July 16 2022

Actually starting my residency work today. I feel a bit sheepish because the residency induction was six days ago, and I haven't started documenting anything until now.

I haven't done nothing. I have been on the server, multiple times. I open the terminal, log in, stare into dark blank space. With so much of my experience online being through relatively guided environments – Glitch.com, Github, Codepen – it is a little intimidating faced with the openness and emptiness of the server.

Thought tonight I would try and articulate what I'm trying to do with my time here over the next 8 weeks (and beyond? though unsure if that beyond includes being on this server)

For a few years now I have been broadly interested in 'digital literature', and specifically interested in browser-based digital poetry. I have published several poems in online journals using a mix of HTML, CSS and Javascript, often with the help of JS libraries such as Tracery and P5.js.

I've also taught a number of classes around digital literature. Some involve teaching coding, others don't. Some don't explicitly involve a specific coding language but involve a degree of 'computational thinking': understanding conceptually the basic logic of computation, and how this logic might contribute to a narrative or literary experience which stimulates thoughts or feelings in a reader.

I feel in the past decade or so a lot of great resources have popped up for artists who wish to use computational processes to make art. Some that have particularly inspired me include the books Exploratory Programmiing for the Arts and Humanities and Aesthetic Programming, as well as the YouTube channel The Coding Train. There are also coding resources geared towards professionals which I find lots of value in e.g. FreeCodeCamp.

But these resources are generally geared towards artists working in games or the visual arts. Most of the workshops and classes I have taught have an audience primarily of writers. While these resources have been invaluable, I often find myself filling in gaps between these resources for those interested in how poetry or nonfiction or other literary forms can engage with digital-born characteristics.

Aside from this, I've watched over the past few years as digital poetry and adjacent digital literary forms have resurged across the web, both in Australia (see Voiceworks, Running Dog, Liminal, Runway Journal) and overseas (see Taper, Backslash Lit and HTML Review). There is a lot of amazing writing and art coming out which I have done a poor job keeping up with, let alone properly immersing myself in.

So during this time I hope to do three things:

  1. Closely read and write about existing digital poems, in order to
  2. Prepare a syllabus and/or other educational resources for writers interested in learning to create digital poetry, and
  3. Create at least two new digital poems drawing on learnings from my studies

I don't want to put too many constraints on myself from the get-go, but I would like to try and focus on works that find creative ways of engaging with the basic elements of the browser: HTML, CSS, and small snippets of vanilla Javascript. I'd also like to better understand these elements (and the poems I find for analysis) can support what Winnie Soon calls aesthetic programming: "engaging with learning to program as a way to understand and question existing technological objects and paradigms". I think artists who create works on/with/through the web have a responsibility to attempt to recognise, process and reckon with the material and sociopolitical context of the web. How to weave this in with the journey of learning to code, as well as learning to use code for creative means, will be an ongoing question...

I'll close this post off with a link to some poems I might like to study and write about for this residency. I set this up as an are.na channel some time ago titled 'vanilla poetry' – i.e. poems that use HTML, CSS, and Javascript without external libraries.

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