Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Vector Space Poem

     As a Columbia undergraduate, media artist Millie Niss (1973-2009) majored in mathematics and was enrolled in a math PhD program at Brown University when she decided to make writing her full-time career.  Before her untimely death in 2009 Niss was well-established in Electronic Literature.   Here is a link to "Morningside Vector Space," one of the poems at Niss's website Sporkworld (at Sporkworld, click on the the E-poetry link).
     Niss's electronic poem retells a story (inspired by the Oulipian Raymond Queneau's Exercises de Style) in many different styles and following many different constraints. The computer is central to the retelling as the text varies almost smoothly along two dimensions, controlled by the position of the mouse pointer in a colored square (to the right in the screen-shot below).  Behind this poetry is the mathematical concept of a two-dimensional vector space, in which each point (or text) has a coordinate with respect to  each basis vector (version of the text, or dimension along which the text can change).

A screenshot from "Morningside Vector Space" by Millie Niss

"Morningside Vector Space" is one of a collection of six "oulipoems" -- interactive electronic poetry by Millie Niss -- available here.  Additional links to electronic literature are included in this post (highlighting work by Stephanie Strickland) from 6 July 2010.

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