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Interactive Art



The advent of digital art has brought with it a new openness in art. Where creativity and its products was once limited to those who could afford or were afforded the privilege of being involved, the digitization of art—and in particular, the use of the internet to share and display art—has created not only a more open world in which to view art but a new way in which to interact with it. Jim Andrews’s poem, “Seattle Drift,” demonstrates the movement that digital art has made away from the exclusive art “scene” and shows that art can and should be not only available, but interactive.

Anyone who has gone to a café poetry reading or tried to discuss poetry with a Creative Writing major knows that if one is without a certain amount of knowledge about poetry—particularly modern, obscure texts found only outside of the mainstream—one is probably going to be made to feel like a tool. While I might argue that this is particularly true within the realm of undergraduate-level creative writers (having been made to feel like a tool on more than one occasion), this exclusivity is rampant in all art forms. “Seattle Drift” makes a two-line comment about this problem: “I used to be a poem, but I drifted from the scene.” The author thus implies that by deviating from the poetry “scene,” the poem is no longer worthy of being called such. This demonstrates the exclusion mentality of certain artistic scenes—in other words, if you’re not directly and exclusively a part of what is considered relevant to the day in your particular artistic arena, you are not even worthy of being called art.

Yet, “Seattle Drift” is clearly a poem, making the statement “I used to be a poem” ironic as well. The fact that art is art cannot be taken away by the fact that it is more accessible or even by the fact that it is mainstream. (This is not to say that all mainstream works ought to be considered art, just as with “scene” art). In fact, it could be argued that “Seattle Drift” is even more of a poem in that it is allegorical for all poems which have not had the privilege of being viewed by a large and varied audience. The poem—which is narrating itself—expresses a wish to have the reader “Do” it. This component of the poem is sexual—compounded by the black background of the page and the red hyperlinks, which bring to mind certain aspects of sadomasochism—but also frantic, conveying the desperation for interaction of a human being who as been deprived of human contact. In this way the poem becomes almost human, which further removes it from the restrictive poetry scene. No sane person would consider locking a person who is a benefit to society away from the public. In fact, the more beautiful the person, the stronger the urge to expose him or her to the public becomes. Why, then, has society felt the need to limit art to small, selective groups?

“Seattle Drift”—along with much of the art we see which appears exclusively on the internet—takes this rejection of exclusiveness one step further. Rather than just making the work available, the work is also interactive. The poem’s plea to have the reader “Do” it is not a futile plea. Included in the poem’s page are three hyperlinks, all in red, one which invites the reader to “do the text,” one which invites the reader to “stop the text” and one which invites the reader to “discipline the text”. When the reader “does” the poem, the words and punctuation begin to drift apart. When the reader stops the text, the words and punctuation freeze on the page in their last position, leaving a jumble of words and, for the avid interpreter, an infinite set of new poems. When the reader “disciplines” the poem, however, it immediately jumps back to its original position. The use of the word “discipline” in this contexts suggests that the poem does not like being in its original form, but would rather be drifting across the page. Indeed, when the poem is drifting, it doesn’t stop until the reader stops it: I left mine for twenty minutes and came back to find a page which had stretched a hundred times its regular size and on which I had to scroll through large stretches of blank space to even find a wandering period—and it was still expanding.

The fact that the poem attempts to fill a potentially infinite space when the reader interacts with it is suggestive of the potential of all digital mediums. When there is more input into art than a single or few people, the possibilities are greater, perhaps even limitless. The internet has opened a new frontier for art and literature, and although there are many ways in which this is a detriment, the benefits have to be embraced in order for them to be advanced. Sharing art does not make it less valuable; in fact, making art more universally available expands the possibility and opportunity for art to gain new ground and become more innovative. While “Seattle Drift” offers a wide variety of interpretations through its interactive features, it also offers an infinite variety of interpretations and perspectives through its availability to a wide audience. This is and ought to be one of the main goals of art: to reach and be interpreted by as many people as possible, so as to give the best possible perspective on that which it attempts to convey.

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Articles for Digital Media

Article: “Rethinking Cyberfeminism(s): Race, Gender, and Embodiment” by Jessie Daniels


This article discusses the internet-based cultural divides between women and men based on various socioeconomic differences, but primarily on gender. The article explores the evolution of how women use the internet and the stereotypes associated with women who use the internet. It provides various instances of women fighting against the gender-domination that is not only prevalent but widely accepted both by female and male internet users, and examines the dangers inherent in said domination, as well as explores what women are doing/can do to gain influence over the digital world.


Website: I would suggest viewing the website mentioned at the beginning of the article, hollabacknyc.com as an example of how cyberfeminism affects real world feminism. For a more interactive experience, play World of Warcraft or Call of Duty as whichever gender is opposite your own, then interact with “the opposite sex” to experience in the difference between how men and women are treated in internet “worlds.”





