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A Quick Note on Swift Current: the World's First E-Journal
Lucas Mulder

From OL3: open letter on lines online (2000)


Where can I find tourist information for the state Pennsylvania? Where can I find the Web site for the company BMW? Where can I find a concise encyclopedia article on temples? Who is the Secretary of the Department of Energy? How can I find a roommate through Roommate BBS? Who was the philosopher Aristotle? What are the rules for the card game Oh Hell!? Where can I find the official Web site for cities in North Dakota? Where can I find a concise encyclopedia article on explosives? Where can I find information about the mythological creature phoenix? Where can I find pictures and stats for Pokemon 145: Zapdos for the Pokemon trading card game? How do I say a word in Spanish? Where is/are Mauritania? Where can I learn about the architect Michelangelo? Where can I find downloads, tech info, reviews, and hints for the PC game Quake III Arena? Where can I find information on the animal dolphin & porpoise? Where can I find online airfare specials from Northwest Airlines "CyberSaver" fares? How can I find a yellow pages listing for Restaurants in Fort Worth, TX? Where can I find a concise encyclopedia article on Canberra? Where can I find a landform map of the state Pennsylvania? Where can I find tourist information for the state Pennsylvania? Where can I find geographical information for the country Ukraine? How do I say "Hello" in multiple languages? Where can I find pictures and stats for Pokemon 142: Aerodactyl for the Pokemon trading card game? How old am I? How do I choose a good gym or health club to get in shape? What is gene therapy? Who was the philosopher Socrates? Where can I find pictures and stats for Pokemon 143: Snorlax for the Pokemon trading card game? What is the latest news coverage on gene therapy? Where can I find education and career resources for psychology? Where can I find a concise encyclopedia article on temples? Where can I find information about the movie Wizard of Oz? Where can I learn about the medical test fecal occult blood? Where can I find the population of the state Alabama? Where can I see pictures of monuments? What does the computing term Universal Serial Bus mean? Where can I learn about the mathematician Einstein? Where can I learn about America from 1930-1939? What are the rules for the card game Mao? Where can I see pictures of teepees? Where can I find information about ancient Mayan Culture? What is the answer to the career-planning question: how can I find the right career for me? Where can I find a web cam of puppies? Where can I find geographical information for the country Ukraine? Where is the fun Web site Love Calculator? Where can I find information on the animal hummingbird? Where can I find hints, codes and cheats for the PlayStation game 1 On 1? Where can I find a map of Europe? Where can I buy craft supplies online? Where can I listen to music online? Who won the World Series in 1995? Where is/are Suriname? Where can I find car reviews for the Volkswagen Passat GLX Wagon? Where can I find information on Pokemon gym leaders for the game Pokemon? Where can I see pictures of dolphins? Where can I find real estate listings in Tennessee? Where can I find product reviews for digital audio recorder? Where can I find quotations by Socrates? Where can I take an online tutorial on Web design? Where can I find geographical information for the country Norway? Where can I find the official Web site of the U.S. United States Mint? Where can I find information of the type government information for the state Connecticut? Where can I learn about kissing? How do I pick the right dog breed for me?

* 5 minutes with the Ask Jeeves search engine.



Aracanod, bielpeckseda, crasator, quarerog, diatapat, aindedips, alauboam, osabli, biristip, espubions, whoyclet, cessened, stesulned, fisterevs, ersekest, grer, vilyrryntuent, loolorer, honsione, flonimit, junyferr, gellip, utsurust, cethasts, eelam, nootaten, beal, deyesia, artogial, cenafind, bridarin, preawarc, erecavie, chap, cipested, inscihing, ersuid, dosineros, etederop, quie, esseto, strule, stes, ongoiflos, surniong, huss, orrisynt, psitythib, urtukous, klum, purb, zeds, silloginc, hocta, flata, orariros, quatasaft, esual, epacce, dechamis, ansenarme, wagrab, bienined, berserse, chederin, ciptesse, demidios, molodels, dishesest, forigret, entine, inglore, grei, otiosuil, ounil, lytropsim, oppu, gurtupret, tenipron, astabreg, alopasee, atedacit, anea, aterse, achi, allodisp, angi, inelachir, cabilcab, cetedotun, criegiem, hilydulp, deni, donsouse, indo, omelod, orsequet, priogret, morilogy, uiti, stitirist, rusp, vite, sper, arkiebead, addedletain, qual, derabosy, essucran, mosebrail, cycoynarn, aniegish, graus, stat, hiermlec, joct, cockeloil, vonisuct, dupin, stridogin, lessosen, hestshe, entoreal, gutipreg, homedefor, fleonasp, grumsoff, ustoting, stiticit

Vess, start, asarslaga, istuacing, anderte, beadi, andin, cipla, heatie, ateraerp, arma, cleebout, chou, chress, coee, griequos, pseefies, inelti, ersitrad, outsinne, fiesoror, ossefilin, esor, erle, folo, yetlopin. Inti, illo, utsu, cratuoy, asad, cractili, agedesen, boma, giaco, orsagosy, quai, arnyflus, starists, blalcalab, holiblias, incefeti, motecest, kentedd, indedres, eeri, oriserse, ersenose, preehing, inguen, lyelo, holuhing, puspatin, opskijurs, proutvo, lineport, ster.

* 5 minutes with Neil Hennessy’s Jabberwocky project.



