Beyond the Screen

Surface Text: Text as Surface in Immersive 3D Environments

14.30-15.20: John Cayley (Providence, USA)

Abstract: When we address ourselves to digitally mediated writings practices, it is clear that the properties and methods of the surface of inscription are at issue. The inscriptional surfaces of digital media are complex, even when manifest as a relatively passive ‘screens’ that emulate paper-like media. At the very least, these surfaces bear properties that reinforce the necessity for ‘media-specific analyses,’ as Katherine Hayles puts it. Related and corresponding complexities are demonstrable in what we may describe as the ‘atoms’ of inscriptional practice in digital media, the programmable differance-engines that leave their traces on just such complex surfaces. These features are, literally, ‘spectacularly’ in evidence when applied to writing for 3D immersive environments such as the three-wall Cave at Brown University, where new engagements with writing have been practiced experimentally and pedagogically since 2002. This presentation will report on recent writing and literary art practice in Brown’s Cave with some reference to the critical and theoretical context that the author has been seeking to provide for this variety of writing digital media. In particular, I will attempt to address the use of text-as-surface in 3D space -- text as, itself, a potential surface of inscription; text as a space for writing; and text as a prime delineator, a generative engine of ‘virtual’ (artificial, culturally-structured) space.

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