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Between code and motion: generative and kinetic poetry in French, Portuguese, and Spanish.


ONE of the most important European groups of electronic literature, L.A.I.R.E. (Lecture, Art, Innovation, Recherche, Ecriture), was formed in France in 1989. Philippe Bootz, a founding member of L.A.I.R.E., is one of the leading practitioners and theorists of programmed literature in Europe. His theoretical writings address the pragmatics of writing and reading programmed works, a topic that is also a thematic and structural element in several of his works. He has attempted to model digital textuality by describing the relations between author's field, work's field, and reader's field in programmed works. For Bootz, the grammatical productivity of computer code and the perceptual display of transient signifiers should be studied in their interrelations. Electronic literature requires the consideration of both programmability and the material instantiation of code in a given form:

La programmation est un nouveau materiau sculpte et modele par les artistes. Dans la visee de Transitoire Observable, ce modelage passe par un travail sur la forme. Il s'agit d'une approche formaliste de cette dualite algorithmes/processus qui constitue la programmation. Ce qui est vise dans cette approche n'est ni le programme en tant qu'ensemble de lignes de textes ou de code bien forme, ni l'evenement produit a l'execution en tant que realite audiovisuelle, mais le rapport qu'entretien cet evenement avec, d'une part, la realite algorithmique du code, et d'autre part la pragmatique de la lecture. (Bootz 2004) (3)

Bootz describes the materiality of the display, i.e., the multimedia screen features of works, as 'le transitoire observable', and he uses the concept of 'formes meta-stylistiques' to refer to the programming codes. Transient observable forms are seen as material instances produced by meta-stylistic implicit forms ['le non-dit du programme'], i.e., by the code that is not immediately accessible to readers. Authors of programmed works move between these two levels: on the one hand, the physical process of executing the program ['le processus d'execution physique du programme'], and, on the other, the pragmatic reality of the reader's activity ['la realite pragmatique de l'activite du lecteur']. According to Philippe Bootz, reading becomes an internal function of the meta-textual device that instantiates the text-a conception that can be related both to Aspen Aarseth's notion of cybertext (1997) and to N. Katherine Hayles's notion of technotext (2002; 2008). Reading acts cogenerate the 'transitoire observable', which means that, as acts of reading, they become scripted in the work's virtual field at the meta-textual level.

Bootz has favored a poetics of programming that explicitly works at the level of code, rather than with the 'video metaphors' graphically embodied in software tools. His aesthetic position--as that of other 'code workers'--highlights one important aspect of electronic literature: there is a software layer that defines its rhetorical tropes and its multimedia materiality, and this layer should be part of a poetics of digital media that 'relocates programming at the core of electronic art' (2005). If electronic materiality consists of a series of cascading abstractions with several layers nested on each other (Kirschenbaum 2008), it is clear that certain properties at the level of formal materiality will depend upon specific codes and hardware capabilities. According to Bootz, the author's field includes the programming code, since this is what is particular about digital media. Writers of programmed works should move beyond the pre-defined expressive features embedded in a given program and they should, instead, consider programming itself as their material. It is through this conscious intervention at the programming level that the specificity of the 'transitoire observable' ['transient observable state'] may be grasped and fully explored. For him, the pragmatics of authoring electronic literature engages with its algorithmic nature, and not merely with transient screen effects. (4) Bootz's work is concerned with exploring the possibilities created by the gap between texton and scripton as a poetics of programmable signs. An important point made by Bootz is that, through programming, reading can be put inside the work itself. (5) Referring to works published in alire, he writes:

(...) they always put the reader in a particular position where he is responsible for an experiment of reading, and is not the focus of the work: the reader is a partner. He has a special role to play in the work. His reading no longer remains outside of the work. Through its dark moments, its failures, its shortcuts, its questionings, and its great place of non-meeting, the reading activity fully participates in the work, is a process of the work, it is an intrinsic component of the work. (2005)

Bootz has also attempted to provide a more nuanced theoretical account of the role of the author and the role of the machine.6 His notion of the incompleteness of the program is useful for grasping the particular nature of author-machine intermediation (Bootz 2006). His creative and theoretical work sums up one of the major European strands of electronic literature, generative or automatic text generation. In re veille poetique (2005) it is possible to identify the central tenets of his poetics of the programmed text [Fig. l]. This work contains a pre-timed sequence of words that use the string 're' as a morphological element in their formation, and which form a combinatorial poem; another pre-timed sequence of words, independent from the initial 're' string, and which form a love poem in three stanzas; the integration of real-time machine-clock of the reader's machine into the internal timing of the text; readers' interventions in deactivating or activating the alarm of the clock, thus alternating between the first (combinatorial poem) and the second sequence (love poem). The pulses of the seconds' hand make the passing of the time a material reference of its verbal content, which describes love as a cycle of 'erotic desire, common construction, separation'.


For those interested in a selection of French works, the best online sources are the archives of Mots-Voir (,(7) Transitoire Observable (, and also Web Dock(s), an archive of digital poetry published by the journal Dock(s) ( collect_f/generiqueanim.html-1999-2008). Web Dock(s) ('Poesie anime par ordinateur/ Computer Poetry'), online since 1999, collects works produced between 1995 and 2008 (although not all hyperlinks remain active). It includes many electronic works from Europe and America, and particularly a significant body of works by French artists, or by artists based in France: Julien d'Abrigeon, Roland Baladi, Ambroise Barras, Philippe Bootz, Patrick-Henri Burgaud, Gilles Boussois, Roland Caignard, Philippe Castellini, Alexandre Gherban, Roberto Gilli, Pascale Gustin, Roland Mannarini, Lorenzo Menoud, Jean Monod, Angel Rened, Gilles Richard, Wilfrid Rouff, Eric Sadin, Nicole Stenger, Eric Serandour, Julio Soto, Jean Torregrosa, Bernard Vanmalle, and Marc Veyrat.

