Media Specific Art – Rasheedah and Tony - William Poundstone’s: “Project for Tachistoscope”

Situation of the work. Poundstone has been a prolific and successful writer and columnist. His themes seem to be about social manipulation of consumers and citizens and “beating the system.” This MSA would seem to be along this same line. He has developed an artwork which is a parody of a tachistoscope. A tachistiscope is an instrument used to measure the speed of sight and sight comprehension; as an object’s view is reduced in time, its image is held momentarily in the retina and awareness/ consciousness of its presence may slip by. Measurements are usually taken in milliseconds. The phenomenon was of interest to advertisers, especially in the 1950’s and aroused public suspicion that viewers were being manipulated to conform to consumerist behaviors or make purchases they really didn’t or need. (Keep in mind that, after the Korean War, there was great suspicion of “brain-wwant ashing,” and these activities seemed to converge with this concern. Brainwashing was a technique used by North Korea to manipulate and indoctrinate American prisoners of war). Poundstone (the cousin of comedienne Paula Poundstone) developed this animated project to demonstrate and critique this idea.

Poundstone’s project is an artwork in the sense that it is an expression that uses symbolism and expository statements. .
Poundstone’s electronic literature is a narrative about impact of a bottomless pit inside a community. As the text maps and flashes the content of the tale it requires the audience to remain engaged completely because of the large amount of information in the flash of the text, symbols, images, and background. The interpretative message associated with subliminal seduction is the target for this project. Poundstone incorporates the critical elements visually and connect with the poetics of the pit. The piece incorporates a multitude of various levels of digital input and poetry.

Textual Elements/Digital Specifics


  • Musical solitude that changes with the tone of the flash
  • The audience must remain engaged for the length of the work.
  • A map is provided before clicking start. It page is explained in detail
  • Visually, the reader has to not only think about the flashing text, but also the symbols, sounds, images, and constant background movement.
  • Multiple colors flashing based on content.
  • The movement at times makes the focus difficult and critical reading impossible.

Analysis/Interpretation


In Poundstone’s Bottomless Pit the reader is left to struggle with a focused intention of the content of the poem. The flashing letters, images, words, and sound changes are at times disruptive and takes away from the meaning of what the Pit incorporates. Is the Pit a stand-alone sort of instrument? Or is the Pit in a community of other doom-less items inside a doom-less community? The words flash quickly in maze and map sequence never allowing the reader to come to know the Pit in its exactness.