Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 (and sometimes Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory) at York University, Canada

Summary: N. Kathryn Hayles, Timely Art: Hybridity in New Cinema and Electronic Poetry”

By Aly Edwards

Cinema and literature have a history of co-habitation, evidence of this is found in the multitude of adaptions, translations and transformations from literature to film and vice versa. The digital computer provides a platform for the two mediums to commingle, transforming literary and cinematic practices.

  • Hayles expresses the uncertainty in categorizing this practice into the realms of ‘new cinema’ due to its hybridity but it is essential to explore in the context of new cinema theory and practice.

Electronic poetry as heterogeneous: “The aesthetic experiments now underway test a variety of strategies for combining word, image, animation, sound, color and form to provide satisfying artistic experiences in networked and programmable media.”

“The sea in which they all swim is time – time, that is, as it is constructed, programmed and delivered by the digital computer.”

Electronic poetry becomes the amalgamation of temporal cinematic practices (one-way progression through time) and non-interactive poetry redefines reading practices, which is similar to oral poetry, where the pace of poem is determined externally to the reader, i.e. the technology.

Incorporation of loops inscribes poetic writing within a different metaphysic. Technological restraints are also a part of the use of loops, conserving memory space and providing manageable file sizes; internet poses certain difficulties in terms of bandwidth

  • demonstrates the outdated nature of this article, since internet technologies in 2015 greatly differ compared to 2003

Cinema versus print poetry:

  • Cinema has frames, i.e camera shots.
  • Print poetry makes divisions spatially rather than temporally (stanza, line breaks, etc)
    • Yet can poems also take a temporal aspects as well, what about sonnet sequences? Each poem can be comparable to a camera shot.
    • Flash works differently, a new semiotic system “with scenes defined by the beginning and end points of animation sequences that can be paced according to timing algorithm. Moreover, more than one animation sequence can be shown on a given screen, timed so that it overlaps and mingles with other animations.”
      • Necessitates new theoretical language of reader-text relationships as discussed in Morris.

Successful hybridity opposes the tendency of classifications into cinema or literature: “It shows the Flash poem becoming a medium in its own right with its own visual and verbal rhetoric, a production of networked and programmable media that could not be enacted the same way in another other medium.”

Works discussed:

Ingrid Ankerson, Sinking: (http://poemsthatgo.com/gallery/spring2000/sinking/sinkingmain.htm)  traditional poetic form transformed by cinematic techniques; programmed in Flash 4, images and sound act as enhancements to the text.

Hayles would argue that it does not maximize on integrating sound, image and text on equal footing – focuses more on the text enhancement than experimentation with cinematic practices. (Is that not putting limitations on how electronic poetics should be formed?)

Check out the others on the website poemsthatgo.com! Some of them are really fun to play around with.

Rita Raley (article on significance of loops in electronic writing): “Death is the end toward which linear (and multilinear) plots traditionally tend.”

Bruce Smith, Marc Stricklin, His Father in the Exhaust of Engines: strong narrative with evocative images and subtle animation.


Young-hae Chang Heavy Industries, DAKØTA: (www.yhchang.com)  focuses on sound, using cutting words and designing animations to match rhythm of jazz drum.

Stephanie Strickland and M.D. Coverley, Errand upon which we came

“Strickland and Coverley believe that the potential of networked and programmable media should be used to introduce interactivity into electronic literature, practicing a principled rejection of techniques that do not allow the user to determine at least in part, pacing and trajectory.”

John Cayley, riverisland: how cinematic techniques as navigational functionalities to interrogate the relationship between digital nature of language and digital operations of a computer.

“literal art”:  letters as units of meaning on the screen


In comparison to last week and the idea of ‘aura’, how would you discuss this aesthetic issue in terms of electronic poetry?

Do you notice any serious gaps in her approach to the new form of poetics?

Do you consider this practice a phenomenon born out of the technological age of the twenty-first century or do you think this is merely a technological progression of previously established poetic practice?

Tue, October 20 2015 » seminar summaries