A Tug at the Heart Strings…

By Megan Finnerty

Due to the dramatic increase of type in recent decades, the art of the handwritten word is one that is fading quickly in published pieces. While published handwritten pieces are difficult to come by in the world of print, they are even more rare in the realm of electronic literature. Dan Waber uses Flash, a popular program to create interactive visual elements, for his online pieces. In “Strings”, Waber’s use of this program provides his viewers with a new spin on handwriting with the manipulation of a single black ‘string’. “Strings” allows us to briefly reminisce about this elegant art that is often taken for granted, giving it a new personal twist within a completely new platform, while also depicting some of the common elements found within a relationship.

Like many pieces of electronic literature, ‘Strings’, allows us to embrace the shape, form and flow of the work, despite it being an exceptionally simple piece with minimal content. I was really intrigued by how my attitude as a viewer changed as I progressed throughout the elements in this short piece. As I clicked my way through Waber’s work, I greatly enjoyed that the actions of each one, as they are given anthropomorphic qualities relating to the words that they spell out: in a sense, it felt enchanting.

In this piece, I find myself more fascinated with the text as visuals in motion rather than the text itself. The first two parts of this piece, “argument” and “argument2”, show a simple, back and forth struggle between ‘yes’ and ‘no’; “argument2” particularly emphasizing on the often chaotic qualities of an argument itself, throwing in an overlying ‘maybe’.  “Flirt” and “flirt(cntd)”, like many of the others, do exactly as the word implies. The first “flirt” piece shows a very subtle, almost instantaneous shift between ‘no’ and ‘maybe’, while the second piece playfully teases the viewer with a ‘yes’, taunting the eye with a different sense of depth and motion on the screen. Both of these pieces demonstrate unique methods of flirting, and the motions portrayed mimic that of our own when in the act. The next piece, entitled “hahaha”, is also very endearing. Similar to “argument”, “hahaha” has a constant push-pull motion with a bit of a rhythmic pulsing, each push and pull gaining a ‘ha’ as if the laughter were increasing.  While “hahaha” demonstrates Waber’s lighthearted sense of humour, “youandme” and “arms”, are a bit more intimate. “Youandme” demonstrates the crazy, fast-paced emotional state of our own lives, and the focus of our attention amongst our own chaos. ‘Me’ is shown running rampant across the screen in a disorderly fashion, while ‘you’ is calm and easygoing, displayed mostly in the centre, as often we look to our significant others to keep us in a centred state of mind. “Arms” has a similar intimate charm as the string spells out ‘your arms’ and makes a circular shape to represent those arms; the black string embraces the white space.

The last piece featured within Waber’s “Strings” is entitled ‘poidog’. This piece uses the black string to spell out a very significant phrase, which I believe sums up the point that this piece as a whole is trying to make; “Words are like strings that I pull out of my mouth”. Waber has taken those ‘strings’ and illustrated for us a transformation of writing, using a multimedia platform. This piece in its entirety is unique, endearing, and thought provoking in a truly simplistic fashion, making it a wonderful introduction to the world of electronic literature.

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