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.
Motions was created by Hazel Smith, Will Luers, Roger Dean, as a voice for the victims of human trafficking and contemporary slavery in the modern world. The authors created a kinetic poem that emulates the feelings of those in captivity using four sensual elements: Movement, text, graphics and sound. Linear navigation allows the piece to represent sitting on a train traveling to an unknown location, regardless of the readers actions. Advancement through the piece is achieved horizontally with the left and right arrow keys. The reader can navigate up and down as they wish, but only to uncover some fragments of text or images, in a limited capacity. The text of the piece reads like poetry, pulling segments of text from all different sources. These sources are new articles, victim quotes and testimonies as well as narration to guide the user through the piece. The graphics are layered and occasionally blurred. They provide a stimulating background that allows the pages and text to move around. The individual pictures help to show the intimacy of the crime, as well as represent visuals of the victims. The pieces sound provides distraction and distress to the piece. It is the first element to unsettle the reader. The works intent seems to be larger than just unsettling an audience. It is meant to show the audience how real the issue of human trafficking is in the modern world. The authors are trying to uncover these crimes, which seem to go under the radar to most of the world. [Review by Trevor Arsenault]
When you begin reading the story you find that the navigation is fairly simple, using left/right arrow keys on a computer and swiping left/right on tablets. The story is filled with images and text that move around the screen, video clips and definitions along with music and sound design that occurs throughout the entire piece. The story begins with you being on a train and you are unaware of your final destination as it keeps changing, You are then greater by a stranger where you are offered and amazing life, money, food, housing and freedom. Once you decide to agree, the true stories of human trafficking and contemporary slavery begins. Every time you read the text the substories may be different from the previous time or in a different order. “Motions” grants the reader many examples of these two horrific events happening in society today and just how these things can happen with or without violence. Apart from other electronic literature pieces “Motions” is more like a regular book, it is not very interactive and has a storyline. The moving images, videos, definition and text through the piece are eye opening to the reader whether you are knowledgeable about human trafficking and contemporary slavery or know nothing about it.
Mason Sweet was a student of Dr. Melinda M. White for a course in Digital Literature taught at the University of New Hampshire, United States Spring term 2020.