Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

DHTML Dynamics: The Stir/Fry/Texts and the Networked Combinatorics of the Wreader

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

DHTML Dynamics: The Stir/Fry/Texts and the Networked Combinatorics of the Wreader

Article excerpt

In its examination of the dynamic heterarchies of Jim Andrews's Stir/Fry/Texts, this essay argues that Andrews's work utilizes interactions between digital text, machine, and "wreader" to investigate the poetics of electronic textuality, as well as to reveal how a database aesthetic operates in the context of network culture.

In an e-mail exchange with Leonardo Flores, Jim Andrews makes what some could call a contradictory statement on the relationship between a work and its reader in relation to "born-digital" writings such as his Stir/Fry/Texts. Andrews writes, "X does not mean whatever we want it to mean," explaining that while there may be a range of valid interpretations of a work, "this range is limited" and can form "a combinatorium of possibilities." He explains that such limitations "[evoke] the sense of a space, a set of combinations distributed over a (limited) space" (Flores 134). Given what the Stir/Fry/Texts allow a reader to do in terms of reorganizing a number of source texts into seemingly endless combinations of new works with a mere swipe of a mouse cursor, it may seem disingenuous for Andrews to put so much focus on constraining a reader's ability to generate meaning. However, I argue that Andrews's ideas regarding the reader reveal how he sees the Stir/Fry/Texts' poetics extending into "network culture," defined by media theorist Tiziana Terranova as "a global culture as it unfolds across a multiplicity of communication channels but within a single informational milieu" (1).

The Stir/Fry/Texts investigate ideas of electronic textuality and how they apply within a larger networked context in three ways. First, the work investigates the properties of electronic textuality by materializing the functions of the texts' DHTML documents and the mouse used by a reader to navigate and mix the texts that together make up Andrews's work. The use of both materials reflects Andrews's concern with the nature of electronic textuality via how a reader utilizes the document and the mouse to construct and read texts in a networked environment. In doing this, the Stir/Fry/Texts connect their operations to the constrained, combinatoric textual formulations of conceptual predecessors such as Oulipo and the cut-up experiments of William S. Burroughs. Furthermore, Andrews's Stir/Fry/Texts are indicative of a type of database aesthetic that takes data as "the raw forms that are shaped and used to build architectures of knowledge exchange" and shows how, in a networked environment, data can be manipulated for the purposes of creating new assemblages of texts (Vesna xiii). The process of creating these new texts reflects the influences of Oulipian works by authors such as Raymond Queneau on Andrews's project, as well as the specific media context in which they were created. Finally, Andrews's work specifically concerns itself with how this textual paradigm works in the context of the network society at large in that it points to the relationship between the reader that navigates the network society and the information that said reader receives, interprets, and manipulates when he or she is navigating the network culture at large.

Through its investigations, Andrews's Stir/Fry/Texts enable an interaction between a creative reader and the formal elements of the computer for the generation of unique kinds of texts. They also investigate the interaction between reader and computer, revealing the ways in which concepts, actions, and constraints interact to examine the potential of electronic textuality and its relation to network culture at large. Key to Andrews's concept is his idea of the "wreader," described by Flores as a "person who manipulates responsive elements in an electronic text to make changes in the text they read" (134). As Andrews notes and Flores reiterates, the wreader manipulates the text within the parameters of both the computer's functions and the text's expressive bounds (135-36). …

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