“Kinesics of Letters” is an open-access work of electronic literature that includes four video letters of kinetic poetry by Tiio Suorsa, published in 2020. The four-video series expresses the mundane, everyday experiences and routines, exploring them in the form of digital, kinetic, poetry. The first month of the project (March 2020), was the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic and a time when people existed in a virtual realm of reality to remain connected and to be human, these videos are from the trapped situation of people during this time.
Users can find the work on Tiio Suorsa’s website as well as published in journals of digital writing and art like The New River and other open-access sites. The video letters are a mix of written letters, text art, and video manipulation used to create “Kinesics of Letters” via Vimeo that can be accessed through any device that can view videos or access a web browser and is accessible in other forms as well as it has both audio and visual components to be easily used.
When accessing “Kinesics of Letters” the user will be brought to the web page and be presented with Tiio Suorsa’s note about the inspiration to these video letters and the four video letters themselves. The videos include many messages on the screen that move in every which way as “letters and words are used as pictorial elements, linear writing and reading from left to right is abandoned” (Bachleitner 306), the words on the screen are sliding, circling, appearing, disappearing, and moving around in order to further the desired effect of the letters. The user can then play each video letter, beginning in March of 2020 and ending in June 2020. The user can engage with the work by pressing play on each video letter, however, has no other control over the work after pressing play. This includes no control over the pace, over which messages leave the screen and which arrive, the phrases that are read aloud cannot be predicted or altered, the audio and timing of the messages being heard cannot be adjusted, the text cannot be moved around, and the background images cannot be changed. The only control the user has is the control to press play and pause and can only watch and receive what is highlighted to them through the video.
The media format of the work is central as the video and audio effects for each video change the meaning and understanding of the letters. Some of the media effects that are central to the meaning and interpretation of these poems include the echoing audio used to emphasize thoughts and routines, the way the words are put on the screen as they are placed on the screen as they are spoken in specific patterns, the lack of words and only background noises as audio to emphasize the visual effects, as well as the speed of the words and images on the screen that are film-like. Tiio Suorsa takes advantage of the media type by using the audio to highlight the words being shown or uses the lack of audio to do so, she also moves the words on the screen to force the reader to look closer and listen better in order to understand the messages to highlight what the creator wants to rather than what the user does.
“Kinesics of Letters” doesn’t allow the user control to change aspects of the video letters, just as during the time of COVID-19, many things were out of people’s control as they couldn’t choose when to see others and needed to rely on social media and devices to stay connected to one another. The difficulties and realities of everyday life are presented to each person as they are left trapped and relying on an internet connection to meet their human needs with very little in an individual’s control. The user is only able to sit back and continue with daily routines and connections through the internet, having a lack of control over many aspects of their lives, similarly to the lack of control the user has in the video letters.
Interacting with this work caused a nostalgic feeling as the sounds, visuals, and messages displayed bring the user back to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as many individuals can relate to the messages of the letters. After interacting with the video multiple times, feelings of worry began as the routines and experiences that are echoed were commonly experienced by many in March-June of 2020, at a time when everyone was and felt isolated and slow-moving with little to nothing in the background, just as the words are isolated on the screen and moving slowly with little background noise. The loop that kinetic poetry is enabled through is similar to the loop that existed during COVID-19 and is being depicted through the poems, “units not yet displayed on the screen, usually keep the readers in suspense… there is no telling whether or not all the letters and words will appear in the foreground, meaning the reader is not safe” (Strehovec, 152). The loop that kinetic poetry is based on is fitting for the topic that “Kinesics of Letters” discusses, being the continuous and seemingly never-ending loop/routine that individuals experienced during COVID-19 as a parallel to the foundation of the medium itself. The feeling of time going by very quickly, yet slowly at the same time, is a very uncomfortable, yet familiar feeling that was experienced during this time of the pandemic.
This entry was written and composed for Dani Spinosa's course, ENGL 4309: Digital Adventures in English Literature at Trent University in February 2022.
Bachleitner, Norbert. "The Virtual Muse: Forms and Theory of Digital Poetry." Theory into Poetry: New Approaches to the Lyric (2005): 306.
Strehovec, Janez. "The Software Word: Digital Poetry as New Media-Based Language Art." Digital Creativity 15.3 (2004): 143-158.