In his recent introduction to a book on the Magnum photographers, Michael Ignatieff termed our current inundation with electronic media as a "moronic inferno." I like this description; I feel it gets to the heart of the Internet as it currently exists: advertisements disguised as content, 24/7 shopping, 24/7 news, 24/7 sports, porn, webcams, porn webcams, pages dedicated to listing webcams, pages dedicated to listing porn webcams, search engines, portals, verticals. All of this fueled by a technology industry dedicated to making the web faster, easier to use, more media rich. If the Internet has one tradition its that of rampant technology.

And while it’s part of the current problem, its almost certainly this technology that will provides us with the means to make something of this moronic inferno, or at least humanize its traditions. To date art has tended to fail on the Web, largely because it tended to be too "Internet", it made use of the conventions in ways too close to the conventions. Here I am thinking of early hypertext poems, which were merely hypertext, they certainly explored the new ways of reading involved with the technology, but not in ways any different than the technology itself. Poets weren’t so much publishing poems to the Web, but publishing poems for the Web. The work seemed fresh only so long as the technology did, which in Internet time is about 6 months.

This is where these new technologies, and a new brand of poets are changing things. The poets are dedicated to bringing the traditions of any number of literary schools (read: dada, language, concrete poetry, sound poetry, etc.) to the Web intact, but clearly augmented. The technologies, such as Macromedia Flash, a vector based graphics animation program, are providing the augmentation, or at least the avenues to pursue it. Flash allows text to float, fall, fade, shift, splinter, expand, all displayed with crisp detail (gone are the text jaggies of animated gifs). The latest version of the program includes robust sound capabilities, and more importantly a scripting language that allows writers to change aspects of the output depending on user inputs such as keystrokes, or mouse movements. Darren Wershler-Henry has called the Website "the first genuinely new artistic compositional unit" in a long while, and Flash is playing an increasingly large role in this. Suddenly poets are faced with a whole new range of dynamics that can be applied to what once could only exist statically, or perhaps in series. Words, letters are no longer moored to the page, they are free to re-examine the "page" and what it means to be confined, or not confined within it. Where previously electronic poetry focused on the paths a reading could take within a larger context, text linking to text linking to text, electronic poetry can now take things a step further and examine the process involved in making a poem, allowing the poem to be "rewritten" and thus "reread" by users, via simple inputs such as clicking or dragging the mouse.

Brian Kim Stephans has created beautiful examples of this type of interactivity. In Brian’s work letters float back and forth between to sides of the screen, a la Jan Tschichold playing Pong, their shift dependant on the user sweeping the pointer across the screen. In another, the poem is painted in a series of repeated words and textual flourishes again dependant on the movement of the mouse. This level of interactivity signals a real change in the way we use the Web for art. Interactivity has always been the pipe dream of the Internet community, something promised but never really delivered in any meaningful way. I’m not necessarily interested if a website remembers my name, even less if it automatically subscribes me to a newsletter, but I am interested if I can write a whole book of someone else’s poems (in effect what Brian’s work does, not only allowing me to read his poems in my own way, but to write them in my own way as well.)

Another way that electronic poetry is making inroads is by subverting older technologies that on their own are not necessarily dynamic, or even well suited to poetry. Damian lopes has played with the idea of navigation within a site, a web standard so sacred whole careers are made of defining what is right and wrong. In his Sensory Deprivation the "click" of forward movement, the one thing that grounds us, and is ultimately in our control, is replaced with the "non-click", with nothing. Sensory Deprivation seemingly navigates itself, loading new pages at will, moving itself further and further along at the very moment you attempt to interact with it. You quickly learn the means to regain control but not before you realize that the Website can be viewed as a canvas, and not merely as a container, which it has been previously.

Another poet working closely with subverting technology is Neil Hennessy. His Jabberwocky project (the output of which comprises the second paragraph of this piece) is a complex set of algorithms programmed in Java. Jabberwocky sets a random bunch of letters on a lexical collision course. When letters collide they will either join into text-gloms, fragments of a possible speech, or bounce off each other depending on their frequency in the language. In turn text-gloms will attach themselves onto other text-gloms if able, or disintegrate if they become lexically unstable, reentering the pool for further adventure. Watching this piece unfold is like being privy to a highly ritualized mating ceremony, the outcome of which being predetermined, though not necessarily so. The beauty, and subtlety involved in this, and similar pieces by Neil, is astounding.

The Web today is a series of idiotic search strings, t&a, ego, and order forms. The web tomorrow will be a series of idiotic search strings, t&a, ego, and order forms, though amongst the noise will be a growing number of websites examining the potential of new technologies, reworking older ones, and genuinely exploring the ways in which art and technology can come together. For the most part work of this nature is in its infancy. The poetry being produced has a real excitement to it and is clearly the rough edge of something great to come. The poets mentioned above are only a few of those working today, their work only a few of the fine experiments taking place. As the tools needed to create electronic poetry become easier to use, and computers become cheaper and more powerful we will see it flourish. (ah technology, didn’t I say it was part of the problem, hmmm.) It seems that there is always someone, somewhere touting a brave new Internet, a new way of thinking about, or looking at, or using the Web, but never to any avail. We have had nothing but small miracles to date, but if anything has the potential to institute some change, to finally present us with meaningful interactivity; solid, challenging content; return readership; all benchmarks of a successful Web, it is certainly the new poetics presented by online poetry.

OL3: open letter on lines online | UbuWeb