“Wordscape”: A New, Confusing Kind of Landscaping

I remember at the beginning of the semester, I was banging my head against a wall trying to figure out what to write my checkpoints on. I used to peruse the E.Lit blog to see what my classmates were writing on (and secretly to see if they were getting frustrated as well), and one of the few posts that stuck out to me was this one about Peter Cho’s “Letterscape” that was written by the username khilton. “Letterscape” is a fun collection of interactive pictures that was created in 2002. It won numerous awards including the Tokyo Type Directors Club Interactive award.

When I clicked to look at the electronic work, I saw that there was a “sequel” to “Letterscape” entitled, “Wordscape.”

I thought it was really cute that both of the titles played off the word, “landscape,” since the word alludes to “comprising the visible features of an area of land,” which in this case is the space on the interweb.

When you begin “Wordscape,” there is a large blue matrix with white letters floating around, a concept that was similar to that in “Letterscape.”

The difference was that when you clicked a letter, instead of a blown up version of the letter, there would be a “landscape” of a word that began with the selected letter. For example, this is the image that appeared when I selected the letter o:

It was the word “obsess” in yellow blobs that looked like the animal cells you saw in a microscope when you were in your high school biology class. When you hovered your mouse over the word, the word began to move in a way like the page was a piece of fabric and there was someone on the other side pressing against it, causing the yellow blobs to move around. Below is a screenshot in case my explanation makes absolutely no sense (I’m awful at describing three-dimensional effects!):

Like the user khilton, I had a difficult time trying to figure out what the meaning behind this electronic work was. I felt that there was only an arbitrary connection between the word and its landscape; there was nothing too substantial to analyze. I understood that you could analyze the word itself and then find some sort of connection between the definition of the word and the way the word interacts with the user; however, I felt that even after looking up the word “obsess” and closely watching the three-dimensional effect, I was still unable to come up with a rational connection to the work like most kinetic typographies have, like in DAK0TA and the Conan O’Brien one I previously wrote about in a past checkpoint.

Since I couldn’t find a deeper meaning, I Googled around to see if I could find any reviews from smarter people that could analyze this work better than me. I looked around for a while and came across this site called Electronic Literature Organization. They discussed how in Cho’s work, the words can be considered “’negative’ space, the yin/yang interaction between inky darks and untouched whites in Asian art in a pictorial realm dominated by gestalt switches between solids and voids, and dominated by color.” Yeah, I’m not going to lie, but I don’t see that…

Overall, I really enjoyed playing with Peter Cho’s kinetic typography. Even though it was frustrating to me as a student to not fully understand the work, it was still interesting to watch how the words only moved when you interacted with them, which demonstrated the universal concept of “you only get what you put into it.”

So classmates, if you think you understand this work, please comment below with your thoughts. I would love to see what your interpretations of this work are!

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