Works by Alexandre Gherban, for instance, are remarkable examples of the generative exploration of programming codes as grammars for producing computer textuality. Gherban is particularly interested in the exploration of the modularity of digital elements (codes for computer characters, codes for colours and other pictorial elements, codes for spatial coordinates and motions, codes for sounds, etc.). His combinatorial poetics makes codes apparent by refusing to work with semantic units or recognizable visual and sound patterns. Thus character strings, image fragments, and sound pulses take on a machinic, abstract, and purely formal instantiation, as if they were meant to create a sensory emulation of the numerical changes that happen at the level of code when instructions are executed. His works try to create visual and sound metaphors for the code itself by means of randomized permutations and transformations. Robotlettries (2007) generates arbitrary sequences of letters [Fig. 2]. In Essayeur Semantique (2007), each click activates a brief sequence of signifiers that include letters, graphic patterns, fragments of synthetic images suggesting landscapes, and synthesized sounds [Fig. 3]. Both works highlight the role of the program as a genetic code for unpredictable and chaotic associations, based on the factoring of its constituent mathematical entities. Readers experience meaning as a function of the associative probability of signifiers, which depends on iterations of the program.


In France and Portugal, generative literature has been a particularly significant genre. Works by Pedro Barbosa and Rui Torres, for instance, may be placed within this post-OuLiPo and post-PC cybernetic imagination of constraint-driven and automatic literary processes. At the same time, we find another equally important strand of visual and kinetic electronic writing that is more focused on the exploratory multimedia features and screen effects of certain computer applications. As has been pointed out, many of these digital multimedia works developed from earlier visual poetics of typographic design or collage. The title of this article--'Between Code and Motion'--is an attempt to capture the structural tension between input and output inherent in algorithmic programmed literature, but also two major trends in poetical practices of electronic literature in French, Portuguese, and Spanish.



Is it possible to imagine machines that write? Italo Calvino has given an affirmative answer to this question in his 1967 essay 'Cybernetics and Ghosts', where he surveyed 1950s and 1960s procedural literature, and in particular those works that resorted to explicit combinatorial processes. Calvino says that the speculative interest of cybernetic writing was not so much in the actual building of a computer capable of literary creation but on the conjectures made possible by entertaining this kind of project. Calvino turns the question on its head by shifting attention to the literary process itself: the writer already is a literary automaton. Even the alleged psychological attributes of the 'I' could be entirely formalized as a product of writing rules and patterns emerging from the grammar of language. For Calvino, it is the interplay between linguistic permutations and the human unconscious that originates the labyrinthine device that readers interpret as literature. The writing self then is the product of algorithmic and generative forms of writing and not an empirical self who could be transposed into written language. In Calvino's words:

The 'I' of the author is dissolved in the writing. The so-called personality of the writer exists within the very act of writing: it is the product and the instrument of the writing process. A writing machine that has been fed an instruction appropriate to the case could also devise an exact and unmistakable "personality" of an author, or else it could be adjusted in such a way as to evolve or change "personality" with each work it composes. Writers, as they have always been up to now, are already writing machines; or at least they are when things are going well. (Calvino: 15)

One of the authors who has been using computer programming to investigate rules and patterns embedded in specific writing processes is Rui Torres. In fact, his works seem to prove Calvino's conjecture about writing as a material exploration of rules and constraints. Most of his computer works may be said to function, at the same time, as a new work and as a critical analysis of his source texts. Considered as meta-texts, they are particularly useful for understanding generative procedures at the lexical, syntactic, and narrative levels. His 'poetic engines' -as he calls them--invite readers to recombine textual elements taken from corpora of particular authors. He usually starts from actual texts produced by 20th-century Portuguese and Brazilian authors--over the years he has used (poetry and fiction) texts written by Clarice Lispector, Raul Brandao, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, Antonio Aragao, Jose-Alberto Marques, Herberto Helder, and Fernando Pessoa. (8)

His source texts are digitally recodified by specific algorithmic operations: a basic syntactic structure adopted from one of his source texts is used as a matrix for iterating permutations of lexical items that have been xml-encoded and fed into the database. This lexical database starts off as the product of statistical analysis of a given author's vocabulary, but it can also be supplemented by new items added by readers for each class. Lexical items from the various classes (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, etc.) are then parsed according to pre-timed sequences or according to readers' interventions in the textual field. Those random permutations, which are open to rearrangement by readers' choices, make readers experience the productivity of the original structures. The automated nature of writing is understood as a rule-constrained exercise, dependent upon recursive structures and open-ended permutations. (9)

