Thursday, 4:13pm
28 June 2012

Kaye, the cyborg Patchwork girl [extract]

Writing Machines

By N. Katherine Hayles, MIT Press USD17.95, &pound;11.47 <br>Reviewed by Peter Blegvad

In 1936 T. S. Eliot noted: ‘Human kind / Cannot bear very much reality.’ I don’t know about you, but in 2003 my tolerance for virtuality is likewise pretty finite. Not that it gets tested often. I’ve looked over shoulders as others played computer games, seen a few digital art works online, in galleries, witnessed a ‘poetry machine’ in action, explored a few CD-ROMS, etc. As an artist / writer / musician I’m excited by the Gesamtkunstwerk possibilities new media affords, but the little digital art / writing I’ve seen so far has been stronger on form than content. Sort of like a lava lamp. Until I’d read Hayles’ book I was unaware of cybertext works such as Diana Slattery’s Glide which Hayles describes as ‘a beautifully designed piece that speculated about what it would be like to live in a culture that had developed a visual language that could be written and enacted but not spoken.’ Curious, I looked it up on the Web. Nicely designed it was, but my efforts to activate it were to no avail. Within minutes I was exasperated and bored, the frame of mind I’ve come to associate with interactive media . . .