Project for Tachistoscope [Bottomless Pit]

Project for Tachistoscope [Bottomless Pit] by William Poundstone- focuses on the relationship between images and words and subliminal advertising, and especially for our purposes, the subliminal effect in works of electronic literature.  The work contains a rapid narrative that is set to infinitely loop to a certain algorithm. There are not only words and images that are interchanging, but flashing lights and sound stimuli that add to the experience.

bottomless pit

There is an exit sign that occasionally flashes during the narrative, and is always present for the reader to decide when the experience is over. Other than choosing the rapid narrative, the reader can also choose to read about the history of subliminal messages and descriptions of the concept of this piece.

It is described, that during the narrative the subliminal content is unrelated to the word it precedes; resulting in a subliminal puzzle for each word and image combination.  It takes a lot of focus to read this narrative and challenged what I thought about electronic literature. The experience for me was a rapid, puzzling, and musical experience which lacked focus. Until I read the other information and went back and started to focus on the words alone, and then the pairings of words and images, and then the changes in light and sound.  It takes control from the reader by making them chose at different points of the narrative what deserves the most attention. 

Begin here: http://collection.eliterature.org/1/works/poundstone__project_for_tachistoscope_bottomless_pit.html

  4 comments for “Project for Tachistoscope [Bottomless Pit]

  1. nbemis
    January 21, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Sweet lord, that was creepy. It seemed like the messages flashed on the screen were basically innocuous, but I have to wonder what was said in the barely-perceptible flashes that stayed on-screen for too little time to be read. It really does make me wonder how subliminal messages of which I am unaware affect me in my day-to-day life. I think it’s very interesting that Poundstone allows his reader-viewer to simply turn the narrative off whenever they want. Modern advertising only occasionally gives us that option.

  2. Mary
    January 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    That was frustrating for me to read. The back images were really distracting and along with the music, I could barely focus. The first time through I tried to focus just on the words, but that was impossible because the background picture would constantly distract me because the size or color drastically changed.
    Since it’s about subliminal messaging, in advertising i assume, i think it’s neat Poundstone gave the user an option to leave whenever they want because outside of changing the channel or turning off the screen we cannot control viewing subliminal messages.
    However, I wish that the colors didn’t change so drastically in the piece, because along with the odd tones it didn’t work for me. It also gave me a bit of a migraine.

  3. kutoof
    January 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Your description of Project for Tachistoscope [Bottomless Pit] by William Poundstone intrigued me to click on the link and try it out. I appreciate your process in going through the subliminal puzzle and the struggles you went through to get through it. It’s interesting to see that all these new literatures online give more freedom to the reader, letting them continue the story the way they want to, and ultimately deciding when to stop reading. When I went through the site, I focused more on the text and didn’t realize the moving images till afterwards. What made it difficult to read the text images where the brightness of the chosen colors not matching the size and font of the text. The part that freaks me out, is on the start page, how the halo circle reassembles a breathing form.

  4. bosco1213
    February 2, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    I love how this challenges the reader’s ability to focus. My first experience with Tachistoscope was rather difficult since I tried my hardest to give my attention to everything that I was seeing and hearing. For me, I found it easier to just focus on the text and the soundtrack. The eerie music along with everything else made me feel like I was trapped for awhile even though there was an exit sign that appeared often. Now that I think about it, my experience did feel like I was falling in an endless pit that looped. The pulsating background being the ground that seems to get closer but never does and the text and images being objects you see or think you keep seeing as you fall further into the abyss. It’s not the best feeling in the world, so I am going to go rest my eyes now.

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