Response to: Text Rain: The Sky is Falling, Does it Matter?

In Steve’s post about Text Rain, I think he brought up some really interesting questions about the piece and its technology and its relevance to contemporary works. In particular I thought the questions about who would want to read a story in such a fashion, who would create them, and from what did the idea for Text Rain stem from were ones that deserved more attention.

First of all, I think the act of reading a story or poem or piece of prose in this way, isn’t so much about reading, so much as it is about experience. It’s not about reading the story, but rather about the way the technology and the story and the user’s experience inform each other. The falling letters of Text Rain aren’t actually random. They spell out the lines to a poem about “bodies and language” according to the artist’s website. Because of this, I would argue that the idea for Text Rain didn’t stem from the technology providing for a “cool as shit” visual, so much as the artists’ desire to explore the idea of conversation, interaction, and the way that our conversations and interactions are fleeting.

Here’s an excerpt of the poem:

At your turning, each part
of my body turns to verb.
We are the opposite
of tongue-tied, if there
were such an antonym;
We are synonyms
for limbs’ loosening
of syntax,
and yet turn to nothing:
It’s just talk.

The allusion to how the users’ bodies move and interact with the piece, as well as to how quickly their movements and connections “turn to nothing” mirrors the action of the falling letters and how they’re all spread out, not easy to catch, quick to fall away or become confusing. Also, the whole idea of rain which is something that symbolizes a cleansing ties into the idea of washing away the connections and interactions that happened previously. Lastly, just the way the letters interact with the user- they rest on them, as words and ideas might rest within someone’s mind- but not literally, not fully in a recognizable, exact duplication of what it was, but rather an abstract, simplified reminder. The user could shrug them off or not. They could push them away or not. While I agree that at first the technology might seem or feel gimmicky, Text Rain couples the technology and the themes the artist addresses in the poem effectively.

As for what other possibilities remain, and who would want to work with this technology, I’d have to say that any artist interested in exploring how language and communication and bodies interact would probably find some interest and use for Text Rain and the opportunities it offers- which is only limited to one’s imagination. I do think though, that it’s probably a technology that would appeal more to an artist than it would to a writer. However, I don’t think Text Rain’s technology is restricted to only letters, or even to text. What if the words came from the side instead of from above? And moved quickly instead of slowly? Steve mentions the Kinect, which uses a similar technology only for the purpose of gaming. I’ve used one once, and the game I played involved jumping to catch bubbles or something to that effect. Not all that riveting, and it definitely felt gimmicky. So, I think, since it’s a newly widely accessible technology, its potential for games as well as for literature is actually relatively unexplored.

  2 comments for “Response to: Text Rain: The Sky is Falling, Does it Matter?

  1. Steve Rechter
    April 21, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you for the response!

    You bring up some great points of discussion that make me realize how unfocused my original post was. I think it is important to keep in mind, as you mentioned, that Text Rain does allow for some singularly unique creative pathways. As you noted in the passage from the poem, there are often unique parallels drawn between a user’s physical actions and the text. The meaning squeezed out of this duality is a unique resonance only possible with text rain. No doubt, this is cool. My post attempted to use text rain as an example of art games which seemingly exist only as tech demos and gimmicks which may promote discussion, but aren’t all to practical in terms of ongoing usage. We see lots of these sorts of things in e-lit. I agree that there is a lot of “unexplored” territory with Text Rain, but I’m not so sure that it’s a territory worth delving in too far. What other kinds of things would really work on this sort of platform? This seems like a platform designed as a unique piece rather than the undoubtedly “right” way to tell a particular story.

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