In Amor de Clarice (2005-2006) ['Clarice's Love'; http://telepoesis. net/amorclarice/amor.html]--a hypermedia reworking of Clarice Lispector's short-story 'Amor', originally published in 1960--the protagonist's dark epiphanies about her inner life are recreated in hypnotic images and rhythms [Fig. 4]. The twenty-six sequences that constitute this hypermedia work are made up of fragments of the original story layered upon other background text (some of which with inset images and videos), and attached to sound files that loop various musical sequences. Lines are also linked to a voice file that reads the written fragments as they appear on screen or as readers click on them. The text runs according to its own pre-timed sequence, but lines and screens can be clicked on and changed at any given moment. The reader can move strings of words around, altering each screen textual structure. Permutations within each screen and across the entire network of screens result in numerous possible sequences of its hypnotic visual and sound layers. Thus the writing field executed by the writing machine is perceived as correlative to the motion of reading. This motion is enacted as a play within the field of signifiers: the reader perceives his/her own motions being scripted as a specific textual and sound display. In works by Rui Torres the programming codes are a fundamental resource of digital rhetoric and digital poetics. (10) While the cinematic animation of signifiers is a property of digitality, the representation of writing and reading as signifiers in motion points to eventuality as a general property of processes of signification and interpretation. (11) Rui Torres's integration of text generation with hypermedia creates multilayered intermedia forms which suggest the emergence of new computer genres.


Pedro Barbosa began exploring automatic text generation in the 1970s. His early books contained the selected output of various textual engines. (12) With E.M. de Melo e Castro, he was also one of the first Portuguese theorists on the use of computers in literary creation. His writings were later collected in A Ciberliteratura: Criacao Literaria e Computador (1996). His works and theory have close affinities with the programmable poetics of the French group L.A.I.R.E. One of his textual engines is 'SINTEXT-W', a web version of an earlier synthesizer of sentences. (13) The textual templates of the online version are based on three textual types: a bureaucratic document (an official and institutional request ['requerimento'] filled with formulas and deferential language); a didactic text; and an aphoristic lyrical text. Automated pre-programmed substitution of the original words by items retrieved from the lexical database generates all sorts of unexpected phrases and images. The virtual text works as a literary structure that is activated by an algorithm. Default items in the textual engine can also be overwritten or supplemented by new items added by readers. Pedro Barbosa refers to his program as a 'verbal machine', i.e., a meaning-generating structure. Readers/users can intervene in both axes (vertical and horizontal): they can introduce lexical items in the predefined lists, but they can also create a textual matrix that will be used for generating new textual occurrences [Fig. 5].


Antero de Alda, a Portuguese visual poet who adopted digital media, has published many kinetic texts, including 'Flashpoemas' and 'Scriptpoemas'. Both series are based on recursive explorations of animation techniques provided by Macromedia Flash. They also demonstrate how collages or patterned texts already accommodated the kind of intermediality that digital codes have encouraged. 'Scriptpoemas' (http://www. is a series of 80 flash works, some of which developed out of earlier visual texts [Fig. 6]. Each of the 'scriptpoemas' is a short looping sequence, usually accompanied by a musical soundtrack. The use of the word 'poem' in all titles of this sequence makes self-reference the major trope in his texts. Iconic self-similarity works almost as a catalogue of the multimedia and animation tropes of scripted texts, and as illustrations of the program tools. They all seem to show the poem as a function of the program itself, and of the formal operations enabled by its tools. In 'Scriptpoemas' flash animation and visual effects tools are used to evoke objects, motions and sensory impressions through the graphical and multimedia interface of the screen. Antero de Alda is particularly interested in exploring the association between concrete (aural and visual) and abstract (semantic) modes of reference. As with concrete and visual texts in general, conceptual and perceptual effects are obtained through the sensuous manipulation of the iconicity and graphicality of the word and other visual elements.



Augusto de Campos has rewritten several of his concrete for the digital medium. What is perhaps most striking about his digital work is the smooth transition between both media, and also the way digital versions make explicit some of the bibliographic codes of the printed texts. Self-reflexivity in Campos's visual texts--i.e., their material engagements with the differential nature of signifiers (typographic, ideographic, phonographic)--is highlighted by his digital versioning. Because many of them were originally set as typographic constellations on the page, animation has to deal with the openness of simultaneous reading trajectories. The sequencing of trajectories and events on the screen, in turn, creates a material simulacrum of reading acts, which appear as the cinematic temporization of what were topographic spaces. The concrete aesthetics of turning language into a material object available for semiotic processing is emulated by this particular use of kineticism as a model for reading codes and reading acts. His visual texts are extreme instances of a complex layering of the inter-textual multiplicity of writing, and of its potentiality for suggesting meaning. Campos's works develop what he himself has described as intersemiotic translations, i.e., translations that work across different media systems--as happens when semantic layers dependent upon lexical signs are translated or transferred to semantic layers dependent upon iconic or visual signs. His typographic and visual translations already explore several of the transcoding formal operations that he has used for his own digital poems. (14) His gif animation of his visual translation of 'ra de basho' gives us an extreme instance of the relations between translation and transmediation.

