Conclusion: Short Histories of the Present
I've often been inspired by Java scripts and new conventions. For about five years, I tackled every new convention I thought had a wide range of possibilities: tables, frames, animation, popouts, rollovers, layers, timelines, various Java scripts. 4
Powers and abilities beyond those of ordinary mortals—yes, it's SuperWriter! But what exactly is one supposed to do with these powers? More particularly, what do the new devices afford for making and conveying meaning? The discoveries of these affordances are not so dramatic or datable; they do not bear version numbers. Looking back, we can see numerous instances. Let us suppose that a certain version of Flash lets you slide rectangular sections of the screen up and down or sideways and to script such movements. What can you do with that? Shirin Kouladjie saw a link to the displacement collages of Hannah Höch and others, making the "When No One Was Looking" Flash animation we examined in 3.4. That resonates, partly because it fractures and displaces one of the best "good forms"--a woman's face--and partly because we have all been to collage-school, as it were. Indeed, Shirin seems to have decided to write the book on Flash affordances, or at least several chapters of it.
Another example here is a passing and general reference to Photoshop's masks and layers as a technology for stacking images in photomontage that would be incredibly difficult to do by hand and in color. Some of the early uses pushed the number of layers to the point of challenging our abilities to see and sort out the component images--where they are viewable, it is because we can work out some rationale for the stack.
Several of the affordances of various programs can be grouped together as tactics under the general strategy of spatializing words. Using frames to divide the screen into a grid of cells each of which can be addressed and can load content means that text can be targeted to particular locations in space--locations where images can also occur. (Works by Carol Flax, Shu Lea Cheang, Olia Lialina, and Vivian Selbo come to mind.) And again, the abilities to fade text, to whirl it in letter by letter, to overlap it with images or other text, and to drag it around on transparent panels--each of these makes us see text as a visual element rather than read it.
There does of course need to be a reason to make text visual, or else that making will come off as clever and not much more. It is not inherently meaningful to do so, except in the limited sense that it breaks down the superiority of text as a meta-language. To dredge up words and phrases, sounds and images, from one's hard drive and send them spinning and drifting out into other computers [collection], however, is to tear them from the contexts that give them meaning and send them into a Hades of dissolved identities. It is the dissolution of semiotics into chaos, though it is a chaos which is shared with other computers that happen to be connected, and so is a spatiality beyond space. It is at such a destructive/recreative moment that we are now poised.