Individual Work
Intergrams

Intergrams by Jim Rosenberg is a series of avant-garde digital poems published in the first issue (1:1) of The Eastgate Quarterly Review of Hypertext. It was made in HyperCard and is playable on heritage machines such as the Macintosh Classic or Performa. Rosenberg developed the series over many years (1988-1993), ultimately dating back to his first experiments with diagrammatic formats (Diagram Poems) in the late 1960s. Intergrams does not aim at semantic coherence or memetic-imaginary comprehension in the reader. Instead, it is driven by the idea of using hypertext as a “medium of thought” (Rosenberg 1996), foregrounding and subverting syntactic structures that usually remain implicit in poetic and everyday language. Intergrams is an extensive experiment with possibilities of “asyntactic poetry” that are characterized by simultaneity and complex, multi-layered stacking and clustering. Inspired by John Cage’s tonal clusters and musical “null relationships” (Rosenberg 1996: 104), Rosenberg sought to develop an “explicit structural vocabulary” (ibid) that demarcates hierarchical relationships between clusters, such as quasi-verb and quasi-complement dependencies, yet at the same time defunctionalizing them in a communicative-pragmatic sense. The result is a series of eleven diagrammatic constellations that rise in complexity and hypotactic nesting as the reader progresses through them.

In the introductory sequence of lexias, Rosenberg explains the operational principles of Intergrams thus: “Each poem consists of several screens. On each screen will be various word clusters. A word cluster is a group of phrases that all occupy the same point in space, physically and logically. The phrases in the word cluster are meant to be juxtaposed with no structural relationships between them, and the word cluster is meant to be read as the juxtaposition of all of its phrases. When you first view a screen, all of the phrases in a word cluster will appear on top of one another -- most likely making nearly all the words illegible. By moving the mouse you can make each individual phrase in the cluster appear all by itself, so that it becomes (temporarily) readable. For each phrase there is a rectangular area where whenever the cursor is in this area the phrase becomes visible.” In another introductory lexia, Rosenberg stresses that, “[b]ecause the phrases of a cluster occur in the same space, they must not be constrained in time” and are therefore unperformable. Each Intergram displays a different constellation of hierarchical tree relationships, and the phrases and words in the clusters are assembled in a way that prevents readers from construing any logical or other meaningful semantic connections between them. Rosenberg (1994) calls this principle a “non-linear, non-link structuring method.” It lends Intergrams a strong, almost excessively aleatoric, feel, similar to contemporary bot poetry yet undermining the probabilistic potential of bot poetry to generate meaningful conjunctions. The fact that the lexical and phraseological units in the clusters were manually composed rather than computationally generated makes Intergrams a prime example of proto-bot poetry.

References:

  • Rosenberg, Jim (1994) " Navigating Nowhere / Hypertext Infrawhere." ACM SIGlink Newsletter, 3(3).
  • Rosenberg, Jim (1996) “The Interactive Diagram Sentence: Hypertext as a Medium of Thought.” Visible Language, 30(2), 102-117.

Special thanks to the Electronic Literature Lab for providing access to this pre-web hypertext on a Macintosh Performa 5215CD.

Author statement: 
“Hypertext does not go nearly far enough. The non-linearity should be extended all the way down into the fine structure of language. Syntax itself can operate through the same kinds of operations as the hypertext link.” (Intergrams folio booklet, p.10)