The sound version of 'tensao' [tension] (1956) is an example of the notational function of typography and spacing in concrete texts. The multi-voice multi-echoed reading enacts the typographic and visual tension between pattern and sense. It also stresses the structural tensions between sound and sense, between sequence and permutation, between word and sentence, and between syllable and word. Constellating signs in symmetrically displayed structures randomizes reading paths. Readers have to decide how to move between the various textual strings, i.e., they have to construct a reading code. The experience of reading is fore-grounded at a bodily and perceptual level. Reading is both a kinetic and haptic interaction with material signifiers. Reading codes always become tangible in Augusto de Campos's procedural works. The signifier loops on itself by making readers aware that they are performing what the notation requires from them, usually in such a way that the act of reading becomes its own reference. This is where Augusto de Campos's works reveal their specific metapoetic function as reflection on the technologies of writing and reading. A similar intersemiotic translation can be seen in the gif animation 'coracaocabeca' [hearthead] (1980): the throbbing interference of the two alternating texts, created by the timed animation, adds an extra reading difficulty to the parenthetic interruptions that require readers to go out from the center trying to link words and phrases. In both cases, digital versions of print texts contain powerful formal solutions for exposing the act of reading, and thus laying bare their original typographic codes [Fig. 7].


Another interesting case is the work produced by poet, performer, and pop singer Arnaldo Antunes ( His website, designed by new media artist Andre Vallias, documents a large body of works (visual poems, calligraphic texts, digital texts, installations, performances, and books) that show the legacy of Concrete Poetry in twenty-first century Brazil. Arnaldo Antunes's uses of video and digital media testify to the importance of Concrete poetics for new media art and literature in Brazil. Antunes, who wrote the cover notes for Augusto de Campos's book Nao Poemas (2003), fits entirely within the minimalist, graphical and self-referential poetics of writing and reading developed by Augusto de Campos. Although his work tends to be in the form of either intermedia gallery work or visual and typographic books, it has to be considered as digitally conceived and digitally produced, as in the case of Palavra Desordem (2001) [Fig. 8]. Printed, sculpted, screened, or performed, intermediality in his works is always the output of electronic mediation. Because of its graphic materiality his work moves between letter-based art and visual poetry, but it should also be ascribed to the aesthetics of the digital writing space.


The apparently smooth, and almost inevitable, transition from page to screen in Brazilian visual poetry has been wonderfully captured in a special issue of the online journal arteria (volume 8, 2003-2004, http://, edited by Omar Khouri and Fabio Oliveira Nunes. (15) This issue of arteria is an attempt to bring together pre-web and post-web digital authors, and also to link these digital artists to an earlier generation of Brazilian visual poets [Fig. 9]. This issue is particularly useful for thinking about the relations between the dynamics of page layout and screen display. Graphicality and digitality are presented as being contiguous rather than in opposition. Works included in this online edition of arteria date from 1962 up to 2003. Some of the early print (or video) works have been remade for web presentation, as is the case of works by Aldo Fortes ('Cage', 1970s), Augusto de Campos ('Perolas para cummings', 1994-95), Edgard Braga ('Cartoonpoem: poema da infancia', 1974), Decio Pignatari ('Invencao 5: Cri$to e a solucao', 1967), Erthos Albino de Souza ('Volat Irrevocabile Tempus', 1988), Haroldo de Campos (Sapho, 'Em torno a Selene esplendida', century VII-VI b.c./1960s), Jose Lino Grunewald ('Forma', 1962), Julio Plaza ('TV', 1994), Lenora de Barros ('See Me', 1993), Paulo Miranda ('La vie en', 1977), Pedro Xisto ('Epitalamio II', 1964), Ronaldo Azeredo ('Ceu Mar', 1978), Villari Herrmann ('BR', 1974) and Zeluiz Valero ('.', 1970s). Most of these recreations were made by the editors of this issue. They seem to highlight the historical continuity and the spatial contiguity between constellated experiments in print layout and the open-ended possibilities of screen display. (16) By suggesting a synchronicity between the web writers of the 2000s and the visual poets of earlier decades, this issue of arteria directs our attention to the materialities of signification.


Andre Vallias's works developed a hybridism between art and poetry that foregrounds the screen as a Cartesian space. A good example of his graphical poetics of the mathematical space is the digital work de verso (2003), included in arteria. Vallias created a three-dimensional graph in which each visual pattern is linked to a metric foot. He thus produces a graphical visualization of sound patterns associated with four metrical feet (trochaic, iambic, anapaestic, and dactyl), which readers/users can freely recombine [Fig. 10]. Rhythmic structure is thus visualized as an entirely abstract graph, whose visual pattern appears to translate the traditional notation for long/stressed and short/unstressed syllables as they are combined in fixed rhythmic units of two or three elements. The graph can be visualized as structured on the basis of just one metrical foot, or on the basis of any combination of two, three, or four feet. Such formal investigations of graphical representations and their relation to language are common to several other electronic artists and writers.


Another minimalist use of gif animation and sound can be found in the works of Argentinian poet Ana Maria Uribe (1951-2004). Her animation sequences 'Tipoemas' ['Typoems'] and 'Anipoemas' ['Anipoems'], produced between 1997 and 2003, recode her earlier visual poems.17 Letters and words are recreated as cinematic audiovisual ideograms [Fig. ll]. Her iconic and cinematic redefinition of type forms and type structure depends on the use of the vocabulary of optical and phonographic media. Manipulation of the features of type (such as face, size, color, and style) transforms single letters into icons for human characters and human actions, which are further personified by suggestive motions (dancing, jumping, running, walking, conducting, playing, acrobatics, etc.). The use of a soundtrack creates a referential context for the ideographic alphabetic symbols: circus acts; train journey; erotic motions; music playing; etc. Like Augusto de Campos and others, Ana Maria Uribe has translated Concrete poetics into digital media. Her minimal and joyful transmediations enact the objectivist and self-referential games with reading acts and the ideogrammatic iconization of alphabetic signs that defined Concrete visual poetry.


