Please introduce yourself to the NMWP audience.
Hi All. I’m Mez Breeze, otherwise known as Netwurker, Netwurker Mez, Gossama or a string of other avatar names, including “ms post modemism ” and “aeon”. I’ve been working with[in] the genre of new media [as one of the early practitioners in the field] for a while now, having first used the internet to create networked writing collaboratively in 1994. Since then I’ve created [and helped define] net art [also known as “net.art”], electronic literature, transmedia, code poetry, new media art + writing, codework, mezangelle, interactive and digital literature, and literary games/art games.
How would you describe your work? What is Mezangelle and why did you create it?
My work, or work practice, covers a lot of territory – as does the term “new media” [which I consider an umbrella term that includes multiple aspects of using digital, interactive, virtual, augmented, game-based and networked media/technology].
I’m best known for my language system called mezangelle, which initially evolved from immersion in email exchanges, computer programming languages and chat-oriented software [ie y-talk, webchat, and IRC]. ‘To mezangelle’ means to take poetic phrases and alter them in such a way as to extend and enhance meaning beyond the predicted or the expected. It’s similar to making “plain” text hypertextual via the expansion of words by inserting symbolic and actual computer code. Mezangelle attempts to rewrite traditional writing conventions through layered meanings that are both structurally and symbolically embedded in each work.
Mezangelle has at its core a social commentary function; it is largely reactive to, and evolves alongside, networked information streams. When creating with Mezangelle, my aim is to encourage continued exploration via technology through curiosity, play and repeated questioning/collapsing of institutionalised concepts, involving art, writing and theory.
What sparked your interest in using digital media to express your creativity?
I originally became interested in the idea of using technology to convey my own artistic vision[s] when, in 1993, I was first exposed to the work of VNS Matrix [who I later wrote about in Switch Magazine]. Their mix of feminism, text/image merging and virtual engagement intrigued me; at the time I was creating mixed-media installations involving painting, computer text and computer hardware. I was also engaging in and exploring notions of performative identity-play. I first delved into the Internet in 1994 by using telnet/unix in exploring avatar use and identity-play with other virtual participants.
What has been the most pleasing achievement in your career?
There have been quite a few benchmark moments during my career that have ticked a few internal “Omg have I really achieved that!?” boxes, including exhibiting alongside Louise Bourgeois with my commissioned netprov work “_FeralC_“: “This work was launched on May 8, 2010 at the Arnolfini Gallery as part Performance Writing 2010, [and it] unfolded over the course of four sessions in which the characters interacted in concentrated bursts until they came to an abrupt end on May 27, 2010. This highly organized series of character conversations on the social network invited the audience to participate by interacting with the primary characters, [and so] becoming secondary characters in the unfolding narrative.”
Another internal-box-tick happened on being invited to develop a comprehensive career archive of my works, associated documents, correspondence and papers to be housed at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University. I have to say, though, that the most pleasing of all achievements are when I get feedback from students or creators who are taught my work [or discover it serendipitously] who then are inspired to create themselves, or have had their perceptions altered or expanded because of such exposure. Really, if I can create a sense of curiosity, play-desire and learning/creation urges in others, that’s more than enough of a sense of achievement for me.
Who is a digital writer you admire, and why?
I have to say I’m significantly impressed by Andy Campbell’s digital writing/creations. Andy and I have worked together on multiple literary game-based projects and apps [#PRISOM, Carnivast, The Dead Tower and Pluto]; his ability to integrate interactive elements and text with almost David-Lynchian-like intrigue continually impresses me.
In ten years’ time, how will digital writing have changed?
HmmmMmm….. in 10 years’ time digital writing will have escaped contemporary constraints [ebooks, EPUB, kindles, PCs, tablets, phones etc] and will instead have manifested in a sophisticated merge of Wearables, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality [such as working Augmented Reality devices that take audience involvement to a completely different participatory level, with biofeedback and telemetry/locative data integrated in a much more granular fashion. Think: Emotiv, Oculus Rift, LEAP Motion, or Project Morpheus tech married with Jawbone, Fitbit and/or Kinect-type gadgetry to create stories that bypass many of the standard ebook or interactive story conventions we encounter today].
A good example of how this might actualise is Milo, who I wrote about in 2010 as part of my Augmentology project: Milo is a “virtual character” able to interact with a viewer/user beyond the confines of established literary or artistic forms:
“A combination of the following three elements allow Milo to exist: A Kinect Camera, Artificial Intelligence developed by Microsoft, and Emotional Artificial Intelligence built by Lionhead Studios. Milo moves through a synthetic environment predicated on user-directed biofeedback/body gestures: no mechanical controllers are necessary…The demonstration goes on to illustrate how Milo’s face is comprehensively AI driven. His facial movements include blush response, nostril ‘flare’ size [indicating stress], ‘body matching’ [causing neuro-linguistically driven facial alterations] and responses to verbal cues…Milo’s personality development is predicated on a Cause-and-Effect dynamic. This causality is showcased via 3 examples:
- The user can choose to direct Milo to squash a snail: if the user does it will affect “…how Milo develops”. The specifics of the verbal stimulus employed including how the user vocalises [specific phrases and intonations] all contribute to a database that informs and effects future interactions.
- The user teaches Milo to skim stones over the surface of a river [skewed gender stereotyping is again evident here].
- The user choosing to clean Milo’s room: Milo’s recognition of the user’s beneficial intervention and verbal engagement promotes sustained developmental interaction based on [what Peter terms] ‘deep psychology’.”
What is your suggestion for a word that encapsulates hypertext/digital literature/interactive narrative/new-media writing? (e.g. like ‘novel’ means fiction told in chapters, containing characters and plot etc). And don’t say iBook!
“Constructs”? Or “Dimensionals” [“mentional” or maybe even “struct” for short]? Another possibility for an overarching digital writing/interactive or networked media term might be “interactive”, or “active”?