Poems for Excitable [Mobile] Media (P.o.E.M.M.) is a series of digital poems designed for touch interaction on mobile platforms. The various poems consist of floating letters or words that emerge or combine to form phrases when touched. Most of them don’t make sense, or only vaguely make sense, and themes of confusion and misinterpretation seem to be common. The context for both the Speak and Buzz apps (the two I’ve played with so far) incorporate this confusion into their narratives by explaining that you are dealing with a language barrier and a madman respectively.
I think these a only an intermediate step on the way to something much better. We have already celebrated the dissociation of word and meaning. We’ve recognized letters and characters as objects of art in themselves. We’ve recognized how animating them can also be playful. We’ve recognized words for their musical beauty apart from their meaning. We’ve begun generating poetry, and have started to explore co-authoring poetry with machines. Now we appreciate the act of moving letters and manipulating beautiful animations for ourselves, but we can’t stop there.
Understanding the pleasure behind dragging some letters around a screen is the key to moving forward. Sure, there are the usual suspects, fantasies of control and power, but surely there must be more to it. It’s fun to drag letters around, to create phrases, to destroy them. However, really taking advantage of the medium involves not only employing touch interface because you can or because it’s fun, but because the emotions you’re eliciting fit the message of the work or add to it in some way. Until then, creating poetry that you can move around a screen is no different than books with embedded video—superficially cool and perhaps even groundbreaking, but not quite taking full advantage of the tools at our disposal.