Jason Nelson’s “Uncontrollable Semantics” is a work of digital poetry in which 50 different environments incorporate minimal words, music/sound, and mouse-driven interface. It is a work of hypertext poetry in which the user chooses one of four words on the screen to move from page to page. At each page, the user will experience new words, new images, and new sounds and music. The poem was published in 2012, and was exhibited at Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature at the MLA 2013 Convention. Nelson’s work often incorporates various forms of media such as sound, video, and animations. His art portal—through which he shares some of his work—can be accessed at http://www.secrettechnology.com/
On the first page of the poem, Nelson writes “within your mouse flows all directions. Create from your wrist, your hand, a tense and sleepy world. And their shapes arrived missing and rideless in the snow… play, oh play.” After reading the poem, the mention of the mouse moving in all directions and the creation of movement through your hand spoke to what I believe to be the intent behind the poem. The words on each page pointed in four different directions, and the movement through the interactive poem was determined by the reader. While the reader had no decision in the words put onto the page, the reader does choose the words to click on, and therefore, the direction and overall experience of the poem is created by the reader. As mentioned above, each page had different words, different colors, different sounds, and different animation that interacted with the mouse. The poem is meant to be exploratory and as Nelson mentions in the introduction, it is a space in which to play. I found myself manipulating the animation and getting lost in the visual pleasure of the poem and enjoyed it because of the choices and sense of control I had while reading.
While I do not believe that this particular poem was meant to be intellectually profound, I do believe that it was successful as a visual and audio experience. The choice of words on each page seemed somewhat random in that there was no category or immediate connection between them. However, certain words held more negative connotations, and many words were repeated throughout the poem. Some of the words included, “ahole,” “annuerism,” “ogre,” and “odd.” At one moment, I clicked on the word “atrap,” and was literally stuck in a looping trap from which I could not escape. It would be interesting to look at a full list of the words and the pages that they link to in order to see the full mapping of the poem and how everything truly connects. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed “Uncontrollable Semantics,” and its relationship between text, movement, and sound. To check out the poem, click here: http://heliozoa.com/?p=133