Memories of the Open Road

By Jamie Lee Cue

“Cruising”, a flash poem created by Ingrid Ankerson and Megan Sapnar, incorporates audio and visual components to create a poem that is literally “driven” by the reader. The story is that of a girl growing up in small town Wisconsin, driving up and down the main road with her friends in her friend’s dad’s station wagon, wanting nothing but love.

This story itself sparks the imagination with a narrator of a young girl with passion in her voice. The narrator recounts memories on growing up in a small town, however, there is no indication on how long ago these memories are from. For all we know it could have been a few years ago, or a few decades ago, asking the reader to interpret it in their own way, adding personalization to the story.

The interface is made up of three different components: the background, the film strip of snapshots, and the script to the story, which come together to create a type of memoir. The overlaying of background and filmstrip with audio and text reminds me of a cross between a scrapbook and a video; a way to look back on memories. However, the most remarkable thing is that this poem is “driven” by the reader. The user controls the display trying to match up the words with the narrator by moving the mouse, the reader makes the text and the snapshots move left, right, grow, shrink, and move at different speeds. With the collaboration of the content and interface, it simulates driving a car, the main concept of the text. If you manage to get the audio to match up with the script of the story you would find that the pictures actually follow the storyline. Which creates a feeling of accomplishment and creates the illusion that you are driving along in the car alongside the narrator and her friends, which adds a realistic aspect to the poem.

This piece and its interface is a rather simple one, but extremely entertaining. However, the script is very short and the voice of the girl telling the story is only on the first loop and therefore, I had to play it several times before I managed to parallel the voice and the words before the story ended or was very close to ending. In that respect, it would be nice for it to have a repeat button rather than having to go back and re-launch the whole poem. On the other hand, since everything is on a loop, except for the voice, the piece keeps playing and the reader gets a feel for the piece without the voice of the narrator. I must say that this is the first out of all the electronic literature that I have looked at that I do not like without sound. Contrary to those pieces, “Cruising” without the audio seems to be lacking something crucial in making the piece what it is. The passion in the young girl’s voice brings the story to life and creates that picture of looking back at being an enthusiastic teenager with her whole life in front of her. Without the sound the story takes on a more drab tone.

Through its simplistic interface, passionate narrator and relatable story this piece creates an interactive personal relationship with the reader, one that I have not felt by many other electronic poems.

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