Entropic Texts is an interactive html5 browser-based artwork co-authored with Jason Nelson. This piece debuted at ISEA2015 (International Symposium of Electronic Art) in Vancouver, Canada, as a part of the exhibition ‘New Text: An Exhibit about Literary and Artistic Explorations into What It Means to Read, Write, and Create’ Curated by Dene Grigar. The theme of ISEA2015, and thus this exhibition, was ‘disruption’.
The idea behind this artwork/digital poem/electronic literature piece, was to consider entropy through a variety of different means. The first way, was through creating an imaginary space where the entropy actually worked faster – imagining a world where there was a corner of the earth in which things aged and decomposed quicker. For this we chose a junkyard – a space of decay. Secondly we considered how entropy would affect certain types of data, and how it could be represented through data – both visual and textual. For this we decided to use a variety of glitching techniques. Finally, we considered how a conceptual entropy could affect a website interface, as the user moved through it.
What resulted, is a web space where the interface and the story are tied together. The interface scrolls through pages that open up like theatre curtains on a z axis, so there is only scrolling involved. The piece is visually set in a junkyard (taking the pictures for this is a story in itself!), and as the viewer moves further into the z axis of the work, the ‘decay force’ of the space becomes stronger, as measured by a graph that appears every few scrolls. As the decay force moves between the normal earth rate, and 100%, the images, text, and other elements of the interface become glitched, more difficult to read, and less user-friendly, until by 100% it is practically impossible to view properly. Throughout the piece, there are hotspots and other hidden elements for the viewer to explore, that pop up new pieces of poetic text.
This isn’t a fancy trick of code – we created each page/scroll/image with an intentional amount of glitch, and planned this out on a percentage scale. This allowed us to directly engage with the concept of how to represent glitch through text, and digital poetry.
Jason’s talents and my own complimented each other nicely in this piece (as they have in the previous work we have created together, Camberland). We are both keenly interested in science and natural phenomena, so entropy was always already a theme we could easily agree on. We both have creative writing backgrounds, and Jason was indeed at one time my professor for electronic literature and digital poetry. Glitch and sci-art are themes often seen in my work, and I like how beautifully broken data can be at once conceptually dense, academic, and poetic.