Individual Work

Mary Flanagan's [theHouse] is a digital poem-environment that consists of strings of transparent, three-dimensional, occasionally intersecting, shifting boxes that are accompanied by paired lines, which in turn are re-combined as the piece progresses; we may watch them as they move across the screen, grow larger or smaller or rotate so that we read them in reverse—as if we could walk to the back of our language. Or, should we want to determine the shape and direction of the text/boxes, we can try to interact with the text/boxes through the mouse. Since Flanagan writes that "[a]s in much of electronic literature, the experience of the work as an intimate, interactive, screen-based piece is essential to understanding and appreciating it,"the experience of interacting with this text-environment is primarily one of struggle or difficulty since there is no way to gain control over the text—no way to determine the direction in which the piece shifts. Pulling right on the mouse does not guarantee that the text will also shift right or rotate clockwise; moving the mouse up does not necessarily allow us to venture deep inside the boxes or the text—we may have just flipped the boxes/text or moved to a bird's eye view of this strange computer-text-organism. Thus, despite my interactions with the text, despite the fact that I can "read" most of the lines, in its difficulty [theHouse] is at least in part about the mediating effects of an interface that, despite Flanagan's claim above, offers intimacy while also declining it.