Strange Rain and the Poetics of Motion and Touch
Mark Sample provides a close-reading of one work that takes advantage of the “interface free” multitouch display: released in the last year, “Strange Rain” is an experiment in digital storytelling for Apple iOS devices (the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) designed by new media artist Erik Loyer.
As dark storm clouds shroud the screen of the iOS device, the player can take advantage of the way in which the multi-touch interface is supposedly “interface-free” – the player can touch and tap its surface, causing what Loyer describes as “twisting columns of rain” to splash down upon the player’s first-person perspective. In the app’s “whispers” and “story” modes “Strange Rain” unites two longstanding tropes of e-literature: the car crash – the most famous occurring in Michael Joyce’s Afternoon (1990); and falling letters – words that descend on the screen or even in large-scale installation pieces such as Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv’s Text Rain (1999). Sample argues “Strange Rain” transcends the familiar tropes of car crashes and falling text, reconfiguring the interface as a means to transform confusion into certainty, and paradoxically, intimacy into alienation.
(Source: Author's abstract)
Sample's paper was presented at the MLA 2012 Special Session "Reading Writing Interfaces: E-Literature's Past and Present.
I’m fascinated by with this tension between slow tapping and fast tapping—what I call haptic density—because it reveals the outer edges of the interface of the system. Quite literally.
Instead of interfaces, what about thresholds, liminal spaces between two distinct elements. How does Strange Rain or any piece of digital expressive culture have both an interface, and a threshold, or thresholds? What are the edges of the work? And what do we discover when we transgress them?