In Spain, poet Lluis Calvo and web artist Pedro Valdeolmillos have edited Epimone (2004), an online international anthology that includes works by authors working in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, among other languages. (18) Like other digital projects, this publication shows a strong hybridity and contiguity between digital poetry and digital art. This hybridism can be seen, for instance, in the game-like interactions in Tetra by Daniel Ruiz ( html), or in the powerful kinetic visuality of caosflor ['chaosflower'] by Pedro Valdeolmillos ( html) [Figs. 12 and 13]. As hinted by the epigraph that introduces this text--'Things will speed up as you go. Meaning chaos might take over'-, this text self-reflects on digital meaning production as a semi-determined looping process dependent on random and fragmented associations of signifiers. In Isopoemas ['Isopoems'] by Lluis Calvo and Pedro Valdeolmillos ( html), lines are geometrically displayed as parallels or perpendiculars upon a grid that the reader fills in with each mouse click [Fig. 14]. The top layer text projects its isometric structure on a bottom layer text, which seems to become its shadow.





In Electronic Literature Collection, Volume I--a CD-Rom anthology published as a companion to N. Katherine Hayles, Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 2008)--there are very few non-English speaking inclusions, despite the fact that electronic literature has had a continuing presence in several languages and regions of the world. (19) The minor presence of non-English works in one of the first canons of electronic literature reflects the Anglo-centeredness of knowledge production and dissemination in an era of university globalization and research standardization. Chris Funkhouser (2007), in his archaeology of digital poetry, has recovered many experiments being made since the late 1950s, and he has tried to dig into the various technological and generic practices across the world, particularly in Europe and America. Funkhouser has linked several post-www digital genres and forms to early computer experiments, including randomly generated text, visual works (static and kinetic), as well as hypertext and hypermedia--many of which developed outside English-speaking regions. (20)

Accounts of contemporary electronic literature, however, cannot ignore the language question. For the past ten years a number of researchers have written about electronic literature produced in languages other than English but their work is still insufficiently known. (21) Furthermore, there is no adequate online distribution and cataloguing of many works produced over the last decades. Preservation and archiving of electronic literature is critical for ensuring long-term access to codes and forms that are entirely dependent upon the changing materialities of hardware and software. Europe needs to start its own electronic literature archival and cataloguing project, multilingual and multicultural in scope. Its database should be aggregated to the mainly English-language effort of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO, http://eliterature. org/), founded in 1999, and presently based at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH, The transcultural and translinguistic dimension of literary forms that depend on shared programming codes cannot dispense with this heightened attention to their specific linguistic and cultural codes.

The fact that electronic poetry and fiction produced in languages other than English have not been systematically indexed and catalogued reflects on their status as research and teaching objects and practices. This situation, which applies both to pre-web and post-web works, indicates that more effort and resources should go into preserving and making these works available. Awareness of the present situation should lead higher-education institutions in Europe and elsewhere to collaborative projects for archiving electronic works and producing structured metadata and critical analysis on those works. The cultural transcoding that is a consequence of the software aesthetics of the database (Manovich 2007, 2008)--which is becoming a characteristic mode of production for digital art and literature-is also highly mediated by the cultural and economic politics of natural languages. Digital literary studies have to come to terms with the various ways in which cultural practices reproduce themselves in the electronic writing and reading space. The structure of the electronic field cannot be seen as purely technological or separated from other power structures. (22) On the contrary, the evidence of language points to the presence of the structures that define larger economic and cultural fields. New media analysis will benefit from enlarging its corpora to works produced in languages other than English.

It should benefit also from considering the specific issues raised by natural languages in digital environments. The study of electronic literature across different natural languages may offer new insights into the relations between the various layers involved in digital signifying processes. Relations between natural language and computer codes should illuminate the function of cultural and social layers in automated sign processing, i.e., in what N. Katherine Hayles has described as the 'intermediating dynamics' between human beings and machines. The interaction between linguistic tropes and intermedia metaphors, as constructed by specific computer applications, sustains the intersemiotic rhetoric of electronic textuality. Cultural and literary analysis of those layers of electronic textuality will raise our critical awareness of the ensemble created by algorithms, multimedia display, and verbal language. In machine-assisted literary production, the intermediating dynamics between humans and computers is also dependent upon the particular semantics and syntax of verbal language, and upon the particular structure of digital speech acts. Enabling features of the software are fed by cultural and discursive forms embedded in natural languages and in technical procedures. Generative productivity and the motion of signifiers operate upon the basic grammatical features of natural languages, and upon specific discursive structures and cultural and social references. The multilingual and interlingual study of electronic literature should contribute to a better understanding of the field of electronic writing and reading, and to a better description of the relations between code, meaning, and culture.



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Peterson, Tim. 'New Media Poetry and Poetics. From Concrete to Codework: Praxis in Networked and Programmable Media.' Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Special Issue: New Media and Poetics. Ed. by Tim Peterson, Vol. 14.5-6 (2006) http://www.

Portela, Manuel. 'Concrete and Digital Poetics.' Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Special Issue: New Media and Poetics. Ed. by Tim Peterson, Vol. 14.5-6 (2006) http://www.

