Concrete Poetry as Vehicle for Exploring Digital Materiality

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Digital materials protrude into the most intimate corners of our lives, are part of the architectures that shape our dreams and desires. Yet the modes of their production are comparably poorly understood. In the described talk, I provide a discussion of the status of concrete poetry as a tool for practice-based research into the characteristics of digital materiality. As long as we allow code to slip through the cracks of the collective imaginary, it remains easy for corporate actors to misrepresent the character and influence of coded infrastructures: It is imagined to exist elsewhere, in server farms, on the quantum physical plane of the infinitesimal, within the disembodied sphere of formal logic, but not among us, not as part of everyday reality.

While its effects, social media platforms, word processors, smartphone applications, are part of everyday reality, its digital substrates seem not to be. Resultingly, code is allowed to have unobserved social effects. Those who control the conditions of its production and operation are free to deploy this invisibility for any strategic goal they see fit.

At the same time, digital materiality in itself is not as abstract as it might seem:
Its effects are felt in real life, in the ways people move through urban space, are hired and fired, in the cost of products and mortgages, in the manner news items are distributed through social media.

Electronic poetry constitutes an especially interesting medium for exploration of the characteristics of digital materiality: It allows expression of both everyday realities and the abstract formal structures of the digital. Its self-reflexive nature invites the recipient to reflect on the effects of its elements both on the level of language and technology.

Conceptual point of departure for this talk is the classical notion of the poetic "constellation", as introduced by Gomringer and others [1]. Building on this conceptual base, historic and current examples, together with some of the author's texts are discussed in order to elucidate possible avenues for researching digital materiality through poetry.

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Jorge Sáez Jimé...