Motions is a multimedia web-book that revolves around the global issues of human trafficking and contemporary slavery (Mikkelsen, n.d.). The piece deals with of themes child abuse, sexual assault, and other forms of exploitation experienced by those traveling to other countries in search of a better life. The work is a result of an international collaboration between creators from Australia and the U.S..The project received funding from the Australian Council for the Arts. Described as “static and moving, variable and sequential,” this work is meant to “evoke the subjective experience of slavery in motion” (Luers, 2014).
The text of Motions explores the global nature of modern slavery as well as the individual traumas experienced by victims of human trafficking. The text consists of a collection of short sections of writing that are usually displayed in square boxes or strips that appear in a variety of different fonts, sizes and orientations. The sections of text are written in a variety of styles, formats, and perspectives, including but not limited to:
- Direct address;
- Second person point of view, where the reader is endowed with a situation to imagine themselves in, such as the opening line, “You are on a train...”
- Poetry, that communicates the inner feelings of the victims as well as abstract ideas;
- News-style text, which provides details from real examples of human trafficking cases and disasters such as the 2004 Morecambe disaster in the United Kingdom, and the 2008 R v. Tang slavery case in Australia;
- Collections of words in different languages relating to human trafficking including “they are being transported” in Swahili and “human trafficking” in Japanese;
- Words from the perspective of those trafficking the victims, such as, “London is exciting. You will be free to explore with the money to do it;” and,
- Text that could be interpreted as dialogue or as the inner monologue of the victims such as, “I had nothing and he offered me everything,” and “Why did you agree to go with him?”
According to Will Luers’ website, which hosts Motions, the creators drew from many different sources when developing the text of the piece including news articles, academic articles, books, and legal documents (Leurs, 2014).
With the exception of the five opening pages, and the eight closing pages (which display only white text on a black background) each page of Motions contains some combination of still images, sound, video, and text. Some visual elements remain still and will appear when the viewer navigates to the page or as they scroll, while others are animated and move around the screen at different speeds and in different directions. The images, videos, and backgrounds of the pages are often abstract, or out of focus and include locations, vivid colours, close ups on peoples faces, and figures in distress.
Sound Design and Composition
Just as the visual composition of the images, text boxes, and video clips resemble a dynamic collage, the sound in Motions has been described as an “interactive mosaic” (Baldwin, 2014). The compositions include sounds and stylistic characteristics from different parts of the world that are “transformed with electroacoustic music techniques, including a range of algorithmic compositional devices” (2014). The atmospheric sounds often have a disorienting and relentless quality that enhances the feelings of tension reflected in the text, especially at the beginning of the piece.
Motions is “optimized for swiping and scrolling on tablets and computers” (Baldwin, 2014). The reader navigates the piece by scrolling through the pages and then clicking the arrow keys (or swiping right) to trigger the next animation or move to the next page. Sometimes text boxes are overlaid with an image and the page must be scrolled down in order to reveal the rest of the text in that section. As the reader scrolls they may also trigger different sound effects that correspond to images as they are revealed. There is also a bar at the top of the page for navigation that communicates how much of the work remains to be viewed. Although Motions “moves forward with a linear progression” (Luers, 2014), no page is ever the same and thus if you try to navigate to the previous page it will not be the same as it was before. It appears that the only consistent sequence of pages is the opening five which describe the disorienting experience of being on a train. There are 73 pages in total.
Motions is easily and freely accessible on the internet with the URL. The directions for how to navigate the piece are simple and clearly stated at the beginning of Motions so that there is a very minimal learning curve required. It is also licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Non Commercial Licence (CC-BY-NC 4.0).
Other digital works that aim to raise awareness around human trafficking include the role-playing video game Missing by Leena Kejriwal (‘Missing,’ n.d.), and ACT! a story-based game produced by Lifeboat Project (Lifeboat Project, n.d.).
Baldwin, S. (2014). ‘ELO Conference: Bios’ Retrieved from: https://conference.eliterature.org/media/hazel-smith-will-luers-roger-de...
Lifeboat Project (n.d.). Learn to identify the signs [website]. Retrieved from: http://lifeboat-act.com/#how-it-works
Luers, W. D. (2014). Motions: Resources. Retrieved from: http://will-luers.com/motions/
Mikkelsen, E. (n.d.). Motions: Description in english. Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice. Retrieved from: https://elmcip.net/creative-work/motions
‘Missing’ (n.d.). [website] Retrieved from: https://www.savemissinggirls.com/
This entry was composed as a part of Astrid Enslin's course, DH 510: Digital Fiction, at the University of Alberta in February 2020.