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Teaching and Learning Multimodal Communications

Alyssa Arbuckle, Alison Hedley, Shaun Macpherson, Alyssa McLeod, Jana Millar Usiskin, Daniel Powell, Jentery Sayers, Emily Smith, Michael Stevens, Authors

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Separation: The Text

Separation pops up as a small window hyperlinked from the work's title on the author's introduction page. The window carries the text's title, but the page is blank—though it does not quite seem empty, because it is not white, but a very pale yellow. The user can widen the page, but the size of the text page remains the same; as one extends the frame, a dotted margin line, like a perforation fold, appears on the right side, thereby demarcating the border of the text. Nothing appears on screen until the user, prompted either by curiosity or recollection of the introductory instructions, clicks on the screen, calling up the first word on the page. Each click adds another word to seemingly uncover a poem with predetermined diction, line breaks, and punctuation. The program gives the user only one way of revealing the text, thereby imposing a computational or binarial quality on the reading. When the user has revealed the whole poem, another click erases all text from view and the Separation screen returns to blankness. Interestingly, the user may not realize that s/he has reached the poem's conclusion (and has begun again) until the text disappears.

Periodically, a bright yellow window imposes upon the screen with instructions for a timed physical exercise, interrupting the progress of text-revealing clicks. The instructions include a title, text, an illustrative image (most of which are animated), and a bar displaying the time allotted to the exercise (much like a progress bar one sees in an old video game). After the designated time is up, the yellow block disappears, signalling the end of the interlude. The user can again begin clicking to reveal more of the poem. If the user tries to click through the text too quickly, a different yellow window pops over the screen, cheekily declaring, “You don't have the right attitude in front of your computer.” This warning halts the reading process any time the user begins to click quickly. Between the exercise interludes and the warning interruptions, the program forces a slow pace on the user's reading, thereby simulating an RSI recoverer's experience.

Author: Alison Hedley
Word Count: 352
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