World of Warcraft:



Article: “All the Web’s a Stage” by Antony Bruno


This article discusses the benefits and pitfalls of the internet as a forum for fame. As sites like YouTube grow in popularity, it becomes easier and easier for artists to bypass traditional forums like agencies and publishers/record labels/movie studios in order to have their work seen. However, this new medium for “self-publishing” also leaves artists to the dangers of not being seen, being categorized with lesser (or greater art undeservingly, and, of course, not receiving anything but recognition for their performance.


Website: Watch any of Bo Burnham’s music on Youtube—his internet videos have led him to booked shows and even a recording deal. His videos (which are just him sitting in his room singing) have millions of hits. Compare these to the now-famous “WoW Freakout” which has thirty-five million hits. Which deserves fame? Do either?





(accessed through Chinook)



Bo Burnham



WoW Freakout



Article: “Using Gaming to Teach” Curriculum Review; Feb2009, Vol. 48 Issue 6, p10-11, 2p


This article discusses the various pros of using gaming (specifically video games) for educational purposes within the classroom. It explores the various ways in which the new medium can enhance children’s interest level and performance in a cariety of subjects, including those in which America lags behind other countries.


Websites: academicskillbuilders.com

Has a variety of brightly colored, flashy games which I personally found more distracting than educational, but they’re fun to play around with, and may be stimulating for younger users.



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Avatars and Online Identities

For this, my first blog (and also my first completely digitally accessible cyber-assignment), I decided to go back to a childhood spent playing with virtual dolls. The avatar you see here is not me, though it is as close appearance wise as I could come with the site I was using. Elouai.com is a dress-up-doll site. There are literally millions of different ways to dress one’s doll up on this site—and, because I like wasting my time on the internet as much as the next person, I’ve dressed a few dolls myself.

The second avatar is not me either—it is culled from a website called “The Best Page in the Universe,” which is run by the author of a book called The Alphabet of Manliness. While the assignment today was to compare and contrast two avatars, I think in this instance I am going to have to focus more on the latter—because to tell the truth, I’m having any trouble finding the similarities. I hope this is all right, as the two avatars were deliberately chosen for this reason, or, more specifically, because they display contrasting images of gender in the cyber world.

As David Bell said in one of our most recent readings, “work on gender in cyberculture has…been prolific and diverse”, so much so that he admitted to having some trouble sorting through it all in order to write anything remotely impartial. My interest in the subject stems from RL culture—more specifically, from another class I am taking in queer literature, the topics in which are coinciding with Digital Media topics, at least at the moment. Bell’s work speaks, among other things, of those members of cyberculture who present themselves as a different sex while on the internet, or choose to eliminate or queer (that’s queer as a verb, a term we’ve been playing around with in my LGBT Lit. class) the concept of gender entirely. The numerous authors we’re discussed in the queer literature class present similar people, but instead of changing their sex or sexuality online, they do so in real life.

What I would like to discuss today is a theory of my own, which seems to be growing in my mind—that one cannot participate in online culture without disposing of or changing their identity in some way, though that change may be unnoticeable at first. To demonstrate this, I would like to first offer my dress-up-doll avatar. Although, as I’ve said, it is not me, I really did do my best to make it look like me—hair, eye color, etc. But despite my best efforts, I was invariably limited by what the site had to offer. My doll could be female or male, she could only be white, she could only be tall and thin, she could only stand in one pose and, perhaps most irritatingly, she could only wear the clothes in the “girl” section of the site. In other words, my doll—and thus me—was limited by the site’s prescribed features of femininity. Though she aptly shows my gender she cannot show me any more than any other aspect of my gender that I might want displayed—for example, if I preferred to wear boys’ clothing. Yet since I have chosen her as a representative of myself, she inevitably comes to represent the virtual me. Thus my identity has been altered, though perhaps not intentionally, by the online culture in which I am participating.

To contrast this is the “Best Page in the Universe” avatar. The designer of this avatar had more control over what was displayed, and deliberately chose to display what might be considered “male” features—sharp black and white for contrast, a scruffy beard, an eyepatch—and yet he did not escape the trap I fell into with my doll. In trying to display his maleness, the designer made himself “manly”—a word which could easily be a subset of male, but could indicate another type of gender entirely. Though much of the website is based on an assumed persona of manliness, the author has almost no control over how his pictures or posts will be received, and therefore his online personality is defined in part simply by the act of being online.

If I’m to continue along the train of thought that led to this argument, I have to ask myself, if our online personalities can be determined by the click of a button, then what factors can determine the aspects of our real life personalities?

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