A Trippy Form of Electronic Literature

While browsing the Electronic Literature Collection, I came across a video titled Screen.  The name seemed pretty simple but something about it grabbed my attention and lured me in.  In the description, Screen is described as a “next-generation literary experience” and I would have to agree because I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

As far as relating it to what we’ve covered so far in class, I would say that screen is definitely a form of locative electronic literature because the reader is able to interact with the literature.  However, Screen looks far more trippy than any example of locative electronic literature we went over in class.

The reader is placed in a completely black room and the words start to appear on the walls around them, first as if they are just words on a page.  A voice comes through the darkness narrating the words in the passage, first a male voice and then a female voice.  After all the passages on all the walls have been read, some of the words begin to peel off the wall and appear to be floating around the room.  The reader is able to interact with the floating words.  The reader is given some sort of remote that emits a green light and is used to hit the floating words.  Once the floating words are contacted by the remote’s light, the narrator reads the word and it goes back onto the wall into its original spot.  This process starts out slow but eventually speeds up so fast that it’s almost impossible to understand the words that the narrators are saying.  At this point, the words are swirling around so fast the reader is now visualizing hundreds of words flying around the room all being read at almost the same time.  The result is very trippy.

Eventually, the words all form one swirling ball of “electronic literature energy” and make their way back on to the wall, but with many of the words missing.  At this point, the work of literature is finished and the video ends.

Screen, more than any example of any form of elit we’ve covered in class so far, enables the reader to interact with the text.  The completely black room symbolizes a blank slate, almost like being inside the mind of Screen’s author before he came up with the idea.  As the words show up onto the screen and are read, the reader is experiencing the story almost as if it is being created for the first time right there in front of them.  Once the words begin to peel off the wall, the reader’s interaction becomes even more apparent as they begin to shoot the floating words.  While the words are read in a new order now, based on the order in which the reader shoots them, a whole new story is created.  A story created almost entirely by the reader.

Along with being an incredible visual experience, Screen is an awesome form of locative electronic literature and allows the reader to interact with the work to a very high degree.  I want a chance to actually be in one of these rooms and experience it first hand, but the video is a good alternative:

http://collection.eliterature.org/2/works/wardrip-fruin_screen/screen/video/screen-SGI.mov

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