Poets of the '60s, and their Dada and Futurist forebears,
treated the visual appearance of text as a principal participant
in the production of meaning. Their interests in such experimentation
grew out of a deeply held belief that traditional forms of
written communication, with its clean spacing, rectilinear
layout, and sober letterforms, no longer could speak to the
cultural schizophrenia of the modern age. Working within the
constraints of traditional letterpress, these artists and
poets managed to explore text's visual presence in ways that
seem fresh even to the MTV-jaded eyes of today.
poets practicing at the beginning of a new century, we have
embarked upon the ActiveText Project. The ActiveText Project
is an on-going experiment in radical ways of treating and
interacting with the visual appearance of text in ways which
reflect our post-millennial data devotion. Users can set glyphs,
words, or entire passages in motion, pull them apart, blow
them up, infect them with dynamic behaviors and even reconstitute
them, in an attempt to deconstruct standard notions of text
presentation and reception. We use these behaviors to write
digital poetry, create whimsical web pages and do performance
art in dance clubs.
core of the project is a C++ library called ActiveText. This
library implements a general purpose architecture for creating
dynamic texts, using an object-based hierarchy to represent
texts. This hierarchy makes it easy to work with the ASCII
component and pixel component
of the text at the same time. Static, dynamic and interactive
properties of text can be easily intermixed and layered. The
user can enter and edit text, adjust static and dynamic layout,
apply dynamic and interactive behaviors, and adjust their
parameters with a common set of tools and a common interface.
Support for continuous editing allows the user to sketch dynamically.
The documents produced by the ActiveText library can be of
use in a wide-range of areas, including chat-spaces, email,
web-sites, fiction and poetry writing, live performance and
low-end film & video titling.