What Is an Interface and Why Does a Digital Poet Care?

Jason Nelson


The navigation, interaction with and exploration of digital content requires some form of interface. It is, in the simplest terms, the element connecting the human to the digital, an extension of the hand, eye, and ear. However, within digital poetry and writing, the interface is more than just a vehicle for content delivery. Instead, the interface is a critical literary component, as important to the creation and reading experience of a digital poem as the texts of words, images, sounds, animation, and code. Depending on the interface developed and how it is utilized, the digital poem changes shape, reconfigures meaning and becomes an interactive and responsive poetic/fictional creature. Since my first digital poem over a decade ago, interface has often functioned as the starting point, the generator of inspiration and driver of the creative process. This essay explores the role of interface in a number of my digital poems and fictions, explaining the origin and literary nature of particular interfaces. Additionally, it reflects on the methodologies for creating and mining code and software, as well as on the techniques needed to give birth to highly interactive and non-linear interfaces, such as game engines, infinite mo­saic generators, and other organic digitally created applications.


strange, sometimes intentionally confusing, digital poetry, interface, interactive writing, interactive art, creativity over all, ex-pat scared of the homeland, art-games, play, digital creatures

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