CHArt TWENTY-FOURTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Seeing…Vision and Perception in a Digital Culture
Janez Strehovec, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Not-just-seeing, not-just-reading (On the perception and cognition of digital literature)
Digital textuality has changed the way we write, form and organise texts with literary features. This also has profound consequences for the way we read, conceive, perceive and interact with textscapes. Moving beyond the printed page challenges the readers’ attitude to the textual environments that intersect with literature and various new media genres and forms. This paper explores some of the novel strategies of not-just reading as a very complex, even corporeal user's engagement with 3-D textual pieces by placing such activity within a broader context of present visual, tactual, kinetic, and corporeal forms of perception and navigation. The not-just-reading procedure is a non-trivial activity, based on the sophisticated and complex cooperation between various procedures, activities and deployed senses.
Digital texts based on digital words/images/virtual bodies deploy both linguistic syntax and visual grammar (and in a case of animated textuality even the temporal grammar). Such a hybrid structure challenges hybrid and sophisticated perception. Rather than simply decoding the verbal meaning, the user needs to perceive the visual appearance of textual organisation by means of tactile vision. The not-just reading is therefore discussed in terms of an embodied experience of digital textuality (with literary features), foregrounding the intimate relationship between digital texts, user's/reader's bodies and human multi-sensory perception.
Digital text is both a verbal and a visual entity, so the reader/user’s vision is stimulated with a special grammar of text displayed on the screen; the features such as centre, aside, margin, top, down, the seen and the unseen, already displayed vs. not-yet displayed are becoming crucial. In this paper, as an example of digital text with striking visual and animated features, Brian Kim Stefans’s e-poem The Dreamlife of Letters is discussed. Already in the author’s statement the reader is informed about the author’s decision to make the piece more like a short film and not so much like an interactive artwork. At the end of the text he states ‘thanks for watching’, and not ‘thanks for reading’, which demonstrates that the author puts watching, and not reading in the foreground of the authentic perception of this ‘cinematic piece’.
One of the novel approaches stimulated by digital textuality (and by the interfaces applied in a process of controlling and navigating of digital texts) is tactile vision, based on the real-time cooperation between the hand, the smart technologies interfaces and the eye. By navigating and controlling the new media contents one’s eye is, we might say, inserted in a user’s very active palm and fingers. Vision is activated by the movement of hand, seeing (and reading) become tactile, and the new generations of words/images called onto the screen by means of navigational devices generate a new circle of tactile and kinaesthetic activity.
In the final section of this paper, the not-just-reading is discussed as a dry run for other significant modifications of today’s perception, such as not-just-seeing, not-just-listening etc. that are hybrid forms embedded in the present hybrid and (re)mixed reality of in-between spaces and cut-and-paste culture.
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