Carrie Noland, “Digital Gestures”, 2007

Summary

Claim: Digital poetry evokes this body and its kinetic energies in a variety of highly inventive ways.
- Noland makes this claim by using animation as proof of kinetic energy of the author and the experiencer.
- Think of concrete poets, but then take it a few steps further. They are attempting to reanimate the letter, according to Noland.
- With “pianographique”, a user can makes gestures and creates or obscures the meaning of a text. Noland reminds us that this is the nature of gestural digital works, as well as connects us to Hayles argument in chapter four. The artists and the editor/artist - Jean-Luc Lamarque - are interested in showing the connection between protowriting and postwriting.

“I would argue that digital poetry’s play with the letter, a play facilitated by animation programs, can be situated within this trajectory of artists working to reanimate the letter, to reveal its hidden energies.” (231)

Noland disagrees with these claims of cybertext’s relationship to the body:

1. Christopher Keep’s idea that writing hypertext “reconfigures our perceptions of ourselves.” I think Hayles would be happy to agree with this.
- Noland is arguing that when communicating through technology, the bodies cannot be lost. There will always be a kinetic body behind the screen when it is being used for communication of ideas. When texting, the bodies behind the texts cannot be lost.

2. “The body’s gestures...achieve” a nature of being “through interaction with devices such as the computer.” (220)
- “Writing about cyberspace, Keep makes a similar point, insisting that the body never springs forth fully realized but is instead shaped and constructed by the gestures that machines impose upon it. Dragging the mouse and lightly tapping the tips of the fingers are gestures that define a new gestural body, one coterminous with a keyboard and screen.” (220)
- Again, I think Hayles would agree with this.

3. Mark Poster and Mark Seltzer: computer writing is distanced from the embodied practice of writing, a fantasy.
- “Immaterial writing”
- “Handwriting may provide, for Keep, Poster, and Seltzer, a fantasy of immediacy, but historically, handwriting has represented the very opposite, namely, the body’s submission to regimes of gestural training that are neither natural nor easily acquired.” (221)
- The computer keyboard doesn’t take away our gestural connection with writing; handwriting does not exclusively convey gestural meaning.

“Digital poetry is perhaps, then, the ideal genre in which to expose not only the visual properties of written language but also writing’s status as a performed activity, its relation to the body’s dance.” (237)

Further Commentary

Just because we aren't making the physical motion of letter creation as it has been defined before computers were commonplace, does not mean that we do not have a kinetic connection to the writing.

The embodiment of a text is not lessened by computers simply because we are shifting from a tool like the pencil to a keyboard. Though the motion is different, Noland argues, we still feel the ramifications of text creation. The computer does not take that away.

Questions

Are we extensions of the keyboard, or do we create meaning with our gestures upon the keyboard?

Thinking about how our minds are wired differently for technological use, where do you think Noland falls on this spectrum of thought? Does she think our bodies inherently have the gestural and kinetic potential needed to compose and make "letters dance?" Or do we adapt to this potential of technology and expand our potentials?