“Separation” by Annie Abrahams

I saw someones reaction to this piece of electronic literature earlier this semester, and found myself wanting to read it myself. I am very curious of the body and minds functions with the computer, as I know I am constantly hunching and working over one. As if the computer has feelings itself, I’ve never thought of overworking it, yet overworking my body due to using a computer. Separation was written by Annie Abrahams, an electronic video and performance piece writer.

At first I clicked too fast, and a sign flashed in front of me saying ‘You don’t have the right attitude in front of a computer.. You either click too fast, you use too much force, or you’re too tense…etc.’ I slowed down and a text similar to a poem started to appear on the page, one word with each click. The text reminded me of a typewriter.

This text is written in response to Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) while in the hospital. RSI victims forget about their own bodies, and constantly ‘battle’ with the computer as if it was their own. There are incorporated flash exercises every 7-8 lines, which provide examples of relief such as stretching your arms, relaxing your shoulders, breathing. There is a countdown strip of about 30 seconds which streams across the page, blocking you from continuing any further.

The lines that I found particularly intriguing were:

“Your body became mine,

but mine, mine

muscles, nerves

overused, abused, neglected

You don’t feel my pain.”

As I was reading these lines it made me slow down and click after reading each word several times, allowing the next word to appear. These words caught my attention and made me realize how overworked and overused our bodies and minds truly are- and we take it for granted. The slide that immediately appears after these lines is “Rest” which then leads you to a visual exercise of putting your head on your legs, hanging your arms to the side, and simply breathing. At the end of the text, it states “How to relax a computer? How to massage a computer?” and with one click, a yellow circle appears with what looks like text that I cannot read because it moves across the page so quickly. I tried several times to get to this point “Separation” but failed to comprehend its last word.

In response to this piece of work, it’s contradicting that it is electronic literature because its underlying message is the separation of the human from the computer. It triggered my mind to think about how much our world is revolved around computers and technology today, that there are event courses on how to become efficient with technology as its growing and becoming more efficient and necessary daily. However, as I knew nothing about RSI before reading ‘Separation’ Annie Abrahams also enabeled me to research about this ailment.  This is my favorite piece of electronic literature I have come across while taking this class. I tried to search YouTube videos on it as well, but Annie Abrahams (the author) only speaks French so I couldn’t understand what she was saying.

I wanted to find out more about RSI as I had never heard of it before. Wikipedia defines it complexly as “(also known as repetitive stress injury, repetitive motion injuries, repetitive motion disorder (RMD), cumulative trauma disorder(CT), occupational overuse syndrome, overuse syndrome, regional musculoskeletal disorder) is an injury of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression (pressing against hard surfaces), or sustained or awkward positions.” I kept reading wikipedias definition and examples of RSI and have come to conclusion that we all must suffer from it “sitting in the same position for an extended amount of time, reading or doing tasks for an extended period of time, carrying heavy items, etc.” Although Annie Abrahams doesn’t suggest the treatments for RSI specifically, wikipedia claims that “rest, massages, exercises and specific braces” will further reduce the painful symptoms of RSI.

In response to Seperation, it made me truly think how much I need to slow down simply- and to invest and take in information that is constantly reiterated to me. I need to slow down in all aspects of life. It wasn’t just a poem and an example of electronic literature, but it was also a medical related piece which further focused on all humans and their possiblities of being effected by RSI- something that I can definetly connect with. Now with that said, I’m going to take a break and step away from the computer.

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