The piece of electronic literature I explored for the second blog post was a piece called “WhereAbouts”. It is an interactive poem by Israeli Barcelona based Orit Kruglanski and is part of a group of other interactive poem that she developed during her residency at the Institut de l’Audiovisual of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). The poem is fashioned in the same manor as the “Example” district in Barcelona. The structure and history of the Example is very important in the meaning of the interactive poem. It is a district of Barcelona that features long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and square blocks with chamfered corners. It was designed by Cerdà in the nineteenth century and was considered an innovative design for a city because it took into account the movement of a city, including traffic, people, and the optional path f sunlight. The needs of the city’s citizens was considered, making space for markets, schools, and hospitals every few blocks. This account for urban movement and how it is effected by the structure of a city is a central idea of the poem.
The poem is described as a piece to “juxtapose planning and order with movement and chaos”. When you click on the begin button, you are presented with a plain grid that reflects the grid of the Example in Barcelona. Each grey block can be clicked to reveal a snippet of a poem. The content of these poems are centered around urban life, geography, and the people that live in the urban sprawl. Examples of these poems are: “slower than traffic i move invisible,” “who makes geography to tease me?,” and “lost in thought i can be found”. Once you have clicked on a grey block and been presented with a poem, you have the option of creating movement within the blocks. When you drag a block away from the poem, the letters of the poem scatter and move in all directions within the “streets” of the structure. The letters can be moved quickly or slowly and can be recaptured by the grey block. If letters are not recaptured or exit the screen via a street, they remain in constant motion, bouncing off the walls of the grey blocks. Each time the letters scatter, you have the option of repositioning the block so that you can create an entirely different structure than the Example that it was originally based off of. In addition, each time you click a grey block again, regardless of whether or not there are still words or letters left, the same poem reappears in the same way it did the first time. The reader has the option of creating as much or as little movement that they choose. The reader also has the option to create as many or as few letters (or inhabitants, going along with the analogy).
This interactive style allows readers to experience the change that the poem takes from order and structure to chaos and an unplanned structure. This is meant to be a representation of the movement and life of a city and how a city’s layout has an impact on the people who inhabit it. I was intrigued by the way the movement of the block effected the speed and freeness that the letters had. Some movement of the grey blocks can cause words to stay together and travel in straight, predictable lines while other movements of the grey blocks caused letters to scatter randomly and continuously bounce off of other grey blocks in a random pattern.
I think that this particular interactive poem is quite successful in it’s mission. While I played with the blocks and letters of the poems, I pictured the letters as people who were directly impacted by the way in which I structured the city. Some structures would result in calm, orderly movement but others resulted in crazy movement that was similar to the hustle and bustle of a crowded city.
One revision I would make to this interactive poem would be to add more color to further the feeling of chaos and movement. The colors of the poem currently are beige, grey, and black but I think it would be more interesting if the poems appeared in a new color each time a reader clicked the grey blocks. This would show more clearly how the different poems and different versions of the same poem interacted with each other once they were sent into motion. Overall, though, this was a very interesting poem to interact with.