Portela, Manuel. 'Flash Script Poex: A Recodificacao Digital do Poema Experimental.' Cibertextualidades 3 (2009): 43-57. Also available at Po-Ex: Poesia Experimental Portuguesa--Cadernos e Catalogos, Centro de Estudos sobre Texto Informatico e Ciberliteratura (CETIC), Universidade Fernando Pessoa, option=com_content&task=view&id=l48&Itemid=3l&lang

Portela, Manuel. 'Untranslations and Transcreations.' Text: An Interdisciplinary Annual of Textual Studies, Vol. 15 (2003): 305-320.

Reis, Pedro. Repercussoes do Uso Criativo das Tecnologias Digitais da Comunicacao no Sistema Literario: O Caso da Poesia Intermediatica Electronica. Lisbon: University of Lisbon, 2005 [Ph.D. thesis, unpublished].

Schreibman, Susan and Ray Siemens, eds. (2008). A Companion to Digital Literary Studies. Oxford: Blackwell. Also in

Torres, Rui. 'Mar de Sophia: Um Poema Nao Se Programa', Porto: CETIC, 2006, 47&Itemid=39


1. Authors

Alda, Antero de. Scriptpoemas,

--. Flashpoemas,

Antunes, Arnaldo.

--. Palavra Desordem (2001). artes_obras_ view.php?id=209

Barbosa, Pedro. --. Alletsator [2001]. molduraf.htm

--. Sintext: gerador automatico de texto [1999]. SINTEXT-pagpessoal/SINTEXT.HTM

Bootz, Philippe.

Campos, Augusto de. Kac, Eduardo.

Torres, Rui. 1 Corvo Nunca + (2009).

--. Do Peso e da Leveza (2009).

--. Poemas no Meio do Caminho (2008). caminho_index.html

-. Humus-poema continuo (1998-2008).

--. Amor-mundo, ou a vida, esse sonho triste (2006). mundo/index.html

--. Mar de Sophia (2005-2006).

--. Amor de Clarice (2000-2005; also CD-Rom and audio-CD). http://www.

--. IPoema (2005).

--. Homeostatos (2005-2008).

--. Poemas Encontrados (2005-2008). content&task=view&id=2l&Itemid=35&lang=

--. Tema procura-se (2004).

--. Poemaudio (texturas sonoras) (2002).

--. Untitled for Ana Mendieta (1999).

--. Prthvi.

--. The verse.

--. De verso.

--. Hexaemeron.

--. A encantacao pelo riso.


--. ORATORIO. Uribe, Ana Maria. Tipoemas (1997-2003).

--. Anipoemas (1997-2003).

--. Deseo Desejo Desire: 3 anipoemas eroticos (2002), pieces/deseo/index.html

--. Disciplina (2001-2002).

--. Un dia movido (2002).

--. El circo: anipoema por entregas/ The Circus: an anipoem by installments (20002002).

--. Algunos anipoemas y un tipoema tardio (2002). 2000/index.html

Vallias, Andre.

--. Nous n'avons pas compris Descartes. nous.htm

--. IO: analysis.

2. Journals, web archives, and exhibitions

arteria 8 (2003-2004). Ed. by Omar Khouri and Fabio Oliveira Nunes. http://www.

Epimone (2004). Ed. by Lluis Calvo & Pedro Valdeolmillos.

Mots-Voir (2000-2004).

Ouevres. p0esls. LiteraturWERKstatt Berlin in collaboration with the Brueckner-Kuehner Foundation [2001-2004]; Curators: Andre Vallias [1992]; Friedrich W. Block [2000-2004], and Benjamin Meyer-Krahmer [2004].

PO-EX: 1964-1969. Poesia Experimental Portuguesa--Cadernos e Catalogos [20052010]. Coord. Rui Torres.


Transitoire Observable (2003-2007).

Web Doc(k)s (1999-2009).


(1) This work is financed by Fundos FEDER through the Programa Operacional Factores de Competitividade-COMPETE and through Fundos Nacionais by FCT-Fundacao para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia no ambito do projecto "PO.EX'70-80-Digital Archive of Experimental Portuguese Literature, Ref PTDC/CLE-LLI/098270/ 2008", developed by CECLICO-Centro de Estudos Culturais, da Linguagem e do Comportamento, of University Fernando Pessoa, Oporto, Portugal.

(2) I translate Philippe Bootz's definition of the reading function in algorithmic procedural works: 'L'ceuvre est un systeme dont la lecture est une des fonctions internes,' in 'L'art des formes programmees', in alire 12, February 2004, alire_12_ edito.htm [section]4 (10 Mar 2010).

(3) See his works and writings in alire (12 volumes, 1989-2004). Several essays have been translated into English--see below Bootz 2005 and Bootz 2006.

(4) For his defence of a 'general art of programming', see 'The Problematic of Form Transitoire Observable: A Laboratory For Emergent Programmed Art', in dichtung-digital, 2005, 1, (10 Mar 2010). See also Glazier 2002 and 2006; Cayley 2006; and Peterson 2006.

(5) I believe this notion of scripting the reading act through material operations triggered by the program needs further clarification. The specific freedoms and constraints of the reader of programmed works have yet to be properly accounted for.

