Text is Mortal
Text is mortal. It is scab. It is wound. It is the fallible nature of the skin, of the flesh. Typography is controlled mutation of a code. Text is not sentient. It is not (perhaps yet..) imbued with internal interactivity, internal machine learning, a guts within the font sense of artificial intelligence as a system. It can be. Perhaps it should be. The system has worked for many years the way of toilets, of shoes, of walls and of windows.
The utilitarian function of text is not the same animal as of authorial intent or of literature. Not by many miles. Text is architectonic, it is parts to whole. It is the way of socks and of shoe laces. This must change. This paragraph is ghosts in snow. It is a mutated calligraphy, a mutant and bastardisation of something beyond its resonance and these containers here. Text also is falsely still. It is never static or still. Typography is ever malleable. Semiotics is ever malleable. Interpretation is ever malleable. Context is near infinite in potential. By some dull miracle there is encased here a semblance of voice and idea.
Text can die. Text can be wounded. Text can be engaged in ways to break it slowly down or even away. Sentences are wire form fragile. Text is massively mortal and vulnerable. The mortality within text calls out for interactions that challenge form and function, that poke at the mass not add to it or fuel it with code or code’s textual conversion .
Text is not static. It is held in a perceived stasis in the same way the internet has 3 dimensions and depth and can be seen as travelled in many directions but by tool and interface is held prisoner in a perception of being flat. The fact that any text makes sense at all and has conveyed some modicum of ballast from one mine to another is nothing short of a miracle. The text shared is shards and ballast and things lost and gained, formed and killed by perception upon both creation and viewing or hearing by the person or persons receiving as “audience.”
All books published are in fact never “finished” but “ceased”. An ancient text if translated from the code of words and letterforms to variables and their interactions has more within it that can form. All books are containers/receptacles and leak and are permeable. As Barthes has already established, the author dies away to the perceptions of each reader. Authorial intent dies into interpretation1. Even metaphor is essentially the snowflakes never the same if it works at all. Metaphor is a collision where text itself could not elucidate layered nuance and complexity. Metaphor is a Frankenstein and a Faustian bargain while it also can form great jewels of language and meaning.
To publish a text is to clone ghosts from a corpse. Copies are held cold on paper or as clusters of data online. The draft dies. The momentum dies. The bent lines of letterforms are cold as the grave upon an established “completion”. The clones if read have also killed their creator upon reading. The creator is mortal and even if very much alive is gone as the text is interpreted away and alone. The assumed goal of the writer is to “finish” a work and publish it for others to see and experience. This is true, but the intentions and other versions are cleaved and fall away tentacles to pale within the creator. Perhaps the best version was.…The edit could have bee..…
The book, story, essay or poem loved enough to be periodically re-read is also a forgetting, an erasure. The text is loved incompletely in the way of a cherished memory hinged by surrounding forgetting. The text such as a novel is vivid and not total, it is details and blanks, it resonates and it leaves ambiguities. It is composed by addition as well as subtraction. It is consumed by addition and subtraction as well and is remembered and imagined vividly yet also incompletely.
There is great irony here. The beloved text is re-read and re-discovered thus proving that it has charms within it that return, but also that it has elements that have been worn away after (or even arguably while) reading. The addition of details and symbolism glow within the mundane connective tissues of simple sentences, banal rules of engagement and place and of movement within a textual space as it has implied and established from beginning to end. The turns of phrase or detail also are to leap out from what has been, is being or will be forgotten. This must be in the way one must not remember every detail in life or it becomes a great crushing weight and one remembers fondly the distant firework glow of a time long cut clean from the minutia and doldrums of the present.
If a novel was every detail of a world exact and precise at all times it would be unreadable. It would be bread recipe dull, it would be driving directions specific , it would into specificity. The comparison to virtual or mixed reality to the reading (and imagining ) of a novel is valid , but again incompletely. The book is a machine. Text is code. The machine creates images and interactivity. The story space becomes immersive or semi=immersive within the real ( VR to mixed reality-esque ). It does this with details and with is not described. The vivid resonates as objects do, which is facilitated by blank space around them (or a chair would be an infinite plane in space).
Experimentation has long existed with layout, font collisions, interactivity, plays with page as physical space, plays with physical space as text and beyond. What happens when such elements are placed within the tool? Within text itself? What If the primary tool and toolset was open to new functions, forms and malleability? The possibilities are many and fascinating:
*Text can be given varying opacity to be placed in mixed reality from creative works to texts that can be read in varying blends into what is seen for more pragmatic to even experiential functionality. User end opacity controls can affect how text is constructed for mixed reality or virtual or the effect when read of varied sense of the presence but literal and semiotic of text, words and specific letterforms. A wilder function can be a sort of hallucinatory application of text as written not so much to simply be read, but experienced. *
Addition, Subtraction, multiplication and division have long engaged the code and functionality of mathematics. The same can be applied within text. A linear sentence can be also encoded to be non linear. A long and complex sentence can be also created (and stored ) in more concise form. Creative works can be written to read as is and set it into actions and formal/contextual/semiotic/poetic shifts within the same forms, sequencing and structures.
Text in creative works can and has been constructed tied to location, scaled in programs to be larger or smaller as needed for context, symbology or architectonic functionality. Text can also be in basic construction as having all of these options for any written or text and image involved work. The letterforms and words can -be formed with embedded geo-positioning while the text is constructed and the text can have notation as to desired functionality either in mixed or physical space or to be scaled to a desired location and/or context while writing.
Text can be constructed as words and sentences while simultaneously building tool sets of behaviours that react to how the text is read, reacted to and returned to or deleted in ways that can tie to bots and developed personalities within a text itself. Text can shrink or grow based on perceived patterns of reading and can reward or punish the active or lazy reader. These behaviour data sets can be established while constructing the writing itself thus tying it to text as a tool.
Reductive/ Negative interaction enabled
Text can be made into words and phrases etc and can lay out how interaction can reduce or even destroy the finished text by interacting with what sections and in what capacity. Writing can be creating and creating the text’s destruction. Interactivity does need to be the choose your own adventure hyperlink model or adding data backend to grow a text as interaction and added datasets fed back end can instead erase , mutate or otherwise diminish or reformulate the text being created.
This is not a sentence but a series of bent lines.
This is an odd sculpture in digital snow that somehow speaks with no sound.
This is a series of collisions and mouldy cargo that leaves some trace of itself in transit.
Text twitches and is wound. Text is hallucinatory by design to convey images without anything but letterforms. Text is held like traffic flows by not stop signs but commas and semicolons and all the rest. Text is mortal and mutates. It is time to look not just into creative experiments and new methodologies within textual works but text itself. Something interesting can happen if interaction happens within the body of the letters themselves. Something interesting comes when the rules and malleability of mathematics are applied within letters to words to sentences as a tool set and in the act of creation as well as interaction with finished works. This text will die in time, will be forgotten, already is being forgotten.
- Barthes, Roland. "The Death of the Author," The Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, pp. 1-6 University of Pennsylvania, writing.upenn.edu/~taransky/Barthes.pdf.