Some stylistic devices on media interface

Critical Writing
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author-submitted abstract: In the past, the “innovations” of electronic poetry often have been circumscribed in rather general terms; today, it seems important to characterize its stylistic, semantic and pragmatic devices with more precision. The traditional “figures of speech” have sometimes been considered as capable of achieving this aim. By denominations like “animated metaphor”, I have tried for example in my book Matières textuelles sur support numérique to describe “phenomena of meaning” in electronic literature, when animation effects enter in meaningful relations with the contents of words or letters. It is however undoubtedly dangerous to use a terminology which have been forged to characterize textual phenomena, whereas the signs of electronic texts are often based on various semiotic systems. In a recent article for the review Protée (which I also presented during the e-poetry seminar in Paris), while describing what I would call “figures of speech on media surface”, I sometimes continue to use traditional taxonomies; in order to avoid too dangerous analogies, I try in other cases to invent a new terminology. It appeared in particular important to me that these terms mark the difference with the technical processes which are used to produce animations: a morphing effect for example should not be considered as a figure; morphing only becomes a “figure” in relation to the content of the media to which it has been applied (I propose for example the term ciné-gramme for animations remembering the calligramme on paper medium, the term sporulation when an element appears by an effect of graduated multiplication, the term emergence when a textual element appears gradually, and when this appearance transforms the meaning of the word). But electronic poetry not only explores textual animation. The experimentation with interactive forms constitutes one of the most frequent characteristics of electronic poetry - in particular when the poem has been published online. Confronted with animated medias, the critic can still find some references in traditional cinema theories; confronted with interaction, he really must invent. He can start again by testing traditional terminologies. Jean Clément suggests for example to apply the concept of metaphor to hypertext phenomena. Katherine Hayles proposes the term of “embodied metaphor” in order to characterize the relation between functional similarities and inter-actions in video games. Serge Bouchardon establishes connections between the hypertext and the « art of ellipse », identifying more specifically “figures of displacement”, “substitution” and “transformation”. When the contents of the interactive media, the interactive gesture and the contents transformed by the gesture enter in incongruous, impertinent relations, I propose to call these phenomena of meaning « figures of speech on media interface ». Most of the time, on electronic support, the relation between the interactive gesture and interactive and interacted media contents enters in perfect accordance with the « grammatical rules » of electronic the document. At the beginnings of the Internet, the possibility to interact with textual elements in a palpable way appeared certainly disconcerting, and it was perhaps legitimate to consider any hypertext as a stylistic device; today, the activation of a key word revealing a definition, the code word opening access on a bank account, the displacement of textual or iconographic elements in order to reconstitute a puzzle, do not surprise anymore. Informational or commercial writing on electronic supports aims at an immediate effectiveness. The interactive gesture facilitates the rapid access to the required information while making understand, in a palpable way, the complex relations between segments of information. The “style” of electronic poetry is based on an endangering of the « grammatical rules » established by social practices, on “a difference between sign and meaning” (Genette). Thus the “figures of media interfaces” that I will try to detect and to describe in this paper (by a close-reading of, can be considered as revealing of the « poetic fact » in electronic texts.

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Eric Dean Rasmussen