(6) He has proposed a 'procedural model' to account for the whole dynamics of author-program-text-reader: 'The program that the author writes contains only a part of the instructions used for its execution: the author is only a co-author of what happens on the screen, even if his program is only a description of what he wants to see appear on the screen. The transitoire observable changes with time. The same program produces a different transitoire observable when it is executed in a different technical context or on a different machine, and this is true even when it consists of just a basic description of what can be seen on the screen. The relationship between the diverse transitoires observable made by the same program is called "procedural transformation" in the model.' See Philippe Bootz, 'Digital Poetry: From Cybertext to Programmed Forms', Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Special Issue: New Media and Poetics, edited by Tim Peterson, Vol. 14, nos. 5-6 (Sept 2006). html (10 Mar 2010). For a recent article on this problematics see Juan B. Gutierrez, Mark C. Marino, Pablo Gervas & Laura Borras Castanyer. 'Electronic Literature as an Information System', in Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures. No. 6 (2009) http://www.hyperrhiz. net/hyper- rhiz06/19-essays/74-electronic-literature-as-an-information-system (10 Mar 2010).

(7) This website contains brief notes on L.A.I.R.E. and alire, but no works. Many works produced by the L.A.I.R.E. collective between 1989 and 2004 are not available online. Founding members of L.A.I.R.E. were Tibor Papp, Philippe Bootz, Frederic Develay, Jean-Marie Dutey, and Claude Maillard. They published 12 numbers of the electronic literature journal alire--first as a floppy disc, between 1989 and 1995, and then as a CD-ROM, nos. 10 (1997), 11 (2000), and 12 (2004). Transitoire Observable (active 2003-2007), a new international group, succeeded L.A.I.R.E. Their founding members were Philippe Bootz, Alexandre Gherban, and Tibor Papp. Several works and theoretical documents, mostly written in French, are still available online at http:// and http://transitoireobs. (30 March 2010).

(8) For a list of his works see below-'Further online sources'.

(9) In his latest works, Rui Torres has introduced an e-mail tool that enables readers to record and publish textual instances of their own choice in a blog-Poemario

(10) For a discussion of code as writing, see Loss Pequeno Glazier, Digital Poetics: The Making of E-Poetries, Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2002, and 'Code as Language', in 'New Media Poetry and Poetics' Special Issue, Leonardo Electronic Almanac Vol. 14.5-6 (2006), (15 March 2010); and also Philippe Bootz, 'Digital Poetry: From Cybertext to Programmed Forms', in 'New Media Poetry and Poetics' Special Issue, Leonardo Electronic Almanac Vol. 14.5-6 (2006), vol_14/lea_vl4_n05-06/pbootz.html (15 March 2010).

(11) In his description of the production process of Mar de Sophia (2005-2006), Rui Torres explains his method for virtualizing texts as creative, research, and learning environments. He presents his programmed poem as both a hypermedia textual experience, and an analytical tool for representing texts. See 'Mar de Sophia: Um Poema Nao Se Programa' ['Mar de Sophia: One Does Not Program a Poem'], available at index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id= 47& Itemid=39 (15 March 2010).

(12) Between 1977 and 2001, Pedro Barbosa has published five selections of cybernetic texts in book form: Literatura Cibernetica 1: Autopoemas Gerados por Computador [Cybernetic Literature 1: Computer-generated Autopoems], Porto: Edicoes Arvore, 1977; Literatura Cibernetica 2: Um Sintetizador de Narrativas [Cybernetic Literature 2: A Narrative Synthesizer], Porto: Edicoes Arvore, 1980; Maquinas Pensantes: Aforismos Gerados por Computador [Thinking Machines: Computer-generated Aphorisms], Porto: Livros Horizonte, 1988; Teoria do Homem Sentado: Livro Virtual [Theory of the Seated Man: Virtual Book], Porto: Edicoes Afrontamento, 1996; and O Motor Textual: Livro Electronico [The Textual Motor: Electronic Book]. Porto: Universidade Fernando Pessoa, 2001. Similar experiments were made in the U.S.A.: Charles O. Hartman selected automated outputs of his programs to produce his own poetry; and Jackson Mac Low used Charles Hartman's DIASTEXT program to automate his own textual production. See Charles O. Hartman, Virtual Muse: Experiments in Computer Poetry, Hanover, N.H.: University of Press of New England [for] Wesleyan University Press, 1996; and Jackson Mac Low, Barnesbook: Four Poems Derived from Sentences by Djuna Barnes, Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1996.

(13) This computer application is described in detail in his essay 'O Computador como Maquina Semiotica' ['The Computer as a Semiotic Machine'], Revista de Comunicacao & Linguagens, N[degrees] 29, edited by Maria Augusta Babo and Jose Augusto Morao, April 2001, pp. 303-327. The 1999 JAVA version ('Sintext-W'), developed by Jose Manuel Torres, succeeded the 1993 DOS-version ('Sintext'), developed by Pedro Barbosa and Abilio Cavalheiro. For a productive analogy between the algorithmic virtualization of texts and quantic processes, see Pedro Barbosa, 'Aspectos Quanticos do Cibertexto' ['Quantic Aspects of Cybertext'], in Cibertextualidades, edited by Rui Torres, Volume 1 (2006): ll-42.

(14) See Manuel Portela, 'Untranslations and Transcreations', Text: An Interdisciplinary Annual of Textual Studies, vol. 15 (2003): 305-320, and 'Concrete and Digital Poetics', in Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Special Issue: New Media and Poetics. Ed. by Tim Peterson, Vol. 14. 5-6 (2006), Other forms of transition between screen and page have been studied by Marjorie Perloff, 'Screening the Page/ Paging the Screen: Digital Poetics and the Differential Text', in New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories, edited by Adalaide Morris and Thomas Swiss, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006. 143-164.

