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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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Forensic and Formal Materiality in Separation

Abrahams' work is aesthetically sparse, involving relatively few media types—primarily text, intermittently paired with flatly animated images. In forensic terms, the whole work has been consolidated as a Flash/.sfw file, so the user cannot view the page source and code. In formal terms, Separation's media fit into general text and image grouping (although this is a superficial distinction given that, as elements of Flash, both are visual media). These forensic and formal distinctions crucially shape the user's interpretation of the text; they compel questions about control and process even as they refuse possibilities outside the closed parameters of Flash. As I have already noted, the closed-source Flash form closely constrains a user's textual encounter, making for an unpliable presentation that cannot be deconstructed or reproduced. Tellingly, the author's introduction to the text has already suggested limits to the user's interpretative agency: Abrahams notes that “only the last two phrases reveal that [the work is] about a separation between a human being and a computer.” The user thus begins reading with a particular set of subject relations in mind. The format for encountering text is also closely controlled, demanding that the user view each piece of text (word, instruction, image) at a slow pace, in a particular sequence, and cannot simply disregard a single word or exercise. The program's didacticism raises interesting questions about the extent to which digital technologies both edify and control. The text reading process is highly restrained, drawing attention to demarcations (binaries) that necessarily exist by virtue of the computational form.

Author: Alison Hedley
Word Count: 254
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