Text Under Glass: The Place of Writing within Interactive Objects

Critical Writing
Record Status: 
Abstract (in English): 

This presentation explores the theoretical implications of the ways in which text is used within
interactive glass objects. As car windshields, kitchen counters, bathroom mirrors, restaurant
tabletops, and other glass surfaces are increasingly wired to respond to human touch, how does
this change our perception of the text housed therein and what stories does this text tell us about
the state of interactive objects?

This presentation generates new lines of inquiry into the status of “electronic literature” as
writing itself is brought to life in everyday glass objects. The discussion draws evocative
connections between the history of depictions of glass and emergent discourses within the
technology sector that envision glass as holding unique promise for new forms of interaction
between humans, as well as between humans and objects. Examining glass as an object
continually calls our attention to the very thing that is supposed to be transparent yet mitigates
relations between people, information, and machines, as well as between people and their desired
objects and experiences. [.............] Indeed, many interactive glass surfaces
are designed to respond to the natural electricity generated by the human body. Thus, these
technologies not only blur boundaries between humans and machines but also call into question
binary distinctions between subjects and objects.

Our presentation considers the ramifications of text within these objects by examining it within
the terms of object-oriented theory and discussions of material culture, as well as within the
context of ongoing discussions about the intersections between technology and culture. The
presentation has two major components. The first involves a close reading of the narrative of
Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass,” which has received over 22 million views on YouTube during
the past year-and-a-half. The second showcases the presenters’ own collaborative project,
“Thirteen Ways of Looking at Glass.” This is an interactive image/text storytelling project that
takes inspiration from Wallace Stevens’ poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” The
interdisciplinary piece explores the nodes where photography about glass and creative writing
intersect. In turn, it generates insight not only into the Corning film but also into the changing
nature of reading within the space of everyday interactive objects.

(Source: Author's introduction)

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Record posted by: 
Thor Baukhol Madsen