codex Codes: Mapping a Choreography of Reading
    (pp. 79-112)

    Despite containing many highly original creative investigations into the relations among narrative language, typography, and book form, Johanna Drucker’s artist’s books have received little critical attention. They constitute a remarkable aesthetic experiment in linking narrativity in language to narrativity in codex forms and typographic media. Her poetic exploration of the materiality of the printed codex is based on a large set of self-reflexive operations. As material investigations of the possibilities of print layout and narrativity, they show an impressive cultural and technical mastery. She has assimilated many print traditions, from modernist and postmodernist poetics to the popular press and the...

  7. 3 Digital Transcreations: Transcoding a Poetics of Reading
    (pp. 113-166)

    Looking at the emergence of digital literature, studies of the past decade have highlighted the connection between concrete and oulipian poetics and digital poetics (Glazier 2002; Simanowski 2004; Cramer 2005, 2007; Emerson 2006; Wurth 2006; Block and Torres 2007; Funkhouser 2007; Block 2010; Schaffner 2010; di Rosario 2011). Aesthetic investigations of the relations among language, writing, technology, and literary forms have been programmatic in concrete and oulipian poetics. Similarly, the signifying materiality of the computational medium has been systematically probed by digital poetics. Concerns with intermediality, visuality, permutation, and algorithms, and with technocultural self-reflexivity in general, are common features across...

  8. 4 Moving the Mind: The Motion of Signifiers
    (pp. 167-232)

    The important European group of electronic literature, L.A.I.R.E. (Lecture, Art, Innovation, Recherche, Écriture) (Reading, Art, Innovation, Research, Writing), was formed in France in 1989.¹ Philippe Bootz, a founding member, has developed a procedural model of digital textuality for describing the reconfigured relations of author’s field, work’s field, and reader’s field in programmed works. His semiotic approach addresses the pragmatics of writing and reading programmed works, establishing the dual nature of programmed signs (2004, 2005b, 2006, 2012), the splitting of reading (2010), and the lability of the device (Bootz and Saemmer, 2012). Those properties, particularly the relation between ergodic and noematic...

  9. 5 Loving the World: The Codex as Computer
    (pp. 233-290)

    Potential literature can be defined as the process of textual generation by the formalization of permutational rules at various levels of language: from the microlevel of grapheme, phoneme, morpheme, and sentence to the macrolevel of narrative sequences. The structural syntax of language, with its double articulation, is projected onto narrative syntax, creating isometries between linguistic sentence and narrative discourse. The fundamentally combinatorial nature of both language and narrative is enhanced by a method that reveals meaning as the genetic product of permutations and recombinations. Permutations and recombinations are formalized by rules or algorithms that determine constraints, iterations, substitutions, and transformations...

  10. 6 Mouse-Over Events: Meaning Emerges
    (pp. 291-332)

    Jim Andrews, a Canadian artist and programmer based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has been developing new digital Web-based forms and genres since 1995. His work investigates computer programming code as an expressive means for integrating image, sound, and word. He has also re-created works by Lionel Kearns, and, with Marko J. Niemi, he has recodedFirst Screening: Computer Poems(1984), a series of digital poems by bpNichol.¹ Andrews’s intermedia, minimalist, and combinatorial approach is indebted to the objectivist and self-referential poetics of verbal and iconic signifiers of concrete poetry. In effect, he has described several of his early works as...

  11. 7 Scripting the Act of Reading
    (pp. 333-366)

    The work of software artist John F. Simon Jr. is based on material operations that direct the viewer’s attention to the incommensurability of hardware, software, and the instantiation of perceptual forms as processed by human senses.¹ His works are based on the display of code-generated images on wall-mounted screens. These LCD screens can also be enclosed into material structures, such as wall reliefs, Plexiglas, and Formica boxes. Screens embedded on frames or placed within mirrored boxes refer back to the tradition of painting and optical machines while highlighting the transience of time-based processes made possible by digital optical media. Time-based...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 367-378)
  13. References
    (pp. 379-400)
  14. Index
    (pp. 401-410)