(15) Authors included in this issue are: Alckmar Luiz dos Santos, Aldo Fortes, Andre Vallias, Arnaldo Antunes, Augusto de Campos, Avelino de Araujo, Brocolis VHS, Decio Pignatari, Diniz Junior, Edgard Braga, Elson Froes, Erthos Albino de Souza, Fabio Oliveira Nunes, Gilberto Prado, Glauco Mattoso, Haroldo de Campos, Joao Bandeira, Jorge Luiz Antonio, Jose Lino Grunewald, Josiel Vieira, Julio Mendonca, Julio Plaza, Lenora de Barros, Leticia Tonon, Lucio Agra, Omar Guedes, Omar Khouri, Paulo Miranda, Pedro Xisto, Peter de Brito, R2, Regina Celia Pinto, Regina Silveira, Roland de Azeredo Campos, Ronaldo Azeredo, Silvia Laurentiz, Sonia Fontanezi, Tadeu Jungle, Tiago Lafer, Vanderlei Lopes, Villari Herrmann, Walter Silveira and Zeluiz Valero.

(16) A research project at the University Fernando Pessoa, in Portugal, has been working to produce an archive of Portuguese experimental poetry. The first stage of this project, which digitized materials from the 1960s, is available online at This site also includes digital versions of visual and concrete poems. The second stage of the project ('PO-EX'70-80--Digital Archive of Portuguese Experimental Literature: From Visual and Sound Poetry to Cybernetic Literature'), scheduled for online publication in 2012, will expand this electronic archive to include the experimental poetry production of the 1970s and 1980s.

(17) Cf. Tipoemas (1997-2003),, and Anipoemas (1997-2003), (31 March 2010). For other works by Ana Maria Uribe, see below--'Further online sources'.

(18) The website Epimone includes 34 works by Spanish, French, Brazilian, Italian, Argentinian, German, Greek, North-American, and Australian authors: Julien d'Abrigeon, Antoni Albalat, J. M. Calleja, Augusto Campos, Paulo Carvajal, Steve Duffy, Domiziana Giordano, Carles Hac Mor, Dorothee Lang, Deena Larsen, Jason Nelson, Daniel Ruiz, Reiner Strasser, Ainize Txopitea, Ana Maria Uribe, Andre Vallias, Esther Xargay, and Komninos Zervos. Epimone, a flash website project (introduced in Catalan, Spanish, and English), describes itself as 'a place where poetry and new media blend together'. See

(19) This anthology is also available online at the site of the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO). See (15 March 2010). The only non-English texts are by Philippe Bootz and Marcel Fremiot, The Set of U (2004); and by Patrick-Henri Burgaud, Jean-Pierre Balpe ou Les Lettres Derangees (2005).

(20) Cf. Chris Funkhouser, Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archaeology of Forms, 19591995, Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2007. See also 'A Vanguard Projected in Motion: Early Kinetic Poetry in Portuguese', in Sirena: poesia, arte y critica, Vol. 2 (2005): 152-164. In this article, Funkhouser highlights pioneering video and computer works by E.M. de Melo e Castro, Silvestre Pestana, and Pedro Barbosa, in Portugal, and works by Julio Plaza, Alice Ruiz, Lenora de Barros, Eduardo Kac, and Augusto de Campos, in Brazil. 'These experiments represent an important and fascinating step in the production of poetry; this work represents the pioneering efforts in making written language not only visual but also putting it into motion. Using the tools of another medium (video/television/film) to present poems, the applications of technology put into practice here initiated a period of visually kinetic works that has been practiced ever since. Digital poetry's emphasis on cultivating active language added to its canon of generated and graphical texts the dimension of overtly kinetic language.' (Funkhouser 2005: 164).

(21) Pedro Reis, a member of CETIC [Centro de Estudos de Texto Informatico e Ciberliteratura, established in the late 1990s at the University Fernando Pessoa], authored one of the first extensive studies of electronic poetry in Europe, focused on the French group L.A.I.R.E.: Repercussoes do Uso Criativo das Tecnologias Digitais da Comunicacao no Sistema Literario: O Caso da Poesia Intermediatica Electronica [Repercussions of the Creative Use of Digital Communication Technology in the Literary System: The Case of Electronic Intermedia Poetry], Ph.D. thesis, unpublished, University of Lisbon, 2005. In Brazil, one of the leading researchers is Jorge Luiz Antonio, author of the book Poesia Electronica: Negociacoes com os Processos Digitais [Electronic Poetry: Negotiations with Digital Processes], FAPESP/ Veredas e Cenarios, 2008. In France, there were several research projects within Le laboratoire Paragraphe (Universite Paris 8), Several collections by practitioners and theoreticians in the field have appeared, including Litterature, informatique, lecture, edited by Alain Vuiilemin et Michel Lenoble, Limoges: Presses universitaires de Limoges, 1999. In Spain, one of the leading research groups is Hermeneia (Literary Studies and Digital Technologies), based at the University of Barcelona, and directed by Laura Borras Castanyer.

(22) This topic has received little attention in the digital humanities and digital literary studies agendas, which have been largely dominated by instrumental questions about textual representation and textual analysis. See, for instance, the table of contents in A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, edited by Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008, available at (30 March 2010).
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Author:Portela, Manuel
Publication:Romance Notes
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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