Nio – Chris Wilcox

Nio: The Audio Tool

By Chris Wilcox

The literary-audio piece Nio is a very short, interactive sound board written and designed by Jim Andrews. Through the use of visual and audio elements, the user experiences their own “poem” that they create based on a limited number of sound selections. To do this, the user plays up to six different sounds at any given time in verse one and four sounds in verse two. The first verse is shown to the user in the form of a circle with several symbols made up of jumbled letters. Each time the user clicks on a symbol it plays a short, recorded “be-bop” like tune which is Andrews’ own voice. In addition to the sound being played, the letters in the symbol selected fly through the center of the circle in a repetitive manner.

While Nio is very fun to play with, I felt that there was a lack of poetry in Andrews’ work. Arguably one might say that the poetry aspect of Nio is in the work as a whole rather than just the sounds. Simply put, the programming by Andrews coupled with the user’s input, creates the poem. This view is shared in the first paragraph of the ELC’s mini introduction about Andrews. The introduction states that Nio is a form of visual poetry which challenges the user to think of literature as something which is not just confined to the world of “words and lines”. Though Nio may be classified as such a work, I did not see it as a leading example.

To me Nio seemed more like that of a neat tool which allows anyone to turn their keyboard and mouse into a music making paintbrush. Andrews even claims in the “About” section of Nio that his goal in this work, as well as previous works, was to be able to create a simple and easy online music making platform through computer programming. In Andrews’ explanation and biography he repeatedly brings up the importance of coding and it’s relation to poetry. While I see the point Andrews is trying to make, I argue that something as simple as a web page or those annoying Flash advertisements could then be looked at as poetry. Both the web page and the advertisement share the same basis as Nio which would be the programming language. Furthermore, they have some sense of interaction and audio or visual experience. Because so many other electronic works out there share such a similar basis, I cannot agree with the idea that Andrews’ works are part of literature.

While the ELC classifies Nio as poetic and literary, I argue that it is just a tool for individual use and leisure. Due to the fact that all of Andrews’ works linger on the border between poetry and programming, I find it hard to fully classify Nio as a poem. Though it is definitely worth taking a look at, someone expecting to glean a deeper meaning out of it will be highly dissatisfied.

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